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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Belarusian troops have entered the Chernihiv region in northern Ukraine, Ukrainian authorities have said. According to local media reports, which were followed by a tweet from the Ukrainian parliament, a Belarusian column of 33 units entered Chernihiv, with mobile communications cut. Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has said that Belarus is deploying more forces to the border with Ukraine so as “to stop any provocation against Belarus.” Chiara Giordano and Kieran Guilbert report for the Independent.
Earlier Lukashenko was reported by a Belarusian state news agency as saying that Belarus has no plans to join Russia’s military operation in Ukraine. Lukashenko also denied that Russian troops were attacking Ukraine from Belarus’ territory. Reuters reports.
Russia yesterday unleashed a barrage of multiple-launch rocket fire against residential neighborhoods in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city. At least 10 civilians, including three children and their parents who were in a car struck by a Russian projectile, were killed and at least 40 others have been injured, according to Kharkiv officials. Some 87 Kharkiv apartment buildings have been damaged, and several parts of Kharkiv no longer have water, electricity or heating, Mayor Ihor Terekhov told Ukrainian TV channels. Yaroslav Trofimov reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Freedom Square in the city center of Kharkiv has been hit by a Russian strike this morning. A viral video on Ukrainian social media shows a missile slamming into the front of the Regional State Administrative building, leaving burnt out cars and debris in the city square. BBC News reports.
At least 10 people were killed and 35 injured in the latest rocket strikes on the center of Kharkiv, Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Anton Herashchenko has said. “The rubble is being cleared and there will be even more victims and wounded,” Herashchenko added. Reuters reporting.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, wrote on Twitter of “barbaric Russian missile strikes on the central Freedom Square and residential districts of Kharkiv,” accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of committing war crimes and murdering innocent civilians. Michael Schwirtz reports for the New York Times.
More than 70 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the eastern city of Okhtyrka after a Russian missile strike on a military base, Ukrainian officials have said. The region’s head, Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, posted photographs on Telegram of the charred shell of a four-story building and rescuers searching rubble following the strike. Zhyvytskyy also said in a Facebook post that Russian soldiers and some local residents also died in the bombardment. Peter Beaumont, Luke Harding, Jon Henley, Julian Borger and Dan Sabbagh report for the Guardian.
A huge convoy of Russian armor is approaching Kyiv, drawing within 20 miles of the capital’s center. Satellite images released by Maxar Technologies are showing that the convoy is over 40 miles (65km) long heading along roadways northwest of Kyiv. Paul P. Murphy reports for CNN.
The southern Ukraine city of Kherson is “surrounded” by Russian soldiers, according to accounts by a Ukrainian journalist and the city’s mayor, Igor Kolykhayev. Posting on Facebook, Kolykhayev said: “the Russian army is setting up checkpoints at the entrances of Kherson. Kherson has been and will stay Ukrainian.” The Guardian reports.
Ukrainian presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych has said Russian forces are trying to lay siege to Kyiv and the northeastern city Kharkiv. In a televised briefing Arestovych added that Russian troops fired artillery at Kyiv, Kharkiv and the southern port city of Mariupol overnight while Ukrainian military shot down Russian military planes around the capital. Reuters reports.
Russia is attempting to surround Kyiv, a senior U.S. defense official has also said. The official added that Moscow has used siege tactics elsewhere in Ukraine, including in the northern city of Chernihiv, and Kharkiv in the northeast. Reis Thebault reports for the Washington Post.
The U.N. human rights office (OHCHR) has said today that at least 136 civilians had been killed by Russia’s assault, including 13 children. 400 civilians have been injured, the OHCHR added. CBS News reports.
“The real toll is likely to be much higher,” Liz Throssell, a spokesperson for the ONCHR told a briefing today, adding that 253 of the casualties were in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine. Reuters reports.
The U.K.’s Defense Ministry has released an intelligence update stating that Russian forces made little progress on their advance on Kyiv in the past 24 hours because of “logistical difficulties.” The update states that Russian forces have also increased their use of artillery near Kyiv, Kharkiv and Chernihiv, increasing the risk of civilian casualties, and that “Russia has failed to gain control of the airspace over Ukraine prompting a shift to night operations in an attempt to reduce their losses.” John Yoon reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – WAR CRIMES ACCUSATIONS
Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of war crimes for deliberately targeting civilians in its bombarding of Ukraine. Zelensky said there were eyewitness accounts of civilians being deliberately targeted during Monday’s attack on Kharkiv. BBC News reports.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is looking to launch its own investigation into the allegations of war crimes in Ukraine. There is “reasonable basis” to believe war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in Ukraine, chief prosecutor Karim Khan said late yesterday, as he announced that the ICC will open a formal investigation “as rapidly as possible.” The investigation will build on preliminary research by the ICC examining the possibility of war crimes in Ukraine since late 2013. Becky Sullivan reports for NPR.
Addressing the European Parliament by video link, Zelensky has called Russia’s strike on central Kharkiv and the administration building a war crime and a conscious destruction of people. “Evil, armed with rockets, bombs and artillery, must be stopped immediately. Destroyed economically. We must show that humanity is able to protect themselves,” Zelensky said. BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – TALKS
Five hours of talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations yesterday failed to yield a breakthrough. After the two sides departed, the head of the Russian delegation said that the two sides had found “certain points where we forecast common ground” and that they expected to meet again in the coming days after consulting with their respective presidents. However, while Ukraine’s goal was an immediate cease-fire and Russian withdrawal form Ukraine, the Kremlin demanded that Ukraine accept the loss of the eastern Donbas region and that it ends its quest to join NATO, remove all its weapons and recognize Crimea, annexed in 2014, as part of Russia. Isabelle Khurshudyan, David L. Stern and Karen DeYoung report for the Washington Post.
Zelensky said he is analyzing the results of Monday’s talks between Russian and Ukrainian delegations. “There can be fair negotiations if one side does not hit the other side with rocket artillery at the time of negotiations. So far, we do not have the result we would like to get. Russia has stated its position, and we have declared counterpoints to end the war,” Zelensky said in a post on Facebook. Oleksandra Ochman and Tim Lister report for CNN.
Zelensky has also said that the talks with Russia had been “synchronized” with the “brutal” attack on Kharkiv. Isabelle Khurshudyan, David L. Stern and Karen DeYoung report for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL and U.S. RESPONSE
The presidents of Estonia, Bulgaria, Czechia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia have published an open letter urging the E.U. “to immediately grant Ukraine E.U. candidate country status and open the process of negotiations” for its formal acceptance into the bloc. Yesterday, following a phone conversation with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the bloc to grant his country immediate E.U. membership. Teele Rebane and Hannah Ritchie report for CNN.
The U.S. has announced a ban on transactions with Russia’s central bank and new sanctions on the Russian Direct Investment Fund and its chief executive Kirill Dmitriev, a key ally of President Vladimir Putin. A senior official in President Biden’s administration said yesterday that the new measures would take effect immediately and were unveiled before U.S. markets opened yesterday to prevent “asset flight,” after learning that the Russian central bank was trying to “move” some of its foreign reserves around. James Politi and Colby Smith report for the Financial Times.
The E.U. has frozen the assets of Russia’s leading oligarchs and allies of Putin. The blacklisting takes effect immediately. “The individuals hit by the measures include Mikhail Fridman, the founder of Alfa Group, and fellow shareholder Petr Aven; Igor Sechin and Nikolai Tokarev, the respective chief executives of oil companies Rosneft and Transneft; and financier Alisher Usmanov,” Valentina Pop, Sam Fleming and Max Seddon report for the Financial Times.
Investors are struggling to trade Russian assets as western sanctions freeze Russia out of the global financing system. Philip Stafford and Tommy Stubbington report for the Financial Times.
The U.K. will not seek to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine because that could involve “shooting down Russian planes,” U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said today. Raab’s comment echoes White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s response to whether Washington was considering a no-fly zone. Ellen Francis reports for the Washington Post.
Turkey has closed access to the Turkish straits to the Black Sea and has called on all sides in the Ukraine war to respect the 1936 Montreux Convention, an international pact on passage through the Turkish straits. In a call yesterday, U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken “expressed his appreciation” for Turkey’s implementation of the accord, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said. The Guardian reports.
Turkish minister of foreign affairs Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said yesterday evening that Turkey has warned “all countries, that have a coast on Black Sea, or not, not to let warships pass through the straits.” Isil Sariyuce reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has told the U.N. Conference on Disarmament in Switzerland, in a pre-recorded message, that U.S. nuclear weapons need to leave Europe. Lavrov said that Russia was ready to talk about strategic stability with the U.S., but he warned that the West must not build military facilities in countries of the former Soviet Union. Lavrov also appeared to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a means to prevent Ukraine acquiring nuclear weapons. Imogen Foulkes reports for BBC News.
Russian billionaires Mikhail Fridman and Oleg Deripaska have called for an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine, breaking ranks with the Kremlin. Fridman, who was born in western Ukraine and is the chair of Alfa Group and of Alfa Bank, wrote in a letter to staff that he wanted the “bloodshed to end.” Fridman’s call for peace was echoed by Deripaska, a billionaire who made his fortune in the aluminum business. “Peace is very important! Negotiations need to start as soon as possible!” Deripaska said on Sunday in a post on Telegram. Charles Riley reports for CNN.
Google has banned content from Russian state-backed media on its YouTube platforms in Europe, following pressure from the E.U. “Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, we’re blocking YouTube channels connected to RT and Sputnik across Europe, effective immediately,” it said. The ban also will apply to viewers in the U.K., Google added. Cristina Criddle reports for the Financial Times.
BP, Shell and Norway’s Equinor have decided to cut ties with their Russian partners, increasing the pressure on other oil companies to follow suit. Tom Wilson and Neil Hume report for the Financial Times.
More than 500,000 refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia’s attack, the U.N. refugee agency said yesterday. UN News Centre reports.
Ukraine’s government has said it plans to sell war bonds to pay for its armed forces. The announcement comes after a slide in the prices of Ukraine’s existing bonds, with Ukraine’s finance ministry seeking to reassure international investors that it will not default on its existing debts. BBC News reports.
U.S. intelligence agencies consider that Putin is growing increasingly frustrated by his military struggles in Ukraine and may order an escalation in violence, U.S. officials have said. Putin has directed unusual bursts of anger at people in his inner circle over the state of the military campaign in Ukraine, and he remains largely isolated from the Kremlin, in part because of concerns about COVID-19, sources have said. Ken Dilanian, Carol E. Lee, Courtney Kube and Dan De Luce report for NBC News.
Russia will not yield to western sanctions, Krelim spokes person Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday: “They are counting on forcing us to change our position. This is out of the question.” Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The U.S. is in the process of expelling 12 Russian diplomats assigned to the U.N. in New York, alleging they are intelligence operatives. The operatives have “abused their privileges of residency in the United States by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security,” a spokesperson for Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said. It is not clear if the move or timing has a connection with the situation in Ukraine, though the spokesperson added that the “action has been in development for several months.” William Mauldin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Afghans will no longer be allowed to leave the country without good reason, and women will be barred from traveling without a chaperone, the Taliban said on Sunday, rejecting a key U.S. demand before the lifting of sanctions and the recognition of its government. Jessica Donati and Margherita Stancati report for the Wall Street Journal.
Security researchers with the U.S. cybersecurity firm Symantec, have discovered a “highly sophisticated” Chinese hacking tool that has been able to escape public attention for more than a decade. Symantec says that the malware, which it calls Daxin, has been used to target high level, non-Western government agencies in Asia and Africa. The South China Morning Post reports.
Iranian and U.S. officials are entering a crucial week of negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear deal, with significant differences remaining on several key issues and new concerns that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could complicate the talks. “American and Iranian officials say the differences include the scope of American sanctions relief, continued Iranian demands that the U.S. provide stronger guarantees that it won’t again exit the deal and the U.S. push to ensure that a prisoner swap occurs alongside restoring the nuclear pact.” Western diplomats have warned that the negotiations could collapse if a deal isn’t reached this week. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
China has reacted angrily to calls by Japan’s influential former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for Tokyo to consider hosting U.S. nuclear weapons in the wake of rising concerns over Chinese aggression towards Taiwan. Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, told reporters in Beijing that “Japanese politicians have frequently spread fallacies related to Taiwan” and warned Tokyo to “be cautious in words and deeds on the Taiwan issues to stop provoking trouble.” Justin McCurry reports for the Guardian.
Earlier today, a delegation of former senior defense and security officials sent by President Biden arrived in Taipei, on a visit denounced by China. The visit, led by Mike Mullen, former chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, comes as Taiwan steps up its alert level, in the midst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ben Blancard and Yew Lun Tian report for Reuters.
On Monday the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a landmark report outlining the increasing risk that climate change poses to human health, infrastructure, the stability of food and water resources, and the biodiversity of the planet’s ecosystems. The report states that urgent action on climate change is needed “to secure a liveable future,” Denise Chow reports for NBC news.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
President Biden will deny two top advisors to former President Trump – his first national security adviser Michael Flynn and former trader advisor Peter Navarro – the shield of executive privilege in the House select committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 attack. “The move will likely force Flynn and Navarro to make a choice: cooperate with the select committee or face potential criminal referral from Congress to the Department of Justice.” Hans Nicholls and Jonathan Swan report for Axios.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Officials have ramped up security around the Capitol to levels not seen in months ahead of President Biden’s State of the Union address, due to take place on Tuesday, as lawmakers brace for planned convoys of protestors to descend on Washington. This enhanced security includes the resurrection of the security fence which was erected in January of last year following the attack on the Capitol and removed in July. Luke Broadwater, Emily Cochrane and Zolan Kanno-Youngs report for the New York Times.
The House yesterday approved legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime, carrying a penalty of up to 30 years in prison. The legislation would formally outlaw what has become a symbol of the failure by Congress and the country to address the history of racial violence in America. Emily Cochrane reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.05 million people and has now killed over 950,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 437.24 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.95 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
A map and analysis of all confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
U.S. and worldwide maps tracking the spread of the pandemic are available at the Washington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.