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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
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Ukraine’s defense lines are holding against the Russian attack. Zelensky added that there had been no respite in Moscow’s shelling of Ukraine but said that Russia’s changing tactics and shelling of civilians in cities proved Ukraine was successful in resisting Moscow’s initial plan of claiming a quick victory through a land assault. The Guardian reports.
Russian troops are in the southern Ukrainian port city of Kherson after forcing their way into the council building, the mayor of Kherson, Igor Kolykhaev, has said. “There is no Ukrainian army here … The city is surrounded,” Kolykhaev said. “The battle for control of Kherson, a shipbuilding center, left bodies strewn about the city streets, power outages, limited water and little food, Kolykhaev said. Utility workers have tried to fix damaged pipes and downed lines, he said, but have come under fire from snipers. He said a group of about 10 armed Russian officers, including the commander of forces attacking the city, had entered the city hall and informed him that they planned to set up a military administration,” Michael Schwirtz and Richard Pérez-Peña report for the New York Times.
In a Facebook post, Kolykhaev indicated that he negotiated with the invading troops, saying that “I made no promises to them. I just have nothing to promise. I am only interested in the normal life of our city! I just asked not to shoot people.” The Guardian reports.
The key Ukrainian port city of Mariupol is “near to a humanitarian catastrophe,” the city’s mayor has said, as it suffers continuous bombardment by Russian forces. “The Russian army is working through all their weapons here – artillery, multiple rocket launch systems, airplanes, tactical rockets. They are trying to destroy the city,” Serhiy Orlov said. Joel Gunter and Yaroslav Lukov report for BBC News.
Orlov has made a desperate video address saying: “we cannot even take the wounded from the streets, from apartments, since the shelling does not stop.” “The Russian Defense Ministry has urged civilians to leave the city via a so-called ‘green corridor,’’” BBC News reports.
The situation in Kyiv is “difficult but under control,” Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko has said. “Klitschko said there were no casualties overnight and that night time explosions were Ukrainian air defenses striking down incoming Russian missiles. He said a heating system site damaged by Russian shelling on Wednesday would be fixed during the day,” Reuters reports.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense has said that 498 Russian troops have been killed in Ukraine and 1,597 more sustained wounds, in the first report of casualties by Moscow since it launched the invasion. Defense ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov on Wednesday also rejected reports about “incalculable losses” among Russian forces as “disinformation.” Al Jazeera reports.
More than 7,000 Russian troops have been killed since the start of Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s presidential adviser has said in a television briefing. Oleksiy Arestovich added that hundreds of Russian servicemen have been taken prisoner, including senior officers. The Guardian reports.
The U.N. human rights office has said 227 civilians had been killed and another 525 injured in Ukraine since Russia’s military invasion began a week ago until midnight on March 1. The U.N. has however warned that the real toll is likely to be “much higher.” Tim Lister reports for CNN.
More than 2,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed during Russia’s ongoing invasion, Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said yesterday, reporting a far higher number than the U.N., before removing the statement. Olya Voitovych reports for CNN.
The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense has said that the Russian advance on Kyiv has been delayed bv “staunch Ukrainian resistance, mechanical breakdown and congestion” and remains over 30km (18 miles) from the center of Kyiv. The U.K’s report has also said “despite heavy Russian shelling, the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol remain in Ukrainian hands. Some Russian forces have entered the city of Kherson but the military situation remains unclear.” The Guardian reports.
According to a military adviser to Zelenskiy, Ukraine is able to launch counter-attacks against invading Russian forces even as it defends itself. “Help to us is increasing every minute and the strength of the enemy is decreasing every minute. We’re not only defending but also counter-attacking,” he said in a televised briefing. Reuters reports.
Ukraine’s defense ministry is asking mothers of captured Russian troops to come pick up their sons. “Mama! Your [prisoner of war] son is waiting for you!” the ministry wrote on Facebook yesterday. Jake Epstein reports for INSIDER.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has confirmed that its investigators have begun gathering evidence of possible war crimes committed in Ukraine. ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan said that he opened an immediate investigation after being urged to do so by 39 nations. The investigation will cover allegations of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and would extend to Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Becky Morton reports for BBC News.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna has said that NATO is partially responsible for civilian deaths in Ukraine by refusing to enforce a no-fly zone. Stefanishyna said in an interview that “it is inhumane knowing that the civilian population and kids will be killed by not taking this decision.” Owen Amos reports for BBC News.
The U.K. Foreign Secretary has said that the West must make sure no Russian bank has access to the SWIFT banking system. Some, but not all, Russian banks have been barred from the system so far. BBC News reports.
Australian Federal Police are investigating a suspicious package delivered to the Russian Embassy in Canberra today. Ilya Roshchenkov, a press secretary at the embassy, said that the package contained “suspicious powder.” In a statement, the embassy said it had been “massively targeted lately with threatening and insulting messages and actions” and thanked the police for their “quick and professional response.” Michael E. Miller reports for the Washington Post.
Organizers of this summer’s Farnborough Air show in England, have banned Russia from participating in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The ban is a blow to Russian aerospace companies who use the biennial event to market their aircrafts. Marcus Weisgerber reports for Defense One.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The Justice Department has announced the creation of a task force to go after billionaire oligarchs who have aided Russian President Vladimir Putin in his invasion of Ukraine. “The task force will marshal the resources of various federal agencies to enforce the sweeping economic measures that the United States has imposed as Russia continues its unprovoked assault on Ukraine,” Katie Benner reports for the New York Times.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is proposing a resolution which would urge Putin to be investigated for war crimes. The draft resolution, which is non-binding, supports the complaint filed by the Ukrainian government with the International Criminal Court (ICC), which Graham has said provides “a good example of where the [ICC] should exercise jurisdiction.” Graham stressed that the resolution would not pre-judge the outcome of an ICC investigation but instead would throw the Senate’s support behind having a probe. Jordain Carney reports for The Hill.
Russia has decided to stop supplying rocket engines to the U.S. in retaliation for its sanctions against Russia. “In a situation like this we can’t supply the United States with our world’s best rocket engines. Let them fly on something else, their broomsticks, I don’t know what,” Dimitry Rogozin, head of the state space agency Roscosmos, said on state Russian television. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
A second round of peace negotiations between Russia and Ukraine is set to take place today, and a Ukrainian delegation has reportedly departed to Belarus for the talks. Reuters reports.
A Russian negotiator has said a ceasefire was on the agenda in the second round of talks, however Ukraine has said Moscow’s demands are unacceptable and Russia must stop bombing Ukrainian cities before any progress can be expected. AFP reports.
More than one million people have fled across the borders of Ukraine since Russian forces invaded a week ago, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has said in a Tweet. “For many millions more, inside Ukraine, it’s time for guns to fall silent, so that life-saving humanitarian assistance can be provided,” Grandi added. Jerome Socolovsky and Jonathan Franklin report for NPR.
A Western intelligence report said that senior Chinese officials told senior Russian officials in early February not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, according to officials from President Biden’s administration and a European official. The classified intelligence was collected by a Western intelligence service and considered credible by officials. Senior officials passed it around as they discussed when Russian President Vladimir Putin might attack Ukraine. However, different intelligence services had varying interpretations. One official familiar with the intelligence said the material did not necessarily indicate the conversations about an invasion took place at the level of Chinese Leader Xi JingPing and Putin. Edward Wong and Julian E. Barnes report for the New York Times.
A spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has denied that Beijing had advance knowledge of Russia’s plans to invade Ukraine, calling the New York Times report “purely false information,” which sought to “divert attention.” The spokesperson repeated Beijing’s assertions that the United States deserves blame for the conflict because the expansion of NATO has threatened Russia’s security interests. Austin Ramzy reports for the New York Times.
Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, has voiced concern after Russian forces claimed to have surrounded Ukraine’s biggest atomic plant. Grossi said that the Russian government had informed the agency that its troops had taken control of the area around the Zaporizhzhia plant in south-eastern Ukraine, the second biggest in Europe. Julian Borger reports for the Guardian.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said in a news conference today that he believes some foreign leaders are preparing for war against Russia and that Moscow will press on with its military operation in Ukraine until “the end.” Lavrov said that he had no doubt that a solution to the crisis in Ukraine would be found but he “accused NATO of seeking to maintain supremacy and said that while Russia had a lot of goodwill, it could not let anyone undermine its interests,” Reuters reports.
Lavrov has also said that President Biden has said that the only alternative to sanctions is a third world war, going on to say that any third world war could only be a “nuclear war.” Lavrov however said that this is not something Russians are thinking about. BBC News reports.
Lavrov has continued to repeat his claim that the Ukrainian government is a neo-Nazi regime and has said that gangs are looting towns and cities, including in Mariupol. Lavrov also said that Ukrainians are “now trying to use civilians as human shields.” He has also compared the U.S. to Napoleon and Hitler for “subjugating Europe.” BBC News reports.
Russia’s central bank has imposed a 30% commission on foreign currency purchases by individuals on currency exchanges. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – CENSORSHIP AND PROTESTS
Moscow is stepping up censorship of the coverage of the war in Ukraine, pressurizing social media sites and news organizations. Russia’s communication and media regulator Roskomnadzor has slowed online traffic to Facebook, and connectivity to Twitter has also been restricted for those who use services provided by four major telecommunications companies. Amy Cheng reports for the Washington Post.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has launched two new shortwave radio frequencies that will reach areas of Ukraine and Russia where access to information may be limited because of Russia’s invasion, the BBC has said in a statement. “Shortwave radio was invented in the early 1920s and became especially popular in Europe during times of conflict because it can reach remote areas and travel vast distances without the need for satellites or cables, which can be compromised in wartime,” Annabelle Timsit reports for the Washington Post.
As Russia battles to spread false narratives about the crisis on the Internet, “social media sites should make sure they don’t end up on the side of the invaders.” Whilst Facebook, YouTube and TikTok have prevented most Russian state media entities from monetizing their posts, “the impact of these moves pales in comparison with the potential effect of a wholesale ban.” The Editorial Board of the Washington Post provides analysis.
Thousands of Russians have taken to the streets in protest against the invasion of Ukraine, with more than 6,500 demonstrators arrested as of Tuesday, according to the OVD-Info human rights group, which tracks political arrests. “We have never seen such a large number of detainees per day,” said Grigory Durnovo, an analyst for the group. “We counted at least 6,489 detainees in five days. This is enough to show us the number of people willing to go out on the streets and express their views,” he added. Pauline Rouquette reports for France 24.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The Taliban has launched an intrusive search operation across several Taliban-resistant provinces in Afghanistan, echoing resented U.S. tactics that risk alienating Afghans and fueling the insurgency that the Taliban are trying to prevent. Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Christina Goldbaum and Najum Rahim report for the New York Times.
The U.N. Human Rights Council has appointed former International Criminal Court prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to head a team that will probe alleged violations during the conflict in Ethiopia. BBC News reports.
Taiwan plans to more than double its yearly missile production capacity to close to 500 this year, a report by the island’s defense ministry states. This comes as part of a strategy to boost its combat powers amid what it sees as China’s growing military threat. Taiwan last year approved extra military spending of T$240 billion ($8.6 billion) over the next five years as tensions with China hit a new high. Yimou Lee reports for Reuters.
The U.N. has voiced concerns over reports that a vote in Libya’s parliament to install a new government, which risks triggering new fighting or a return to territorial division, “fell short of the expected standards” of transparency and procedure. The parliament plans to swear in Fathi Bashagha as prime minister. However, the incumbent, Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, refuses to hand over power. “International powers will be key in the coming tussle for control of Libya’s government and political process, with analysts pointing to the risks of another full-blown war or another split between warring administrations,” Reuters reports.
Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, will visit Tehran on Saturday. The trip comes as negotiators enter the final stages of trying to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal, and it is hoped that it may increase the prospect of progress on certain safeguarding issues currently blocking the revival of the deal. Parisa Hafezi and Francois Murphy report for Reuters.
Germany’s federal prosecutor has filed charges against a Gambian man suspected of participating in crimes against humanity, including the killing of a journalist. The Federal Public Prosecutor has identified the man as a member of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh’s elite guard, and said that on at least three occasions the man drove officers to locations where they opened fire on the former president’s opponents. Reuters reports.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack said in a court filing yesterday that former President Trump and some of his allies might have committed crimes by seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The potential criminal charges against Trump include conspiracy to defraud the U.S., obstructing an official proceeding and fraud. The filing was part of the legal proceedings over the testimony of pro-Trump lawyer John Eastman. Byron Tau and Sadie Gurman report for the Wall Street Journal.
Jan. 6 attack defendant Joshua James pleaded guilty yesterday to seditious conspiracy and obstructing official proceedings. James is the first of a group of Oath Keepers members indicted on seditious conspiracy charges to reach a plea agreement. Under the agreement outlined in court, James will have to fully cooperate with prosecutors, including testifying at trials or before a grand jury. Harper Neidig reports for The Hill.
Yesterday prosecutors opened the first criminal trial stemming from the Jan. 6 attack, arguing that defendant Guy Wesley Reffitt was at the forefront of the pro-Trump crowd that stormed into the building. Prosecutors said that Reffitt, who was armed, not only helped lead a mob up a staircase of the building, but also recorded himself narrating his role in advance. “He planned to light the match that would start the fire,” federal prosecutor Jeffery S. Nestler said in his opening statement. Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.
OTHER U.S. DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Justice Department has accused telecommunications company Ericsson of violating a billion-dollar legal settlement by failing to fully disclose evidence of alleged corruption and possible payments to terrorists in Iraq, according to a statement posted yesterday on the company’s website. This revelation raises significant legal risks for the company including the possibility of fines or a new criminal investigation. Greg Miller and Louisa Loveluck report for the Washington Post.
On Tuesday the Senate unanimously passed cybersecurity legislation requiring companies in critical sectors to alert the government of potential hacks or ransomware. The Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act comes as U.S. officials urge the private sector to prepare for possible Russian cyberattacks in response to U.S. sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine. Ines Kagubare reports for The Hill.
A 28-year-old man has been arrested and charged with hate crimes in connection with a two-hour spree of attacks on Asian women in Manhattan over the weekend. There was no indication that the assailant knew any of the seven victims, two of whom were treated in hospital. The attack comes as the city faces a surge in anti-Asian violence. Kren Zraick reports for the New York Times.
The former detective, Brett Hankison, who is facing charges of reckless endangerment for his role in the Breonna Taylor raid, testified at his trial yesterday that he wrongly interpreted the sound of fellow officers’ gunfire as that of a suspect shooting at the police. Hankison is the only officer to be indicted for his actions during the raid. Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.14 million people and has now killed over 954,520 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 440.53 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.97 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.