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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 DEVELOPMENTS
Russian troops have entered the Ukrainian Black Sea port city of Mykolayiv for the first time, regional authorities have said today. In a video statement the region’s governor said that fighting is under way in parts of the city. Reuters reports.
Following a second round of talks yesterday, Ukraine and Russia have agreed to temporary local cease-fires to create “humanitarian corridors” so that civilians can be evacuated, and food and medicine can be delivered. However, the cease-fires will not apply everywhere, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak has said, and logistical details remain unclear. David L. Stern, Paulina Firozi, Danielle Paquette, Rachel Pannett, Ellen Francis, Robyn Dixon, Maria Luisa Paul, Hannah Knowles and Meryl Kornfield report for the Washington Post.
Russian forces appear to be attempting to cut Ukraine off from the sea via its key southern ports, capturing the city of Kherson and tightening the siege of Mariupol, as a large amphibious task force threatened Odessa to the west. Amid sightings of a convoy of Russian warships, residents of Ukraine’s coastline are stepping up preparations to defend it against a potential Russian marine landing. The Guardian reports.
At least 47 people were killed in Russia airstrikes on a residential district of the northern city of Chernihiv, regional authorities have said. BBC News reports.
The deputy mayor of Mariupol has urged NATO leader to send troops into Ukraine, saying Russia will not stop until it has made the country a desert and killed many civilians. BBC News reports.
An Estonian-owned ship was sunk off the Ukrainian Black Sea port of Odessa yesterday. The ship was hit by “occupier artillery,” the Ukrainian parliament said on Twitter citing the country’s seaports administration. All six crew members of the ship were rescued. CNN reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent 90 percent of the forces his military readied around Ukraine into the country, according to a senior U.S. defense official. The official also said that, as of yet, there are no indications that Russia is reinforcing its assets with additional troops to the area, even as it nears full engagement. Karound Demirjian reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – NUCLEAR POWER PLANT
Ukrainian officials have said that shelling has caused a fire at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine, prompting concern from the international community about a nuclear disaster and renewing fears about Moscow’s tactics. Ukrainian officials have told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the fire did not affect essential equipment and there has been no increase in radiation levels, lessening initial concerns that the shelling damaged a reactor. Andrew Restuccia, Yaroslav Trofimov and Stacy Meichtry report for the Wall Street Journal.
No damage was done to the reactors at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and there was no release of radioactive material, IAEA chief Rafael Grossi has said. “What we understand is that this projectile is a projectile that is coming from the Russian forces. We do not have details about the kind of projectile,” Grossi said. Francois Murphy reports for Reuters.
World leaders have accused Russia of endangering the safety of an entire continent, following the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant. President Biden urged Moscow to stop its military activities around the site, while Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the “horrific attacks must cease immediately.” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson described the attack as a “reckless” warning that Russia’s attack would “directly threaten the safety of all of Europe.” All three leaders have spoken to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone. BBC News reports.
U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has said that it is very difficult to believe that the Russian attack on Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was not deliberate. Reuters reports.
Following the attack on Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Zelensky made an appeal to Europe to “wake up now.” Zelensky warned that “not a single nation ever shelled nuclear power stations. For the first time in the history of humankind, the terrorist states commites nuclear terrorism.” The Guardian reports.
Russia’s defense ministry has blamed the attack at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Ukrainian saboteurs, claiming that it was a response to an attack on Russian troops during a patrol of the territory adjacent to the plant. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
NATO is to meet today as Ukraine calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, something which NATO members foreign ministers have pushed back upon. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized that the NATO alliance is defensive only. “We seek no conflict. But if conflict comes to us, we are ready for it and we will defend every inch of NATO territory,” Blinken said. Sabine Siebold and Bart H. Meijer report for Reuters.
Lithuania Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte has criticized calls for NATO to enforce a no-fly zone in Ukraine as irresponsible. Andrius Sytas reports for Reuters.
Following a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday, French President Emmanuel Macron was left convinced that “the worst is yet to come” and that Putin aims to take control of all of Ukraine, a senior French official has said. The 90-minute call, which the French presidency said was initiated by Putin, failed to deliver a diplomatic breakthrough and it appears to have been markedly more tense than previous exchanges between the two leaders. Rick Noack reports for the Washington Post.
The U.N. Human Rights Council has voted overwhelmingly for a resolution condemning alleged rights violations by Russia during its invasion of Ukraine. The vote also established a commission of inquiry to authorised to investigate these alleged rights violations. Emma Farge reports for Reuters.
The former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has joined Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at an online event and has called for a special tribunal to punish Putin. “Kuleba wants us to act and I believe we must do so now. Putin must not be able to escape justice,” Brown said. He explained that the International Criminal Court (ICC) can investigate crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes, “but we lack a crucial extra weapon in the legal fight against Putin. Because Russia has not signed up to a separate ICC statute under which nations pledge not to commit so-called ‘crimes of aggression’. We need the special tribunal,” Brown said. Alan Jones reports for the Independent.
Poland has officially started an investigation into crimes committed on the territory of Ukraine involving the “initiation of war of aggression” and several war crimes. The Polish president has previously said that Russia’s military attacks on Ukrainian residential news and civilian facilities could be tantamount to genocide, saying that he believed that the acts “will not go unpunished and the perpetrators will answer for them before international courts.” The First News reports.
The war in Ukraine is “a catastrophe” for the world which will cut global economic growth, David Malpass, the president of the World Bank, has said. Malpass said the economic impact of the war stretched beyond Ukraine’s border, and the rises in global energy prices particularly affect“the poor the most, as does inflation.” He added that food prices have also been pushed up by the war, and “are a very real consideration and problem for people in poorer countries.” Jonathan Josephs reports for BBC News.
The ratings agencies Fitch and Moody’s have downgraded Russia’s sovereign rating to “junk” status, following western sanctions which the agencies said threw into doubt Russia’s ability to service debt and would weaken its economy. Reuters reports.
Belarusian armed forces are not taking part and will not take part in Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has said. Lukashenko also said that he had spoken to Putin at length by telephone today. Reuters reports.
Belarus has strengthened its air defenses along the perimeter of its border in line with an order for Lukashenko, a senior military official has said today. Reuters reports.
Japan will send the Ukrainian military bulletproof vests and other basic supplies in response to a request from Kyiv. However, it has no plans to send weapons, a government spokesperson said. Tokyo has self-imposed restrictions on exports of military equipment, but wants to offer “the maximum possible support” to Ukraine, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said. Alistair Gale report for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. is imposing sanctions and visa restrictions on a range of Russian elites, the White House has said. The U.S. will put full block sanctions on eight Russians with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and will impose visa restrictions on 19 Russian oligarchs and 47 of their family members and associates. In addition, the U.S. will put full blocking sanctions on seven Russian entities accused of spreading disinformation. Andre Restuccia and Courtney McBride report for the Wall Street Journal.
President Biden’s administration has asked Congress for $10 billion in humanitarian and military aid for Ukraine. White House officials initially floated a $6.4 billion request for Ukraine, but lawmakers in both parties quickly called for more aid as Russian forces bombarded the country. Emily Cochrane and Catie Edmondson report for the New York Times.
The U.S. military has set up a channel to communicate directly with the Russian military to prevent “miscalculations” or “escalation” over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a defense spokesperson has confirmed. The spokesperson noted that the U.S. “retains a number of channels to discuss critical security issues with the Russians during a contingency or emergency.” However, the line is apparently an exchange of phone numbers, according to a report from CNN, one from the U.S. European Command’s operations center in Stuttgart, Germany, and the other expected from the Ministry of Defense in Moscow. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
It is possible that the U.S. is providing Ukraine with targeted intelligence to assist its forces to fight back against Russia, something which would, if openly admitted by the U.S., risk the U.S. crossing the threshold into appearing a party to the war. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, has said that “we are providing some intelligence” to Ukraine, but are “not providing the kind of real-time targeting” the U.S. military has used in past conflicts. However, White House press secretary Jen Psaki subsequently implied that the U.S. was providing intelligence that could help Ukrainian forces strike Russian targets. Alexander Ward and Quint Forgey report for POLITICO.
Just Security has published a piece by Biran Finucane on Ukraine and War Powers: A Legal Explainer, including analysis of whether the U.S. could become a “co-combatant” with Ukraine by virtue of providing arms or other military assistance.
RT America will cease production and lay off most of its staff, according to a memo from T&R Productions, the production company behind the Russian state-funded network, which CNN obtained. RT has seen its global reach significantly diminish in recent days as technology companies and television providers have moved to sever ties. RT America was dropped earlier this week by DirecTV, and Roku has also said that it had banished RT America from its platform. Olivia Darcy reports for CNN.
Bipartisan pressure is mounting on the Biden administration to end all Russian oil imports and sanction Russia’s energy sector as Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to escalate the war in Ukraine. However the administration remains concerned over inflation and already high gas prices, which could skyrocket if Biden takes this step. Ellie Kaufman and Ali Zaslav report for CNN.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has designated Ukraine for Temporary Protected Status meaning that Ukranians already in the U.S. will be allowed to remain in the country and work without fear of deportation for the next 18 months. Rafael Bernal reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – CENSORSHIP AND PROTESTS
Yesterday one of Russia’s last independent news outlets, TV Rain, stopped broadcasting indefinitely after coming under pressure for its coverage of the invasion. BBC News reports.
The lower chamber of the Russian parliament, the State Duman, has unanimously passed a law imposing a jail term of up to 15 years for spreading intentionally ‘fake’ information about the armed forces. Reuters reports.
Russian law enforcement officers have conducted searches at the Moscow office of human rights group Memorial International as well as migrant and refugee organization Civic Assistance, the OVD-Info protest monitor has said. Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The head of the International Atomic Energy Association, Rafael Grossi, has said that his upcoming trip on Saturday to Tehran could “pave the way” to reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. Grossi’s optimism has also been echoed by diplomats in Vienna, who are continuing to negotiate the final few outstanding points. Jonathan Tirone, Golnar Motevalli, and Ben Bartenstein report for Bloomberg.
Despite senior diplomats saying that they are now within reach of an agreement to revive the 2015 nuclear deal, U.S. and Iranian officials have cautioned there is at least one big issue outstanding. Iran wants the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to be taken off Washington’s Foreign Terrorist Organization list, however the U.S. has long pushed back against the demand given the Revolutionary Guard’s role across the Middle East backing designated terrorist groups such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
A bombing inside a mosque in the north-western Pakistani city of Peshawar has killed at least 30 people and injured more than 50, police have said. The suspected suicide attack happened in a Shia mosque while Friday prayers were being held this morning. No group has yet said it carried out the attack. BBC News reports.
Tanzania has freed the leader of the country’s main opposition party, after prosecutors “dropped charges of economic crimes and terrorism” brought against him last year, his party has said. Freeman Mbowe is the chair of the Chadema party and was detained and charged in court last July. Reuters reports.
The Kuwaiti state is allegedly using an Interpol red notice to intimidate and harass Sheikha Moneera Fahad al-Sabah, a Kuwaiti princess seeking asylum in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and to force the extradition of her partner, a prominent dissident blogger, back to Kuwait. Katie McQue reports for the Guardian.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack has subpoenaed former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, the fiancée of Donald Trump Jr., after she withdrew from voluntary testimony last week. “Guilfoyle met with [former President] Donald Trump inside the White House, spoke at the rally that took place before the riot on January 6th, and apparently played a key role organizing and raising funds for that event … The Select Committee is seeking information from her about these and other matters,” Chair of the committee, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), said in a statement. Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu report for POLITICO.
The Justice Department is facing increasing pressure to prosecute Trump after the Jan. 6 select committee laid out an argument for a potential criminal case against him in court filings. The filings were in court proceedings which related to a dispute over a committee subpoena to lawyer John Eastman. Attorney General Merrick Garland has remained silent on Trump’s actions, seeking to insulate the Justice Department from politicization. However, building a criminal case against Trump would be very difficult for prosecutors, experts have said. Katie Benner and Charlie Savage report for the New York Times.
In the filing, the Jan. 6 select committee suggested that Trump knew he had lost the election and sought to overturn it anyway. “Trump — time and again — discounted the facts, the data and many of his own advisers as he continued to promote the lie of a stolen election, according to hundreds of pages of exhibits, interview transcripts and email correspondence assembled by the [Jan. 6 committee],” Luke Broadwater and Alan Feuer report for the New York Times.
The filings by the Jan. 6 committee also offer new details about the extent of Trump’s team’s pressure campaign on former Vice President Pence, as they pushed Pence not to certify the 2020 election results. The evidence however “also showcases the exasperation of the Pence team as they pushed back on pleas that only got more desperate leading up to Jan. 6,” Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
Further reporting on the Jan. 6 select committee’s recent court filing and the allegations against Trump is provided by Rosalind S. Helderman, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey and Tom Hamburger for the Washington Post.
Former Attorney General William Barr has published an excerpt from his new memoir in the Wall Street Journal, recalling the explosive White House meeting where he rejected Trump’s claims that the 2020 election has been “stolen” through voting fraud.
The son of defendant Guy Reffitt in the first trial stemming from the Jan. 6 attack took the stand yesterday testifying against his father. Alexa Corse and Aruna Viswanatha report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Jurors have acquitted former officer Brett Hankison of wanton endangerment in relation to his actions during the fatal police raid on Breonna Taylor’s apartment. Hankison had been charged with endangering three of Taylor’s neighbors by firing bullets into their home during the botched operation. Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs reports for the New York Times.
The Department of Justice (DoJ) intends to increase its focus on the individual victims of white-collar crimes, while also placing greater accountability on the individual executives responsible for such crimes, Kenneth Polite, assistant attorney general of the DoJ’s criminal division, has said. Dylan Tokar reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Former President Trump has reached a deal with the New York Attorney General’s office that will allow him to temporarily evade a deposition in the office’s investigation into his business. Trump and his two eldest children were ordered by a court in February to appear for a deposition as part of the New York state’s civil investigation, however Trump has since appealed that ruling. “Under the new agreement between Trump and the attorney general’s office, detailed in court papers on Thursday, Trump and his two children must sit for depositions within two weeks of a ruling from the appeals court, if it upholds the lower-court decision requiring their testimony,” Guardian staff and agencies report.
Senior officials at the DoJ have criticized a Senate-passed cybersecurity bill, the Strengthening American Cybersecurity Act, as having “serious flaws,” including a lack of direct reporting to the FBI. Ines Kagubare reports for The Hill.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.19 million people and has now killed over 956,000 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 442.10 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.98 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.