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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 AND HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS
Today Russia announced new “humanitarian corridors” to transport Ukrainians trapped under its bombardment. However, according to maps published by the RIA news agency, the corridor from Kyiv would lead to Belarus, while civilians from Kharkiv would only be permitted to go to Russia. A spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the move “completely immoral.” Corridors from the besieged cities Mariupol and Sumy would lead to Ukrainian cities and to Russian ones. “They are citizens of Ukraine, they should have the right to evacuate to the territory of Ukraine” the spokesperson added. Reuters reports.
An evacuation of civilians from the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, where 200,000 people are trapped, was postponed yesterday because Russian forces encircling the city were not respecting an agreed ceasefire. Joel Gunter reports for BBC News.
The director of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Dominik Stillhart, has explained that the ICRC had been talking to both sides “for days,” but problems remain in confirming the details of any ceasefire agreement to allow civilians out of bombarded cities. Without the precise details required, including on evacuation routes and who can take them, agreements “in principle” are immediately broken down, Stillhart explained. BBC News reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to punish Russian forces who committed atrocities during the invasion of Ukraine, amid outrage at Russia’s shelling of civilians as they tried to flee Irpin, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv. Peter Beaumont, Daniel Boffey and Graham Russell report for the Guardian.
Around 2,000 civilians have so far been evacuated from the town of Irpin near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, police said today. The statement did not make clear over what period the evacuations had taken place. Natalia Zinets, Reuters reports.
Ukrainian forces have retaken control of the town of Chuhuiv in northeastern Ukraine, presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovych told a briefing today. Reuters reports.
Yesterday, Ukrainian troops drove back Russian forces from the city of Mykolaiv and retook the airport, temporarily halting Russian advances along the Black Sea. However, Russian forces have since resumed their attack. Michael Schwirtz reports for the New York Times.
Moscow is recruiting Syrians skilled in urban combat to fight in Ukraine, U.S. officials have said. “An American assessment indicates that Russia, which has been operating inside Syria since 2015, has in recent days been recruiting fighters from there, hoping their expertise in urban combat can help take Kyiv and deal a devastating blow to the Ukraine government, according to four American officials,” Gordon Lubold, Nancy A. Youssef and Alan Cullison report for the New York Times.
The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense has suggested that Russia has been deliberately targeting Ukraine’s communications facilities. The defense intelligence update said that Moscow was “probably targeting Ukraine’s communications infrastructure in order to reduce Ukrainian citizens’ access to reliable news and information.” BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE
Ukraine is asking the U.N.’s highest court, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), today to intervene to halt Moscow’s invasion. Ukraine is arguing that Russia relied on false claims of genocide in two separatists regions in Ukraine. Ukraine has three hours of oral argument today and Russia has been allocated three hours tomorrow. Karla Adam and Rachel Pannett rapport for the Washington Post.
Russian has not attended today’s ICJ hearing. Mike Corder reports for AP.
The Russian ambassador in The Hague has indicated that his government did not intend to participate in the proceedings. Anna Holligan reports for BBC News.
The hearing at the ICJ is being live streamed here.
Just Security has published a piece by Chimène Keitner, Zoe Tatarsky and Just Security on a ‘Q&A: Next Steps in Ukraine’s Application to the International Court of Justice’
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – NEGOTIATIONS
A Russian delegation has arrived in Belarus where it will meet Ukrainian negotiators for the third round of talks about ending hostilities. Talks between Russia and Ukraine will begin at 0700 EST today. Reuters reports.
Russia is demanding that Ukraine ceases military action, changes its constitution to ensure neutrality, acknowledges Crimea as Russian territory and recognises the separatist republic of Donetsk and Lugansk, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said. According to Peskov, Russia has told Ukraine it is ready to halt its military action “in a moment” if Kyiv met its conditions. The outlining of these demands comes as Russian delegations prepare to start the third round of talks aimed at ending Russia’s war against Ukraine. Reuters reports.
Ukraine is not willing to compromise on its territorial integrity but is open to discussing “non- NATO models” for its future, in a wider forum, one of its negotiators has said. “The response that we are getting from the NATO countries is that they are not ready to even discuss having us in NATO, not for the next period of five or 10 years,” the negotiator said in remarks published by Fox News. “We are ready to discuss some non-NATO models. For example, there could be direct guarantees by different countries like the U.S., China, U.K., maybe Germany and France,” the negotiator added. Reuters reports.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba have agreed to meet at a forum in southern Turkey on Thursday, the first potential talks between top officials since Russia launched its invasion. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – NUCLEAR PLANTS
The E.U. has asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to safeguard Ukraine’s nuclear plants, two of which are now under Russian control, and mobilize international help in case of an emergency. Kate Abnett reports for Reuters.
The head of the IAEA, Rafael Grossi, has said that reports that the Russian military is controlling Ukraine’s nuclear plants are a cause for grave concern. In a statement Grossi said that he had been informed by Ukrainian authorities that, although regular staff continue to operate the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant, any action of plant management – including measures related to the technical operation of the six reactor units – requires prior approval by the Russian commander of the Russian forces that took control of the site last week. UN News Centre reports.
Russia has said that it supports Grossi’s suggestion of a trilateral meeting with Ukraine on ensuring the safety of nuclear facilities, but does not want to meet at Chernobyl as Grossi wants, Moscow’s envoy to the IAEA has said. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Chinese Foereign Minister Wang Yi, has urged diplomacy to find an end to the war, saying Beijing would work with the international community to provide “necessary mediation” when required. Brett Forrest reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Wang said the causes of the “Ukraine situation” were “complex” and had not happened overnight, as well as praising China’s friendship with Russia as “rock solid.” Wang added that China’s Red Cross will provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine “as soon as possible.” Ryan Woo reports for Reuters.
New Zealand is to rush a bill through its parliament this week that will significantly ramp up its sanctions against Russia and its oligarchs. New Zealand has no legal framework for passing broader, unilateral sanctions and usually only does so when called on by the U.N. Security Council. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden called the Russia Sanctions Bill the “first of its kind.” Eva Corlett reports for the Guardian.
Australia has committed A$70 million ($50 million) to fund lethal defensive weapons for Ukraine, including missiles and ammunition, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said. Reuters reports.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has signed a decree allowing NATO troops to deploy in western Hungary and weapons shipments to cross Hungary’s territory to other NATO member states. “The decree, however, says Hungary does not allow lethal weapons shipments across its territory to Ukraine,” Reuters reports.
Officials in Washington and European capitals are preparing for a Ukrainian government-in-exile and a long insurgency against any Russian occupation. Officials have been reluctant to share plans on how Western countries would support a Ukrainian resistance, “but as a first step, Ukraine’s allies are planning how to help establish and support a government-in-exile, which could direct guerrilla operations against Russian occupiers, according to several U.S. and European officials,” Shane Harris, Michael Birnbaum, John Hudson, Dan Lamothe and David L. Stern report for the Washington Post.
As many as 5 million Ukrainians are expected to flee the country if Russia’s bombing of Ukraine continues the E.U.’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell has warned. Borrell also pledged more scrutiny of E.U. aid spending in countries that have supported Russia diplomatically or abstained from criticizing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The Guardian reports.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Nodi has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold direct talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to an Indian government source. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukranian diplomats in Poland at Ukraine’s border on Saturday, to assess what additional support and protection the U.S. might deliver to Ukraine. Ukrainian Freign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, thanked Blinken for “coming here to Ukraine, literally” and used the meeting as a further opportunity to remind the world of the consequences of the war. Lara Jakes reports for the New York Times.
Blinken has said that plans for Poland to send fighter jets to Ukraine have gotten “the green light” from the U.S., and that President Biden’s administration will work to backfill those needs. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield has also echoed Blinken’s remarks. Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
U.S. officials have seen “credible reports” of international Russian attacks on civilians and are documenting actions that could constitute a war crime, Blinken said yesterday. David L. Stern, Danielle Paquette, Rachel Pannett, Jennifer Hassan, Paulina Firozi and Hannah Knowles report for the Washington Post.
Blinken has assured Lithuania of NATO protection and American support as he begins a lightning visit to the three Baltic states, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, that are increasingly on edge as Russia presses ahead with its invasion of Ukraine. “We are bolstering our shared defense so that we and our allies are prepared”, Blinken said today, adding that the U.S. commitment to NATO’s mutual defense pact is “sacrosanct”, the Guardian reports.
Blinken has said that the U.S. is working to free Americans in Russian custody, and urged other Americans in Russia to leave the country. “There’s only so much I can say given the privacy considerations at this point” Blinken said Sunday alongside Moldovan President Maia Sandu in Chisinau. “Whenever an American is detained anywhere in the world, we of course stand ready to provide every possible assistance, and that includes in Russia,” he added. Peter Grantiz reports for NPR.
U.S. lawmakers from both parties have emphasized that they are largely opposed to implementing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but that they believed that the U.S. should ban Russian oil imports. Luke Broadwater and Chris Cameron report for the New York Times.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has said that the House is exploring legislative options to isolate Russia, including a ban on Russian oil and energy imports. “Our bill would ban the import of Russian oil and energy products into the United States, repeal normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, and take the first step to deny Russia access to the World Trade Organization … We would also empower the Executive branch to raise tariffs on Russian imports,” Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues. Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – CENSORSHIP AND PROTESTS
More than 5,020 people were detained at anti-war protests across Russia yesterday, according to the OVD-Info rights group. Reuters reports.
Many Ukrainians are finding that relatives in Russia don’t believe there is a war, due to disinformation emanating from the Russian state, as the Kremlin moves to clamp down on independent news reporting. “As Ukrainians deal with the devastation of the Russian attacks in their homeland, many are also encountering a confounding and almost surreal backlash from family members in Russia, who refuse to believe that Russian soldiers could bomb innocent people, or even that a war is taking place at all,” Valerie Hopkins reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called today for an international trade embargo on Russia. Reuters reports.
Visa, Mastercard and American Express have announced they will suspend all operations in Russia in protest of its invasion of Ukraine. Shoppers will still be able to use the cards for purchases within Russia until they reach their expiry dates. However, Visa, Mastercard or American Express cards issued abroad will no longer work in Russia, and clients will no longer be able to use their Russian cards abroad, or for international payments online. BBC News reports.
Russian banks, cut off from global payment networks, are turning to China’s state-owned UnionPay system as Russia tries to sidestep boycotts by Western businesses. Patricia Kowsmann and Alexander Osipovich report for the Wall Street Journal.
Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak, sported the letter Z, seen to symbolize support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as he stood next to the Ukrainian gold medalist Kovtun Illia at the Gymnastics World Cup. The International Gymnastics Federation has confirmed that it will ask the Gymnastics Ethics Foundation to open disciplinary proceedings against Kuliak. The Guardian reports.
The hacker group Anonymous has been actively targeting Russia in cyberspace since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. The group’s actions include hacking into Russian streaming services yesterday to broadcast footage of the war with Ukraine. The Jerusalem Post reports.
The Kremlin is likely still weighing whether destructive action in cyberspace against the West is worth the consequences, experts have said. Ines Kagubare reports for The Hill.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
President Biden met with Finnish President Saili Niinisto, in an exchange that captured how diplomacy has changed since Russia invaded Ukraine. Non-NATO member Finland is rethinking its relationship with Washington, NATO and the West, with the invasion making the country consider seriously whether it should join NATO. However, in Biden and Niinisto’s brief public appearance together — during which both leaders expressed a desire to strengthen what Niinisto called the “long-lasting partnership” between their countries — neither one mentioned the possibility of Finland joining the Western alliance. A position which appeared deliberate. David E. Sanger reports for the New York Times.
Biden’s advisers are weighing a possible visit by Biden to Saudi Arabia this Spring to help repair relations and convince Saudi Arabia to pump more oil for the West. Biden has previously chastised Saudi Arabia for its human rights abuses, and the CIA believes its de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was involved in the dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. A trip by Biden to the Kingdom would therefore illustrate the gravity of the global energy crisis driven by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Hans Nichols reports for Axios.
Senior U.S. officials have traveled to Venezuela to meet with the government of President Nicolás Maduro, as the Biden administration steps up efforts to separate Russia from its remaining international allies. Anatoly Kurmanaev, Natalie Kitroeff and Kenneth P. Vogel report for the New York Times.
Fresh demands from Russia threatened to derail talks to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear deal over the weekend. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov demanded guarantees that Ukraine-related sanctions would not prevent it from trading broadly with Tehran under a revived nuclear deal. However, Lavrov’s demands could introduce major loopholes in those tight financial, economic and energy sanctions. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has dismissed Russia’s demands as “irrelevant,” saying that sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine “have nothing to do with the Iran nuclear deal.” Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
Iranian officials have said that Russia’s demands are “not constructive,” and are aimed at securing its own interests, Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency has reported. Reuters reports.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry has however said that Russia’s contribution to negotiations so far has been constructive and that a revived nuclear deal can be reached “in the shortest time” if Washington accepts Tehran’s position. “Iran’s peaceful nuclear cooperation should not be limited and affected by any sanctions, including Iran’s peaceful cooperation with Russia and China,” the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
North Korean state media has said that the country performed data transmission and other key tests that would be necessary to create a spy satellite. The reported tests are the second such tests in about a week, signaling that North Korea could soon launch a long-range rocket despite a U.N. ban. Hyung-Jin Kim reports for AP.
South Korea’s ruling party leader, Song Young-gil, has been hospitalized after being attacked by a stranger with an unknown object while campaigning in Seoul for the party’s presidential candidate, the Yonhap news agency reported. Reuters reports.
An Israeli attack over the Syrian capital Damascus has killed two civilians and left some material damage, Syrian state media has reported. Reuters reports.
The Taliban have arrested a Canadian aid worker in Afghanistan, amid a widening crackdown on activists and foreigners. Nadima Noor, a dual Canadian-Afghan citizen who ran a small humanitarian organization with a Western colleague, was arrested by the Taliban in mid-February and has not been released since. It is not clear whether Noor has been charged with a crime. Susannah George reports for the Washington Post.
Led by truckers, hundreds of vehicles protesting COVID-19 mandates slowed traffic outside Washington for hours yesterday. The vehicles encircled the capital and drove at a slower speed, hampering traffic outside the city. “Organizers [have] said they did not want people to drive into the capital on Sunday out of fears that some participants could turn it into a chaotic event reminiscent of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. They also wanted to avoid a confrontation with law enforcement after dozens of people protesting in Ottawa … were arrested last month,” Madeleine Ngo, Adam Bednar and Esha Ray report for the New York Times.
The “People’s Convoy” of truckers, cars and SUVs, plans to head to the Capital Beltway at about 9:30am today for a second day of demonstrations in the D.C. area, an organizer has said. Ellie Silverman and Karina Elwood report for the Washington Post.
An armed intruder caused a military base in Maryland, which the president and the vice president use to travel to and from Washington, to be put on lockdown yesterday night. Two people, at least one of whom was armed, bypassed a security checkpoint at about the time that Vice President Harris and four Cabinet members landed at the base, military officials said. The authorities at the base stopped the intruders’ vehicle with “barriers,” but they fled, Joint Base Andrews said in a statement. One intruder was apprehended and officials later said they had found evidence the second intruder had “departed the installation.” Alyssa Lukpat and Zach Montague report for the New York Times.
“We can confirm that the individual who was apprehended had a weapon, but no shots have been fired,” the statement from the base said. “There is not an active shooter situation at Joint Base Andrews; however, the intruder’s whereabouts are currently unknown,” the statement added. Colin Meyn reports for The Hill.
Harris yesterday called for Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation before walking across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, to mark the 57th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. “A record number of people cast their ballots in the 2020 elections. It was a triumph of democracy in many ways. But not everyone saw it that way. Some saw it as a threat,” Harris said. Maegan Vazquez reports for CNN.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ)’s ties to white nationalists, a pro-Nazi blogger and the far-right fringe has received little pushback and examination by Republican leadership, according to an extensive review by CNN of Gosar’s events and social media posts. Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck report for CNN.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.27 million people and has now killed over 958,600 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 446.28 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 5.99 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.