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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
Ukraine will try to evacuate civilians through six humanitarian corridors today, including from the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said. It is unclear where the six proposed routes will go, however. “In a video statement she said Ukrainian armed forces had agreed to stop firing in those areas for 12 hours from 09:00 to 21:00 local time – and urged Russian forces to fulfill their commitment to local ceasefires,” BBC News reports.
Russia has announced a new ceasefire to let civilians flee five besieged cities, Kyiv, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv and Mariupol, following days of mostly failed ceasefire announcements. “Wednesday’s announcement of ‘silence’ was similar to one on Tuesday … So far, only one corridor has been opened, out of Sumy on Tuesday,” By Natalia Zinets and Pavel Polityuk report for Reuters.
Vereshchuk has said that Ukraine is liaising with the International Committee of the Red Cross to “confirm” the ceasefire agreements with Russia. Karla Adam, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett and Adela Suliman report for the Washington Post.
Civilians have started leaving Sumy in private cars, the mayor of the city, Oleksandr Lysenko, said in televised comments. Reuters reports.
Officials from Sumy have also said they plan to load 22 buses with people, prioritizing pregnant women, women with children, older people and people with disabilities. Karla Adam, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett and Adela Suliman report for the Washington Post.
The Ukrainian government has said that it has set up “humanitarian corridors” to move people out of areas of heavy fighting around Kyiv. Marc Santora reports for the New York Times.
About 7,000 people evacuated the northeastern city of Sumy yesterday. BBC News reports.
Russia’s defense ministry has claimed it has obtained secret documents that “prove” that Kyiv was planning an attack on the Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. BBC News reports.
Ukraine’s air defenses have “enjoyed considerable success” against Russian aircraft, the U.K. Defense Ministry has said. Russia has not achieved “any degree of control of the air,” and Russian forces have failed to make any breakthroughs in taking Kyiv, the ministry said. BBC News reports.
Top U.S. intelligence officials have told Congress that Putin is showing no signs of changing course. Rather, faced with military setbacks and a determined Ukrainian resistance, he may “double down” and step up his attacks on the civilian population, CIA Director William Burns said. The officials also added that Putin will find it “especially challenging” to maintain control of captured territory and install a sustainable pro-Moscow regime in Kyiv. Quint Forgey reports for POLITICO.
Between 2,000 and 4,000 Russian soldiers have died in the invasion of Ukraine, according to U.S. intelligence agencies. However, “Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said during a worldwide threats hearing before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday morning that analysts give the estimate low confidence, and it was based in part on information from ‘open sources,’ which can mean media and social media reports,” Ken Dilanian reports for NBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
E.U. member states have agreed a new sanctions package against Russian leaders and oligarchs, as well as excluding three Belarusian banks from Swift. The sanctions, which will also clarify questions on cryptocurrencies and target the maritime sector, will be formally adopted by the E.U. summit on Thursday and Friday in Versailles, France. The Guardian reports.
E.U. leaders gathering for a summit in Versailles tomorrow and Friday will say that Russia’s aggression “constitutes a tectonic shift in European history,” according to a draft communique. The leaders will decide to “take more responsibility for security and take further decisive steps towards building our European sovereignty,” the draft statement says. Daniel Boffey reports for the Guardian.
In a speech streamed to a packed meeting of the British Parliament yesterday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky underlined his country’s challenges, making a comparison to Britain’s situation in World War II. “We will fight to the end, at sea, in the air … We will fight in the forests, in the fields, on the street,” Zelensky said. Zelensky also renewed his plea for the West to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which the U.K. and other NATO leaders have rejected. Marc Landler reports for the New York Times.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that the U.K. will “employ every method that we can, diplomatic, humanitarian and economic,” until Russian President Vladimir Putin “has failed in this disastrous venture and Ukraine is free once more.” Johnson made the comments after Zelensky addressed the British Parliament yesterday. He added that the U.K. would continue to supply weapons to Ukraine. Peter Walker reports for the Guardian.
Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska has released her first public statement in a letter addressed to the global community. Zelenska relayed the horrors of war, particularly for women and children, including naming some child casualties of the war so far. She also repeated the calls of her husband for Western nations to declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine. BBC News reports.
NATO members are mounting a huge operation to resupply Ukraine with military equipment and arms. Governments, such as in Italy, Sweden, Spain and Germany, once reluctant to transfer arms and antagonize Russia, are also now doing so. Matthew Luxmoore, Drew Hinshaw and Nancy A. Youssef report for the Wall Street Journal.
Some of the U.S.’s most well known brands took steps to pull back from Russia yesterday. Coca-Cola said it would suspend operations in the country and McDonald’s said it was temporarily closing its restaurants. Starbucks has also said that it is suspending operations at Russian locations. PepsiCo said it was halting sales of its big soda brands in Russia, but will continue to sell potato chips and daily essentials such as milk, cheese and baby formula. Jennifer Maloney, Heather Haddon and Emily Glazer report for the Wall Street Journal.
Lumen Technologies, one of the companies that comprise the backbone of the internet, has said that it is pulling out of Russia because of an “increased security risk.” Dan Milmo reports for the Guardian.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OIL, NATURAL GAS AND COMMODITIES
President Biden has banned the import of oil and other energy sources from Russia. The U.S. immediately prohibited new Russian shipments of oil, certain petroleum products, liquefied natural gas, and coal under an executive order Biden signed yesterday. Companies have 45 days to wind down existing contracts for Russian energy supplies, a senior Biden administration official said. The order also bars new U.S. investment in Russia’s energy sector and blocks Americans from financing foreign companies that invest in the sector. Andrew Restuccia and Josh Mitchell report for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.K. has announced that it will phase out Russian oil imports by the end of 2022 and is considering banning Russia’s natural gas. “The U.K. will move away from dependence on Russian oil throughout this year, building on our severe package of international economic sanctions,” U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement. Britain’s Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng added that he was exploring options to end British imports of Russian gas which accounts for about 4% of supply in the U.K. William James and Kylie Maclellan report for Reuters.
The price of oil has risen towards $130 a barrel today, amid concerns of a potential supply shock as the U.S. bans Russian oil imports. Alex Lawler reports for Reuters.
The national average price of gasoline in the U.S. has soared to near record levels to above $4 a gallon. The increase in price has been fueled by traders, shippers and financiers shunning Russian oil, removing millions of barrels of oil from global supplies. Scott Patterson reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is banning exports of certain commodities and raw materials from Russia, according to a decree, Putin issued yesterday. The actual commodities that will be banned from export and the list of countries subject to the ban will be determined by the Russian cabinet. Alexander Osipovich and Caitlin Ostroff report for the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. sanctions on Russian oil have left about 70% of Russian seaborne oil struggling to find buyers, JP Morgan has estimated. Analysts have said that the new sanctions could leave more cargoes of Russian oil already on board ships struggling to find buyers and Goldman Sachs has estimated that more than half of Russian oil exported from ports remains unsold. Bozorgmehr Sharafedin reports for Reuters.
Venezuela’s authoritarian government released at least two imprisoned Americans, signaling a potential turning point in the Biden administration’s relationship with Russia’s staunchest ally in the Western Hemisphere. This follows a trip by a high-level U.S. delegation to Venezuela, which has enormous proven oil reserves, as part of a broader U.S. agenda in autocratic countries that may be rethinking their ties with Putin in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Anatoly Kurmanaev, Natalie Kitroeff and Kenneth P. Vogel report for the New York Times.
The de facto leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have declined calls with President Biden in recent weeks, as the U.S. tries to build international support for Ukraine and contain a surge in oil prices. Dion Nissenbaum, Stephen Kalin and David S. Cloud report for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. has rejected an offer by Poland to transfer its Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets to a U.S. base in Germany as a way to replenish Ukraine’s air force. The U.S. has sought to speed up weapons deliveries to Ukraine. However, the prospect of flying combat aircraft from NATO territory into the war zone “raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance,” the Pentagon has said. “We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one,” Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said. Phil Stewart, Humeyra Pamuk and Patricia Zengerle report for Reuters.
Vice President Harris is traveling to Poland today, as part of a three day trip which also includes Romania. In a statement announcing Harris’s trip last week, the White House said that Harris planned to discuss “security, economic, and humanitarian assistance” to Ukraine with the leaders of Poland and Romania. Mike Ives reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. is sending two Patriot anti-missile batteries to Poland to protect U.S., Polish and other allied troops in the country. The move reflects the increasing concerns that Russian missiles, fired deliberately or inadvertently, could come towards Poland. “This defensive deployment is being conducted proactively to counter any potential threat to U.S. and allied forces and NATO territory,” the military’s European Command said, adding that the systems “will in no way support any offensive operations.” Eric Schmitt reports for the New York Times.
U.S. officials are increasingly concerned that Sudan’s military junta will allow Russia to build a naval base on the country’s strategic Red Sea coast after Sudanese officials suggested that they plan to resurrect a suspended 2020 agreement that would give Moscow a 25 year lease on a base in Port Sudan. Michael M. Phillips and Nicholas Bariyo report for the Wall Street Journal.
Congressional leaders have reached a bipartisan deal for $13.6 billion in aid to be provided to Ukraine and European allies. The agreement is part of an overdue $1.5 trillion measure to finance federal agencies for the rest of the year, and includes billions more funding to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. Alan Farm reports for AP.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – WAR CRIMES
A Russian airstrike that reportedly killed 47 civilians as they queued for bread in Chernihiv last Thursday may constitute a war crime, an investigation by Amnesty International has found. The Guardian reports.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) faces “myriad challenges” to prosecute war crimes committed in Ukraine, Karim Khan, the ICC chief prosecutor, has said. Khan has announced that he has dispatched an advance team of investigators and lawyers to Ukraine, reiterating the importance that those committing war crimes are held to account. “Any side that targets – directly targets – civilians or civilian objects is committing a crime,” Khan said. Anthony Deutsch and Toby Sterling report for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, has called on Russian forces who are effectively in control of the Chernobyl nuclear site in northern Ukraine to allow some of the staff there to have a break. Grossi said that he was deeply worried about the stressful situation facing a group of about 210 workers that have been on duty constantly for the past two weeks. BBC News reports.
Grossi has also said that the remote transmission of data from security monitoring systems at the Chernobyl nuclear site to the IAEA has been lost. BBC News reports.
The Ukrainian authorities do not know what the radiation levels are at Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and have no control over what was happening at the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko has said. Russian forces have taken control of both sites. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russia has warned the West that it is working on a broad response to Western sanctions that would be swift and felt in the West’s most sensitive areas. “Russia’s reaction will be swift, thoughtful and sensitive for those it addresses,” Dmitry Birichevsky, the director of the Russian foreign ministry’s department for economic cooperation, was quoted as saying by the state-owned RIA news agency. Reuters reports.
Putin has signed a package of measures aimed at mitigating the economic pain inflicted by the retreat of international businesses from Russia and Western sanctions, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “The state will do everything necessary to support families,” Putin said in a televised address. The measures prioritizes protections for the most disadvantaged Russians, including millions of pensioners who constitute the core of Putin’s electorate. Ivan Nechepurenko reports for the New York Times.
The secretary of Russia’s ruling party’s general council has proposed nationalizing foreign-owned factories that shut down operations in Russia. In a statement published Monday evening, Andrei Turchak said shutting operations was a “war” against the citizens of Russia. Reuters reports.
The Russian foreign ministry has said that it does not plan to overthrow Ukraine’s government and that Russia’s goals in Ukraine would be better achieved through talks. A spokesperson said Russia’s goal is for Ukraine to have neutral status, as well as adding that about 140,000 Ukrainians have fled to Russia. Reuters reports.
Ukraine’s government has banned exports of rye, barley, buckwheat, millet, sugar, salt, and meat until the end of this year, according to a cabinet resolution published today. Reuters reports.
The New York Times has temporarily removed its news staff from Russia, following new Russian legislation that effectively outlaws independent reporting on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Russia’s new legislation seeks to criminalize independent, accurate news reporting about the war against Ukraine. For the safety and security of our editorial staff working in the region, we are moving them out of the country for now,” a spokesperson said. Michael M. Grynbaum reports for the New York Times.
BBC News journalists in Russia have resumed their English-language broadcasts, days after putting their work on hold after the introduction of strict new media laws. BBC News reports.
Information on the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine is provided by UNHCR.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The U.N.’s top human rights official, Michelle Bachelet, said yesterday that China would allow her to visit the country and examine conditions there, including in the Xinjiang region. If the visit goes ahead, Bachelet will be “the first United Nations high commissioner for human rights in 17 years to visit China, which has faced repeated criticism for its human rights policies,” Nick Cumming-Bruce reports for the New York Times.
Israeli President Isacc Herzog will visit Turkey today, the first visit by an Israeli leader since 2008. One particular area of interest for Turkey and Israel is natural gas, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan saying that the visit will bring in a “new era” and that the countries could work together to carry Israeli natural gas to Europe. This is particularly timely given that gas supplies from the Mediterranean could ease European dependence on Russian gas. Steven Scheer reports for Reuters.
South Koreans headed to the polls today to vote in one of the most tightly fought presidential elections in recent memory. According to pre-election surveys, the race is a close contest between Lee Jae-myung, of President Moon Jae-in’s Democratic Party, and Yoon Suk-yeol, a former prosecutor representing the conservative opposition, the People Power Party. The New York Times provides live updates.
As polls closed in South Korea, an exit survey conducted jointly by three television networks showed that conservative presidential candidate Suk-yeol was slightly ahead of liberal Jar-myung with 48.4 to 47.8%. Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters.
A French far-right presidential candidate has been accused by eight women of sexual misconduct in a video posted on the French news site, Mediapart. Noemie Bisserbe reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Hackers working on behalf of the Chinese government have hacked at least six U.S. state governments in the past year, according to a report released by private security firm, Mandiant. The report does not identify the compromised states or offer a motive for the intrusions. However, APT41, the Chinese group believed to be responsible for the breaches, is known to launch operations for espionage purposes and for financial gains, and was implicated in a 2020 Justice Department indictment that accused Chinese hackers of targeting more than 100 companies and institutions in the U.S. and abroad. Eric Tucker reports for AP.
Two Californian men were sentenced this week for attacking five employees of a Turkish restaurant in Beverly Hills. The two men, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy and one count of committing a hate crime, were angry because of Turkey’s support of Azerbaijan in its recent war with Armenia, prosecutors said. Vimal Patel reports for the New York Times.
The House yesterday adopted measures to condemn the spike in bomb threats against historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and the January attack on a Jewish synagogue in Texas. Cristina Marcos reports for The Hill.
Former White House Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, who helped former President Trump spread false claims of voter fraud in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election, is facing scrutiny over his own voting record. This follows a report that he registered to vote from a North Caroline mobile home, despite there being no indication that Meadows ever resided, or even spent a night at the rural mountain home. North Carolina law requires that a voter lives at their address for 30 days before the election in which they are voting. Reid J. Epstein reports for the New York Times.
A jury has been selected for the trial of four men who stand accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D). The jury will comprise of 11 women and 7 men, with 12 deciding the case and 6 alternates. Opening statements are scheduled for today. Michael Tarm, Ed White and Sara Burnett report for AP.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
A jury has convicted Texas man, Guy Reffitt, of obstruction and other charges for riling up the mob at the Capitol on Jan. 6 last year, confronting police while armed and later threatening his children not to report him, in the first trial stemming from the U.S. Capitol attack. Reffitt faces up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction count alone. Aruna Viswanatha and Alexa Corse report for the Wall Street Journal.
Former Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio has been charged in a federal indictment with conspiring with other top members of the far-right nationalist group to disrupt the certification of the 2020 presidential election by helping to plan and launch the Jan. 6 attack. Tarrio is the second leader of a far-right group to face charges in the past few months, the first being founder and leader of the Oath Keepers militia, Stewart Rhodes. Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack laid out its theory for potential criminal charges against former President Trump yesterday, arguing that he and the conservative lawyer John Eastman were involved in a conspiracy to perpetrate a fraud on the American public as part of a plan to overturn the 2020 election. The allegation could determine how deeply the panel can dig into emails, correspondence and other documents of lawyers close to Trump, and form the core part of the panel’s strategy for potentially holding Trump and his allies criminally liable for the Jan. 6 attack. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.
The Washington Post reports on the work of the Jan. 6 committee’s “green team”, charged with scrutinizing whether the Trump campaign knowingly used false claims that the election was stolen to dupe donors and raise large sums of cash.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.37 million people and has now killed over 962,300 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 449.90 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.02 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.