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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
A Russian airstrike has hit a maternity hospital in the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, local authorities have said. Video footage released by the Mariupol mayor’s office showed wounded people being pulled out of the partially collapsed hospital complex. Three people were killed in the blast and 17 people were wounded, the mayor has said. Alan Cullison reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Ukrainian military claims to have defeated a regiment of Russian troops and eliminated its commander, in Brovary, which is northeast of Kyiv. Celine Alkhaldi and Tim Lister report for CNN.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense has confirmed that Russian military conscripts have been involved in the invasion of Ukraine, just a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted conscripts were not part of the assault. Defense Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov further claimed that almost all conscripts had since been withdrawn to Russia. Sarah Dean and Rob Picheta report for CNN.
Russia could be planning a chemical or biological weapons attack in Ukraine and “we should all be on the lookout”, the White House has said. Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that Russia’s claims about U.S. biological weapons labs, and chemical weapons development in Ukraine, were preposterous and called the claims an “obvious ploy” to try and justify further attacks. Gordon Corera reports for BBC News.
The U.K.’s Defense Ministry has said that Russian air operations over Ukraine have slowed, potentially in response to combat losses that the invading forces have suffered. In a statement released today the ministry said that “there has been a notable decrease in overall Russia air activity over Ukraine in recent days” adding that this was “likely due to the unexpected effectiveness and endurance of Ukrainian Air Defence Forces”. Robert Wall reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Photographs from Planet Labs PBC, an American firm, and other researchers appear to show a large expanse of flooded land north of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Analysts consulted by Planet Labs believe the flooding was intentional. Deliberate flooding during combat – either to erect a barrier or destroy an area – is known as “hydraulic warfare,” and has often been used to supplement a defensive strategy. Reis Thebault and Dylan Moriarty report for the Washington Post.
Efforts to shuttle people out of cities under attack resumed today, according to Ukrainian officials, after about 1,000 people trapped near a nuclear power plant in southeast Ukraine were evacuated overnight. Ellen Francis reports for the Washington Post.
The Russian Ministry of Defense has claimed it used a thermobaric rocket launching weapon in its deadly attack on Ukraine, the U.K. announced yesterday. However, the U.S. military still has seen “no indications” that thermobaric weapons have been used, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
The Pentagon has seen indications that Russian forces are dropping so-called “dumb-bombs” – munitions that are not precision-guided and therefore have limited ability to hit actual targets accurately. It is unclear whether Moscow’s use of dumb-bombs is by design or by default due to potential damage to its precision capabilities. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – DIPLOMACY
The foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine met for face-to-face talks in Turkey today in the first high-level contact between two sides since Moscow invaded Ukraine. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleban, said he discussed a 24-hour ceasefire with his Russian counterpart but no progress was made as Moscow’s representative defended its invasion and said it was going to plan. Al Jazeera reports.
The possibility of a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was discussed by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart at face to face talks in Turkey earlier today. Zachary Basu reports for Axios.
Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov of Russia has left open the door to a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Volodymyr Zelensky. “I hope that this will become necessary at some point,” he said. “But preparatory work needs to take place for this.” Zelensky has said that the war can only be ended through a meeting with Putin, which the Kremlin has not yet agreed to. Anton Troianovski reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Internet experts have proposed creating an international committee that could impose targeted sanctions against Russian military and propaganda websites without knocking ordinary civilian sites offline. The proposals – made today in an open letter signed by politicians, internet activists, networking experts, security researchers and others – opposes disconnecting all Russian websites as dangerously broad, with signatories expressing concern about depriving Russians of independent sources of news and information. Craig Timberg reports for the Washington Post.
Allies of President Vladimir Putin are still welcome in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), which has yet to condemn the Ukraine invasion or enforce sanctions. There are concerns that this may undercut some of the penalties on Russia. “Sanctions are only as strong as the weakest link,” said lawyer and former adviser to the U.S. Treasury Department Adam Smith, adding that “any financial center that is willing to do business when others are not could provide a leak in the dike and undermine the overall measures.” David D. Kirkpatrick, Mona El-Naggar and Michael Forsythe report for the New York Times.
The United Arab Emirates has said that it would push the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to pump more oil as crude prices rocket to near record highs during Russia’s war on Ukraine. The decision marks a departure from the position of its ally Saudi Arabia, which has stuck with an alliance with Moscow on energy issues. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the U.A.E announcement “an important thing to stabilize global energy markets, to make sure that there remains an abundant supply of energy around the world.” Summer Said and Benoit Faucon report for the Wall Street Journal.
A “small number of individual soldiers” from the British Army are absent without leave and may have gone to Ukraine despite orders not to, the army said in a statement today. In a separate statement, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said that while it “fully understood the strength of feeling for UK citizens and others living in the UK wanting to support the Ukrainians following the Russian invasion…traveling to fight or to assist others engaged in the conflict may be against the law and could lead to prosecution.” Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich has been sanctioned by the UK government as part of its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. BBC News reports.
While many countries in the developing world are unsettled by Putin’s breach of Ukrainian sovereignty, the giants of the global south – including India, Brazil and South Africa – continue to hedge their bets, while China still publicly backs Putin. Anthony Faiola and Lesley Wroughton provide analysis for the Washington Post.
China’s censors, who determine what can be discussed on the country’s social media platforms, are silencing the views of citizens protesting Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Eduardo Baptista reports for Reuters.
Lithuania’s parliament today imposed a strict state of emergency over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, limiting rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, voting records show. Andrius Sytas reports for Reuters.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved $1.4bn of emergency funds for Ukraine. This comes as the IMF predicts Ukraine will see a deep recession this year. BBC News Reports.
The European Central Bank (ECB) will meet today to discuss monetary policy in the first session since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine spurred a wave of economic sanctions that are expected to damage global trade. The ECB is scheduled to release a statement on its monetary policy and interest rate at 7.45 a.m. ET. Caitlin Ostroff reports for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
Gen. Tod Wolters, the Commander of U.S. forces in Europe has defended Washington’s decision not to orchestrate a transfer of Polish MiG fighter jets for Kyiv’s use. The Supreme Allied Commander in Europe praised Poland’s efforts to support Ukraine, but said that a better approach than offering the Soviet-built MiGs to Ukraine would be “to provide increased amount of anti-tank weapons and air defense systems, which is ongoing with the international community.” Daniel Michaels reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Vice President Kamala Harris began her joint press conference in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda with a direct message to the people of Poland, which has taken in more than a million Ukrainian refugees, before turning to efforts to support Poland and other NATO allies. Zolan Kanno-Younds reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS
Ukrainian government officials said yesterday that damage by the Russian forces had left the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disconnected from outside electricity, leaving the site of the worst nuclear accident in history dependent on power from diesel generators and backup supplies. The International Atomic Energy Agency said that the loss of power violated a “key safety pillar,” but it saw “no critical impact on safety” at this time. David E.Sanger and Henry Fountain report for the New York Times.
Ukraine’s national electricity grid operator, Ukrenergo, has said that it has a team ready to restore power at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and is waiting for a safe corridor to be created. Annabelle Chapman reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russia has banned exports of telecom, medical, auto, agricultural, electrical and tech equipment, among other items, until the end of 2022, in retaliation for Western sanctions on Moscow. Reuters reports.
The Ukrainian government is preparing to move its data and servers abroad if Russia’s invading forces push deeper into the country, according to the deputy chief of Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection, Victor Zhora. Raphael Satter and James Pearson report for Reuters.
Ukraine’s Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation, Oleksander Bornyakov, has said that campaigns to reach out to Russians and make them aware of the conflict through the internet had been successful. Bornyakov stressed during a virtual event that Ukraine is working to keep its digital infrastructure up and running in the midst of war, while combating disinformation and cyber attacks. Isabelle Bousquette reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Information on the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine is provided by UNHCR.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Yoon Suk-yeol, leader of South Korea’s conservative party, has won the presidency. Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national governing party is set to remain in power in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, according to early election results released today. Karen Deep Singh and Mujib Mashal report for the New York Times.
Hungary’s parliament has elected ruling Fidesz party lawmaker Katalin Novak as the country’s first women president, buttressing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s nationalist agenda. Analysts say Orban hoped to appeal to women voters by picking the mother of three for the largely ceremonial role. Reuters reports.
The House passed a $1.5 trillion spending bill that includes emergency aid for Ukraine after Democratic leaders stripped out a contentious COVID-19 aid provision worth $15.6 billion. Natalie Andrews, Siobhan Hughes and Elza Collins report for the Wall Street Journal.
The House voted yesterday to renew a lapsed law aimed at preventing domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking, approving the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, called the provision “one of the most important laws passed by Congress in the last 30 years.” Annie Karni reports for the New York Times.
Florida lawmakers have approved an elections police force, the first of its kind in the U.S. Its staff of 25 will be part of the Department of State, which answers to Floride Gov, Ron DeSantis and has sparked concerns amongst voting rights advocates. Lori Rozsa reports for the Washington Post.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
A federal judge has dismissed civil claims against Republican Representative Mo Brooks alleging that he helped incite supporters of former President Donald Trump to attack the U.S. Capitol. Sarah N. Lynch reports for Reuters.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) filed suit yesterday to stop one of its vendors from turning over records to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. The RNC lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, alleges that the subpoena issued in relation to the Republican Party’s fundraising and donor efforts from Salesforce.com violates the committee’s constitutional rights and is overly broad. Byron Tau reports for the Wall Street Journal.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.40 million people and has now killed over 963,800 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 451.80 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.