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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
Three cities (Dnipro, Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk) in central and western Ukraine have been bombed this morning and overnight. Missile strikes have been reported in Dnipro, a key city on Dnieper River that the Russians would have to seize to lay claim to the eastern half of the country; Lutsk, in the northwest; and Ivano-Frankivsk in the southwest. A spokesperson for the Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed that Russian forces had struck “military airfields” in Lutsk and Ivano-Frankivsk. Haley Willis, Malachy Browne and Lucas Lilieholm report for the New York Times.
The western targets indicate that Russia might be expanding its efforts to slow the flow of weapons and resources to the front lines from across Ukraine’s western border. Marc Santora reports for the New York Times.
The U.K.’s Defense Ministry has said that the Russian military could be preparing for a fresh attack against Kyiv in the coming days, despite continuing to make “limited progress” in advancing towards the capital. Amy Cassidy and Paul Murphy report for CNN.
The massive Russian convoy of military vehicles that stretched more than 40 miles (64 kilometers) has “largely dispersed and redeployed” new satellite images show. Satellite imaging firm Maxar Technologies said the “images showed armored units manoeuvring in and through the surrounding towns close to the Antonov airport, northwest of Kyiv. Some of the vehicles have moved into forests, Maxar reported,” Al Jazeera reports. Further reporting on the latest images is provided by Amy Cheng for the Washington Post.
The Pentagon assessed yesterday that the lead column of the Russian convoy was about nine miles from Kyiv’s center, compared to 12 miles in the past days. A senior U.S. defense official described the movement of the column as “creeping,” and said it is “very difficult” to predict how long it could take for Russian forces to make any more serious movements. Another advance from the east is about 25 miles east of Kyiv’s city center. Daniel Lamothe reports for the Washington Post.
Russian forces hit a psychiatric hospital near the eastern Ukrainian town of Izyum today, according to governor of the Kharkiv region, Oleh Synegubov. Synegubov said that the number of casualties is unknown, but that there were 330 people at the hospital at the time of the attack. Reuters reports.
Russia shelled residential areas in Kharkiv 89 times in one day, Synegubov has also said. The Guardian reports.
The mayor of Kharkiv has said that 48 schools in the city have been destroyed. Reuters reports.
Russia’s defense ministry has denied bombing a maternity and children’s hospital in Mariupol, accusing Ukraine of a “staged provocation.” Reuters reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved 16,000 volunteers in the Middle East to fight in Ukraine. “If you see that there are these people who want of their own accord, not for money, to come to help the people living in Donbas, then we need to give them what they want and help them get to the conflict zone,” Putin said to the Russian Defense Minister during a meeting of Russia’s Security Council. Reuters reports.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that he does not believe the conflict in Ukraine would escalate into a nuclear war. However, he warned the U.S. and Europe that Moscow would never again be dependent on the West. Guy Faulconbridge reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – CHEMICAL WEAPONS
The U.N. Security Council is to hold an emergency meeting today at the request of Russia about its claim of “the military biological activities of the U.S. on the territory of Ukraine.” Pamela Falk reports for CBS News.
CIA Director William Burns has warned that Russia’s claims of Ukraine hosting U.S.-backed chemical weapons may be a “false flag” intended to justify Russia’s possible use of such weapons against Ukraine. Burns’ statement to lawmakers yesterday reflected statements by other senior defense officials and the U.S.’s U.N. Mission spokesperson Olivia Dalton said that Russia’s move was “exactly the kind of false flag effort we have warned Russia might initiate to justify a biological or chemical weapons attack.” Brett Samuels and Ellen Mitchell report for The Hill.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video address has refuted Russian claims that Ukraine is developing chemical weapons or weapons of mass destruction. Hira Humayun and Masha Angelova report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS AND REFUGEES
Ukraine is trying to open evacuation corridors in several regions today, Ukraine’s Minister of Reintegration Iryna Vereshchuk has said. The routes include evacuations from Mariupol and Colnovakha which have been repeatedly blocked or inaccessible over the past week amid heavy fighting and shelling by Russian forces. These routes however have not been agreed with Moscow, which announced different routes leading into Russia. Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych report for CNN.
Further reporting on the evacuation routes is provided by the BBC.
About 100,000 people have evacuated Ukraine through humanitarian corridors over the past two days, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said yesterday. In a video, Zelensky said: “Sumy, Trostyanets, Krasnopillya, Irpin, Bucha, Hostomel, Izium. Almost 40,000 people have already been evacuated this day. They were given safety at last. In Poltava, Kyiv, Cherkasy, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, Lviv.” He however added that Mariupol and Volnovakha, however, remain completely blocked, and that “Russian troops did not cease fire.” Hira Humayun reports for CNN.
More than 2.5 million people have now fled Ukraine, the U.N. International Organization for Migration has said. The Guardian reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The heads of E.U. governments at a two-day conference at Versailles, France, have issued a statement acknowledging Ukraine’s “right to choose its own destiny,” but left it to the European Commission to assess the viability of Ukraine’s candidacy to join the bloc, refusing Kyiv’s appeal for rapid accession to the bloc. “Pending this and without delay, we will further strengthen our bonds and deepen our partnership to support Ukraine in pursuing its European path. Ukraine belongs to our European family,” the statement said. Matina Stevis-Gridneff reports for the New York Times.
European leaders differed in their reaction to Kyiv’s demands for accelerated membership, with some, including Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, making clear that Ukraine would not be allowed to join hastily. Michel Rose, Philip Blenkinsop and Gabriela Baczynska report for Reuters.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda has said that there was a “flavor of disappointment” over the decision by the E.U. leaders not to fast track Ukraine to E.U. candidate status. “Nausėda said he believed that “more could be done” but that other member states had different concerns among their electorates to which they needed to answer,” Daniel Boffey reports for the Guardian.
The E.U. will double the amount it is spending on providing military support to Ukraine to €1 billion. Daniel Boffey reports for the Guardian.
The E.U. will not impose sanctions on Russian gas or oil, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has said in a video on Facebook. “The most important issue for us has been settled in a favorable way: there won’t be sanctions that would apply to gas or oil, so Hungary’s energy supply is secure in the upcoming period,” Orban said. Reuters reports.
Kazakhstan, which is closely allied to Russia, has said that it will send more than 80 tons of humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that Russian President Vladimir Putin made a choice to “specifically target civilians” and that any further targeting would be met with the “severest of responses.” Trudeau added that his government will match up to C$30 million in donations made by Canadians for Ukraine, raising the amount from an earlier commitment of C$10 million. Ismail Shakil and Steve Scherer report for Reuters.
Australia has joined the U.K. and U.S. in banning oil, coal and gas imports from Russia. Peter Hannam reports for the Guardian.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
President Biden is to announce today that the U.S., along with the Group of Seven and the E.U., will call for revoking the “most favored nation” status for Russia, referred to as permanent normal trade relations in the U.S., sources have said. Congress is expected to introduce the necessary legislation today following Biden’s announcement. Kaitlan Collins and Manu Raju report for CNN.
The Pentagon and Western allies are continuing to explore ways to shore up Ukraine’s air defenses by facilitating the transfer of Soviet-designed anti-aircraft equipment, according to officials. Having rejected a Polish proposal to transfer its Soviet-era aircraft, the U.S. is looking at transferring air-defense systems from former Eastern Bloc countries that are NATO members, a Pentagon official said. Courtney McBride, William Mauldin and Michael R. Gordon report for the Wall Street Journal.
More than 40 Republican senators have called for Biden to aid “the transfer of aircraft and air defense systems” to Ukraine yesterday. “The senators said in a letter that they ‘strongly disagree’ with the Biden administration’s stance on Poland’s proposal, and that the Ukrainian military is in ‘dire need of more lethal aid’ as it fights Russia’s invasion,” Hannah Knowles reports for the Washington Post.
Russia has shown “reckless disregard” for civilians, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, Avril Haines, has said. “The Russian military has begun to loosen its rules of engagement to achieve their military objectives,” Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee’s annual hearing on worldwide threats to U.S. security. Patrica Zengerle and Jonathan Landay report for Reuters.
Vice President Harris has provided support behind efforts to investigate Russia for possible war crimes in Ukraine. “The U.N. has set up a process by which there will be a review and investigations, and we will, of course, participate as appropriate and necessary,” Harris told reporters in Warsaw. Harris however stopped short of calling Russia’s actions “war crimes,” while Polish President Andrzej Duda, speaking alongside her, did so twice. Drew Hinshaw and William Mauldin report for the Wall Street Journal.
Harris is heading to Romania today to meet Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and discuss the growing refugee crisis in the region. Harris met Polish leaders and Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw yesterday. Nandita Bose reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – NUCLEAR POWER
The International Atomic Agency (IAEA) has warned of “deteriorating and exhausting conditions” for staff at the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant. In a statement yesterday the IAEA said staff members “have not been able to rotate since the day before Russian forces took control.” The IAEA also said that staff at Chernobyl are no longer able to communicate with Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory authority. Mark Ives reports for the New York Times.
Russia’s energy minister said yesterday that specialists from Belarus had restored electricity to the Chernobyl nuclear plant. Reuters reports.
All Ukrainian nuclear power stations are operating stably but staff in the Zaporizhzhia plant that was captured by Russian forces are facing psychological pressure, the Ukrainian state nuclear company has said. Reuters reports.
There is no danger to civilians after an institute in Kharkiv containing a nuclear laboratory was shelled by Russian forces, Khakiv’s regional governor has said. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – DIPLOMACY
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov failed to reach a cease fire agreement or any deal to protect civilians during talks in Turkey yesterday. Jared Malsin and Evan Gershkovich report for the Wall Street Journal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday, in televised remarks to Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, that there had been “certain positive shifts” in Moscow’s talks with Ukraine. Putin did not however elaborate on any details. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday endorsed a Russian plan to nationalize foreign-owned businesses that leave Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The plan is scheduled to be discussed in Russia’s parliament today. Putin said that “Russia must ‘introduce external management’ on departing companies ‘and then transfer these enterprises to those who want to work,’” Jeanne Whalen reports for the Washington Post.
Russia’s proposal to nationalize the assets of foreign-owned businesses that have left Russia, may “ultimately result in even more economic pain” for Moscow, White House press secretary Jen Psaki has tweeted. Psaki said that such a decision would be “lawless,” and would make it even harder for Russia to attract future investment. Amy Cheng reports for the Washington Post.
Goldman Sachs has said it will close its operations in Russia, becoming the first Wall Street bank to do so. Money transfer giant Western Union has also said it will suspend operations in Russia and Belarus. BBC News reports.
The Ukrainian Anonymous hacker group has hacked into Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal agency responsible for monitoring and censoring media, and released 360,000 files, according to a post by the group on Twitter yesterday. Arielle Marsden reports for the Jerusalem Post.
Kremlin-critic Alexei Navalny has called on Russians to take to the streets to protest the war in Ukraine. “You need to go to anti-war rallies every weekend, even if it seems that everyone has either left or got scared,” Navalny said in a post on Instagram. Ivan Nechepurenko reports for the New York Times.
Facebook will allow some calls for violence against Russian invaders, creating a rare exception to its long-standing hate speech rules that prohibit such language. Whilst Facebook still will not allow credible calls for violence against Russian civilians, the exception will allow users to call for the deaths of Putin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Elizabeth Dwoskin reports for the Washington Post.
Russia will end the activities of Meta Platforms, operators of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, if the company allows users to call for violence against Russians and Russian soldiers, the Kremlin said today. Reuters reports.
More than 954,000 Ukrainians were without electricity as of Thursday and nearly 228,000 were without gas, Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear energy provider has said. Reuters reports.
President Biden’s administration has accused North Korea of testing components for a large new intercontinental ballistics missile, in what has been described by a senior U.S. official as a “serious escalation” of a weapons program that could threaten U.S. cities. Seung Min Kim and Joby Warrick report for the Washington Post.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol have agreed to ramp up three-way ties with the U.S. in responding to North Korea’s evolving military threat. Elaine Lies and Hyonhee Shin report for Reuters.
South Korea’s military has detected activity restoring some of the tunnels at North Korea’s nuclear test. The tunnels were partly demolished by North Korea in 2018 when the site was closed. Josh Smith reports for Reuters.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
A Pentagon investigation has concluded that inadequate security and intelligence practices contributed to the deaths of three Americans during a 2020 assault on the Manda Bay military base in Kenya by al-Shabab fighters. The New York Times provides the statement of Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, Commander of the United States Africa Command.
Russia’s envoy to the talks to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal has said that the conclusion of the negotiations was not only dependent on Moscow and that other parties continued to have concerns. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The Islamic State yesterday announced that it has a new leader, but provided little information on his identity or background. The new leader, Abu al-Hasan al-Hasimi al-Qurashi, was unveiled on Islamic State social media accounts, in a message which also confirmed the death of the group’s previous leader, who American officials say blew himself up during a U.S. Commando raid in northwestern Syria last month. Ben Hubbard reports for the New York Times.
Two Yemeni-American women held in Yemen have been freed in a mission by U.S. and Saudi special forces, according to Saudi defense ministry spokesperson Brig Gen Turki al-Malki. BBC News reports.
Former student protest leader, Gabriel Boric, is set to be sworn in as Chile’s youngest ever president today. “Chile was rocked by months of unrest in 2019 over inequality, corruption and inadequate social welfare. Many of the protesters’ demands echoed those which Boric and his contemporaries had pushed in a student movement which demanded that Chile be rebuilt with the concerns of its people at the core,” John Barlett reports for the Guardian.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national governing party has won re-election in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. Karan Deep Singh and Mujib Mashal report for the New York Times.
Pakistan has warned New Dehli of “unpleasant consequences” over what it said was an Indian-originated, but unidentified high-altitude supersonic object that crashed near the eastern Pakistani city of Mian Channu. Asif Shahzad reports for Reuters.
Concerns are growing among human rights groups that the U.N. is deferring to Beijing in its response to China’s campaign to forcibly assimilate ethnic minorities in the country’s Xinjiang region. A coalition of 192 human-rights organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, issued an open letter on Tuesday calling on the U.N. to publish a long-delayed report on Chinese government actions targeting Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslim groups in Xinjiang. Chao Deng reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Senate voted yesterday to approve a spending package that includes $1.5 trillion in funding to keep the federal government open along with $13.6 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine. The House approved the measure on Wednesday. Kelsey Snell reports for NPR.
Prosecutors said yesterday that they planned to drop a murder charge against a former security guard, Matthew Dolloff, who fatally shot a man in a confrontation after a right-wing rally in Denver in 2020. A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said that prosecutors were not able to overcome claims by Dolloff that he had acted in “self-defense or defense of others” when he shot Lee John Keltner, 49, at the conclusion of a “patriot muster” rally on Oct. 10, 2020. Michael Levenson reports for the New York Times.
Former President Trump is asking his supporters to help fund his new “Trump Force One” private plan just days after a jet flying him to Mar-a-Lago made an emergency landing when one of its engines failed. Sarakshi Rai reports for The Hill.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
Former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn appeared yesterday before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Flynn’s appearance was in response to a committee subpoena asking him to testify about an Oval Office meeting at which then President Trump and others allegedly discussed seizing voting machines. Flynn did not answer the committee’s questions, exercising his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, according to a statement from his attorney. Peter Nicholas and Garrett Haake report for NBC News.
The death of Officer Jeffrey Smith, who committed suicide nine days after confronting a mob at the U.S. capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 was the direct result of an injury he sustained during the attack, a retirement board has found. The ruling marks the first time that the Washington, D.C.’s Metropolitan Police Department has classified a suicide as a line-of-duty death. Shaila Dewan reports for the New York Times.
A New York man has been arrested and charged with pushing a Capitol Police officer over a ledge during the Jan. 6 attack. Michael Levenson reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.50 million people and has now killed over 965,400 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 453.60 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.03 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.