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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
A residential building in Kyiv’s Obolon district has been struck by Russian shelling today, according to the Ukrainian State Emergency Service, forcing residents to flee and killing at least one person. Jennifer Hassan reports for the Washington Post.
Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has announced that he has arrived at the outskirts of Kyiv, posting a video that appeared to show Chechen troops briefing him after a successful attack. Kadyrov, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has brutally stamped out dissent in Chechnya, and there are concerns that Chechen forces may employ similar scorched-earth tactics against the civilian population in Ukraine. Austin Ramzy reports for the New York Times.
Russia launched an airstrike yesterday on a Ukrainian military training center 10 miles from the Polish border, killing at least 35 people and increasing the risk of war encroaching on NATO territory. The strike came one day after Moscow warned the West that it would consider arms deliveries to Ukraine as legitimate targets, throwing “into sharp relief the hazards of the Western push to deliver arms support to Kyiv while avoiding direct conflict with a nuclear adversary,” Alan Cullison and Brett Forrest report for the Wall Street Journal.
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said that the bombing of the training center did not come as a surprise to U.S. intelligence and national security officials. He added that “what it shows is that Putin is frustrated by the fact that his forces are not making the kind of progress that he thought that they would make against major cities, including Kyiv.” Sullivan also reiterated President Biden’s insistence that U.S. military forces would not be fighting Russian troops in Ukraine but that they would “defend every inch of NATO territory.” David L. Stern, Karen DeYoung, Emily Rauhala, Ellen Nakashima and Dan Lamothe report for the Washington Post.
Russian naval forces have established a “distant blockade” of Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, effectively isolating the country from international maritime trade, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said today. Russian forces have also conducted one amphibious landing in the Sea of Azov, the ministry added on Twitter. NBC News reports.
A high-voltage power line to Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear plant was damaged by Russian forces not long after electricity supplies were restored to the facility, grid operator Ukrenergo said today. Ukrenergo did not say if all external power supply to the plant had been lost as a result, but demanded access to the area to carry out repairs. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS AND REFUGEES
A humanitarian convoy attempting to reach the besieged port city of Mariupol did not leave Berdyansky yesterday because of heavy fighting, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iran Vereshchuk and a clergyman accompanying the aid trucks. Mariupol City Council said in a Telegram message yesterday that 2,187 residents have died in the Russian invasion. Loveday Morris and Hannah Knowles report for the Washington Post.
Ukrainian officials have said today that they would attempt to evacuate civilians from besieged cities through 10 humanitarian corridors and renew their effort to get a stalled aid convoy to the southern port of Mariupol. According to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, the corridors are set to evacuate people from eight cities to Brovary and Bilohorodka, two suburbs of Kyiv; and from three cities in the Luhansk region of Ukraine to Slovyansk, in the region of Donetsk. There has been no indication as to whether Russian forces have agreed to these corridors, and there has been no acknowledgement of her announcement from Moscow. Annabelle Timsit reports for the Washington Post.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned that residents of Mariupol face “a worst-case scenario” unless the warring parties reach an agreement to ensure their immediate safety and access to humanitarian aid. Al Jazeera reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – DIPLOMACY
Talks between Russia and Ukraine have started, and communication between the two sides is hard but ongoing, Ukrainian presidential advisor and negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak has said on Twitter. The Guardian reports.
The fourth round of talks between Ukraine and Russia today will focus on achieving a ceasefire, troop withdrawals and security guarantees for Ukraine, Podolyak has said on Twitter and accompanying video. Reuters reporting.
Deputy head of office for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has told the BBC that he believes that Moscow’s position a head of today’s talks is more constructive than it has been previously, “instead of giving us an ultimatum or red lines or asking Ukraine to capitulate, they now seem to start the constructive negotiations.” Chris Giles reports for BBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
Russia has asked China to provide it with military equipment and support for the war in Ukraine, according to U.S. officials. Russia has also asked China for additional economic assistance, to help counteract the impact of broad sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European and Asian nations. Edward Wong and Julian E. Barnes report for the New York Times.
China will face consequences if it helps Russia evade sanctions in its invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. says. In a CNN interview, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the U.S. is “communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them.” Sullivan is due to meet Yang Jiechi, a member of China’s top decision-making body, the Politburo, and head of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission, today in Rome. BBC News reports.
Further reporting on Sullivan’s upcoming meeting with Yang is provided by Demetri Sevastopulo and Tom Mitchell for the Financial Times.
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson has called the assertions by U.S. officials that Russia asked Beijing to provide it with military assistance in Ukraine “disinformation.” The spokesperson added that China had “played a constructive role in urging peace and calling for negotiations.” Chris Giles reports for BBC News.
There are currently no indications that a Russian chemical weapons attack on Ukraine is imminent, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby has said. Kirby however added that U.S. officials “continue to watch this very very closely.” Gabriel Pietrorazio reports for ABC News.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. “We’re working with others in the international community to document the crimes that Russia is committing against the Ukrainian people. They constitute war crimes; there are attacks on civilians that cannot be justified … in any way whatsoever,” Greenfield said in an interview last Thursday. Carol E. Lee and Dan De Luce report for NBC News.
A growing number of lawmakers are increasing the pressure on President Biden to increase military aid to Ukraine, including sending fighter jets and air defense systems. Amy B Wang reports for the Washington Post.
Just Security has published an essay by Oona Hathaway and Scott Shapiro titled ‘Supplying Arms to Ukraine is Not an Act of War’.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
India is considering taking up a Russian offer to buy its crude oil and other commodities at discounted prices, two Indian officials have said. Work has been ongoing to set up a Rupee-Rouble trade mechanism to be used to pay for oil and other goods, according to one official. Aftab Ahmed and Manoj Kumar report for Reuters.
The World Health Organization said in a statement today that it is working “day and night” to protect Ukraine’s overwhelmed health-care system by keeping disrupted medical supply chains open and delivering lifesaving supplies to facilities across the nation, as well as in neighboring countries that continue to take record numbers of refugees. It said that about 18 million people in Ukraine had been affected by Russia’s invasion, and warned that hospitals were running low on medicines and struggling to treat the wounded. Jennifer Hassan report for the Washington Post.
Russia’s Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has accused “foreign countries” of wanting to force Russia into an “artificial default” through “the freezing of foreign currency accounts of the Bank of Russia and of the Russian government.” In a statement today, Siluanov said that the default would have “no real economic grounds” and that Russia would meet its debt obligations. Al Jazeera reports.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan will discuss the war in Ukraine with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at talks in Ankara today, his office has said. Reuters reports.
Top European diplomats have agreed to add Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich to the E.U. list of sanctioned Russian billionaires sanctioned. E.U. envoys are expected to adopt the measure, alongside a further set of economic sanctions against Russia, today. Francesco Guarascio and Gabriela Baczynska report for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Ukrainian officials have claimed that Russian forces have abducted at least two Ukrainian mayors to install pro-Russian replacements. Isabelle Khurshudyan, Annabelle Timsit and Timothy Bella report for the Washington Post.
Award-winning American journalist Brent Renaud was fatally shot while reporting in Irpin, a town on the outskirts of Kyiv, on Sunday, according to two Ukrainian officials. Paulina Villegas, Brittany Shammas and Isabelle Khurshudyan report for the Washington Post.
Russian prosecutors have threatened Western companies in Russia with arrests of corporate leaders who criticize the Russian government, seizures of assets, including trademarks, of companies that withdraw from Russia and legal action. Prosecutors delivered the warnings in the past week to companies including Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Procter & Gamble, International Business Machines and KFC owner Yum Brands, people familiar with the matter have said. Jennifer Maloney, Emily Glazer and Heather Haddon report for the Wall Street Journal.
Clearview AI is providing its facial recognition technology to Ukrainian leaders, CEO Hoan Ton-That said yesterday. The software could be used to detect Russian invaders, reunite refugee families and identify the dead, Ton-That told the Ukrainian government in a letter. Cat Zakrzewski reports for the Washington Post.
Protestors have been blocking a border crossing between Poland and Belarus for several days, in an attempt to stop cargo trucks they say are headed for Ukraine via Belarus with supplies for the Russian army. Ada Petriczko reports for the New York Times.
Tens of thousands of Russians have fled to Istanbul since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with tens of thousands more traveling to countries like Armenia, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. “There has never been anything like this before in peacetime,” said Konstantin Sonin, a Russian economist at the University of Chicago. “There is no war on Russian territory. As a single event, it is pretty huge.” Anton Troianbovski and Patrick Kingsley report for the New York Times.
At least a dozen missiles fired from Iran struck near a U.S. Consulate compound which is being built outside the city of Erbil in the Kurdish region of Iraq early yesterday. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps said in a statement that it had carried out the attack in response to recent Israeli actions in the region. The statement linked the U.S. presence in Iraq with Israel, saying that Iran had aimed at “the strategic center of the Zionist conspiracies in Erbil.” “The attack came four days after Iran vowed revenge against Israel for an airstrike in Syria that killed four people, including at least two members of the Revolutionary Guards,” Farnaz Fassihi and Jane Arraf report for the New York Times.
The missile attack sent U.S. troops rushing for shelter and shattered windows, as well as creating new complications for diplomatic efforts to ease tensions with Tehran. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps claimed the missile attack was on compounds used by Israeli spies operating in Iraq. The U.S., Iraq and other nations have condemned the missile strike as a destabilizing act, with the U.S.’s top diplomat in Iraq saying that Tehran “must be held accountable for this flagrant violation of Iraqi sovereignty.” Dion Nissenbaum, Ghassan Adnan and Aresu Eqbali report for the Wall Street Journal.
The talks to revive the Iran nuclear deal are on hold, despite an agreement being close to completion, following Moscow’s last minute demands that Washington pledge not to sanction trade between Russia and Tehran over Ukraine. E.U. foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, tweeted on Friday that: “a pause in the Vienna talks is needed due to external factors. A final text is essentially ready and on the table.” The Russian chief negotiator, Mikhail Ulyanov, has denied that it was only Russian objections that led to the near-complete text not being signed off, and suggested other countries still had problems with it. Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
The U.S. will not negotiate exemptions to Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia to save efforts to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and could instead reach a different accord excluding Moscow, a senior U.S. official has said. “The U.S. official said Washington would start exploring alternatives to the deal over the next week if Russia didn’t back away from its demands,” Laurence Norman and Dion Nissenbaum report for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. needs to make a decision on whether to revive the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesperson has said today. “We are not at a point of announcing an agreement now since there are some important open issues that need to be decided upon by Washington,” the spokesperson said, adding, without elaborating, that Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian will visit Russia tomorrow. Reuters reports.
Iran will remain in the Vienna nuclear talks until its “legal and logical demands are met and a strong agreement is reached,” Iran’s top security official Ali Shamkhani has said in a Tweet today. Reuters reports.
Iran has suspended the latest round of talks with Saudi Arabia, a website affiliated with Iran’s top security body reported yesterday. The talks, scheduled for Wednesday, had been announced by Iraq’s foreign ministry the day before during a diplomatic forum in Antalya, Turkey. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The South Korean government believes North Korea could test an intercontinental ballistic missile as soon as this week, South Korean domestic media has said. Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters.
At least 19 people have been killed in Sudan’s Darfur region in the latest violence between rival groups that left dozens dead last week. Fighting broke out last Thursday between armed groups in the Jebel Moon mountains of West Darfur state, close to the border with Chad. Agence France-Presse reports.
International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Karim Khan QC has filed an application for warrants of arrest in relation to the ICC’s long-running investigation into the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict. The ICC provides a statement.
Taiwan’s air force scrambled again today to warn away 13 Chinese aircraft that entered its air defense zone, Taiwan’s defense ministry has said. Reuters reports.
Saudi Arabia on Saturday said that it had executed 81 people, in the kingdom’s largest mass execution in years, despite recent promises to curb the use of the death penalty. The Saudi Ministry of Interior said in a statement that the people had been executed for “multiple heinous crimes that left a large number of civilians and law enforcement officers dead.” Vivian Yee reports for the New York Times.
Saudi Arabia and its allies are struggling to turn the tide in Marib, Yemen, one of the last major sanctuaries against Iran-backed Houthi rebels the Yemini government has in the north of the country. The Saudi-led coalition is stepping up aerial bombing and missile strikes and, in the past four months, more than 1,500 Yemeni civilians have been killed or wounded, up from 823 in the previous four months, according to the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project. Dion Nissenbaum provides analysis of the ongoing civil war in Yemen for the Wall Street Journal.
A court in El Salvador has ordered the arrest of former Salvadoran President Alfredo Cristiani in relation to a 1989 massacre of six Jesuit priests and two others by soldiers. On Feb. 25 charges were filed against Cristani and a group of soldiers for their alleged involvement in the murders. “Prosecutors allege that Cristiani knew of the military’s plan to eliminate the priests and did nothing to stop them,” AP reports.
Australia and the Netherlands have launched legal proceedings against Russia, through the U.N.-linked International Civil Aviation Organization, for the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014. Australia and the Netherlands have been seeking compensation and an apology from the Russian Federation, which has denied involvement and unilaterally withdrew from negotiations with the two countries in Oct. 2020. Sarah Martin reports for the Guardian.
An Australian soldier has testified that he watched former soldier Ben Roberts-Smith machine-gun an unarmed disabled man to death in Afghanistan. Roberts-Smith is sueing three newspapers for defamation over reports he alleges portray him as committing war crimes, including murder. The soldier, anonymized before the court as Person 24, was subpoenaed by the newspapers to give evidence in the trial. Ben Doherty reports for the Guardian.
India acknowledged on Friday that one of its missiles had mistakenly been fired into Pakistan two days earlier, with Pakistan responding by criticizing India’s “callousness and ineptitude” in a “nuclear environment.” Mujib Mashal and Salman Masood report for the New York Times.
President Biden’s administration has announced that it will be terminating part of the Title 42 border policy, that allows for migrants at the border to be turned away without being able to seek asylum, for unaccompanied migrant children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that it has addressed a Texas-based federal judge’s ruling on the issue, and that “in the current termination, CDC addresses the court’s concerns and has determined, after considering current public health conditions and recent developments, that expulsion of unaccompanied non-citizen children is not warranted to protect the public health.” Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
A gunman has been targeting homeless men sleeping in the streets of Lower Manhattan and Washington and has shot five men, two of them fatally, in recent days. The police departments from both cities have issued a joint statement announcing the joint investigation along with the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Andy Newman and Vimal Patel report for the New York Times.
Law enforcement officials are investigating reports of “unlawful entry” onto the property of a White House national security aide. According to a police department public incident report, a man was seen on the property owned by Biden’s Deputy National Security Advisor, Daleep Singh, about 1 pm on Feb. 26, then fled the scene. Carol D. Leonnig and Tyler Pager report for the Washington Post.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.51 million people and has now killed over 967,500 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 456.90 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.04 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
Former President Obama said yesterday that he has tested positive for COVID-19. Obama said that he is feeling “fine” and that his wife has tested negative. AP reports.
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.