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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
Ukrainian officials have accused Russia of bombing a theater in Mariupol, where hundreds of displaced families had sought refuge. There has been no word on deaths or injuries, though a local official said the fate of “several hundred” people remained unknown. Adela Suliman Paulina Villegas, Elyse Samuels and Reis Thebault report for the Washington Post.
The basement in the Mariupol theatre where people had gathered has withstood the bombing a local Ukrainian MP has said. “It looks like most of them have survived,” the MP told the BBC. However, an adviser to the city’s mayor has earlier said that emergency workers were struggling to reach the building due to constant shelling. Hugo Bachega reports for BBC News.
The bombing of the Mariupol theater “looks to be specific targeting of civilian infrastructure” and a “self evident breach of international humanitarian law,” the U.K.’s Foreign Office minister, James Cleverley, has said. BBC News reports.
At least ten people queueing for bread were killed when Russian forces shelled the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv yesterday, according to the head of the regional administration, Vyacheslav Chaus. Tim Lister, Oleksandra Ochman and Gianluca Mezzofiore report for CNN.
More than 7,000 Russian troops have died since Russia invaded Ukraine, U.S. intelligence has estimated. “Losses like this affect morale and unit cohesion, especially since these soldiers don’t understand why they’re fighting,” said Evelyn Farkas, the top Pentagon official for Russia and Ukraine during former President Obama’s administration. “Your overall situational awareness decreases. Someone’s got to drive, someone’s got to shoot.” Helene Cooper, Julian E. Barnes and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times.
Ukraine has launched counteroffensives in its capital Kyiv, and other key cities, including Irpin, Bucha and Hostomel. Ukrainian forces have also pressed an offensive south and east of the southern port of Mykolaiv, moving in the direction of Kherson, the only Ukrainian regional capital occupied by Russia since the war began. Alan Cullison, Isabel Coles and Yaroslav Trofimov report for the Wall Street Journal.
The World Health Organization has verified at least “43 attacks on health care” since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, including assaults on patients, health-care workers, facilities and infrastructure. Andre Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS AND REFUGEES
Today Ukrainian officials have announced nine new humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from besieged cities, alongside plans to deliver humanitarian aid to places in need. Annabelle Timsit reports for the Washington Post.
Nearly 1 million children have left Ukraine for Poland, leaving basic services buckling under the weight of refugees from the Russian invasion. In Warsaw, the local government is registering so many new Ukrainian arrivals that the city’s computer system has crashed. In Krakow, housing is in such short supply that refugees are being sent to lodgings as much as 5½ hours away. Officials from both cities are now begging other countries to take in more people fleeing Ukraine. Ian Lovett and Drew Hinshaw report for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
President Biden’s administration will provide Ukraine with additional high-tech defensive weapons that are easily portable and require little training to use, according to U.S. and European officials. As part of the package, the administration will provide Switchblade drones. Military officials call the weapon, which is carried in a backpack, the “kamikaze drone” because it can be flown directly at a tank or a group of troops, and is destroyed when it hits the target and explodes. Julian E. Barnes and John Ismay report for the New York Times.
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, warned his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev yesterday against “any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.” David E Sanger reports for the New York Times.
In a speech to Congress yesterday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, pressed the U.S. for further military assistance and new sanctions. Zelensky asked Congress to remember the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, when Americans were targeted from the sky, saying his country is experiencing that terror every day. He asked for a no-fly zone over Ukraine but said that he would accept jet fighters and antiaircraft weapons as a fallback so that Ukrainians could defend themselves. Lindsay Wise and Andrew Restuccia report for the Wall Street Journal.
Attorney General Merrick Garland and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen met yesterday with representatives from Europe and Asia, to launch the Russia, Elites, Proxies and Oligarch multilateral task force. The task force, consisting of the Finance Ministry and Justice or Home Ministry in each jurisdiction, will “collect and share information to take concrete actions, including sanctions, asset freezing, civil and criminal asset seizure, and criminal prosecution,” the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.
U.S. officials are allowing Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion to enter the U.S. at the Mexico border and stay without fear of deportation for a year. A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection official briefed on the matter said that U.S. authorities were granting one-year temporary “humanitarian parole” to Ukrainians. Daina Beth Solomon and Dasha Afanasieva report for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS
Biden has explicitly called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” in a seemingly off the cuff comment yesterday. The assertion, which was made in response to a reporter’s questions at an event on an entirely different topic, came after Zelensky’s forceful speech to Congress earlier that day. Neither the International Criminal Court nor the U.S. government has formally concluded that Russia’s actions constitute war crimes, making Biden’s “seemingly spontaneous assertion …all the more striking,” Ashley Parker reports for the Washington Post.
The Kremlin has responded to Biden’s assertion that Putin is a war criminal, calling it “unforgivable rhetoric.” “We believe such rhetoric to be unacceptable and unforgivable on the part of the head of a state, whose bombs have killed hundreds of thousands of people around the world,” spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Russian state news agency Tass. BBC News reports.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has said that there is “very, very strong evidence” that Russian President Vladimir Putin is a “war criminal,” following Biden’s description of him as such. BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The International Court of Justice has ruled by a vote of 13 to 2, with Vice-President Kirill Gevorgian of Russia and Judge Xue Hanqin of China dissenting, that Russia “shall immediately suspend the military operations that it commenced on 24 February.” The court’s ruling is the first such verdict handed down by the ‘world court’ since the Russian invasion began. UN News Centre reports.
Just Security has published a piece by Chimène Keitner and Zoe Tatarsky titled ‘Q&A: The ICJ’s Order on Provisional Measures in Ukraine v. Russian Federation’
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan QC, met yesterday with Ukraine’s foreign minister and prosecutor general, during a rare trip into a conflict zone. Khan also held virtual talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Anthony Deutsche and Stephen Farrell report for Reuters.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has acknowledged that Russia’s economy has been profoundly affected by Western sanctions. “Our economy will need deep structural changes in these new realities, and I won’t hide this—they won’t be easy; they will lead to a temporary rise in inflation and unemployment,” Putin said in televised remarks on Wednesday before a video meeting with Russian government officials. Alexander Osipovich report for the Wall Street Journal.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia yesterday to deliver a plea from the West to pump more oil. The visit comes as the International Energy Agency warned of a global oil supply shock because of large-scale disruptions to Russian oil supplies. Max Colchester, Summer Said and Stephen Kalin report for the Wall Street Journal.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has singled out the possibility of introducing sanctions against China, Australia’s largest trading partner, if Chinese President Xi Jinping’s regime were to provide military equipment to Russia. Daniel Hurst report for the Guardian.
The U.K. is to deploy its Sky Sabre missile system in Poland, along with 100 troops, U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has said. Sabre has been described by the U.K. government as “a state-of-the-art air defense system,” which is said to be capable of hitting a tennis ball-sized object traveling at the speed of sound. BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russian President Vladimir Putin referred to pro-Western Russians as “scum and traitors” who needed to be removed from society, in a speech delivered yesterday. “In reserving his toughest language for fellow Russians who disagreed with him, Putin opened the door to a new wave of repression that, analysts fear, could hit a much broader swath of society than the activists and journalists the Kremlin has targeted in recent months,” Anton Troianovski reports for the New York Times.
Russian journalist, Marina Ovsyannikova, who was fined after denouncing the war in Ukraine on Russian state television, has rejected an offer of asylum from French President Emmanuel Macron. “I don’t want to leave our country,” she told German news magazine Der Spiegel. “I’m a patriot, my son a much bigger one. We definitely … don’t want to emigrate anywhere.” Annabelle Timsit reports for the Washington Post.
Marina Ovsyannikova’s anti-war protest has highlighted a stream of resignations from Russia’s state-run TV channels since the beginning of the war. This has included resignations from high-profile and long-serving journalists at Channel One, NTV, VGTRK and RT. Paul Kirby reports for BBC News.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Two British Iranians who spent years in prison in Iran have arrived back in the U.K., in a development that suggests that a revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal could be imminent. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori were reunited with their families. A third person, Morad Tahbaz, an environmentalist who has British, Iranian and American citizenship, was released from prison on furlough to his house in Tehran. Karla Adam and Liz Sly report for the Washington Post.
The Honduran Supreme Court of Justice decided yesterday that Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez should be extradited to the U.S. to face drug trafficking and weapons charges. Marlon Gonzalez reports for AP.
U.N. political affairs chief, Rosemary DiCarlo, has warned the U.N. Security Council of rising tensions in Libya, amid an impasse that could see Libya fractured again by two parallel governments. DiCarlo also highlighted an increase in reported human rights violations, hate speech, defamation and threats, as well as violence against activists, journalists and political actors. UN News Centre reports.
Demonstrations have taken place across Sudan in protest at the alleged gang-rape of a teenager by security forces. The 18-year-old said she was attacked in Khartoum on Monday by up to nine men dressed in the uniforms of the security forces involved in dispersing regular protests held across Sudan since October’s military coup. Zeinab Mohammed Salih reports for the Guardian.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, cast a spotlight on the “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, during a press conference yesterday. As the world’s attention focuses on the war and refugee crisis in Ukraine, Tedros urged WHO member countries not to forget about other humanitarian crises happening around the world. Olafimihan Oshin reports for The Hill.
A Cambodian court has sentenced 20 former politicians and activists to up to 10 years in prison for sedition, as part of a broad crackdown on the opposition. New York-based organization Human Rights Watch is calling for international condemnation of the convictions, which it said amounted to a “witch hunt that discredits both the Cambodian government and the country’s courts.” Reuters reports.
The Department of Justice yesterday unveiled three cases against five Chinese nationals accused of trying to suppress dissent against China’s government on U.S. soil. One of the individuals, Qiming Lin, is accused of orchestrating a scheme to harass and smear a congressional candidate. The charging documents do not identify the candidate, but appear to reference Xiong Yan, who is running in the Democratic primary to represent New York’s 1st Congressional District. Harper Neidig and Rebecca Beitsche report for The Hill.
President Biden’s administration is offering a form of temporary humanitarian protection, known as temporary protected status or TPS, to thousands of Afghans living in the U.S. without permanent legal status, the Department of Homeland Security has said. Any Afghan present in the U.S. on or before March 15 would be eligible for TPS, which shields them from deportation and allows them to work legally for 18 months, a term that can be renewed. Michelle Hackman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is not planning to issue subpoenas to members of Congress who are alleged to have information regarding the attack. The decision to move ahead without compelling lawmakers to cooperate through a subpoena “reflects a self-imposed limitation as committee members work to balance legal, political and practical considerations,” Katerine Faulders, Will Steakin and Benjamin Siegel report for ABC News.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.63 million people and has now killed over 968,300 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 464.03 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.06 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.