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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
Ukraine has rejected a Russian demand to surrender the besieged city of Mariupol, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereschuk told the Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper. Austin Ramzy reports for the New York Times.
Ukrainian officials yesterday accused Russia of bombing an art school in Mariupol where hundreds of people had been sheltering. About 400 women, children and elderly people had taken refuge inside the art school before it was bombed with hundreds feared dead, according to Mayor Vadym Boychenko and the city council. Loveday Morris and Annebelle Timsit report for the Washington Post.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has denounced the Russian pilots who bombed the art school, as “mass murderers.” Jonathan Edwards reports for the Washington Post.
Last night Russian forces bombed a shopping mall in central Kyiv, burying several people in rubble, according to Ukrainian authorities. Ukraine’s attorney general later said that eight people had been killed in the strike, and announced that Ukraine will investigate whether Russian troops committed a war crime by shelling the shopping center. Jonathan Edwards reports for the Washington Post.
Russia has used advanced long-range missiles to hit three military facilities in Ukraine, according to Russian defense ministry spokesperson Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov. The facilities include a Ukrainian military training center in the northern town of Ovruch and a large fuel depot near the city of Mykolaiv, which Konashenkov claimed was struck by a hypersonic Kinzhal missile. Ivan Nechepurenko reports for the New York Times.
Russian shelling has hit a chemical plant near the northeastern Ukrainian city of Sumy, causing an ammonia leak, officials have said. Residents of Novoselytsya, near Sumy, were told to stay indoors but the region’s governor, Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, later said the leak had been contained. BBC News reports.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, Olha Stefanishyna said yesterday that Ukrainian officials had opened at least 2,000 investigations into possible war crimes by Russian troops. Watch the interview on Sky News.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told CBS News yesterday that Russia’s military had been deliberately targeting population centers because Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign had stalled in the face of an effective Ukrainian defense and counterattack. The full transcript of the interview is provided by CBS News.
Senior U.S. officials have seen signs of Russia shifting to a new strategy to secure key territorial objectives while seeking leverage to compel the Ukrainian government to accept neutrality, after failing to secure a quick victory in Ukraine. Whilst Russia’s initial objectives were widely interpreted as including the seizure of Kyiv and the replacement of Zelenskyy’s government with a pro-Russian regime, the new assessment of Putin’s objectives is to compel Kyiv to accept Russian claims to Ukraine’s southern and eastern territories, and to pressure Zelenskyy to agree to neutral status. Michael R. Gordon and Alex Leary report for the Wall Street Journal.
Russia is likely to keep launching attacks on Kyiv for weeks to come, despite failing to occupy the city so far, according to a British Ministry of Defense intelligence update. The Washington Post reports.
The World Health Organization has increased its count of attacks on Ukraine’s health care system to more than 50 incidents since Russia launched its invasion. Robert Wall reports for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS, REFUGEES AND DEPORTATIONS
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced more than 10 million people to abandon their homes, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Granda said yesterday. This means that almost a quarter of the country’s prewar population has been uprooted. Alan Cullison, Isabel Coles and Matthew Luxmoore report for the Wall Street Journal.
Residents of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol are being taken to Russia against their will by Russian forces, the Mariupol City Council said on Saturday. Captured residents were taken to camps where Russian forces checked their phones and documents, then redirected some of the residents to remote cities in Russia, the statement said, adding that the “fate of the others is unknown.” Khrystyna Bondarenko, Ivan Watson, AnneClaire Stapleton, Toom Booth, and Alaa Elassar report for CNN.
Forced civilian deportations from Mariupol are “disturbing” and “unconscionable” if true, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas Greenfield, told CNN. A full transcript of the TV interview is provided by the United States Mission to the United Nations.
Whilst agreement has been reached on creating eight humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians from besieged Ukrainian towns and cities on Monday, the city of Mariupol is not among them, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshcuk has said. Reuters reports.
Survivors who have escaped from the besieged city of Mariupol have given accounts of the harrowing conditions for civilians in the city which has been the scene of the heaviest fight in the war. Guy Chazan reports for the Financial Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
President Biden will travel to Europe this week in an effort to rally opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. His week of diplomacy will begin today, with a call with the leaders of the U.K., France, Germany and Italy. Biden will then travel on Wednesday to Brussels, where NATO will hold an emergency meeting on a response to the war. However, there are no plans for Biden to travel to Ukraine during the trip. Austin Ramzy reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. has ruled out any U.S. military participation in a proposed NATO peacekeeping mission in Ukraine. “The president has been very clear that we will not put American troops on the ground in Ukraine,” said Linda Thomas-Greenfield during an interview with CNN. “We don’t want to escalate this into a war with the United States,” she added. A full transcript of the TV interview is provided by the United States Mission to the United Nations.
A decades-old Pentagon program that was used to secure biological weapons across the former Soviet Union – and to build trust between Washington and Moscow after the Cold War – has instead become a new flashpoint in Russia’s information war, with Moscow accusing the U.S. of funding weapons work in Ukraine’s biological laboratories. China has echoed these allegations, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson telling reporters, “Russia has found during its military operations that the U.S. uses these facilities to conduct bio-military plans.” Sharon Weinberger reports for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
E.U. leaders have “very reliable evidence” that China is considering providing military assistance to Russia, according to a senior E.U. official. Stuart Lau reports for POLITICO.
China is to provide an additional $1.57 million (10 million yuan) humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said today. Reuters reports.
Dozens of protestors at the Polish-Belarusian border have blocked trucks carrying goods to Belarus from Europe, in an attempt to halt them moving supplies to Russia. Megan Specia reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – DIPLOMACY
Turkey which, alongside Israel, is mediating talks between Russia and Ukraine has claimed that “the parties are close to agreement on fundamental issues.” “It’s not easy to negotiate while the war is ongoing … But I want to say that there is momentum,” Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu added. Guy Chazon, Andres Schipani, Max Seddon and Laura Pitel report for the Financial Times.
The Kremlin has said that “no significant progress” has been made in peace talks between Moscow and Kyiv. Speaking to reporters on a conference call today, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov suggested there was still a long way to go before a possible meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy could take place. Chantal Da Silva reports for NBC News
Peskov also called on other nations to put more pressure on Ukraine to accept Russia’s demands. “Those who can, should use their influence on Kyiv to make Kyiv more cooperative, more constructive in these negotiations,” he said. Robyn Dixon reports for the Washington Post.
Zelenskyy has said that he is “ready for negotiations” with Putin, but has warned that if negotiations failed “that would mean that this is a third world war.” Devan Cole reports for CNN.
Israel is undertaking efforts to arrange top-level peace talks between Ukraine and Russia, Zelenskyy said yesterday, suggesting that talks might take place in Jerusalem. Zelenskyy’s statement, made during his daily video appeal to Ukrainians, came after addressing Israel’s parliament by video link. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
64 workers were rotated out of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine yesterday, after more than three weeks of being unable to leave. The International Atomic Energy Agency had previously expressed concern for the workers at Chernobyl, calling for staff to be rotated for their safety and security. Jesus Jimenez reports for the New York Times.
Russian attacks are endangering Ukraine’s world-leading medicinal chemistry industry, which supplies scientists across the globe with molecular building blocks needed for early drug development. Kyiv-based Enamine Ltd. has become a go-to supplier for drug-discovery scientists at academic laboratories and the largest pharmaceutical companies. Without companies like Enamine, the universe of molecules available to test against new disease targets would be far narrower and would likely lead to missed opportunities in drug discovery, researchers have said. Denise Roland reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The conflict in Ukraine is already taking its toll on global food supplies, with shortages of fuel, fertilizer and workers caused by Russia’s invasion likely to shrink Ukraine’s annual harvest that countries rely on around the world. “With wheat already in the ground, and only a few weeks left to plant corn, farmers in Ukraine can’t get needed fertilizers and chemicals. They are low on fuel for tractors and other farm equipment. Workers are quitting to join the fight or to leave the country, leaving farms short-handed,” Alistair MacDonald reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Russia’s anti-Ukraine propaganda has become part of lessons in Russian schools for students as young as kindergarten. Over the past three weeks, thousands of posts appeared on Russian social media featuring schoolchildren — up to high school age — attending special “patriotic lessons” or posing for pictures forming Z and V-for-victory signs. Mary Ilyushina reports for the Washington Post.
Russian cosmonauts boarded the International Space Station wearing Ukrainian colors, in a possible statement against the war in Ukraine. However, Russia’s space agency Roscosmos has rejected this, stating that “sometimes yellow is just yellow.” BBC News reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
President Biden’s administration has formally determined that violence committed against the Rohingya minority by Myanmar’s military amounts to genocide and crimes against humanity, according to U.S. officials. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will announce the decision today. Humeyra Pamuk and Simon Lewis report for Reuters.
Biden’s administration has transferred a significant number of anti-missile interceptors to Saudi Arabia in the past month, fulfilling Riyadh’s urgent request for a resupply despite deteriorations in U.S.-Saudi relations. David S. Cloud reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Elon Musk’s ties to China are causing unease in Washington, including among Republican lawmakers who have previously been strong supporters of the billionaire entrepreneur. Concerns are focused on the potential for China to gain access to classified information possessed by Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., including through SpaceX’s foreign suppliers that might have ties to Beijing. There are also concerns about the lack of clear lines between SpaceX and automaker Tesla Inc., which is also run by Musk and has extensive operations in China. Brody Mullins and Susan Pulliam report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
China has fully militarized at least three of several islands it built in the disputed South China Sea and has armed the islands with anti-ship and anti-aircraft missiles systems, laser and jamming equipment, and fighter jets, U.S. Indo-Pacific commander Adm. John Aquilino has said. Jim Gomez and Aaron Favla report for AP.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad met with Emirati leaders on Friday in Assad’s first visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) since Syria’s civil war began 11 years ago. Assad met the UAE’s de facto leader Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan at his palace and separately met Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum. “Sheikh Mohamed stressed that Syria is a fundamental pillar of Arab security, and that the UAE is keen to strengthen cooperation with it to achieve the aspirations of the brotherly Syrian people towards stability and development,” UAE state media reported. Syrian state media said economic, commercial and investment cooperation was discussed. Stephen Kalin and Nazih Osseiran report for the Wall Street Journal.
President Biden’s administration has condemned the UAE’s decision to welcome Assad. “We are profoundly disappointed and troubled by this apparent attempt to legitimize Bashar al-Assad, who remains responsible and accountable for the death and suffering of countless Syrians,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price. “We urge states considering engagement with the Assad regime to weigh carefully the horrific atrocities visited by the regime on the Syrians over the last decade,” Price added. BBC News reports.
Religion-fueled mob violence is on the rise again in Pakistan, as demonstrated by a recent lynching of a man accused of burning pages from the Quran inside a mosque in central Pakistan. Zia ur-Rehman and Salman Masood report for the New York Times.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan is fighting to hold on to power after a group of lawmakers from his party rebelled and allied parties in his ruling coalition have said that they are considering removing him. A vote that will decide whether Khan keeps his post is expected later this month. Saeed Shah reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Brazilian Supreme Court has withdrawn an order to suspend Telegram in Brazil after Telegram complied with directives to block accounts used by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters to spread false information. On Friday, the Court blocked Telegram because the company behind the app had been ignoring the court’s orders. Telegram’s chief executive responded with an apology saying that his company had missed the court’s emails, and Telegram worked quickly over the weekend to comply with the court’s orders. Jack Nicas and André Spigariol report for the New York Times.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has warned that the world is “sleepwalking to climate catastrophe,” and that “the 1.5-degree goal is on life support. It is in intensive care.” “There is no kind way to put it,” Guterres told attendees of the Economist Sustainability Summit, saying that the most ambitious goal of the 2015 Paris accord — to limit Earth’s warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels — is slipping away. Brady Dennis reports for the Washington Post.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
Former President Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, and a national campaign spokesperson, Katrina Pierson, were involved in efforts to encourage Trump supporters to march on the Capitol, according to testimony given to the House select committee investigating the Jan.6, 2021 attack. Scott Johnson, who worked on the team that helped plan the Ellipse rally, claims that leading figures in the Trump administration and campaign deliberately planned to have crowds converge on the Capitol, where the 2020 election was being certified — and “make it look like they went down there on their own.” Hunter Walker reports for Rolling Stone.
The Jan. 6 select committee plans to reveal new details and may make new recommendations about legislation and criminal penalties for officials who failed to carry out their duties, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) told reporters yesterday. Teaganne Finn reports for NBC News.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The confirmation hearings of President Biden’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, are to begin today. The proceedings in the Senate Judiciary Committee “will introduce Jackson, who sits on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to much of the country, and give senators a high-profile opportunity to question her on matters of law and policy,” Carl Hulse reports for the New York Times.
Analysis of Jackson’s possible stance on key issues based on her previous track record is provided by Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow reporting for the Washington Post.
Jackson could face questions on divisive issues such as affirmative action, child pornography sentencing and her representation of Guantanamo Bay detainees when she appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Analysis of what to watch for as the confirmation hearing for Jackson starts is provided by Josh Gerstein and Marianne Lewis for POLITICO.
Further information about conservative group Project Veritas’s efforts to make public the personal diary of Ashley Biden, President Biden’s daughter, before the 2020 election has emerged. According to interviews, court filings and other documents, a month before the 2020 election, Ashley Biden received a call from a man saying he believed that he had found her diary and that he wanted to return it to her. Biden agreed to send someone to retrieve the diary the next day. However, the caller in fact worked with Project Veritas and was seeking to trick Biden into confirming the authenticity of the diary, which Project Veritas was about to purchase from two intermediaries for $40,000. Michael S. Schmidt and Adam Goldman report for the New York Times.
A shooting at a car show in southeast Arkansas on Saturday left one person dead and 28 wounded, including multiple children, state police have said. A man was detained while trying to leave the scene and is being held on unrelated charges while the investigation continues. Police believe the gunfire erupted between two shooters, Arkansas State Police Col. Bill Bryant has said. Ginger Adams Otis reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has been hospitalized with “flu-like” symptoms and will work in absentia for several days, the Supreme Court has said in a statement. Thomas was admitted to hospital on Friday and expected to be released in a day or two, the court said. Sarah Poulus reports for The Hill.
The U.S. has identified the four Marines who were killed during a training flight in Norway on Friday. Capt. Matthew J. Tomkiewicz, Capt. Ross A. Reynolds, Gunnery Sgt. James W. Speedy and Cpl. Jacob M. Moore were killed in the crash south of Bodo, Norway, a news release from the Marines said. The cause of the crash is under investigation. Barbara Starr and Paul LeBlanc report for CNN.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.73 million people and has now killed over 971,100 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 470.78 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.07 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.