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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 – U.S. RESPONSE
Russia has summoned the U.S. ambassador to Moscow for a meeting to provide him with a “note of protest” over Biden’s criticisms of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and of Putin. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs warned that relations between Moscow and the U.S. could be severed and “ that hostile actions taken against Russia would receive a decisive and firm rebuff.” “It is emphasized that such statements by the American President, unworthy of a statesman of such a high rank, put Russian-American relations on the verge of breaking,” the statement read. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
In a statement yesterday President Biden warned private sector companies that Russia is exploring the possibility of waging potential cyberattacks against the U.S. in retaliation for economic penalties imposed on Russia for the invasion of Ukraine. The Biden administration has no evidence of a specific, credible potential cyberattack against the U.S., but rather “preparatory activity” targeting critical infrastructure, according to Anne Neuberger, Biden’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology. Zolan Kanno-Youngs reports for the New York Times.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov has rejected U.S. warnings that it may be preparing to conduct cyber attacks in response to Western banditry, saying that “unlike many Western countries, including the U.S., Russia does not engage in state-level banditry.” Reuters reports.
The U.S. is sending the Ukraine military some of the Soviet-made air defense equipment the U.S. secretly acquired decades ago, U.S. officials have said. The systems were obtained by the U.S. so that it could examine the technology used by the Russian military and which has been exported around the world. The weapons are familiar to Ukraine’s military, which inherited this type of equipment following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Nancy A. Youssef and Michael R. Gordon report for the Wall Street Journal.
During a phone call with the German, French, Italian and U.K. leaders yesterday, Biden discussed “serious concerns about Russia’s brutal tactics in Ukraine, including its attacks on civilians.” The leaders also reviewed recent diplomatic efforts in support of Ukraine’s effort to reach a ceasefire, according to a White House statement.
The Pentagon has said that there is “clear evidence” that Russia is committing war crimes in Ukraine. Russia has carried out indiscriminate attacks as part of an intentional strategy in the conflict, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said yesterday. The U.S. is “helping with the collecting of evidence … But there’s investigative processes that are going to go on, and we’re going to let that happen,” Kirby said. Reuters reports.
The U.S. plans to boost military spending and increase its military presence near Russia, in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, while trying to maintain its long term focus on countering China, officials have said. “I think it’s a 9/11 event for Europe,” said a senior Pentagon official, who added that while the Pentagon will respond accordingly to what those countries need, the main focus remains on countering Beijing. “I think there is room to enhance our posture alongside our allies in Europe without it being this huge sucking sound that prevents us from being able to focus on China.” Gordon Lubold, David S. Cloud and Lindsay Wise provide analysis for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Russia announced yesterday that it would be halting negotiations with Japan on a post-World War II peace treaty amid Tokyo’s escalating sanctions in response to the war in Ukraine. In a statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry blamed Japan’s “anti-Russian policy” and said that it would also terminate visa-free trips by Japanese citizens to a chain of islands between Japan and Russia and would withdraw from joint economic projects on the islands. Michelle Lee reports for the Washington Post.
Japan has criticized Russia’s decision to withdraw from bilateral peace treaty talks and to suspend joint economic projects related to disputed islands. “This entire situation has been created by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Russia’s response to push this onto Japan-Russia relations is extremely unfair and completely unacceptable,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said. BBC News reports.
The E.U. is preparing to approve a policy that would allow it to deploy up to 5,000 troops in the event of a crisis. The “Strategic Compass” policy will strengthen the E.U.’s security and defense capabilities by 2030, the bloc said in a statement yesterday. However, the E.U.’s foriegn policy chief, Josep Borrell, has stressed that the E.U. would not be creating a “European army,” but the policy will just allow greater coordination between each Member State’s own military. “The plan also aims to strengthen cooperation with bodies such as NATO, the United Nations and the African Union and develop more ‘tailored bilateral partnerships with like-minded countries,’ including the United States, Canada and Japan, the E.U. statement said,” Adela Suliman reports for the Washington Post.
Support for an E.U.-wide ban on the purchase of Russian oil is growing inside the E.U., representing a significant shift in the bloc’s stance towards how to ratchet up economic pressure on Russia. However, “agreement on any E.U. ban of Russian crude is far from locked in yet, and a rapid decision to move ahead isn’t likely, diplomats have said,” Laurance Norman and Georgi Kantchev report for the Wall Street Journal.
Germany has agreed a contract with Qatar for the supply of liquefied natural gas to help reduce Germany’s dependence on Russian energy. However, the agreement with Qatar is a long-term commitment and will do nothing in the short term to stem the flow of European money to Russia. Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov has met with North Korea’s ambassador to Russia to discuss developing bilateral relations “in the context of changes happening on the international arena,” the Russian foreign ministry said today. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Ukrainian forces have regained control of Markariv, a town 30 miles west of Kyiv, Ukraine’s Armed Forces have said today. The “state flag of Ukraine was raised over the city of Makariv” as the Russians retreated, a Facebook post by the Armed Forces said. Irene Nasser reports for CNN.
Russia’s false accusations that Kyiv has biological and chemical weapons illustrate that Russian President Vladimir Putin is considering using them himself in his war against Ukraine, President Biden said at a Business Roundtable event yesterday. Nandita Bose and Alexandra Alper report for Reuters.
The chances of Russia using its smaller nuclear weapons in Ukraine, is “low but rising” according to Ulrich Kuhn, a nuclear expert at the University of Hamburg and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The war is not going well for the Russians,” he observed, “and the pressure from the West is increasing.” William J. Broad provides analysis for the New York Times.
Russian troops have seized a “land corridor” with the Crimean peninsula, blocking Ukraine’s access to the Sea of Azov, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces has said. BBC News reports.
In its daily update, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense has said that Russian forces have stockpiles of ammunition and food that will last “no more than three days.” BBC News reports.
Russia is sending “low quality’ reservists to front lines in Ukraine to replace its losses, according to a military assessment released Monday by the Washington think tank, the Institute for the Study of War. Amy Cheng reports for the Washington Post.
Russian forces have “increased their aviation presence in Ukraine’s airspace” in the past 24 hours, Ukraine’s Air Force Command said in a statement. BBC News reports.
A video – verified by the BBC – released by the Russian backed People’s Militia of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic shows thermobaric rockets being launched in Ukraine. Thermobaric weapons are controversial because they are much more devastating than conventional explosives of similar size, and have a terrible impact on anyone caught in their blast radius. BBC News reports.
The U.S. has been unable to determine if Russia has designated a military commander responsible for leading the country’s war in Ukraine. According to current and former U.S. defense officials a lack of a top, theater-wide commander is likely a key contributor to the apparent clumsiness and disorganization of the Russian assault. Katie Bo Lillis and Zachary Cohen report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS, REFUGEES AND DEPORTATIONS
The Russian Embassy to the U.S. has rejected claims by Mariupol’s mayor that thousands of residents have been taken to camps and forcibly deported to Russia. The Russian Embassy said that Russia is only operating checkpoints “to avoid diversion operations” by the Ukrainian military and to allow Russian forces to “carefully inspect motor vehicles heading to safe regions.” BBC News reports.
Nearly 3.5 million Ukrainians have now fled the country following Russia’s invasion, the U.N. refugee agency said yesterday. France 24 reports.
The U.N Children’s Fund and the U.N. refugee agency are setting up support centers for children and women fleeing the war in Ukraine. The centers, which will be set up with help from local governments and civil society organizations, will be “one-stop safe spaces for children and women” and will help to identify and protect unaccompanied children. The UN News Centre reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said yesterday in an interview with a Ukrainian public broadcaster that any compromises reached to bring an end to the Russian invasion would need to be approved by the Ukrainian people in a referendum. Rachel Pannett reports for the Washington Post.
Zelenskyy has again called for direct talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying that he is ready for a compromise to end the war. Zelenskyy said that the status of contested territories in the Donbas region and the Crimea could be up for negotiation and that Kyiv was willing to shelve its NATO ambition in exchange for the withdrawal of Russian forces. “At the first meeting with the president of Russia, I am ready to raise these issues,” he said late on Monday in an interview with Ukrainian television channels. Al Jazeera reports.
Zelenskyy said today that he has spoken to Pope Francis and would welcome the Holy See’s mediating role with Russia. Reuters reports.
Four Ukrainian journalists in the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol were abducted by unknown gunmen yesterday, the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine has said. According to the union, they were released after “preventive talks’ and told to cooperate with Russia. Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
Russian media must now declare Facebook parent company Meta an “extremist” organization whenever it is mentioned, following a court decision to ban the platform on Monday. BBC News reports.
Wildfires have broken out in the radioactive forest that surrounds the abandoned Chernobyl nuclear plant, an area now controlled by the Russian Army, Ukrainian media has reported. Wildfires are not uncommon this time of the year, however there are concerns that radiation could spread widely in the smoke if the fires are left to burn unchecked. Andrew E. Kramer reports for the New York Times.
President Biden’s administration has concluded that the Myanmar military’s violence against the Rohingya minority amounts to genocide. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. yesterday, said that the attacks against the Rohingya in 2016 and 2017 were widespread and systematic and that there was a clear intent to destroy the Rohingya community. Feliz Solomon reports for the Wall Street Journal.
“The evidence also points to a clear intent behind these mass atrocities — the intent to destroy Rohingya, in whole or in part, through killings, rape and torture,” Blinken said. “Blinken said the State Department’s analysis was based in part on interviews with Rohingya who fled to neighboring Bangladesh, many of whom reported having witnessed members of Myanmar’s military kill or rape people … Some soldiers who took part in the attacks later provided accounts of what occurred to investigators, Blinken said,” Missy Ryan, Shibani Mahtani and John Hudson report for the Washington Post.
U.N. High Commission for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has warned that the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar is continuing to expand and that human rights in the country are facing a “profound crisis.” Bachelet told the 49th session of the Human Rights Council that systemic brutality by security forces in Myanmar has inflamed pre-existing armed conflicts in multiple ethnic states. “The economy is on the brink of collapse. Over 14.4 million individuals are now assessed as being in humanitarian need,” Bachelet said, predicting that “food scarcity will sharply increase over the coming months.” UN News Centre reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Australia has created its own Space Command to counter threats from China, Russia and other extraterrestrial powers. The new force will expand Australia’s space capabilities and contribute to “a larger, collective effort among like-minded countries to ensure a safe, stable and secure space domain,” Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton has said. Dutton also said, in a speech with several American military officers in attendance, that Australia and the U.S. had agreed to partner on “a broad range of satellite activities.” Damien Cave reports for the New York Times.
Further reporting on Australia’s partnership with the U.S. on the new Australian Space Command is provided by Frances Vinall for the Washington Post.
The negotiations to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal now hinge on whether to remove the U.S. terrorism designation for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, the country’s powerful security force, diplomats have said. The Israeli government is strongly opposed to any removal of the terrorism designation and the issue is also galvanizing opposition to the deal in Washington. However, “senior U.S. officials say a failure to find a compromise with Iran on the issue quickly could cause a breakdown in negotiations that—over almost a year—have resolved nearly every other disagreement,” Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has been found guilty of large-scale fraud by a Russian court. The court convicted Navalny over allegations he stole from his Anti-Corruption Foundation, as well as contempt of court, according to Russian state media. Navalny is already serving a two-and-a-half sentence at a prison camp east of Moscow for parole violations related to charges he says were fabricated to thwart his political ambitions. This conviction, which he has also dismissed as politically motivated, could see 13 years added to that sentence. Reuters reports.
The Syrian regime is setting up a maze of shell companies in a systematic attempt to avoid sanctions, according to official documents obtained by the Guardian. The documents “detail at least three companies established in Syria on the same day with the explicit purpose of operating as a shell to buy shares and manage other companies. They show clear links between the owners of the new shell companies, President Bashar al-Assad and Syria’s economically powerful elite, including individuals under sanction,” Tessa Fox and Karam Shaar report for the Guardian.
The family of Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist for Reuters killed in Afghanistan last year as the Taliban took control of the country, has petitioned the International Criminal Court to investigate his killing and bring to trial top Taliban leadership for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Niha Masih reports for the Washington Post.
Saudi Arabia has said that it cannot be held responsible for any global oil supply shortages after Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels struck Saudi energy facilities in at least three cities over the weekend. A Foreign Ministry official has said that the attacks pose a danger to the global oil supply and will have “dire effects on the production, processing and refining sectors,” and asked the international community to stand “firmly” against the Houthis. Sarah Dadouch reports for the Washington Post.
Judge Erika Aifán, one of Guatemala’s most important judges and a key U.S. ally in the fight against corruption, has resigned and fled the country. Kevin Sieff reports for the Washington Post.
Only about half a million Tunisians, out of a population of nearly 12 million, participated in a two-month online consultation on shaping the country’s new constitution. The consultation was run by Tunisian President Kais Saied who has amassed nearly absolute power over the last eight months since he dismissed Parliament. “The low turnout may have reflected problems of access; much of the population lacks an internet connection, particularly in rural areas. But Tunisians and analysts said many people have lost interest in Saied’s reforms as his promises, greeted with euphoria after his July 25 power grab, have gone unfulfilled,” Vivian Yee reports for the New York Times.
In her first public comments since arriving back in the U.K., Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian woman freed from detention in Iran last week, has appealed for others unjustly held by Tehran to be allowed to leave. Zaghari-Ratcliffe said that she should have been released “six years ago” but that although her release had taken a long time, others remained in prison and she “was the lucky one who got to be recognized internationally.” Stephen Castle reports for the New York Times.
Yvan Colonna, a jailed Corsican nationalist, has died after falling into a coma earlier this month following an attack by a fellow inmate. Violent protests rocked the island after Colanna was strangled by another prisoner in early March, which prompted the French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin to visit the island and to say Paris could discuss autonomy for the Island. Reuters reports.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
Vice President Mike Pence was taken to an underground Senate loading dock after the U.S. Capitol was breached on Jan. 6, 2021, and spent four to five hours there under guard with his wife and daughter, the Secret Service has confirmed. The disclosure, which verifies reporting by journalists, came in testimony by the liaison officer for Pence’s Secret Service security detail in the trial of Couy Griffin, a Republican elected official and pro-former President Trump grass-roots leader. Spencer S. Hsu reports for the Washington Post.
Griffin’s trial for charges of entering and remaining in a restricted building and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building in connection to the Jan. 6 attack, began yesterday. Prosecutors ahead of the trial have said that Griffin was at the attack, citing comments he made on social media in which he said he “climbed up on top of the Capitol building and … had a first-row seat.” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A government informant has spoken of violent threats to law-enforcement, beer- and marijuana-fueled encounters, training with high-powered weaponry and clandestine surveillance, in his testimony yesterday in the trial of four men accused of plotting to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D). Joe Barrett reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing began yesterday, with Republican senators previewing attack lines accusing Jackson of being soft on crime. Jackson expressed her commitment to being an “independent” judge and to applying the law “without fear or favor.” Katie Rogers reports for the New York Times.
Jackson ended the first day of the Senate confirmation hearings by saying she hopes to embody the “skill and integrity, civility and grace” of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Jackson stressed her recognition that her role as a judge is a “limited one,” the constitution empowers her only to “decide cases and controversies that are properly presented” and her “judicial role is further constrained by careful adherence to precedent.” Jess Bravin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Key takeaways from the first day of Jackson’s confirmation hearings, including Republican senators’ focus on law and order, are provided by Eliza Collins reporting for the Wall Street Journal.
A state of emergency is to be declared and a curfew imposed in the South Beach neighborhood of Miami Beach, Florida, after two shootings over the weekend resulted in two deaths. The city has struggled in recent years with crowds of people during the spring break period, which have on occasions involved violence. “We can’t endure this anymore, we just can’t,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said at a news conference Monday afternoon. “This isn’t your father’s, mother’s spring break. This is something wholly different,” he added. Arian Campo-Flores reports for the Wall Street Journal.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.77 million people and has now killed over 972,600 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 472.13 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.09 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.