Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.
A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
In an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour yesterday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Russia would consider using its nuclear weapons if there was “an existential threat for our country.” Luke McGee and Claire Calzonetti report for CNN.
The Pentagon has condemned Peskov’s refusal to rule out the use of nuclear weapons during the Ukraine conflict. U.S. department of defense spokesperson John Kirby said that Moscow’s nuclear remarks were “dangerous,” telling reports that “it’s not the way a responsible nuclear power should act.” However, Kirby added that Pentagon officials “haven’t seen anything that would lead us to conclude that we need to change our strategic deterrent posture.” The Guardian reports.
Ukrainian troops have retaken control of the strategic Kyiv suburb of Makariv, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. The regained territory has allowed Ukrainian forces to take control of a key highway and block Russian troops from surrounding Kyiv from the northwest. Nebi Qena and Cara Anna report for AP
Satellite imagery has shown that Russia has removed most of its military aircraft from a strategic airport in Kherson, southern Ukraine. Christoph Koettl and Christiaan Triebert report for the New York Times.
Satellite images have shown large swaths of Mariupol devastated by Russian strikes, as the Pentagon warns that Kremlin warships have started shelling the southern Ukrainian port city. Amy Cheng reports for the Washington Post.
Russian forces have destroyed a bridge in the encircled city of Chernihiv used for evacuating civilians and delivering humanitarian aid, according to the region’s governor, Viacheslav Chaus. AP reports.
Videos from Odessa show the city’s mayor walking through residential buildings damaged by suspected Russian strikes in the southern part of the Ukrainian city. According to a statement from the mayor’s office, the strike was not near a military facility and there were no reported fatalities. Karly Domb Sadof and Elyse Samuels report for the Washington Post.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby has told reporters that the U.S. has seen “indication that the Ukrainians are going a bit more on the offense” after stalling Russian troops. Ukrainian forces are trying to regain territory lost to Russia, “particularly in the south,” in cities such as Kherson, Kirby said. Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
Russian “combat power” in Ukraine – comprising more than 150,000 troops prior to the invasion – has dipped below 90 percent of its original force for the first time, according to an assessment by the Pentagon. A senior defense official said yesterday morning that Russian forces were “struggling on many fronts,” including routine supply lines and logistics. John Ismay reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS, REFUGEES AND DEPORTATIONS
In his nightly national address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russian forces of seizing a humanitarian convoy near Mangush, 20km south-west of Mariupol. The Guardian reports.
The U.S. embassy in Kyiv has cited Ukraine’s foreign ministry as saying 2,389 Ukrainian children have been “illegally removed” from the Russian-controlled territories of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts and taken to Russia. “This is not assistance. It is kidnapping” the embassy added in a tweet. The Guardian reports.
Russia plans to unleash a “great terror” on the southern occupied city of Kherson by kidnapping residents and taking them across the Russian border, an FSB whistleblower has claimed. A letter, thought to have been written by a member of Russia’s domestic security service and dated from Monday, said the Kremlin was no longer willing to “play nicely” with protesters in the Ukrainian city, where residents have staged regular rallies against the occupiers. Tom Ball and Maxim Tucker report for the Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
President Biden will announce a new package of sanctions against Russia this week, when he travels to Brussels to meet with European leaders, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said yesterday. In addition to new penalties, the package will include “a joint effort to crack down on evasion — on sanction-busting, on any attempt by any country to help Russia basically undermine, weaken or get around the sanctions,” Sullivan said. Reis Thebault reports for the Washington Post.
The Biden administration is preparing sanctions on most members of Russia’s State Duma, the lower house of parliament. Biden intends to announce the sanction as soon as Thursday during his trip to Europe, according to U.S. officials and internal documents viewed by the Wall Street Journal. Vivian Salama reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Biden will use his meetings in Brussels later this week to keep up pressure on China not to provide aid to Russia, White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has said. Biden, who during a videoconference Friday threatened President Xi Jinping with unspecified consequences should Beijing help Russia, will discuss messaging on China during a NATO summit and a European Council meeting, set to take place tomorrow. Alex Leary reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Cybersecurity officials at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security held a call with over 13,000 representatives from risk management agencies, local governments and companies, following Biden’s warning about cyberattacks from Russia. Zolan Kanno-Youngs reports for the New York Times.
Russian hackers have recently scanned the networks of at least 5 U.S. energy companies and 18 other U.S. defense, financial services and IT firms, the FBI warned in a recent alert. The activity is believed to be associated with cyber actors “who previously conducted destructive cyber activity against foreign critical infrastructure.” Catherine Herridge and Nicole Sganga report for CBS News.
The Biden administration is preparing to unveil a plan to expedite and streamline the resettlement of some Ukrainian refugees in the U.S., sources have said. “The plan would allow vulnerable Ukrainians, specifically activists, journalists and those who are part of the LGBTQ community, to safely enter the U.S. at least temporarily. It would also expedite the reunification of Ukrainians with U.S.-based family members, the sources said,” Julia Ainsley reports for NBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy plans to hold talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Ukrainian presidential spokesperson Andriy Yermak has said. “Kyiv is hopeful Beijing will play a more prominent role in bringing this war to an end,” Yermak tweeted. Robert Wall report for the Wall Street Journal.
Antonia Guterres, the U.N. Security General, has said that from his own outreach efforts with “various actors,” “elements of diplomatic progress are coming into view of several key issues.” In a speech delivered outside the Security Council in New York, he urged Russia to “move from the battlefield to the peace table”, adding that the war is “unwinnable” and that there is “enough on the table” for an immediate ceasefire. UN News Centre reports.
The U.S. and other Western nations are considering a move to potentially exclude Russia from the G20. The U.S. and its Western allies are assessing whether Russia should remain within the group of twenty major economies following its invasion of Ukraine, sources involved in the discussions have said. However, any bid to exclude Russia would likely be vetoed by others in the group, raising the prospect of some countries instead skipping G20 meetings, the sources added. Angie Teo and Stanley Widianto report for Reuters.
The Kremlin has accused the U.S. of putting pressure on other countries to have Russia removed from the G20. “It is well-known that the United States exerts overt and hardly diplomatic pressure on all countries in terms of all-round opposition to our country,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call, adding that “a number of states prefer to adhere to their independent, sovereign points of view.” Reuters reports.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today that sending peacekeepers to Ukraine could lead to a direct confrontation between Russia and the NATO military alliance. His comments came after Poland said last week that an international peacekeeping mission should be sent to Ukraine and be given the means to defend itself. Reuters reports.
The U.S. and NATO believe that Belarus could “soon” join Russia in its war against Ukraine and that the country is already taking steps to do so. Natasha Bertrand, Vasco Cotovio, Jennifer Hansley and Jim Sciutto report for CNN.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the NATO summit tomorrow via video link, according to spokesperson Serhii Nikiforov. Anatasia Parafeniuk and Phill Helsel report for NBC News.
Poland has expelled 45 Russian diplomats it accuses of being spies, the Country’s Minister of the Interior, Mariusz Kaminski said on Twitter. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told state-owned RIA Novosti that Moscow would “respond appropriately.” Annabelle Timsit reports for the Washington Post.
Russia’s ambassador to Poland has said that there is no basis for the accusations made against 45 Russian diplomats set to be expelled from Poland. Reuters reports.
TotalEnergies, the French oil and gas company, has said that it will stop buying Russian oil by the end of the year and halt further investment in projects in the country. The company, however, also warned of the risks and potential negative consequences for both itself and Europe of a complete flight from Russia. Stanley Reed reports for the New York Times.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has warned that any suggestion of an instant embargo on Russian energy supplies should be dismissed at the impact on Europe would be devastating. BBC News reports.
Greek foreign minister Nikos Dendias has announced plans to personally deliver a shipment of humanitarian aid to Mariupol – a city that historically had a significant ethnic Greek population. Dendias said he has notified Kyiv and asked Russian forces not to interfere with his efforts. Amy Cheng reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russian troops occupying the Chernobyl nuclear power plant have “looted and destroyed” a laboratory at the site, according to the State Agency of Ukraine for Exclusion Zone Management. The state agency said in a Facebook post that the laboratory had “highly active samples and samples of radionuclides, which are today in the hands of the enemy.” The Guardian reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he has extended an invitation for Pope Francis to visit Ukraine amid the Russian invasion. However, Archbishop Visvaldas Kulbokas, apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, cautioned in an interview with a Catholic news show that the situation may be “too dangerous” for a visit. Meryl Kornfield reports for the Washington Post.
Around 100 African students are pleading for help to leave the Ukrainian port city of Kherson, more than two weeks after it was captured by Russian forces. The Nigerian students among them have appealed to their government to help evacuate them before it is too late. Nigeria’s government says it is working relentlessly to help them get out. Last week, its ambassador to Moscow was told by a Russian official that plans were being put in place to get the students out through Russia. Nomsa Maseko reports for BBC News.
Whilst the Kremlin still refuses to call its offensive in Ukraine a war and Russia media outlets have been told not to call it an “invasion”, Russian papers have started to speak of “battles near Kyiv” and “the front line.” Steve Rosenberg reports for BBC News.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
At least six major groups of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks have struck a tentative deal to divide about $3.5 billion in Afghan central bank assets they are trying to seize to pay off legal claims against the Taliban. “But another major group is not part of the deal, which would mean some families would receive a far larger payout than most others. And the Sept. 11 plaintiffs still must persuade a court that the central bank funds — deposited in the Federal Reserve of New York before the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August — can lawfully be used to pay off the Taliban’s legal debts,” Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Russia’s leading opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, was sentenced to nine more years in prison for fraud and contempt of court, in a case supporters say was brought against him on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Evan Gershkovich reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Four people have been killed and several others wounded in an attack outside a shopping center in the south of Israel, Israeli police have said. Three people were stabbed outside the shipping center, while a fourth was rammed by a vehicle driven by the assailant. The attacker was shot dead by a bus driver. According to Israel’s internal security agency, the assailant was an Israeli Arab who had once been jailed for supporting the Islamic State group. BBC News reports.
The Taliban has reopened schools across Afghanistan but issued a last-minute ruling banning classes for girls after sixth grade, citing space constraints and “technical issues.” “All #girls_schools (secondary and high school) will be closed until further notice,” the Ministry of Education announced in a tweet today, stating that it hasn’t designed a school uniform for female students that is “in accordance with sharia [Islamic] law, Afghan culture and customs.” The Ministry said that the schools would be reopened but did not state when this would be. Susannah George reports for the Washington Post.
Thousands are continuing to flee ongoing violence and brutal attacks by suspected al-Shabab militants in the Cabo Delgado province in northern Mozambique, the U.N. refugee agency has said. “According to partners in the region, a series of attacks by non-State armed groups between January and mid-March displaced some 24,000 people within Nangade district,” a spokesperson said. UN News Centre reports.
Former Nicaraguan presidential candidate Cristiana Chamorro Barrios has been sentenced to eight years in prison for financial crimes of money laundering and improper retention, a Nicaraguan human rights non-governmental organization has said. Chamorro, a journalist and former director of the Violeta Barrios de Chamorro Foundation for Reconciliation and Democracy, is to remain under house arrest. Her driver, Pedro Vásquez, was sentenced to seven years in prison for money laundering. Jorge Engels, Mario Medrano and Bertha Ramos report for CNN.
Sri Lanka has sent troops to hundreds of state-run gas stations to help distribute fuel after a sudden rise in prices of key commodities and accompanying shortages resulted in tens of thousands of people queuing for hours for fuel. Sri Lanka is battling a foreign exchange crisis that forced a currency devaluation and hit payments for essential imports such as food, medicine and fuel. Reuters reports.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi will make a stop for talks in New Delhi, India on Friday, an Indian official has said. Neither India nor China have formally announced what would be the highest-level visit from a Chinese official to India since border clashes soured relations between the countries two years ago. Krishna N. Das reports for Reuters.
A Dutch court has rejected a suit against Shell brought by four widows of activists who were executed by the Nigerian government in 1995 after they protested against the oil company’s exploitation of the Niger Delta. The Dutch court, which has allowed the case to continue in 2019, said that there was insufficient evidence to support the claim that Shell had been involved in bribing witnesses. Toby Sterling reports for Reuters.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
Belarus has granted refugee status to Jan. 6 attack defendant Evan Neumann, according to Belarusian state-run media. “US citizen Evan Newman received refugee status in Belarus. The document was handed to him in the Department of Citizenship and Migration of the Internal Affairs Directorate of the Brest Regional Executive Committee on March 22, 2022,” the Belarusian Telegraph Agency reported on Twitter. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson yesterday pushed back on Republican attacks on her record during her Supreme Court confirmation hearing. Jackson defended “her work representing terrorism detainees and sentencing child sex abusers as she presented herself as a firm believer in judicial restraint fit to be confirmed to a seat on the Supreme Court,” Carl Hulse and Katie Rogers report for the New York Times.
Jackson addressed and disputed criticisms from Republicans as being weak on crime by stressing her concern for public safety and the rule of law, as a judge, as a mom and an American. Jackson argued that she approached her work in an impartial way and personal opinions do not play a role. Clare Foran and Alex Rogers provide further reporting on the second day of Jackson’s confirmation hearings for CNN.
Jackson’s work representing Guantánamo Bay detainees came into sharp focus following questioning from Republicans during the confirmation hearing yesterday. Jackson, who served as a federal public defender in Washington, D.C., from 2005 to 2007, framed her work as essential l to ensuring the values of the Constitution were upheld in the wake of the horrific Sept. 11, 2011 terror attack. Bryan Lowry reports for the Miami Herald.
A surge in shootings in the U.S. is showing no sign of easing. Over the last weekend, there were at least nine mass shooting events, defined by at least four people being shot, over the weekend, as well as many more with fewer victims. Tim Arango and Troy Closson report for the New York Times
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has announced that she has tested positive for Covid-19. Psaki said that she is experiencing mild symptoms. The test result means that Psaki will no longer be traveling with President Biden to Europe. Kaitlan Collins and Maegan Vazquez report for CNN.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.80 million people and has now killed over 973,200 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 474.14 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.