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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
The U.S. and the European Commission today announced a new joint task force to reduce Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels, as the West looks to further punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. will increase liquefied natural gas exports to Europe by at least 15 billion cubic meters this year and expects to raise the amount in the coming years, the White House said. Ashley Parker, Tyler Pager and Emily Rauhala report for the Washington Post.
Biden said yesterday that if Russia were to use chemical weapons in its invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. would respond. Reuters reports.
President Biden announced plans yesterday for the U.S. to accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, and others feeling Russia’s war on Ukraine. The refugees would be brought into the United States through a variety of legal pathways, including the conventional U.S. refugee program as well as more agile mechanisms such as “humanitarian parole,” which the Biden administration used for tens of thousands of Afghans last year during Operation Allies Welcome. Ashley Parker, Abigail Hauslohner and Nick Miroff report for the Washington Post.
Biden has called for Russia to be expelled from the Group of 20, as he met with world leaders yesterday to discuss the war in Ukraine. He said that he had raised the idea that if it was not possible to remove Russia, Ukraine should be allowed to attend the meetings and observe. Tarini Parti, Robert Wall and Catherine Lucey report for the Wall Street Journal.
Russia has hit back at the U.S.’s demand to exclude it from the Group of 20 (G20), citing a need to develop other ways to foster international relations. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov recognised the importance of the G20 format but said that “when a large part of its members are in the state of economic war with us by their own initiatives,” leaving the group would be “nothing fatal.” Natassia Astrasheuskaya reports for the Financial Times.
Biden is scheduled to meet his Polish counterpart, Andrzej Duda, today following yesterday’s NATO summit. The two leaders are expected to focus on the growing refugee crisis, with the bulk of Ukrainians fleeing the fighting having crossed into Poland. Tarini Parti reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. ambassador to Mexico has urged Mexican lawmakers to join the U.S. in supporting Kyiv against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine after his Russian counterpart encouraged Mexico to defy “Uncle Sam.” Reuters reports.
U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that Russian military spy hackers were behind a cyberattack on a satellite broadband service that disrupted Ukraine’s military communications at the start of the war last month, according to U.S. officials. However, the U.S. government has not announced its conclusion publicly. Ellen Nakashima reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
NATO allies have agreed to provide Ukraine with equipment and training to deal with the fallout from a possible Russian attack using chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons, NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg said yesterday. Stoltenberg, speaking to reporters after yesterday’s NATO summit, added that the alliance was worried Russia might deploy chemical or biological weapons — which are banned by international treaty — because it appeared that Moscow was creating a false narrative that the West was about to use them. Martina Stevis-Gridneff and Monika Pronczuk report for the New York Times.
The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution addressing the dire humanitarian situation in Ukraine yesterday, passing the measure in an overwhelming vote that underscored Russia’s isolation. The resolution blames Russia for “creating one of the worst humanitarian crises in Europe in decades and demands that Moscow abides by humanitarian laws, including the protection of civilians and infrastructure, safe passage for humanitarian aid and an end to the war,” Farnaz Fassihi reports for the New York Times.
The European Council released a statement yesterday accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. “These war crimes must stop immediately. Those responsible, and their accomplices, will be held to account in accordance with international law,” said the European Union body, which comprises leaders of E.U. member states. Amy Cheng reports for the Washington Post.
China’s ambassador to the U.S. has said that Beijing’s “no limits” friendship with Moscow, does in fact have limits, as Chinese President Xi Jinping faces increasing pressure from the West to distance himself from Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Lyric Li reports for the Washington Post.
Speaking as he returned from the NATO summit, Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdogan, who is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the weekend or next week, said that he would urge Putin to make an “honourable exit” from Ukraine by becoming an “architect” of a peace deal with Kyiv. Laura Pitel reports for the Financial Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Four civilians have been killed and several others wounded in a Russian strike on a medical centre in Kharkiv, local police have said. BBC News reports.
Russian forces have destroyed “the largest of the remaining fuel depots” near Kyiv, with a strike carried out with sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles, Russian Ministery of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov claimed today. Radina Gigova reports for CNN.
Ukrainian forces have reoccupied towns and defensive positives up to 35 kilometres east of Kyiv, according to the latest U.K. defence intelligence update. The Guardian reports.
The northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv has in effect been cut off by Russian forces, the regional governor said today. Reuters reports.
Ukrainian officials have said that some 300 people could have died in the attack on a Mariupol theatre by Russian forces last week. BBC News reports.
Ukrainian and Russian forces have conducted the first exchange of prisoners of war since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began. “Today by order of President Zelensky, the first full-fledged exchange of prisoners of war took place. In exchange for 10 captured occupiers, we pulled out 10 of our servicemen,” Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, said. Roman Olearchyk reports for the Financial Times.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office has said that 135 children have been killed and 184 wounded since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. BBC News reports.
The U.K. government has said that Russian mercenary company Wagner Group is being used by Russia to try to assassinate Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The group of hired soldiers was “reportedly tasked” with killing Zelenskyy, the U.K. government said, as it announced sanctions against Wagner Group. Maz Colchester reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Russia is running out of precision-guided munitions and is more likely to rely on “dumb bombs” and artillery, a senior Pentagon official said yesterday. Reuters reports.
The International Rescue Committee warned today that civilians are facing a catastrophic health crisis” as attacks on health infrastructure are limiting access to “life-saving services and supplies.” The IRC called for the protection of healthcare access “by ensuring the safety of providers and the free flow of medical supplies and equipment,” adding that “global leaders must prioritize support to the most vulnerable, including women, children and the elderly.” Radina Gigova reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS, REFUGEES AND DEPORTATIONS
Ukrainians are being arbitrarily detained and subjected to enforced disappearances in Russian-controlled areas, according to reports verified by the U.N. At least 36 cases of civilians detentions have been verified, with families often denied any information about the fate of their loved ones. Matt Murphy and Robert Greenall report for BBC News.
Two humanitarian corridors have been agreed on and will open today, including one direct from the besieged city of Mariupol, according to Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. Adela Suliman and Annabelle Chapman report for the Washington Post.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The Justice Department unsealed charges yesterday accusing four Russian officials of carrying out a series of cyberattacks targeting critical infrastructure in the United States, including a nuclear power plant in Kansas. The announcement, which covered hackings from 2012 to 2018, served as yet another warning from the Biden administration of Russia’s ability to conduct such operations. Katie Benner and Kate Conger report for the New York Times.
President Biden, stepping back from a campaign vow, has embraced a longstanding U.S. approach of using the threat of a potential nuclear response to deter conventional and other non-nuclear dangers in addition to nuclear ones, U.S. officials said yesterday. Biden’s decision comes as he meets with allies in Europe in an effort to maintain a unified Western stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Michael R. Gordon reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A report from the German Marshall Fund of the United States has recommended that U.S. officials go on the offensive against China’s pervasive presence across top ranks of the U.N. and push back against China’s efforts to shut Taiwan out of U.N. agencies. Among other things, the United States should carry out “a sustained effort to lobby against the appointments and elections” of Chinese officials in high positions in U.N. agencies, the authors wrote. Edward Wong and Amy Qin report for the New York Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Ethiopia’s government yesterday announced what it called an immediate “humanitarian truce” with forces it has been fighting for 17 months in the northern Tigray region, where food aid has not been delivered since December. Officials with the United Nations and several aid agencies greeted the developments with hope but also cautioned that an end to the humanitarian crisis and the bitter conflict was still far off. Abdi Latif Dahir and Simon Marks report for the New York Times.
North Korean state media have emphasised that North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un took a special interest in yesterday’s missile launch, broadcasting videos of him celebrating alongside “Hollywood style propaganda,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports for the Washington Post.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has strongly condemned North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile. In a statement, issued yesterday, Guterres said the move was a “clear violation of Security Council resolutions” and risks “significant escalation of tensions in the region.” UN News Centre reports.
Sweden and Finland are both participating in NATO military exercises this week, despite neither being a member of the military alliance. Both nations are taking part in an exercise in which Norway is invaded and NATO subsequently invokes Article 5, which states that an attack against one NATO member is considered an attack on all NATO members. Courtney Kube reports for NBC news.
Solomon Island police have received a shipment of replica firearms from China, raising concerns over its increasingly close relationship with Beijing. The police said the firearms were replicas donated by China for police training and denied accusations that the force had anything “to conceal or hide.” Georgina Kekea report for the Guardian.
Heads of state from the West African regional group Ecowas are due to meet in Ghana today to discuss the political situation in Mali following last year’s coup. Mali’s interim president, Assimi Goita, will not be attending in person, and it is unclear whether he will join the summit by video link. BBC News reports.
Women in Afghanistan are struggling with new Taliban rules requiring them to be accompanied by a male relative, one in a series of measures that they say threaten to remove them from public and professional life. Whilst the official new rules don’t bar women from traveling alone near their homes, women across the country say guardianship rules are being imposed on a far wider scale, and include needing a male relative to join them for basic tasks such as entering government buildings, seeing a doctor or catching a taxi. Margherita Stancati and Ehsanullah Amiri report for the Wall Street Journal.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack said yesterday that it would consider contempt of Congress charges against two more allies of former President Donald J. Trump for refusing to comply with its subpoenas. The potential charges against Peter Navarro, former White House adviser, and Dan Scavino Jr., former deputy chief of staff, could result in jail time and must be approved by a vote of the House. The committee said it would hold a public vote on whether to recommend the charges on Monday. Luke Broadwater and Alan Feuer report for the New York Times.
Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarance Thomas, repeatedly pressed the White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to pursue efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in a series of text exchanges sent in the weeks after the vote. “The messages — 29 in all — reveal an extraordinary pipeline between Virginia Thomas, who goes by Ginni, and President Donald Trump’s top aide during a period when Trump and his allies were vowing to go to the Supreme Court in an effort to negate the election results,” Bob Woodward and Robert Costa report for the Washington Post.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Republican senators indicated yesterday that they don’t plan to take steps to significantly delay or block the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. This comes a day after Ten of 11 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee signed a letter requesting confirmation hearing be adjourned until certain legal documents could be obtained – a request which was rejected by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dck Durbin (D- Ill). Lindsay Wise, Siobhan Hughes and Laura Kusisto report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Supreme Court yesterday blocked Texas from executing an inmate after the state refused to let his minister pray and lay hands on him in the death chamber. The ruling in Ramirez v. Collier allows Texas to proceed with Mr. Ramirez’s execution if it accommodates his pastor. If the state prefers to continue litigating, however, it may not conduct the execution until the issue is resolved. Jess Bravin reports for the Wall Street Journal
In a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) yesterday, three U.S. citizens accused federal immigration authorities of stopping them nearly every time they return to the country from traveling overseas and questioning them about their Muslim faith. The ACLU said in its suit, filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, that this practice amounts to religious discrimination and a violation of citizens’ First Amendment rights because citizens of other faiths aren’t routinely subjected to the same coercive religious questioning. Michelle Hackman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
President Joe Biden plans to request $813.3 billion in national security spending — including $773 billion for the Pentagon — in the federal budget he will send to Congress on Monday, according to officials familiar with the plan. Antony Capaccio and Roxana Tiron report for Bloomberg.
Ty Garbin, who plead guilty last year to conspiring to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, testified this week at the trial of four other men accused of participating in the plot, saying that he had hoped his action would disrupt the 2020 election and perhaps start a civil war. “The plan was for us to basically be the ignition to it, and hopefully other states or other groups would follow,” Garbin added. Mitch Smith reports for the New York Times.
Prosecutors have been sending back documents to people who turned over information about former President Donald Trump’s business, in a stark sign that the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation into alleged financial crimes at the former president’s real estate empire may be winding down. Jose Pagliery and Asawin Suebsaeng report for the Daily Beast.
Former President Donald Trump has filed a lawsuit against Hillary Clinton and more than two dozen other defendants, including the Democratic National Committee, alleging that they conspired to tarnish his image and the image of his campaign before the 2016 election. Talal Ansari reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A lawyer for former President Trump yesterday argued yesterday that a federal appeals court should block a House committee from obtaining his tax returns. Cameron Thomas Norris, an attorney representing Trump in the dispute with the House Ways and Means Committee, told the court the Democratic lawmakers have no valid legislative purpose for their request to the Treasury Department. Harper Neidig reports for The Hill.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.88 million people and has now killed over 975,800 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 477.40 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.10 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.