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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
Several explosions have hit the city of Lviv, in western Ukraine, regional officials have said. The governor of the Lviv region, Maksym Kozytskyi, said five people had been injured, and that rocket fire had hit a fuel storage facility and a factory. BBC News reports.
A Russian brigade commander has been killed by his own forces in another indication of boiling discontent among Russian forces deployed in and around Ukraine, Western officials have said. The commander of the 37th Motor Rifle Brigade was run over by an armored vehicle and suffered grave injuries to both legs. Western officials have also confirmed Ukrainian reports that a lieutenant general commanding the 49th Combined Arms Army had died in combat, making him the seventh Russian general to be killed in the invasion. Cristina Gallardo reports for POLITICO.
Ukraine has promised an “immediate investigation” after a video surfaced showing what appear to be Ukrainian soldiers shooting Russian prisoners in the knees during an operation in the Kharkiv region. Tim Lister, Celine Alkhaldi, Katerina Krebs and Josh Pennington report for CNN.
Ukrainian forces announced yesterday that they had retaken Trostyanets, in the northeast near the Russian border, potentially opening a road to the provincial capital of Sumy, which is encircled by Russian troops. Isabel Coles, Max Colchester and Yuliya Chernova report for the Wall Street Journal.
More that 1,100 civilians have been killed since the war in Ukraine began, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report published yesterday. Jesus Jimenez reports for the New York Times.
According to today’s intelligence assessment from the U.K.’s Defense Ministry, Russia forces have gained the “most ground” in the south of Ukraine, where they are attempting to take control of the strategic port city of Mariupol. Annabelle Timsit reports for the Washington Post.
Russian troops in Ukraine have relied, with surprising frequency, on unsecured communications devices such as smartphones, leaving units vulnerable to targeting, and further underscoring the command-and-control deficiencies that have come to define the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “We’re seeing them use a lot more unclassified communications because their classified communications capability … for one reason or another, is not as strong as it should be,” a senior U.S. defense official said. Alex Horton and Shane Harris report for the Washington Post.
Russia is considering plans to send in reinforcements, including conscripts, foreign fighters from Syria, and members of the Wagner Group, a Russia mercenary organization, according to U.S. and European officials. Some Wagner Group members are already engaged in battle against Ukrainian troops in the Donbass region. Jack Detsche and Robbie Gramer report for Foreign Policy.
Ukrainian officials reported Russian strikes in western and west-central Ukraine overnight, including “two very powerful explosions” near the west central city of Zhytomyr. Olga Voitovych and Nathan Hodge report for CNN.
Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko has announced that the curfew in Kyiv will be eased slightly. Local authorities previously announced schooling in the capital would resume in an online format today. Nathan Hodge reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS, REFUGEES AND DEPORTATIONS
Ukraine has announced that it will not seek to open humanitarian corridors today, citing the possibility of Russian attacks on civilians trying to flee frontline areas. “Our intelligence reported possible provocations by the occupiers on the routes of humanitarian corridors. Therefore, for reasons of public safety, we do not open humanitarian corridors today,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said. Ayumi Fujimoto reports for NBC News.
Ukrainian officials have urged the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) not to open an office on Russia’s border with Ukraine, warning that it would signal support for Russia’s allegedly forced relocation of Ukrainian citizens. Peter Maurer, president of the ICRC, traveled to Russia last week to discuss humanitarian issues. Speaking next to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at a news conference, Maurer called the talks “fruitful,” while avoiding criticism of the Kremlin. Hannah Knowles reports for the Washington Post.
Mariupol is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe and must be completely evacuated, the city’s mayor has said. He added that 26 buses were waiting to evacuate civilians but Russian forces had not agreed to give them safe passage. BBC News reports.
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres has warned that refugees fleeing Ukraine are at increased risk of trafficking and exploitation. “For predators and human traffickers, the war in Ukraine is not a tragedy … it’s an opportunity – and women and children are the targets,” Guterres said on Twitter. Katya Adler reports for BBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
President Biden said in a speech delivered in Warsaw on Saturday that Russian President Vladimir Putin “cannot remain in power” after launching his brutal invasion of Ukraine. Biden’s impromptu apparent call for an end to Putin’s reign — a month after he launched a deadly and destructive war with neighboring Ukraine — was his first time broaching the subject. For weeks, top administration officials, including Biden’s secretary of state, have stressed that they were not advocating a change in Russian leadership. Christopher Cadelago and Craig Howie report for POLITICO.
The Biden administration has sought to clarify that it has not reversed its strategy and is not seeking Putin’s removal. “We do not have a strategy of regime change in Russia or anywhere else, for that matter,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said after meeting with Israel’s foreign minister, Yair Lapid, in Jerusalem. Isaac Stanley-Becker reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
French President Emmanuel Macron has distanced himself from President Biden’s comment that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power. Macron told broadcaster France 3 that his focus was on helping broker a ceasefire between Kyiv and Moscow, adding “if we want to do that, we can’t escalate either in words or actions.” Bjarke Smither-Meyer reports for POLITICO.
Regime change in Russia is not NATO’s objective, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told German state television channel ARD yesterday following Biden’s comments. Agence- France Presse reports.
In a video address on Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy demanded that the U.S. and its allies send more weapons and ratchet up sanctions, portraying some leaders as timid in the face of Russian aggression. In a separate interview with the Economist, Zelensky asserted that some countries had drawn a red line at sending more offensive weapons to Ukraine “because they are afraid of Russia. And that’s it. And those who say it first are the first to be afraid.” Shane Harris, Adela Suliman and David L. Stern report for the Washington Post.
Germany is considering purchasing a missile defense system to shield against a potential attack from Russia, Scholz said yesterday. The Guardian reports.
Russian prosecutors have issued warnings to Western companies in Russia, including Coca-Cola Co, McDonald’s Corp, and Procter & Gamble, threatening to arrest corporate leaders there who criticize the government or to seize assets of companies that withdraw from the country. Jennifer Maloney, Emily Glazer and Heather Haddon report for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.K.’s Attorney General Suella Braverman has appointed a war crimes lawyer to advise Ukraine over the Russian invasion. Sir Howard Morrison, who served as a judge on the International Criminal Court in The Hague, will become an independent advisor to Ukraine’s chief prosecutor. Harriet Agerholm reports for BBC News.
Russia’s ambassador to Poland, Sergei Andreev, said today that 45 Russian diplomats expelled by Poland have now left the country. Reuters reports.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that Russian relations with China are at their strongest level ever. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – DIPLOMACY
Ukrainian and Russian delegations are arriving in Istanbul for another round of in-person talks — positioning NATO member Turkey, which has ties to both Kyiv and Moscow, as an intermediary in the conflict. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appeared to offer a diplomatic opening yesterday, saying that Kyiv could declare its “neutrality” and effectively renounce its ambitions to join NATO in a potential peace deal with Moscow, but stressed that Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are “beyond doubt”. Annabelle Timsit, Miriam Berger, Rachel Pannett and Julian Mark report for the Washington Post.
The next round of talks between Russia and Ukraine will be held in Istanbul tomorrow, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Niamh Kennedy, Becky Anderson and Isil Sariyuce report for CNN.
Speaking to Serbian media outlets, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today that a meeting between Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin should happen once the two sides are closer to agreeing on key issues. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russian President Vladimir Putin is seeking to split Ukraine into two, emulating the postwar division between North and South Korea, Ukrainian military intelligence chief Gen Kyrylo Budamov has said. Daniel Boffey reports for the Guardian.
In a 90 minutes interview with independent Russian media yesterday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that as part of a peace deal with Russia Ukraine is prepared to discuss adopting neutral status, but it would have to be guaranteed by third parties and put to a referendum. Reuters reports.
The Russian state media regulator, Roskomnadzor, has issued a warning to Russian media over an interview with Zelenskyy. The regulator warned the press they must not publish the interview and that “an investigation has been started in order to identify the level of responsibility and what response will be taken.” Russian outlet Meduza announced it had interviewed Zelenskyy, along with Dozhd TV and Russia newspaper Kommersant. Meduza and Dozhd are both blocked in Russia. BBC News reports.
In the Telegram post yesterday, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister, Iryna Vereshchuk accused Russia of “irresponsible acts” around the occupied Chernobyl power station that could send radiation across Europe, and urged the U.N. to dispatch a mission to assess the risk. The Guardian reports.
Dmitry Bodyu, an American pastor allegedly abducted by Russian forces in Ukraine earlier this month, has been freed, his family said today. Gabe Gutierrez and Erika Angulo report for NBC News.
Israel is hosting a historic summit bringing Arab, Israeli and U.S. officials together for the first time on Israeli soil for talks. The summit, which began yesterday, drew together U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken with the top diplomats of Israel and Egypt, as well as Bahrain, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates — the three Arab countries that normalized relations with Israel in 2020. “Israeli and Arab diplomats said they were discussing unprecedented, formal defense partnerships, as well as new military and economic ties and a joint strategy for Iran,” David S. Cloud, Dov Lieber and Stephen Kalin report for the Wall Street Journal.
Early discussions on Sunday night and Monday morning have centered on how to create a regional security infrastructure to defend against shared threats, including Iran, and how to keep the U.S. engaged in the region, Israeli foreign ministry officials have said. The ministers were also said to have discussed food security in the region, a concern heightened by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times.
The foriegn ministers put on a show of unity at the summit today, as they sought to allay misgivings about an emerging Iranian nuclear power and Washington’s commitment to the region. “There are nuances, different perspectives being discussed or argued about, there is some agreement about some issues and less so about others – but there’s no doubt in this room around the table that Iran must not be nuclear,” an Israeli Foreign Ministry official has told Israel’s public broadcaster. Humeyra Pamuk reports for Reuters.
Live updates on the summit are provided by the New York Times.
Two gunmen killed at least two people and injured several others in an attack in northern Israel on Sunday night. The attack in Hadera, a city of nearly 100,000 on the Mediterranean coast, involved two attackers wielding what appeared to be heavy automatic weapons — details that implied a level of planning and coordination. Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times.
Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Israel – the first time since 2017 that the terrorist group has claimed an attack in Israel. Members of “an Israeli counter-terrorism force happened to be in a restaurant nearby and they ran out and neutralised the terrorists,” Israeli police said in a statement. The two assailants were Arab citizens of Israel and sympathizers of IS, Israeli security officials have said. Agence France-Presse reports.
Blinken has condemned the attack, writing on Twitter that “such senseless acts of violence and murder have no place in society. We stand with our Israeli partners and send our condolences to the families of the victims.” Reuters reports.
Houthi rebels from Yemen have claimed responsibility for a missile attack on Friday at an oil facility less than 10 miles from the circuit of the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. Saudi state media said that the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen had foiled a string of Houthi drone and rocket attacks. Formula 1 (F1) has however confirmed that the Grand Prix will go ahead as planned, following a four-hour meeting with drivers Saturday night. Giles Richards reports for the Guardian.
In response to the attack on the oil plant in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi-led coalition launched aistrikes on Yemen’s capital Sana’a and the port city of Hudaydah, which is a key entry point for humanitarian aid. Agence France-Presse reports.
U.N. Secretary General António Guterres has condemned the exchange of attacks on civilian facilities by Yemen’s Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition, calling for “restraint” on all sides in the seven-year conflict. The Saudi-led coalition’s attack on Sana’a reportedly killed eight civilians, Guterres’ spokesperson said in a statement. “The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about reports of ongoing airstrikes in Hudaydah city and the targeting of Hudaydah’s ports, which provide a critical humanitarian lifeline for the Yemeni population,” the statement also read. UN News Centre reports.
The Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen are discussing a possible prisoner swap which could see hundreds of detainees freed, including 16 Saudi nationals and a brother of the Yemeni president, officials have said. Reuters reports.
U.S. Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley has said that he is not confident that a nuclear deal between world powers and Tehran is imminent. “I can’t be confident it is imminent… A few months ago we thought we were pretty close as well,” Malley told the Doha Forum international conference. “In any negotiations, when there’s issues that remain open for so long, it tells you something about how hard it is to bridge the gap,” he said. Andrew Mills and Ghaida Ghantous report for Reuters.
In contrast to Malley’s comments, French Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has said today that a nuclear deal with Iran remains near even though a few items are still to be settled. Reuters reports.
Blinken has sought to reassure Israel and its Gulf allies that Iran will never acquire atomic weapons, ahead of a possible revival of the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran. “When it comes to the most important element, we see eye to eye,” Blinken said at a news conference on Sunday with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. “We are both committed, both determined, that Iran will never acquire a nuclear weapon,” Blinken added. Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The trial of El Shafee Elsheikh, who stands accused of taking part in the capture and murder of journalists and aid workers by the Islamic State (IS), is to begin in a U.S. court tomorrow. Elsheikh was one of four IS militants who traveled to Syria from London and whose British accents led prisoners of the terrorist group to label them the “Beatles.” Elsheikh “is in federal court in Alexandria because of the deaths of four Americans who were reporting on or supporting victims of the Syrian civil war — journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff and aid workers Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. Prosecutors say he is also implicated in the deaths of British, Japanese and Norwegian captives,” Rachel Weiner reports for the Washington Post.
The U.S. and the Philippines are starting their biggest joint military drills since 2015 today, underscoring improved defense ties between the countries. “The annual ‘Balikatan’ (shoulder-to-shoulder) exercises involve 8,900 troops this year and will include live fire exercises and training with amphibious assault vehicles,” Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov was shadowed by an agent linked to a political assassination team for almost a year before he was murdered in 2015, an investigation has found. Bellingcat, The Insider and the BBC found evidence that Nemtsov, who was a fierce adversary of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was shadowed on 13 trips before his murder. BBC News reports.
El Salvador’s parliament has approved a state of emergency after the country recorded dozens of gang-related murders in a single day. El Salvador’s police said that there had been 62 murders on Saturday, and the emergency decree restricts the right to gather, allows arrests without warrant, and allows increased monitoring of communications by security forces. BBC News reports.
“We approved a state of emergency to allow the Government to protect the life of the people of El Salvador and to tackle criminality head on,” Eenesto Castro, president of the legislative assembly, tweeted. Stefano Pozzebon reports for CNN.
Tigrayan rebels have agreed to a “cessation of hostilities” following the Ethiopian government’s announcement of an indefinite humanitarian truce a day earlier. In a statement on Friday the rebels said that they were “committed to implementing a cessation of hostilities effective immediately” and urged Ethiopian authorities to hasten delivery of emergency aid into Tigray. Agence France-Presse reports.
Myanmar’s military junta chief, Min Aung Hlaing, has said that the military will not negotiate with “terrorist” oppostion forces and has vowed to “annihilate” them in a speech made on Armed Forces Day on Sunday in Myanmar. Anti-coup protesters came out on streets in Myanmar on Sunday morning, while the military celebrated with a parade of troops and weapons in the capital, Naypyidaw. Reuters reports.
Heavy fighting has erupted in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after fighters from the M23 rebel group attacked army positions near the border with Uganda and Rwanda. Reuters reports.
The number of people who are severely hungry in Sudan could double by September as a result of poor harvests, economic crisis, internal conflict, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.N. has warned. More than 18 million people could face extreme hunger over the coming months, up from about 9 million currently in need of aid, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization have said. Zeinab Mohammed Salih reports for the Guardian.
North Korea may be preparing to carry out a nuclear weapons test soon, according to a South Korean media report. “The Yonhap news agency, quoting government sources, said North Korea appeared to be digging a ‘shortcut’ to Tunnel 3 at its previously closed nuclear test site in Punggye-ri,” the Guardian reports.
The Taliban has ordered local channels in Afghanistan not to broadcast content from international partners. As a result BBC TV programming has been taken off air in Afghanistan. “Calling it a ‘worrying development,’ the BBC said it would affect more than six million viewers of Persian, Pashto and Uzbek language service programmes,” BBC News reports.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has put up a fierce fight to stay in power as he faces a no-confidence vote in Parliament and Pakistan’s military, which aided his rise to power, effectively turns against him. At least a dozen lawmakers from Khan’s own party have said they are deserting him, and other parties in his ruling coalition have signaled they are ready to switch sides. However, Khan has remained defiant and tens of thousands responded to his call and streamed to a rally in Islamabad on Sunday. Saeed Shah reports for the Wall Street Journal.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021 attack has made its case to seek contempt of Congress charges against two former officials of former President Trump. The committee’s contempt report has been released ahead of a vote scheduled for today on whether to refer the former officials to Congress for contempt charges. According to the report, both Dan Scavino, Trump’s former deputy chief of staff for communications, and Peter Navarro, a former trade adviser to Trump who joined efforts to promote claims of election fraud, have failed to appear before the committee and have not provided a single document requested. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
The committee granted Scavino six extensions to his deadline to sit for an interview with the panel and hand over documents, according to the contempt report. The committee also noted in the report that several of the issues Navarro said that he could not discuss with the panel he had previously written about in his book. Ryan Nobles, Zachary Cohen and Whitney Wild report for CNN.
Further reporting on the committee’s contempt of Congress report against Scavino and Navarro is provided by Luke Broadwater and Alan Feuer for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Federal prosecutors and the FBI are investigating whether Lt. Gov. Brian A. Benjamin of New York played a role in an effort to funnel fraudulent contributions to his unsuccessful 2021 campaign for New York City comptroller. Investigators have issued subpoenas to Benjamin’s campaign advisers and the State Senate. “The inquiry stems from a federal indictment filed late last year charging a Harlem real estate investor, Gerald Migdol, with wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and other crimes. Migdol, a longtime supporter of Benjamin’s, was accused of orchestrating a plan to misrepresent or conceal dozens of illegal contributions to Benjamin’s campaign,” Nicholas Fandos and William K. Rashbaum report for the New York Times.
Two soldiers stationed at Fort Hood, Texas, have been sentenced to prison after they pleaded guilty to charges connected to transporting immigrants into the U.S. illegally last year. Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
COVID-19 has infected over 79.95 million people and has now killed over 976,700 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 480.95 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.12 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.