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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 – BUCHA AND ALLEGED WAR CRIMES
The bodies of 410 civilians have been found in Kyiv-area towns that were recently retaken from Russian forces, Ukraine’s prosecutor-general, Iryna Venediktova has said. In Bucha, a suburb northwest of the capital, Associated Press journalists saw 21 bodies. At least two had their hands tied behind their backs. Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Nebi Qena report for AP.
280 people have been buried in mass graves in Bucha, while the bodies of whole families still lie in shot up cars, Bucha mayor, Anatoly Fedoruk, told Agence France Presse on Saturday. France 24 reports.
Satellite company, Maxar Technologies, says its images document a mass grave in the Ukrainian town of Bucha. A satellite photo from Thursday appears to show a large grave — a 45-foot-long trench near the Church of St. Andrew and Pyervozvannoho All Saints. Maxar said its images also show “the first signs of excavation” on March 10. Hannah Knowles reports for the Washington Post.
Human Rights Watch has documented several cases of Russian military forces committing laws-of-war violations against civilians in occupied areas of the Chernihiv, Kharkiv, and Kyiv regions of Ukraine. These include a case of repeated rape; two cases of summary execution, one of six men, the other of one man; and other cases of unlawful violence and threats against civilians between February 27 and March 14, 2022. Those who carried out these abuses are responsible for war crimes, the report says. Human Rights Watch reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – BUCHA, GLOBAL RESPONSE
U.N. Secretary-General Antonia Guterres called yesterday for an independent investigation into the killing of civilians in the Ukrainian town of Bucha. “I am deeply shocked by the images of civilians killed in Bucha, Ukraine,” said Guterres in a tersely worded statement, which was also posted on his official Twitter account. “It is essential that an independent investigation leads to effective accountability,” he added. UN News Centre reports.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has demanded accountability for what he said amounts to “genocide,” as Ukrainian officials ask the International Criminal Court to visit the mass graves seen in Bucha. Isabelle Khurshudyan, Douglas MacMillan, Annabelle Timsit and Jeff Stein report for the Washington Post.
Russia’s foreign ministry has said that footage of dead civilians in Bucha had been ordered by the U.S. as part of a plot to blame Russia. “Who are the masters of provocation? Of course, the United States and NATO,” ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in an interview on state television late yesterday. Reuters reports.
The Chairman of Russia’s Investigative Committee, Alexander Bastrykin, instructed his agency today to analyze reports of civilian killings in Bucha, echoing the Russian Defense Ministry’s denial of any involvement in the incident. “According to our information, in order to discredit the Russian military personnel, the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine distributed to the Western media videos filmed in the city of Bucha, Kyiv region, as evidence of the massacre of civilians,” a statement from the Investigative Committee says. Nathan Hodge reports for CNN.
Russia’s UNSC representative Dmitry Polyansky has said in a tweet that Russia hopes to hold an emergency UN security council meeting today, claiming the “provocation of Ukrainian radicals in Bucha” is behind the request for talks. The Guardian reports.
While governments around the world condemn Russia’s alleged atrocities against civilians in Bucha, the Chinese government has remained silent. Several Chinese state media outlets did not mention the Bucha killings at all, while some reported only Moscow’s denials that Russian forces were involved. Kathrin Hille reports for the Financial Times.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said reports of civilians being executed and buried in mass graves in the Ukrainian city of Bucha are “horrific” and “absolutely unacceptable.” Asked by co-anchor Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” if the reports constitute a genocide, Stoltenberg said the incidents represent “a brutality against civilians we haven’t seen in Europe for decades.” Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
Richard Moore, chief of the U.K.’s Secret Intelligence Service MI6, has said in a tweet that “reports of execution-style killings of civilians emerging from liberated areas” of Ukraine are “horrifying and chilling.” Adding that the U.K. had knowledge that Putin’s invasion plans included summary executions by his military and intelligence services. Jennifer Hassan reports for the Washington Post.
The E.U. is preparing to introduce more sanctions against Moscow following reports of atrocities in the wake of Russia’s military retreat from the outskirts of Kyiv. Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said further sanctions were “on their way” in response to Russia’s actions in Bucha. Andres Schipani, John Reed, Henry Foy and Valentine Pop report for the Financial Times.
French President Emmanuel Macron has demanded new sanctions in response to possible war crimes committed by Russian forces in Bucha. “It is very clear that there are indications of war crimes,” Macron said in an interview with France Inter radio station. Adding that “what happened in Bucha imposes a new package of sanctions.” “We are going to coordinate with our European partners, in particular with Germany,” Macron said. “In regards to coal and oil, we need to be able to move forward.” Rick Noack reports for the Washington Post.
Germany is the main roadblock to imposing tougher sanctions on Russia, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said today, adding that Hungary was not blocking them. His comment comes after Prime Minister Viktor Orban won a national election on Sunday after facing criticism over an insufficiently tough stance on Russian aggression in Ukraine. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – BUCHA, US REPONSE
President Biden’s administration is considering intensifying its sanctions campaign against Russia, as evidence emerges of the apparent execution of civilians in the suburb of Bucha. The scope of the potential U.S. retaliatory measures is not exactly clear, but senior Biden officials have previously discussed potentially devastating “secondary sanctions” that would target countries that continue to trade with Russia. Jeff Stein and John Hudson report for the Washington Post.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken, decline to call Russia’s actions in Ukraine “genocide,” on CNN’s “State of the Union”, stating that “we will look hard, document everything we see” and “put it all together” for the “relevant institutions and organizations.” Blinken did say that he believes Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine since the invasion in February. Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, also would not use the word “genocide” when describing Russia’s conduct during its invasion of Ukraine. Jordan Wolman reports for POLITICO.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk regional military administration in eastern Ukraine, said today that the Russian military had been gathering a “significant accumulation of troops and military equipment” in the region, in apparent preparation for an offensive push. Yulia Kesaieva and Nathan Hodge report for CNN.
Seven people were killed and 34 were injured after the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv was shelled on Sunday, the prosecutor’s office there has said in a statement posted on Telegram. Among the injured were three children, the statement added. Bryan Pietsch reports for the Washington Post.
14 people have been taken to hospital and 1 has been killed following shelling in the city of Mykolaiv, according to regional military governor Vitalii Kim. Kareem Khadder reports for CNN.
Russian missile strikes hit Ukraine’s southern city of Odesa yesterday, according to the city council. “A fuel depot in the Ukrainian city of Odesa is burning Sunday morning, according to a CNN team on the scene, with one witness telling CNN they heard six explosions at the fuel depot before sunrise,” Nathan Hodge reports for CNN.
Russian troops appear to be withdrawing from Ukraine’s north and northwest, including parts of the Chernihiv and Sumy regions, as they retreat from the outskirts of the capital, Kyiv, according to local officials and U.S.-based military analysts. The Russian pullback appears to be “disorderly” in nature, Washington-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War has said, making it difficult to precisely assess the situation, and how soon Russia will be able to reconsolidate its units for any renewed assault. Rachel Pannett reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS
An aid convoy that has been trying to reach Mariupol since Friday still has not made it to the city, the International Committee of the Red Cross said yesterday. The Red Cross said that its team had set out for Mariupol from Zaporizhzhia, about 140 miles northwest, on Friday, but had to turn back “after arrangements and conditions made it impossible to proceed.” Jesus Jimenez reports for the New York Times.
A humanitarian corridor from the besieged southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol will be in operation on Monday, according to Ukrainian deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk, despite delays and difficulties keeping the evacuation route safe. “The route will be working for private transport. Fifteen evacuation buses have already left Zaporizhzhia for Mariupol,” said Vereshchuk. Yulia Kesaieva reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s support for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, makes him increasingly vulnerable to popular uprising, according to a senior U.S. State Department official. Whilst analysts put low odds on a popular uprising forcing Russian President Vladimir Putin from power, “some of the elements that help Vladimir Putin stay in power are not advantages that Lukashenko enjoys,” the official said. Patrick Tucker reports for Defense One.
China allegedly launched a major cyberattack on Ukraine’s military and nuclear facilities in the lead up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Ukrainian intelligence reports. Ukraine’s security service said the Chinese government attempted to hack more than 600 websites belonging to the government and other key institutions, the report says. Maxim Tucker reports for the Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has blocked a no-confidence vote against him in Pakistan’s Parliament and called for fresh elections. The Supreme Court immediately opened hearings, using its legal power to intervene, and the opposition also filed a petition to the court challenging the constitutionality of the move. The court, which held a brief initial hearing on Sunday, said it would take up the case in detail on Monday and directed government officials to maintain law and order. The court will now decide whether the no-confidence vote is held, as the opposition wants, or elections take place – either way, Khan’s term will come to an end. Saeed Shah reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán scored a victory in a parliamentary election yesterday, securing a fourth consecutive term for the populist Kremlin-friendly leader. Orbán has been attacked by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for taking a softer line with Moscow than other EU leaders. While the Hungarian government has condemned Russia’s invasion and backed EU sanctions on Moscow, it has opposed a ban on Russian energy imports and declined to bilaterally provide Kyiv with weapons. Lili Bayer reports for POLITICO.
Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic is projected to win a second five-year term as president. Vucic listed the priorities for his second term as continuing Serbia’s modernisation, attracting foreign investments and ensuring peace and stability. He also indicated that he would aim to maintain Belgrade’s traditional ties with Moscow, despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – while continuing with EU membership negotiations. Guy Delauney reports for BBC News.
Sri Lanka’s entire cabinet aside from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his sibling prime minister resigned from their posts Sunday as the ruling political clan seeks to resolve a mounting economic crisis, with a social media blackout failing to halt another day of anti-government demonstrations. France 24 reports.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said today that she will not seek a second term and will end her five-year tenure as the territory’s Beijing-appointed leader in June. Local media reported that John Lee, the city’s second-highest official, will put his name forward for the role. Lee, a former police officer, was Hong Kong’s security minister before taking on his current role as chief secretary. Theodora Yu and Shibani Mahtani report for the Washington Post.
The first trial addressing atrocities in Darfur will open at the International Criminal Court today, nearly 20 years after the Sudanese region was racked by widespread violence that left hundreds of thousands dead. Suspected former Janjaweed militia leader Ali Muhammad Ali Abd-Al-Rahman faces 31 counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity, including persecution, murder, rape and torture. Stephanie van den Berg reports for Reuters.
Saudi Arabia and Iran-backed Houthi fighters agreed on Friday to a two-month truce, bringing a temporary halt to a seven-year-old war in Yemen that could create new momentum for a diplomatic end to the conflict. As part of the comprehensive deal, the U.N. said, the Houthis agreed to bring a halt to missile and drone attacks that have recently hit Saudi oil facilities and Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates capital. In return, the Saudi-led military coalition agreed to bring a halt to its renewed airstrike campaign in Yemen and its broader military campaign across the country. Dion Nissenbaum reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A convoy of aid trucks has arrived in Tigray in northern Ethiopia, the first emergency food supplies to reach the besieged region for more than 100 days. Two weeks after the government declared an immediate “humanitarian truce” with rebel Tigrayan forces to allow aid in, the World Food Programme said it had received the assurances it needed to dispatch 20 trucks containing vital supplies of food. It is estimated that 2 million people in the region are suffering from an extreme lack of food. Lizzy Davies reports for the Guardian.
The Taliban issued a decree yesterday banning the cultivation of opium poppy in Afghanistan, a move that will have far-reaching consequences for the many farmers who have turned to the illicit crop as a brutal drought and economic crisis have gripped the country. The Taliban’s decision to ban opium poppy in Afghanistan, which accounts for about 80 per cent of the world’s supply of opium, comes as the group is under increasing international pressure after a series of decrees targeting women, including their ability to attend secondary school. Safiullah Padshah and Thomas Gibbons-Neff report for the New York Times.
Former finance minister, Rodrigo Chaves, who surprised many by making it into Costa Rica’s presidential runoff vote has won that ballot and is to become the Central American country’s new leader next month, despite accusation of sexual harassment when he worked at the World Bank. AP reports.
Suspected Islamist militants, believed to be from the Allied Democratic Forces, killed at least 21 civilians yesterday night in an attack on a village in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to local human rights group, Ruenzori Sector Civil Society, and a witness. Reuters reports.
Support for Marine Le Pen, the hard-right French opposition leader, has surged over the past couple of weeks, as her focus on cost-of-living issues has resonated with millions of French people struggling to make ends meet. The most recent poll from the respected Ifop-Fiducial group showed Le Pen gaining 21.5 per cent of the vote in the first round of voting next Sunday, closing the gap on Macron with 28 per cent. Roger Cohen provides analysis for the New York Times.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK and FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP
The gap in phone logs in the official White House records on Jan. 6, 2021, is of “intense interest” to the House select committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md) said yesterday. When asked if the gap could possibly be due to incompetence rather than conspiracy, Raskin said the committee was taking that into account. He added, however, that “the gaps are suspiciously tailored to the heart of the events” of Jan. 6. Amy B Wang reports for the Washington Post.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said he will not rush the investigation of the Jan. 6 attack despite criticism of the lack of progress on the issue. “The only pressure I feel, and the only pressure that our line prosecutors feel, is to do the right thing,” Garland said at a press conference Friday after he was questioned about the pressure the department is facing to work more quickly on the case. Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
At least 6 people have been killed and at least 12 have been wounded, in the largest mass shooting in Sacramento history, authorities have said. The mass shooting, which appeared to span a two-square-block area of downtown Sacramento not far from the Capitol building, happened shortly after 2 a.m. Chief of Police Kathy Lester said it was unclear what had led to the violence. However, law enforcement officials who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the case said that the incident appeared to be gang-related. Andy Furillo, Shawn Hubler and Eduardo Medina report for the New York Times.
The U.S. military on Saturday delivered to Algeria a prisoner whose repatriation from Guantánamo Bay was arranged during the Obama administration but then delayed for five years. The prisoner, Sufyian Barhoumi, was notified in August 2016 that he was eligible for release, but his case was sidelined by a Trump administration policy that generally halted transfers. The transfer was the second this year and the third since President Biden took office with the goal of closing Guantánamo. Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.
The state of Georgia will pay a $4.8 million settlement to the family of 60-year-old Black man, Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis, who was fatally shot by a state trooper in 2020 during a traffic stop over a broken taillight, officials have said. Francys Johnson, a lawyer for Lewis’s family, said that the settlement, which was reached last month before a lawsuit was filed, was only one step in the family’s effort to hold the state trooper accountable: “The family has directed us to continue to push for criminal responsibility, and we shall.” Alyssa Lukpat reports for the New York Times.
Jury selection begins today for a trial over whether the gunman in the 2018 Parkland, Fla., high-school massacre should be sentenced to death. Nikolas Cruz pleaded guilty in October to murdering 17 people and the attempted murder of 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Under Florida law, the 23-year-old now faces a separate jury trial to determine whether he is sentenced to death or given life in prison without the possibility of parole. Zusha Elinson and Cameron McWhirter report for the Wall Street Journal.
12 people, including three U.S. Army soldiers, have been charged in an interstate gun-trafficking ring that supplied more than 90 guns to gang members in Chicago, the Justice Department has said. The soldiers, Demarcus Adams, 21 years old, Jarius Brunson, 22, and Brandon Miller, 22, were stationed at the Fort Campbell military installation in Clarksville, Tenn., when they illegally bought guns from dealers in Tennessee and Kentucky and then sold them to Chicago street, according to a 21-count indictment. Sadie Gurman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
President Joe Biden is “confident” that his son Hunter didn’t break the law, White House chief of staff Ron Klain said yesterday. According to Klain, the president has had no contact with the Justice Department on the matter and the White House is letting the matter play out in the legal system without interference. David Cohen reports for POLITICO.
COVID-19 has infected over 80.15 million people and has now killed over 982,600 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 491.52 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.15 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.