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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 – WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS
The British defense ministry has said that evidence of war crimes by Russian troops continues to mount, citing the reported discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of civilians near Burzova in northern Ukraine. Dennis Romero reports for NBC News.
Taras Didych, head of the Dmytrivka community that includes Buzova, told Ukrainian television that dozens of civilians had been found in the mass grave. However, reports of these findings have yet to be confirmed. Lidia Kelly and Natalia Zinets report for Reuters.
Dozens of bodies have been found on a highway to Kyiv, Didych has said. “Some were burned. Others had their hands tied. Others were shot in the head outside their cars,” Didych added. The descriptions correspond to images Didych shared with the New York Times. Cora Engelbrecht reports for the New York Times.
E.U. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, who recently returned from an official visit to Kyiv with European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, has said he “witnessed the brutal, brutal aggression of the Russian troops against the civilian population” on the ground in Ukraine. He said the E.U. would support the work of prosecutors from Ukraine and the International Criminal Court to collect evidence of possible war crimes committed by Russian forces. Annabelle Timsit reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Russia has deployed tens of thousands of troops to “prepare new attacks” in Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said today during a video address to South Korea’s parliament. He did not specify where exactly the troops had been deployed but has warned in recent days of a ramped-up offensive from Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. Chantal Da Silva reports for NBC News.
Russian forces may use phosphorous munitions as the fight for control of Mariupol intensifies, according to the U.K. defense ministry’s latest intelligence update. Julian Duplain reports for the Washington Post.
Russian troops will likely carry out a major offensive from Izium to the central city of Dnipro, a strategic target in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, U.S. military officials said yesterday. The assessment came as satellite images showed hundreds of military vehicles moving through the eastern town of Velykyi Burluk toward the city of Izium on Friday. Eric Schmitt reports for the New York Times.
Russian shelling against Kharkiv and its surrounding regions has continued today, according to the head of the Kharkiv regional military administration Oleh Syniehubov. 11 civilians were killed on Sunday, including a seven-year-old child, and more than 14 people were injured, Syniehubov added. Maria Kostenki reports for CNN.
Moscow has assigned Gen. Aleksandr V. Dvornikov, the commander of its southern military district, to oversee its overall operations in Ukraine, according to a senior U.S. official. Prior to this Russia had been running its military campaign against Ukraine out of Moscow, with no central war commander on the ground to call the shots, the official said. Eric Schmitt reports for the New York Times.
The next month – leading up to Victory Day on May 9 – will be a crucial and intensely dangerous period in Russia’s war on Ukraine, U.S. officials and those familiar with Russia’s military history have said. On May 9 the Russian Federation marks its World War II victory over the Nazis, making it a deadline with significant symbolism in Russian domestic politics. A senior Defense Department official told Axios on Thursday that the U.S. and other allies are rushing myriad forms of military assistance to Ukraine knowing the stakes of the next month. Glen Johnson reports for Axios.
Russia said today that it had used cruise missiles to destroy S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems which had been supplied to Ukraine by an unidentified European country. Russia did not say which European country had supplied the S-300 systems, however, NATO member Slovakia, which has donated such a missile system to Ukraine, said the one it supplied had not been hit. Reuters reports.
Nearly 2,200 Ukrainian men have been detained while trying to leave the country instead of staying to fight, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. Cassandra Vinograd reports for the New York Times.
A pro-Ukrainian Belarusian online intelligence Telegram channel, Belaruski Hayun, says it has spotted substantial movement of Russian armed forces equipment by train across Belarus. BBC News reports.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Russia’s republic of Chechnya, has said that an offensive will be unleashed not only on Mariupol but on the capital Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities. In a video posted on his Telegram channel early today, Kadyrov said he would “fully liberate [the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk]… and then take Kyiv and all other cities. BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – KRAMATORSK STATION ATTACK
The death toll from the Russian missile strike on the train station in Kramatorsk has risen to 57, Pavol Kyrylenko head of the Donetsk regional military administration said yesterday. CNN reports.
Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY), said yesterday that Russia’s missile strike on Kramatorsk train station “clearly is genocide.” Cheney added that European countries need to “understand that they’re funding that genocidal campaign” through the purchase of oil and gas from Russia, and should place an embargo on Russian oil and gas. Veronica Stracqualursi, Daniella Diaz and Katie Bo Williams report for CNN.
A train-turned-hospital has rescued 48 wounded and elderly patients from eastern Ukraine, in the first such evacuation from the east since a missile killed 57 people at a train station in Kramatorsk on Friday. The train journey was organised by the charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF), and was their fourth operation of the war. BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – NATO
According to U.S. officials, Finland and Sweden are set to join NATO as soon as summer. NATO membership for both Nordic countries was “a topic of conversation and multiple sessions” during talks between the alliance’s foreign ministers last week attended by Sweden and Finland, the officials added. Bruno Waterfield and Charlie Parker report for the Times.
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said yesterday that Germany and France made a “strategic mistake” in 2008 when they opposed Ukraine’s admission to NATO. “If we were a member of NATO, this war wouldn’t take place,” Kuleba said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” He also added that Ukraine would continue to pursue peace talks with Russia despite Moscow’s attacks on civilian areas. A video of Kuleba’s comments is provided by NBC News.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that the military alliance is transforming to reflect the “long-term consequences” of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including a shift from “tripwire deterrence” to “deterrence by denial or defence.” Stoltenberg specifically said NATO will change its presence on its eastern border. Mychae Schnell reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA.) and nine other members of Congress traveled this weekend to Poland. The delegation met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish defense minister and the U.S. ambassador to Poland, McCarthy’s office said in a statement. Members of Congress also visited Ukrainians and U.S. soldiers, it said. Hannah Knowles reports for the Washington Post.
President Biden will meet virtually with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today. The meeting comes as U.S. deputy national security adviser Daleep Singh, who visited Delhi recently, said the U.S. would not set any “red line” for India’s energy imports from Russia but does not want to see a “rapid acceleration” in purchases. BBC News reports.
White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said yesterday that the U.S. would not hesitate to expel Russian diplomats if they are suspected of espionage, amid other countries removing the Russian officials. Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Austrian chancellor Karl Nehammer will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin today, becoming the first European leader to do so since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Austria, which is not a Nato member, has long been a sympathetic voice for Moscow in Europe. The country, which is officially neutral, has often sought to portray itself as a mediator between Russian and European strategic interests. Sam Jones reports for the Financial Times.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has used his address to South Korea’s parliament on Monday to ask for weapons to aid his country’s defense against Russia – despite South Korea’s Defense Ministry denying an earlier request. Yoonjung Seo and Gawon Bae report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russian students are turning in teachers who don’t support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The campaign, which has dark soviet undertones, was inspired last month by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who praised Russians for their ability to identify “scum and traitors.” In the weeks since the invasion began, Russian social media has been flooded with photos of schoolchildren attending special patriotic lessons or posing for pictures as they formed the letter Z — a symbol signifying support for the war. Jeanne Whalen reports for the Washington Post.
The World Bank says it expects Ukraine’s economy to shrink by 45% this year as a result of the war. It’s also forecasting that there will be greater economic damage than was caused by the Covid-19 pandemic across eastern Europe and central Asia. BBC News reports.
12 soldiers and 14 civilians, including nine women, will be returning to Ukraine, in Ukraine and Russia’s third prison swap, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
China has reportedly accelerated an expansion of its nuclear arsenal because of a change in its assessment of the threat posed by the U.S. Work has accelerated this year on more than 100 suspected missile silos in China’s remote western region that could be used to house nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the U.S., according to analysts that study satellite images of the area. The U.S.’s wariness about getting directly involved in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has likely reinforced Beijing’s decision to put greater emphasis on developing nuclear weapons as a deterrent. Alastair Gale reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Iran on Saturday sanctioned 24 Americans, including former U.S. generals and former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, amid ongoing discussions to revive a nuclear deal between the West and Iran. Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that the 24 individuals were involved with “terrorist acts” and human rights violations while accusing them of depriving Iran of medical supplies and supporting economic punishments against the Iranian people. Brad Dress reports for The Hill.
The U.S. State Department has expressed concerns about violence in El Salvador, as well as the recent legislation criminalising reporting on certain gang activities. “The law lends itself to attempts to censor the media, prevent reporting on corruption and other matters of public interest, and silence critics of the Salvadoran government,” the department said in a press statement, adding that “journalists must have the freedom to do their jobs without fear of violence, threats, or unjust detention.” Joseph Choi reports for The Hill.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was pushed out by a majority no-confidence vote on Saturday. Many observers expressed relief that the crisis did not end in a military intervention after a week that was notably tense even by the standards of Pakistan’s tumultuous political history. However, even in a moment hailed by some as a triumph of democracy, the crisis offered a stark reminder that in the country’s deeply compromised political system, powerful military leaders still hold the reins. Christina Goldbaum and Salman Masood provide analysis for the New York Times.
Pakistan opposition politician Shehbaz Sharif has submitted his nomination to be the country’s next prime minister. Shehbaz, the centrist Pakistan Muslim League-N leader, is widely expected to be named the country’s new prime minister today. Al Jazeera reports.
French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen led the first round of France’s presidential election, with Macron garnering 28.2% of the estimated vote ahead of Le Pen with 22.9%. The result sets the stage for a closely contested runoff amid public frustration over high inflation and immigration. Stacy Meichtry and Noemie Bisserbe report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Israeli military has said that it has carried out more than 400 airstrikes in Syria and other parts of the Middle East since 2017 as part of a broad campaign targeting Iran and its allies, offering its fullest picture yet of its undeclared war with Tehran. Israeli leaders say that the campaign is aimed at weakening Iran’s ability to hit Israel in the event of an open war between the two regional adversaries. However, whilst Israel’s airstrike campaign in Syria has hampered Iran’s military ambitions, it has also pushed the conflict into other arenas, with both countries now battling at sea, in Iran, and above Israel’s skies, military analysts say. Dion Nissenbaum reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Veteran Hong Kong journalist Allan Au has been arrested by national security police for allegedly conspiring to publish “seditious materials,” according to a police source and local media. Au was a former columnist for Stand News, an online news platform that was shuttered last December after authorities froze the company’s assets using a national security law. Two other senior employees of Stand News have already been charged with sedition. Agence France-Presse reports.
Women and children living in some of the hardest-to-reach camps in northwest Syria face chronic and high levels of violence and depression, a report by NGO World Vision has revealed. Children in so-called “widow camps” have been found to be severely neglected, abused and forced to work while mothers are at “breaking point” psychologically. More than 80% of women say they do not have adequate healthcare and 95% expressed feelings of hopelessness. About 34% of children said that they have experienced one or more forms of violence and 2% said they married young. Child labour is a big problem with 58% of boys and 49% of girls aged 11 or older forced to work. Saeed Kamali Dehghan reports for the Guardian.
Israeli troops on Saturday raided the home town of a Palestinian who carried out a deadly shooting in Tel Aviv, causing a gun battle in the occupied West Bank that left at least one Palestinian militant dead. AP reports.
Continued fighting in Ethiopia’s most populous region, Oromia, between government forces and the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) is raising concerns of worsening insecurity in the south. OLA’s spokesperson Odaa Tarbii tweeted that security forces from neighbouring Somali regions have been deployed in Oromia to provide support in the fighting. Senior Somali official, Abfikadr Rashid has denied this but said forces from Somalia could enter Oromia if they were invited. Kalkidan Yibeltal reports for BBC News.
Rebels from the M23 group have announced their retreat from villages captured in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo following clashes with government troops in the Rutshuru region. Al Jazeera reports.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack are divided over whether to make a criminal referral to the Justice Department of former President Trump, even though they have concluded that they have enough evidence to do so. The debate centers on whether making a referral — a largely symbolic act — would backfire by politically tainting the Justice Department’s expanding investigation into the attack. Those reluctant to support a referral contend that making one would create the appearance that the Justice Department was investigating Trump at the behest of a Democratic Congress and that if the committee could avoid that perception it should. Michael S. Schmidt and Luke Broadwater report for the New York Times.
A federal judge signaled Friday that she’ll likely allow a group of Georgia voters to move forward with their constitutional challenge against Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, which claims she can’t run for reelection because she aided the January 6 insurrectionists. Federal Judge Amy Totenberg of the Northern District of Georgia said during a lengthy hearing that she has “significant questions and concerns” about a recent ruling in a similar case, which blocked the same challenge against Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC). Marshall Cohen reports for CNN.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
At least a dozen potential candidates for president in 2024 have active nonprofit groups aligned with them, according to a review of corporate filings, campaign disclosures and financial records. Such organisations can pay staffers, fund polling and policy research, run ads and accept money from megadonors without divulging those funders’ names. This development is “the latest escalation in a fundraising arms race that has seen personal benefactors, super PACs and now secret money become common building blocks of presidential campaigns,” Scott Bland reports for POLITICO.
The U.S. State Department has been unable to compile a complete and accurate accounting of gifts presented to former President Trump and other U.S. officials by foreign governments during Trump’s final year in office, citing missing data from the White House. In a report to be published in the Federal Register next week, the department says the Executive Office of the President did not submit information about gifts received by Trump and his family from foreign leaders in 2020. It also says the General Services Administration didn’t submit information about gifts given to former Vice President Mike Pence and White House staffers that year. AP reports.
President Biden will nominate Steve Dettelbach, former federal attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), senior administration officials have said. “We will be working hard to ensure that Steve Dettelbach receives the fair hearing and confirmation that he deserves,” the officials added. “He should be a non-controversial candidate because he has a long record of working in law enforcement and for the public safety of the people of Ohio and of the American people.” Alex Gangitano reports for The Hill.
Biden has announced a ban on kits to manufacture so-called ghost guns at home, as part of his efforts to crack down on the proliferation of untrackable firearms. The new rule clarifies that such kits qualify as “firearms” under the Gun Control Act and, as a result, commercial manufacturers of them must be licensed, include serial numbers, and conduct a background check prior to a sale. Alex Gangitano reports for The Hill.
A federal jury has found two men not guilty and has deadlocked on two others in a trial accusing the four of conspiring to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI). The jury found Brandon Caserta and Daniel Harris not guilty of all charges including kidnapping conspiracy and failed to reach a verdict for Adam Fox and Barry Croft. Prosecutors said they would seek a retrial of Messrs. Fox and Croft. Omar Abdel-Baqui and Joe Barrett report for the Wall Street Journal.
COVID-19 has infected over 80.39 million people and has now killed over 985,482 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 498.15 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.17 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.