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 – GENOCIDE ALLEGATIONS
President Biden said yesterday that the atrocities being uncovered in Ukraine qualify as genocide, a designation he had previously avoided. Having used the term in an earlier speech Biden told reporters, “I called it genocide because it’s become clearer and clearer that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin is just trying to wipe out even the idea of being Ukrainian. The evidence is mounting.” Kevin Liptak reports for CNN.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described Biden’s assertion that Putin’s actions in Ukraine amount to genocide as “the true words of a true leader” in a tweet directed to Biden’s Twitter handle.
French President Emmanuel Macron has declined to call the actions of Russian troops in Ukraine “genocide,” saying that “an escalation of rhetoric” would not help stop the war. Jennifer Hassan reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – CHEMICAL WEAPONS ALLEGATIONS
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said he cannot say with certainty if chemical weapons were used in the besieged city of Mariupol. “We take with great attention yesterday’s reports on the use of munitions with a poisonous substance in Mariupol against the defenders of the city. It is not yet possible to draw 100% conclusions about what kind of substance it was,” Zelenskyy said in a video address yesterday. “It is clear that it is impossible to conduct a full investigation and full analysis in the blocked city,” he added. Mariya Knight and Mitchell McCluskey report for CNN.
The U.S. remains concerned that Russia may still use chemical weapons in Ukraine, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said yesterday. “We are concerned, as we’ve said before, that Russia may seek to resort to chemical weapons,” Price said during a press briefing. “Russia has a track record. Russia has used these agents on their own people.” Edith M. Lederer reports for PBS News.
The Russian embassy in the U.S. has criticised what it calls “provocative statements” from U.S. government official Ned Price yesterday, who warned of Russia possibly using chemical weapons in Ukraine. In a statement posted on Facebook, the Russian embassy called the comments “empty” and “not backed by evidence.” BBC News Reports.
Unverified allegations of chemical weapons use by Russia in Ukraine have forced a scrambled inside the White House, as officials search for a way to match President Biden’s promise of an “in kind” response while avoiding further escalation of the conflict. America and its allies intend to respond in a proportional way, however military options in Ukraine remain off the table according to U.S. officials. Alexander Ward and Jonathan Lemire report for POLITICO.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has said its technical secretariat is “monitoring closely the situation in Ukraine” amid reports that Russia used chemical weapons in the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol. “The use of chemical weapons anywhere by anyone under any circumstances is reprehensible and wholly contrary to the legal norms established by the international community against such use,” the OPCW said in a statement. Bryan Pietsch reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Russia claims 1,026 Ukrainian soldiers have laid down their armed in the besieged city of Mariupol. The group, from 36th Marine Brigade, were said to have surrendered near the Ilyich Iron and Steel works. BBC News reports.
Russia may be planning a “Victory Day parade” in the devastated Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to the city’s mayor, has said on Telegram. The parade would coincide with Russia’s biggest public holiday, Victory Day, which is held annually on 9 May to celebrate triumph over Nazi Germany in the Second World War. BBC News reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has offered to exchange Viktor Medvedchuk, a pro-Russian politician and confidant of Vladimir Putin, for Ukrainian troops captured by Russia. Zelenskyys offer, made in a video address, came hours before Russian defence ministry officials announced the surrender of more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines in the besieged city of Mariupol. Roman Olearchyk reports for the Financial Times.
At least seven people were killed in shelling over the past day in eastern Kharkiv, according to the region’s governor, Oleh Synegubov. A 2-year-old boy who was hospitalized after an attack this weekend has also died. Cora Englebrecht reports for the New York Times.
A video shared on social media shows what appear to be explosions from cluster munitions in a civilian area in the Kharkiv region. At least four explosions, seconds apart, can be seen spanning about 90 meters (98 yards) along a road in Pisuchyn. An aerially dispensed submunition is seen falling on the street moments after, causing another blast. Last week, the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said it had received credible allegations that Russian armed forces have used cluster munitions in populated areas at least 24 times. Celine Alkhaldi reports for CNN.
At least 1,892 civilians have been killed and 2,558 injured since the war in Ukraine started in February, according to the U.N.. The number of recorded deaths includes 478 men, 308 women, 30 girls, and 52 boys, as well as 71 children and 953 adults whose sex is yet unknown, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement yesterday. CNN reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – REFUGEES AND HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said that there will be no humanitarian corridors today, due to Russian forces blocking evacuation buses or violating cease-fire agreements. Russia’s military not only disregards norms of international humanitarian law but also cannot properly control its troops on the ground, she said in a Telegram post. “All this creates such a level of danger on the routes that we are forced to refrain from opening humanitarian corridors,” she added. Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
The United Nations’ refugee agency is asking the U.K. government to stop lone men from being paired with Ukrainian women seeking refuge from Russia’s invasion, amid growing fears they could be sexually exploited by predators posing as hosts. Rajeev Syal reports for the Guardian.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The Pentagon will host a meeting of top arms makers today to discuss stepping up lethal aid to Ukraine as Russian forces regroup for a renewed assault on the east of the country. According to a U.S. defense official, America’s eight largest defence contractors, among them Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and L3 Technologies, have been invited to the classified meeting aimed at increasing assistance to Ukraine and preparing for a protracted conflict. Felicia Schwartz reports for the Financial Times.
The U.S. intelligence community took more risks than usual in the run-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by releasing information with the aim of countering Russian disinformation and rallying European support, according to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. Sharing these intelligence findings — many of which later materialized — helped convince European allies and lay the groundwork for sanctions against Russia, Haines said yesterday, adding that Washington will continue to monitor whether the approach compromised its intelligence-gathering channels. Amy Cheng reports for the Washington Post.
Countries that are seeking advantage by failing to condemn Russia’s “heinous war” against Ukraine are being short-sighted and will face consequences if they undermine Western sanctions, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said. The United States and its partners “will not be indifferent” to actions that undermine the sweeping sanctions they have imposed on Moscow and Russian President Vladimir Putin over the invasion, she warned during an event hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank. Andrea Shalal and David Lawder report for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia arrived in Kyiv today to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The meeting will focus on ways to assist civilians and the military in Ukraine, as well as with investigations of war crimes, said a spokesperson for Estonian President Alar Karis. Reuters reports.
During an address to Estonia’s parliament, Zelenskyy blamed the deaths of thousands in his country on Russia’s sense of impunity and the international community’s failure to deter the invasion. Roman Olearchyk reports for the Financial Times.
Speaking at a joint press conference with her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told reporters that it would make sense for Finland and Sweden to join NATO together. However, Andersson cautioned against rushing into a decision saying: “We have to really think through what is really best for Sweden and our security and peace in this situation.” Henry Foy reports for the Financial Times.
Finland will begin a debate today which could result in the country applying for NATO membership within a matter of weeks. A government-commissioned report released today will examine the “fundamentally changed” security environment, according to Finland’s foreign ministry, and will make its way through parliament. An opening debate is planned for a week later. BBC News reports.
The results of an investigation by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) into alleged human rights violations by Russia in Ukraine are set to be released today. OSCE member states received the report yesterday and Ukraine received it last week, as it is the subject of the report, said Veronika Sperl, a spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the OSCE. Bryan Pietsch reports for the Washington Post.
China’s trade with Russia rose sharply last month as Beijing continues to criticise Western sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. Overall trade with Russia increased 12.76% in March to $11.67bn (£9bn), Chinese customs data shows. However, analysts say they have yet to see any major indication that China is violating Western sanctions on Russia. BBC News reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday that peace talks with Ukraine had hit “a dead end.” Speaking alongside his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko at a news conference, Putin also dismissed reports of atrocities in the Ukrainian town of Bucha as “fake” and compared them to “fake” reports about the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Assad regime. Uliana Pavlova reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russian authorities on Monday arrested Vladimir Kara-Murza — a prominent Kremlin critic and Washington Post contributor. Kara-Murza was arrested outside his home in Moscow, the same day CNN published an interview in which he called Vladimir Putin’s government “a regime of murderers” and predicted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would lead to the Russian president’s downfall. Paul Farhi and Robyn Dixon report for the Washington Post.
Anonymous Twitter users are exposing the extreme nationalism and pro-Russian sentiment circulating online in China, causing Chinese state media to lash out over what it describes as “cherry-picked content.” Scores of screen-grabbed posts from China’s most popular social media platforms have been translated and shared on Twitter in recent weeks, offering Western audiences a rare glimpse into the Chinese internet. Simone McCarthy reports for CNN.
Ukrainian officials said yesterday that they had thwarted a Russian cyberattack on Ukraine’s power grid that could have knocked out power to two million people, raising fears that Moscow will increase its use of digital weapons. Experts said the latest hacking — while unsuccessful — was among the most sophisticated cyberattacks they have seen in the war so far. It used a complex chain of malware, including some custom-built to control utility systems, suggesting that Russia had planned the attack over several weeks and intended to maximize the damage by sabotaging computer systems that would be needed to restore the electrical grid. Kate Conger reports for the New York Times.
At least 20 journalists have been killed while reporting on the war in Ukraine, the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine said yesterday. Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
A Russian court yesterday sentenced four Russian journalists who worked for a student magazine to two years of hard labor, according to the European Federation of Journalists. They were accused of instigating protests against the Kremlin. The four were charged last year. Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
The Palestinian territories could run out of wheat flour reserves within three weeks, the British charity Oxfam warned in a statement, as prices for the food staple climb amid supply disruptions precipitated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Matt Surman reports for the New York Times.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
A U.S. nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has been sent to the waters between South Korea and Japan this week, a display of American naval firepower amid growing tensions over North Korea’s missile tests. The aircraft carrier will stay in the region for several days and marks the first time a U.S. carrier group has been deployed in the region since November 2017. Dasl Yoon and Timothy W. Martin report for the Wall Street Journal.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday that governments around the world, including in Russia and China, grew more repressive last year, as the State Department released its annual report on global human rights. The department’s 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which does not include details about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, echoes President Biden’s warnings that authoritarianism is on the rise worldwide. Michael Crowley reports for the New York Times.
The leaders of the House foreign affairs and intelligence committees and more than 20 other Democrats plan to press the Biden administration to take a tougher stance on Saudi Arabia. In a letter, due to be delivered to Blinken today, the lawmakers cite concerns over Riyadh’s refusal to cooperate with Washington over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its alleged human-rights abuses. Jared Malsin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Liechtenstein has tabled, on behalf of 38 cosponsors, a resolution that mandates a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly whenever a veto is cast in the Security Council, according to a tweet posted on Liechtenstein UN’s Twitter account. The resolution is supported by the U.S. as a cosponsor, with U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield calling it “a significant step towards the accountability, transparency, and responsibility of all the Permanent Members of the Security Council.” Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield’s statement is provided by the United States Mission to the United Nations.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Treasury chief Rishi Sunak will be fined by U.K. police for breaking Covid-19 lockdown rules, the British government has said. “In all frankness at that time it did not occur to me that this might have been a breach of the rules,” Johnson said after being fined. “But the police have found otherwise and I fully respect the outcome of their investigation.” Max Colchester reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.K. Joint Committee released its report on the government’s plans to reform the U.K.’s Human Rights Act today, warning that the proposals would weaken existing human rights protections. UK Parliament reports.
Corrupt state officials and organized crime factions are to blame for Mexico’s soaring number of enforced disappearances, according to a new report by the U.N. Committee on Enforced Disappearances. The Committee called for immediate actions to end absolute impunity and a national policy to prevent this human tragedy. OHCHR Media Centre reports.
Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific Zed Seselja has arrived in the Solomon Islands for talks amid concern about a proposed security agreement between the Pacific islands nation and China. Seselja’s visit follows talks last week between Australian intelligence chiefs and Solomon Islands officials over the proposed China security pact, which has also drawn criticism from New Zealand and the U.S.. Al Jazeera reports.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
Two of Trump’s top White House lawyers are scheduled to speak with the Jan. 6 committee today. Pat Cipollone, Trump’s White House counsel, and his deputy Patrick Philbin, are expected to speak informally with the panel, a potential precursor to more formal transcribed testimony later. Betsy Woodruff Swan, Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu report for POLITICO.
Days before the Jan. 6 attack communications expert Jake Sullivan assured a group of former President Trump’s supporters that the election had been stolen and urged them to “descend on the Capitol.” The plea was made during a conference call that took place on Dec. 30, 2020. Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Rudy Giuliani has unlocked his phones for prosecutors probing his foreign lobbying efforts. This will potentially speed up the review and ultimately lead to a quicker decision over whether the former mayor of New York will face criminal charges. Prosecutors are investigating whether Giuliani violated US foreign lobbying laws when he sought the ousting of the US ambassador to Ukraine and an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Paula Reid and Kara Scannell report for CNN.
The Justice Department has rebuffed a request from the House Oversight Committee for more details about the 15 boxes of White House records that former president Trump improperly removed to his Florida home. In a letter addressed to Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) acting assistant attorney general Peter Hyun hinted that an ongoing investigation prevents the department from doing so. Jacqueline Alemany and Matt Zapotosky report for the Washington Post.
The Department of Justice yesterday seized control of a popular hacking forum in a coordinated effort with foreign agencies to crackdown on illegal cyber activities. The website, RaidForums, is a popular marketplace for cybercriminals to buy and sell hacked data. The department also unsealed criminal charges against RaidForums’ founder and chief administrator, Diogo Santos Coelho, 21, of Portugal. Coelho was arrested in the United Kingdom in January and faces extradition to the U.S. United States Department of Justice reports.
A manhunt is underway in New York for a person suspected of shooting and wounding 10 people on a subway train platform during yesterday’s morning rush hour. New York City Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell described the suspect as a 5-foot-5-inch Black man, who was dressed in a green construction vest and a hooded sweatshirt at the time of the attack. The suspect’s motivation is currently unknown. Joseph De Avila, Ben Chapman and Omar Abdel-Baqui report for the Wall Street Journal.
Two major international bridges were effectively shut down yesterday after Mexican truckers blocked lanes in both directions to protest a new border security initiative from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that forced them to wait hours or days to bring products into the U.S. The new measure allows Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to conduct safety inspections on commercial vehicles driving into Texas from Mexico after they have passed federal customs. U.S. Customs and Border Protection called the state inspections unnecessary and criticised the measure for increasing waiting times at the border. Elizabeth Findell reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Republican chairman of a Virginia electoral board has stepped down after a racially charged Facebook post he made about Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and others came to light last week. In a post from February 2021, David Dietrich targeted Austin and retired Army Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré — both Black men — in a post, using the N-word and calling for “a good public lynching.” Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
COVID-19 has infected over 80.45 million people and has now killed over 985.826 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 499.75 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.18 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.