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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
Investigators from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, a 57 member organization that includes Russia, Ukraine and the U.S., have found “clear patterns” of human rights violations by Russian forces. The report, released yesterday, depicts Russia’s bombings of a theater and a maternity hospital in the besieged city of Mariupol as war crimes, and documents allegations of rape, abductions and the use of banned munitions. Marc Santora, Erika Solomon and Carlotta Gall report for the New York Times.
War crimes prosecutors visiting the site of civilian killings in Bucha have called Ukraine a crime scene. “We have reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court are being committed,” the International Criminal Court’s Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan said. BBC News reports.
In the days since Russian forces left the Sumy region of northeastern Ukraine, authorities have discovered more than 100 dead civilians, some showing signs of torture, Dmytro Zhyvytskyi, head of Sumy regional military administration, said yesterday. Zhyvytskyi also alleged that “there are people who are held captive and there are daily negotiations for them to be exchanged or set free. A lot of people whose fate remains unknown as of today.” Yulia Kesaieva reports for CNN.
Ukraine’s defense ministry has claimed around 300 people were kept hostage for four weeks in the basement of a school near Chernihiv, in northern Ukraine. Writing in a tweet, it said that Russian troops had taken villagers hostage in Yahidne, 140 km (80 miles) north of Chernihiv, and that 18 people had allegedly died during the Russian occupation. BBC News reports.
President Joe Biden’s declaration that the atrocities underway in Ukraine constitute a “genocide” is not expected to trigger any immediate changes to U.S. policy toward the conflict, US officials have said. Kevin Liptak reports for CNN.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has offered support for President Biden’s use of the term “genocide” to describe Russia’s actions in Ukraine. “I think as President Biden highlighted there are official processes around determinations of genocide, but I think it’s absolutely right that more and more people be talking and using the word genocide in terms of what Russia is doing, what Vladimir Putin has done,” Trudeau said yesterday. Adela Suliman reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
The flagship of Russia’s Black Sea fleet, the Moskva, has been seriously damaged and its crew evacuated, following an explosion on board that Ukraine said was caused by a missile strike. Russia’s defense ministry said a fire on the ship had caused ammunition to blow up, Interfax news agency reported, without saying what had caused the blaze. Pavel Polityuk and Oleksander Kozhukhar report for Reuters.
Russia’s defense ministry has released a statement saying “the fire on the cruiser Moskva is under control. There are no flames visible. Ammunition supplies are no longer exploding…The cruiser Moskva is still afloat. The main missile armoury has not been damaged.” BBC News reports.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych has said that after a “risky manoeuvre” the last two units defending the besieged port city of Mariupol have been able to join forces. The Azov regiment and the 36th Independent Marine Brigade have both been involved in a last-ditch attempt to resist the Russian offensive against the city. Tim Lister, Maria Kostenko and Nathan Hodge report for CNN.
The towns of Kramatorsk and Kostiantynivka are likely to be targets for similar levels of violence seen in other urban centres as Russia focuses its war on eastern Ukraine, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense has said. BBC News reports.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said yesterday that the U.S. is not sure when Russia will launch a “full-on offensive” in eastern Ukraine. It’s difficult to predict what comes next in the war, as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s objectives are unclear, he added. Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the odds of Russian President Vladimir Putin deploying chemical and nuclear weapons in his war on Ukraine are low, despite warnings coming from the White House and its allies. The Hill reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
President Biden announced yesterday that his administration would authorize $800 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine, including artillery, helicopters and armored personnel carriers. “The Ukrainian military has used the weapons we are providing to devastating effect. As Russia prepares to intensify its attack in the Donbas region, the United States will continue to provide Ukraine with the capabilities to defend itself,” Biden said in a statement. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
The Biden administration is moving to significantly expand the intelligence it is providing to Ukraine’s forces so they can target Moscow’s military units in Russian-occupied Donbas and Crimea. The U.S., however, will refrain from providing intelligence that would enable Ukraine to strike targets on Russian territory under the new policy, a constraint Washington has imposed to reduce the risk of broadening the conflict, U.S. officials have said. Michael R. Gordon, Warren P. Strobel and Vivian Salama report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Biden administration is holding internal discussions about sending a high-level official to Kyiv to show further support to Ukraine, according to two U.S. officials. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris remain candidates to represent the U.S. in the Ukrainian capital, though it’s far more likely that a Cabinet member like Secretary of State Antony Blinken or Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will go, the officials said. Jonathan Lemire and Alexander Ward report for POLITICO.
The United States has sent so many of its Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine that its stocks are running low for possible use by its own forces, a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has revealed. Replenishing the US stockpile with new weapons will take years, according to the report from Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the International Security Program at CSIS. Brad Lendon reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
French far-right candidate for the presidency said yesterday that France would quit NATO’s integrated military command if she were elected and would seek for the alliance a “strategic rapprochement” with Russia. Le Pen signaled that her election would disrupt President Biden’s united alliance in confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin, potentially creating a breach in Western Europe for Putin to exploit. Roger Cohen reports for the New York Times.
Russia announced yesterday that it had imposed retaliatory sanctions on U.S. members of Congress in response to similar sanctions levied against more than 300 Russian lawmakers last month. “These individuals, including the leadership and committee chairmen of the lower house of the U.S. Congress, are placed on the Russian ‘stop list’ on a permanent basis,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Sarakshi Rai reports for The Hill.
Ireland’s foreign and defense minister Simon Coveney will become the latest official to visit Kyiv today, as nations continue to show support for Ukraine. Coveney will visit areas in the Ukrainian capital directly affected by the Russian invasion, and he’ll meet his counterparts – Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and defense minister Oleksii Reznikov. BBC News reports.
Dmitry Medvedev, former Russian president and deputy chair of Russia’s Security Council, said on Thursday that it would be impossible for the Baltic region to remain “non-nuclear” if Sweden and Finland joined the NATO alliance. Polina Ivanova and Henry Foy report for the Financial Times.
Russia already has nuclear weapons in the Baltic region, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas has said. According to Anusauskas nuclear weapons have been deployed in Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave on the Baltic Sea since before the current crisis. “The current Russian threats look quite strange when we know that, even without the present security situation, they keep the weapon 100 km from Lithuania’s border,” Anusasuskas said in response to Medvedev’s comments. Reuters reports.
The E.U. approved an additional 500 million euros ($544 million USD) for military equipment for the Ukrainian Armed Forces yesterday, according to a news release from the European Council of the European Union. The 500 million euros will finance personal protective equipment, military equipment, fuel, and first aid kits, the release said. Sahar Akbarzai reports for CNN.
Polish President Andrzej Duda said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “not war,” but “terrorism”, and said those who committed war crimes must be punished after he and Baltic leaders met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv yesterday. Anna Odzeniak and Amy Cassidy report for CNN.
Colombia is ready to play a central role in helping supply Western countries with energy resources after the gaps caused by sanctions on Russia, Colombian President Iván Duque has said. “[North American and European countries] know for sure that they can no longer rely for the energy supplies from Russia. Now, can Colombia contribute to the solution? The response is yes.” Duque listed three areas where Colombia would be ready to increase production: traditional oil and gas extraction, renewables such as clean hydrogen, and coal. Steffano Pozzebon reports for CNN.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said that Russia should leave the international community if it doesn’t want to pursue a peace agreement. He also reiterated his call for a total embargo of Russian oil, saying: “The European Union must stop sponsoring Russia’s military machine.” BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on Russia to end its invasion of Ukraine but lamented the disparity in how the world responds to humanitarian crises affecting Black and White lives. “I need to be blunt and honest that the world is not treating the human race the same way. Some are more equal than others. … I hope the world comes back to its senses and treats all human life equally,” the WHO chief said during a press briefing. Amy Cheng reports for the Washington Post.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres yesterday presented the first detailed policy brief issued by the Global Crisis Response Group on Food, Energy and Finance, which he set up to study the effects of the war in Ukraine on the world’s most vulnerable. Speaking at the launch of the brief Guterres warned that “we are now facing a perfect storm that threatens to devastate the economics of developing countries.” UN News Centre reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The State Department congratulated new Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif yesterday after he was voted as the successor to the ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan. Khan, leader of the Pakistan Justice Party, was known for his anti-American sentiment and previously said his ouster was set up as a “foreign conspiracy” by the United States. The U.S. has denied Khan’s accusations and says it has not interfered in Pakistan’s affairs. Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
U.S. officials have announced the discovery of an alarmingly sophisticated and effective system for attacking industrial facilities that includes the ability to cause explosions in the energy industry. The officials did not say which country they believed had developed the malware, but private security experts working in parallel with the government have said it was likely to be Russia. The top target for the malware was probably liquified natural gas production facilities, and it would take months or years to develop strong defenses against it, the experts have said. Joseph Menn reports for the Washington Post.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The U.K. government will today announce a plan to send migrants who cross the English Channel in small boats to Rwanda. The migrants will be flown to the small African country while their claim for asylum in the U.K. is processed. Matt Dathan and Oliver Wright report for the Times.
The government of Rwanda has confirmed that it has signed a “bold new partnership” with the U.K. under which some people seeking refugee protection in Britain will be transferred to the central African country while awaiting processing. Robert Wright, Jim Pickard, Leke Oso Alabi and Andres Schipani report for the Financial Times.
Former Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez will be extradited to the U.S. next week, where he faces drug trafficking and firearms charges, Honduran Security Minister Ruben Sabillon said yesterday. The Central American country’s Supreme Court last month authorized Hernandez’s extradition. Reuters reports.
A Palestinian lawyer and a teenager have been killed on the fifth day of Israeli raids in the West Bank. Israel has poured in additional forces and is reinforcing its wall and fence barrier with the occupied territory after four deadly attacks claimed 14 lives in Israel, most of them civilians, in the past three weeks. Agence Frane-Presse reports.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
President Biden has authorized the National Archives and Records administration to hand over a new tranche of Trump White House documents to the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. In a letter released yesterday by the archives, Biden declined to assert executive privilege over the records — the latest batch sought by the committee after the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s bid to block such releases. Jacqueline Alemany reports for the Washington Post.
Two of former President Trump’s top White House lawyers, Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin, met with the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack yesterday, after Trump authorized them to engage with the panel. Maggie Haberman and Luke Broadwater report for the New York Times.
During his trial yesterday, Jan. 6 defendant Dustin Thompson blamed Trump for what occurred that day, saying that he had been answering the president’s call to go to the Capitol and “fight like hell.” “If the president’s giving you almost an order to do something…I felt obligated to do that” he added. Thompson is the first defendant to attempt a Trump-made-me-do-it argument at trial in front of a jury. Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Federal officials have charged a man with carrying out a terrorist attack in relation to the New York subway shooting earlier this week. Frank James, 62, is accused of opening fire on a subway train in Brooklyn and injuring at least 23 people. In filling out a portrait of James, detectives have focused on dozens of videos they say he posted on YouTube in which he delivered bigoted rants tied to current events. In some, he commented on New York’s subway, criticizing Mayor Eric Adam’s policies to address homelessness on public transit as ineffective and speculating that the mayor could not possibly stop all crime in the system. Michael Gold reports for the New York Times.
Mark Meadows, former President Trump’s White House chief of staff, has been removed from the voter rolls in North Carolina as the state investigates allegations that he committed voter fraud in the 2020 election. Macon County officials “administratively removed the voter registration of Mark Meadows … after documentation indicated he lived in Virginia and last voted in the 2021 election there,” North Carolina State Board of Elections spokesman Patrick Gannon said in a statement yesterday. Amy B Wang reports for the Washington Post.
The Department of Justice yesterday announced its first consent decree with a local police department since Attorney General Merrick Garland rescinded a Trump-era memo that limited the use of the court-approved legal agreements. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said the department would enter a consent decree with Springfield, Mass., after an investigation into its police department found its narcotics bureau had systemic problems that led officers to use excessive force. The consent decree requires that all use of force by officers be reported and scrutinized by supervisors. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
The Grand Rapids Police Department in Michigan released several videos on Wednesday of the fatal police shooting of a Black man during a traffic stop this month. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the man’s family, said in a statement that the videos “clearly show that this was an unnecessary, excessive, and fatal use of force against an unarmed Black man who was confused by the encounter and terrified for his life.” An investigation into the killing is being handled by the Michigan State Police. Safia Samee Ali reports for NBC News.
The American Civil Liberties Union of D.C. and the Justice Department announced a settlement yesterday to resolve portions of four civil lawsuits sparked by the June 2020 clearing of demonstrators from Lafayette Square during protests over the police killing of George Floyd. The U.S. Park Police and Secret Service has agreed as part of the settlement to “update and clarify” policies regarding demonstrations, the Justice Department wrote in a news release. Ellie Silverman reports for the Washington Post.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said yesterday that he would stop state police inspections of commercial trucks on Laredo’s Colombia Solidarity Bridge, one of four bridges in the nation’s largest inland port city, following lengthy delays. Earlier in the week Mexican truckers blockaded and completely closed two bridges in Pharr and El Paso in protest of the inspections. Both have now reopened, local officials have said. Elizabeth Findell reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A bus carrying migrants from Texas arrived in Washington, D.C., yesterday morning after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last week announced plans to send them from his state’s southern border to the nation’s capital. Dominick Mastrangelo reports for The Hill.
COVID-19 has infected over 80.51 million people and has now killed over 987.560 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 501.975 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.19 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.