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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 – THE DONBAS REGION
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said yesterday that Russia has begun its battle for the Donbas after regrouping ahead of an expected offensive on the country’s eastern region. “It can now be stated that Russian troops have begun the battle for Donbas, for which they have been preparing for a long time,” Zelenskyy said in an address. “A very large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive.” Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
Russia said today that its military operation in Ukraine has entered “another phase”, confirming earlier reports from Ukraine that a new Russian offensive has begun in the country’s eastern Donbas region. “The operation is continuing, and another phase of this operation is starting now,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said today. Rhoda Kwan reports for NBC News.
Street battles are being reported in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kreminna, with Ukrainian officials saying that Russian forces have seized control. The regional administrator, Serhiy Haidai, says four civilians in the town have died. He urged residents to remain in shelters. BBC News reports.
Washington-based think tank The Institute for the Study of War has said that Russia’s offensive in the eastern Donbas region “is unlikely to be dramatically more successful than previous Russian offensives.” However, Russian forces could “achieve limited gains,” its assessment says. BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – MARIUPOL
Russia’s Defense Ministry has given a deadline of between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. local time today for Ukrainian troops defending the Azovstal metallurgical plant in Mariupol to surrender, promising that those who do so will be kept alive. The call for surrender took into account the “catastrophic situation” at the plant and was “guided by purely humane principles,” the ministry said in a statement on its Telegram channel earlier today. Rhoda Kwan reports for NBC News.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechnya region and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Russian forces would today completely take over the Azovstal plant where Ukrainian defenders have been holding out in the besieged port of Mariupol. “Today, with the help of the Almighty, we will … take over Azovstal completely,” Kadyrov said in an audio message on his Telegram channel. Reuters reports.
Special forces are now storming Mariupol’s Azovstal iron and steelworks plant, where the final Ukrainian troop holdouts are sheltering, a Russian-backed separatist official in the eastern Donbas region has said. Eduard Basurin, who represents the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), told Russia 24 that specially selected “assault groups” are being helped by Russian aviation and artillery. He denied reports by Ukrainian officials that many civilians, including children, are also hiding at Azovstal. BBC News reports.
Pyotr Andryushchenko, an aide to Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko, has said that some 2,000 civilians are trapped along with the soldiers inside the Azovstal steel plant. Cora Engelbrecht reports for the New York Times.
In a letter to Pope Francis, Ukrainian marine commander Maj. Serhiy Volyna has described Mariupol as “hell on earth.” “You have probably seen a lot in your life. But I am sure that you have never seen the things that are happening to Mariupol,” Volyna wrote in the letter, published yesterday by Ukrainska Pravda newspaper. Kelsey Carolan reports for The Hill.
In yesterday’s intelligence update the U.K. Defense Ministry said that concerted Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol had “severely tested Russian forces and diverted men and material, slowing Russia’s advances elsewhere.” It also highlighted the significant cost of the effort to capture Mariupol on its residents.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER FIGHTING
Russian missile strikes on Lviv killed seven people yesterday morning, according to Lviv officials. These are the first deaths reported within city limits, though others have been recorded in the regions since the invasion began. A preliminary assessment indicated the strikes were launched from airplanes that came from the direction of the Caspian Sea, the regional governor, Maksym Kozytskyi, told a news conference. Hannah Allam, Annabelle Timsit and David L. Stern report for the Washington Post.
In its latest briefing, the Russian Defence Ministry says missile and artillery forces struck 1,260 targets in Ukraine overnight. “High-precision air-based missiles” hit 13 Ukrainian positions in parts of the Donbas, including the key town of Slovyansk, it says. Other airstrikes “hit 60 military assets of Ukraine”, including in towns close to the eastern frontline. Russian anti-aircraft forces downed a Ukrainian MiG-29 jet in the Donetsk region, the ministry said. BBC News reports.
Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of the Russian province of Belgorod, has accused Ukrainian forces of striking a village near Russia’s border with Ukraine and wounding three residents. More than 30 houses were damaged, he added, and electricity and gas supplies will be restored in the next few hours. Reuters reports.
The sinking of the Russian warship Moskva is causing tension in Russia, as some families report sailors dead or missing despite the Russian Defense Ministry’s claim that the whole crew was evacuated. At least four families have shared pictures on social media of sailors who the families say served on the sunken ship and have not been heard from since the incident. Jeanne Whalen Mary Ilyushina report for the Washington Post.
Ukrainian forces have used cluster munitions in attempts to retake areas occupied by Russia. “Ukraine’s decision to saturate their own village with a cluster munition that has the capacity to haphazardly kill innocent people underscores their strategic calculation: This is what they needed to do to retake their country, no matter the cost,” Thomas Gibbons-Neff and John Ismay report for the New York Times.
Last month thousands of lethal darts were fired into a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Kyiv. These projectiles, called fléchettes, are rarely seen or used in modern conflict, experts have said. Alex Horton reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
President Biden will today convene a meeting of allies to discuss the Ukraine conflict, the White House has said. The meeting, announced on Biden’s schedule, “is part of our regular coordination with allies and partners in support of Ukraine,” an official said. Agence-France Presse reports.
The Pentagon will train Ukrainian troops on how to use howitzer artillery systems sent to Ukraine to help in its war with Russia, a senior U.S. defense official said yesterday. U.S. forces “in coming days” will train Ukrainian forces on howitzers outside the country. The troops will then return to Ukraine to relay the information and train their fellow soldiers. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will boycott several meetings of the Group of 20 (G-20) nations this week to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Yellen will attend the opening session of the G-20 finance ministers’ meeting Wednesday to show support for Ukraine’s finance minister, who has flown in from Kyiv for the conference, according to a Treasury Department official. However, she will skip other sessions over Russia’s presence, the official said. Jeff Stein reports for the Washington Post.
In a speech delivered yesterday, deputy U.S. Treasury secretary Wally Adeyemo pushed back on warnings that the sanctions package announced by the U.S. and its allies against Russia risks fracturing the international economy, vowing instead to take further retaliatory action if necessary. “One concern is that by wielding these financial weapons, the U.S. and its allies risk encouraging adversaries to spurn the dollar and seek out alternatives as well as create new systems that lead to a more fragmented global economy — criticism Adeyemo countered directly in his speech,” Colby Smith reports for the Financial Times.
According to a notice filed by the Department of Homeland Security yesterday, Biden’s administration has expanded eligibility for a program that allows Ukrainians who have been living in the United States without legal documentation to temporarily stay and work in the country. The cutoff date for eligibility has been moved by 6 weeks, roughly doubling the number of people who can apply. Chris Cameron reports for the New York Times.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated yesterday that there were no plans for Biden to travel to Ukraine, following comments from Zelensky encouraging him to do so. France 24 reports.
Former President Trump yesterday called for Russia and Ukraine to reach an agreement to end the war. “It doesn’t make sense that Russia and Ukraine aren’t sitting down and working out some kind of an agreement,” Trump, who initially praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as “smart” over the invasion before later denouncing the move as genocide, said in a statement. “If they don’t do it soon, there will be nothing left but death, destruction, and carnage,” he added. Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
The U.S. is seeking to seize a superyacht that is suspected of belonging to Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov and is docked in the Pacific island nation of Fiji, according to an application for a restraining order filed by Fiji’s public prosecutor. Kirsty Needham reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded honors yesterday to the 64th Motorized Brigade – a brigade that Ukraine has accused of committing war crimes in Bucha. In a presidential decree, Putin praised the brigade for “mass heroism and bravery, steadfastness and fortitude” and for “distinguishing itself in military action for the protection of the Fatherland and state interests.” Bryan Pietsch reports for the Washington Post.
China says it will “continue to strengthen strategic coordination” with Russia, regardless of how the “international landscape may change,” according to a statement released by China’s Foreign Ministry today. China’s Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng expressed this view to the Russian ambassador to China Andrey Denisov during a meeting on Monday, the ministry said. CNN reports.
China will welcome a prolonged war in Ukraine as a “rolling strategic diversion” from its own assertiveness, former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd has said. Rudd, a Mandarin speaker who cultivated Australia’s relationship with China during his tenure, warned that China would exploit a distracted west to focus on its competition with the U.S.. James Fernyhough reports for the Financial Times.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has urged Finland and Sweden to join NATO as soon as possible, saying that such a move would boost the security of the Baltic states and reinforce the western military alliance. Richard Milne reports for the Financial Times.
Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will travel to Kyiv in the next few days to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, a senior Spanish government official has said. Al Goodman reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – REFUGEES AND HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said that there will be no humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians trapped in conflict areas for a third consecutive day, due to a lack of agreement with Russia. BBC News reports.
The head of the Luhansk regional military administration Serhii Haidai today urged civilians to evacuate amid an escalation in fighting and the fall of the town of Kreminna to Russian forces. Haidai said evacuations would take place even though Russian forces had refused a ceasefire. Nathan Hodge reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
High-profile prisoners held by both Russia and Ukraine, including two British fighters believed captured in Mariupol, appealed yesterday to be exchanged. Viktor Medvedchuk, one of the richest tycoons in Ukraine and a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, also urged Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to exchange him for the people defending Mariupol. Neil MacFarquhar reports for the New York Times.
The U.K. is not looking to help Moscow obtain a prisoner swap that would trade pro-Russian oligarch and Ukrainian politician Viktor Medvedchuk for two British fighters captured in Ukraine by Russian forces, a government minister said today. When asked about the prospect of exchanging the Britons for Medevedchuk, Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: “We’re actually going through the process of sanctioning people who are close to the Putin regime. We’re not going to be looking at how we can help Russia.” Amy Cassidy reports for CNN.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Department of the Treasury issued a joint advisory yesterday on the growing risk of cyber threats involving cryptocurrency from a North Korean advanced persistent threat (APT) group. The agencies said the APT group targeted various organizations in the cryptocurrency industry such as play-to-earn crypto video games, crypto trading companies and individual holders of valuable non-fungible tokens. The cyber actors used a variety of communication platforms to target victims, encouraging them to download trojanized cryptocurrency applications through their devices, the agencies said. Olafimihan Oshin reports for The Hill.
U.S. and Cuban officials are due to meet in Washington on Thursday to discuss migration concerns, in the highest-level formal U.S. talks with Havana since President Biden took office. According to a U.S. official, the U.S. wants Cuba to take back more deportees from among the record numbers of Cubans arriving at the US-Mexico border. Matt Spetalnick reports for Reuters.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Militants in Gaza fired a rocket into Israeli airspace yesterday night, amid increased tensions following recent clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli police at a holy site in Jerusalem. The rocket strike, which was intercepted by an Israeli air defense system, was the first since January from Gaza. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the rocket attack, but it followed several recent hints by Islamic Jihad, a militant group in Gaza, that it may respond to the clashes in Jerusalem. Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times.
Police in Sweden said yesterday that they had arrested dozens of people following clashes over plans by far-right Scandinavian politician Rasmus Paludan to burn a Quran over Easter weekend. Over the weekend, people rioted in several cities, throwing Molotov cocktails at emergency vehicles and burning trash cans and a municipal bus. Four people were injured on Sunday when police fired what they said were warning shots above the crowd. Drew Hinshaw reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A suspected twin suicide bombing outside a boys’ school in the Afghan capital Kabul has killed at least four people and wounded many others. The blasts happened at the Abdul Rahim Shahid high school in the Shia-dominated west of the city. The number of dead and wounded is likely to rise. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, however, Islamic State militants have attacked the area in the past. BBC News reports.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
Kimberly Guilfoyle, the fiancée of Donald Trump Jr. and a former member of the Trump presidential campaign, met yesterday with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Guilfoyle is a key witness to the events leading up to the attack. She was with then-President Trump on that morning and was backstage with him and other members of the family during the “Stop the Steal” rally on the Ellipse. Ryan Nobles, Annie Grayer and Zachary Cohen report for CNN.
A federal judge cleared the way yesterday for a group of Georgia voters to move forward with legal efforts to disqualify Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from running for re-election to Congress, citing her role in the Jan. 6 attack. The judge, Amy Totenberg, who was appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia by President Barack Obama, denied Greene’s request for a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order. Neil Vigdor reports for the New York Times.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a committee member who led the prosecution of Trump’s second impeachment, has said that Trump attempted a coup on Jan. 6 and that this will be the focus of committee hearings next month. Richard Cowan reports for Reuters.
Attorney John Eastman revealed yesterday that he has asserted attorney-client privilege on 37,000 pages of emails related to his work for Trump in the effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, has objected to “every claim” over those pages, which now sends the dispute to U.S. District Court Judge David Carter for a case-by-case review. Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Federal prosecutors said yesterday that they would not bring criminal charges against former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke, who served three years in state prison after being convicted of second-degree murder in the 2014 shooting of Black teenager Laquan McDonald. The prosecutors said that the bar to convict Van Dyke on federal charges would be much higher than the one for state charges, adding that a second round of charges against Van Dyke “would diminish the important results already achieved.” Alyssa Lukpat reports for the New York Times.
The Supreme Court yesterday rejected an appeal from a death row inmate in Texas who said his jury had been tainted by racial bias. The inmate, Kristopher Love, a Black man, had objected to the seating of a juror who had said he believed “nonwhite races” to be the “more violent races.” The court’s three liberal members dissented. Adam Liptak reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. has made more than a million arrests at the U.S.-Mexico border since October, according to new data released yesterday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Border agents made 209,906 arrests along the border in March, marking the fastest pace of illegal border crossings in two decades. Another 11,397 migrants were permitted to enter the country to seek humanitarian protection at land border crossings, according to the data. Tarini Parti and Michelle Hackman report for the Wall Street Journal.
Democrats, fearing a deluge of migrants at the southern border this summer, are pressuring President Biden to back off his decision to lift the Trump-era Title 42 order next month. Democrats in tough races publicly criticized Biden’s decision earlier this month but now the pushback is growing to include the president’s moderate allies including Sens. Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI). Alexander Bolton reports for The Hill.
The media outlet InfoWars filed for bankruptcy in Texas on Sunday in the face of mounting legal pressure over founder and host Alex Jones’s denial of the Sandy Hook shooting. Jones, who’s repeatedly called the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut a hoax, has been sued several times by the victims’ family members and others for defamation and emotional distress. Joe Hernandez reports for NPR.
The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Pentagon may take disciplinary action against a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve who refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 on religious grounds. The court’s brief, unsigned order, an interim measure that denied relief while appeals proceed, gave no reasons – which is common when the justices act on emergency applications. Adam Liptak reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 80.68 million people and has now killed over 988.912 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 505.09 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.20 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.