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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 – MARIUPOL
Russian forces have given Ukrainian fighters holding out at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol another deadline for surrender. If Ukraine’s troops cease fighting at 2 p.m. local time Wednesday, they will be “guaranteed life, safety and medical treatment,” Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian National Defense Control Center, said yesterday, according to Russian state media. Reis Thebault reports for the Washington Post.
Russian forces are using “powerful anti-bunker bombs” to shell the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, where civilians including children are sheltering underground alongside fighters defending the city, a senior Ukrainian government official has said. “The world watches the murder of children online and remains silent,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a tweet. “Religious & world leaders can stop it by organising humanitarian corridors. Otherwise, the blood will be on their hands, too.” John Reed reports for the Financial Times.
Maj. Serhii Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Separate Marine Brigade, has requested that a third country provide evacuation for troops and civilians trapped in the Azovstal steel plant under heavy Russian bombardment. Olga Voitovych, Julia Presniakova and Nathan Hodge report for CNN.
The Russian Ministry of Defense issued a statement yesterday claiming that Russian forces had opened an evacuation corridor around the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. However, the claim has been dismissed by a Ukrainian police official on the scene. Myhailo Vershynin, chief of the Mariupol Patrol Police, called the Russian conditions, which require civilians to evacuate to Russian controlled territory, “unacceptable.” Olga Voitovych and Nathan Hodge report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER FIGHTING
Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, said yesterday that several cities in the east had come under Russian attack in the Donetsk and Luhansk areas. Haidai said the situation was “getting more complicated every hour” and called on residents to evacuate, adding that the area was rapidly running out of medicine and food. “Protect yourselves — go to evacuation transport and leave,” Haidai wrote on Telegram. Jennifer Hassan reports for the Washington Post.
Russian air activity in northern Ukraine is “likely to remain low” after the Kremlin abandoned its bid to seize Kyiv and turned its focus to the country’s south and east, according to a U.K. defense ministry intelligence update. However, “there is still a risk of precision strikes against priority targets throughout Ukraine,” the update said. Rachel Pannett reports for the Washington Post.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense has claimed its forces hit 1,053 Ukrainian military facilities overnight. In a Telegram update this morning, the defence ministry said it had destroyed 106 artillery firing positions and shot down six Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicles. It said its forces hit 73 military assets of Ukraine. BBC News reports.
The city of Izyum – known as the gateway to the Donbas region – is experiencing fierce fighting and fears are growing that it will become the next Bucha. Izyum reportedly has the highest concentration of Russian troops in Ukraine and almost 80% of the city’s residential buildings have been destroyed and train lines have been cut, the city’s deputy mayor has said. BBC News reports.
Russia has turned over 76 Ukrainians — 16 civilians and 60 soldiers, 10 of whom were officers — in a prisoner exchange, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a statement on Telegram yesterday. Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The Biden administration is considering sending a further $800 million in military aid to Ukraine, according to U.S. officials, part of an effort to boost assistance to the country as it tries to counter Russia’s assault. The new aid would come a week after the U.S. announced an $800 million package in weapons to Kyiv, including artillery, armored personnel carriers and helicopters. The additional aid, which could be announced later this week, is expected to include artillery to help Ukraine in its fight against Russian forces. Andrew Restuccia reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet with his Polish and Czech counterparts in separate meetings at the Pentagon later this week, the Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said yesterday. Both bilateral meetings will focus “not only on our relationships with these individual countries but of course what’s going on in Ukraine,” Kirby added. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
President Biden joined a number of world leaders for a video conference yesterday, in which they discussed countries’ efforts to impose sanctions on Russia and agreed to continue coordinating through the Group of Seven, NATO, and the E.U., White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said. Biden and the leaders also spoke about providing more ammunition and security assistance to Ukraine. In addition to Biden, the following leaders joined the call, according to the White House: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, President Andrzej Duda of Poland, President Klaus Iohannis of Romania, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the U.K. Andrew Restuccia reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Pentagon has been asking allies over the past week to provide ammunition and other artillery to Ukraine, a U.S. defense official has said. The requests come amid worries that Ukraine’s fighters could reach dangerously low levels of ammunition within weeks. Nancy A. Youssef and Doug Cameron report for the Wall Street Journal.
Ukraine has received additional planes and parts from allies, not including the U.S., Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said yesterday. The goal of the plane and parts transfers was to help Ukraine get more aircraft in the air, Kirby said. He didn’t say what nations supplied the aircraft, how many they provided or when the aircraft arrived in Ukraine. Nancy A Youssef and Mauro Orru report for the Wall Street Journal.
Lockheed Martin Corp has said it is in talks with the Pentagon about increasing the production of weapons destined for Ukraine, though the company has yet to boost its output. Doug Cameron reports for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Dozens of countries are participating in a multiday NATO cyber defense exercise, as the Russian invasion raises the threat of Kremlin attacks against critical infrastructure in countries seen as supporting Ukraine’s war efforts. The exercise started yesterday and was organised out of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. More than 2,000 people from 32 countries are taking part, including team members from Ukraine, which is not a NATO member. Rachel Pannett and Joseph Marks report for the Washington Post.
Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s deputy ambassador to the U.N., has dismissed a proposal from the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a ceasefire over the Orthodox Easter holidays. The Russian diplomat said the final decision would be made by the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow but added that he did not “know the whole point” of a cease-fire, saying he doubted that Ukrainian forces would respect such an agreement. Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
Finland’s Parliament began a historic debate today on whether the Nordic country should join NATO. Any final decision from Finland would require ratification by all 30 NATO members. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused NATO and the U.S. of pushing Sweden and Finland to join the alliance. Adela Suliman reports for the Washington Post.
A growing majority of Swedes are in favour of joining NATO, a poll showed today. The poll by Demoskop and commissioned by the Aftonbladet newspaper showed 57% of Swedes now favoured NATO membership, up from 51% in March. The March poll was the first to show a majority of Swedes in favour of joining NATO. Reuters reports.
European Council President Charles Michel has arrived in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv. Sharing a photo on Twitter Michel called the city the “heart of a free and democratic Europe.” Jennifer Hassan reports for the Washington Post.
In a televised address Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that the “heroic” resistance of his country’s armed forces demonstrated that Russia’s invasion would already be over had the west provided his country with more weapons. Zelenskyy criticised western allies for their responsibility in the war, saying they were too slow to arm Ukraine’s forces, which had prevented Russia’s army from capturing the capital city Kyiv and other crucial cities and regions. Roman Olearchyk reports for the Financial Times.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said yesterday that his government plans to send heavy artillery to Ukraine, as Russia launched a new military offensive in the country’s east. Trudeau said Canada has been in close contact with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to ensure it is responding to the country’s specific needs, and the most recent request was for heavy artillery. He didn’t provide details on what kind of artillery Canada plans to send or when it might arrive. Kim Mackrael report for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – REFUGEES AND HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS
A humanitarian corridor has been agreed for Mariupol today Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said in a Facebook post. “Given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Mariupol, this is where we will focus our efforts today.” Joanna Sugden reports for the Wall Street Journal.
More than 5 million people have now fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began, according to the U.N. refugee agency. AP reports.
Dozens of Ukrainian children have been separated from relatives, friends or older siblings at the U.S. southern border under a law designed to prevent migrant children from being trafficked. In effect since 2008, the law requires U.S. border authorities to place “unaccompanied minors” in government shelters, where they must remain until their guardians have been screened and approved. Whilst migrant advocates concede there is a risk of children becoming vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation amid the chaos of war, they say U.S. authorities are enforcing the law inconsistently. Miriam Jordan reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Ukraine’s nuclear regulator has reestablished direct communications with the defunct Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement yesterday. Previously the Ukrainian regulator was receiving information “through senior off-site management of the plant.” “This was clearly not a sustainable situation, and it is very good news that the regulator can now contact the plant directly when it needs to,” said Rafael Mariano Grossi, the IAEA director-general. Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
Wealthy Russian businessman Oleg Tinkov yesterday condemned what he called Moscow’s “crazy war” in Ukraine, saying 90% of his countrymen did not support it. In a post on Instagram, he also called on the West to offer Vladimir Putin a dignified way to withdraw. Reuters reports.
Russia has lost trust in Ukraine’s negotiating team, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has said, as talks over a peace deal falter. Ukraine had turned the talks into a “circus” Zakharova said, accusing Kyiv of changing its position as a “distraction.” Max Seddon reports for the Financial Times.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has hit its lowest point in decades, with political fissures deepening since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, senior Saudi and U.S. officials have said. “The White House wanted the Saudis to pump more crude, both to tame oil prices and undercut Moscow’s war finances. The kingdom hasn’t budged, keeping in line with Russian interests,” Stephen Kalin, Summer Said and David S. Cloud provide analysis for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. State Department yesterday condemned the deadly explosions that targeted educational facilities in Kabul earlier that day, labeling the attack “heinous.” “The United States joins the international community in expressing outrage in response to today’s heinous attacks on the Mumtaz Education Center and the Abdul Rahim Shahid school in Kabul, Afghanistan,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price wrote in a statement. Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The leader of the Solomon Islands announced today that his country has signed a security agreement with China. The announcement comes just days before a top American official was due to visit the Pacific nation in an attempt to scupper the controversial pact, which could lead to a Chinese military presence in the islands and increase tension in the region. Michael E. Miller and Frances Vinall report for the Washington Post.
A Sri Lankan man has been killed after police fired live bullets at protestors in the central Sri Lankan town of Ramukkana. The incident has been condemned by the U.N. representative to Sri Lanka as well as the U.S. and E.U. envoys. BBC News reports.
Hong Kong opposition activist Tam Tak-chi has been jailed for 40 months, after the city’s first sedition trial since its handover from British to Chinese rule nearly 25 years ago. In passing sentence, Judge Stanley Chan said he could not ignore the “social-political reality” of Hong Kong given the protracted protests and violence that rocked the city in 2019. Reuters reports.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
Some members of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack have begun discussions about rewriting the Insurrection Act, the 1807 law that gives presidents wide authority to deploy the military within the U.S. to respond to a rebellion. Whilst discussions are preliminary, proponents of change envision a doomsday scenario in which a rogue future president might try to use the military to stoke — rather than put down — an insurrection, or to abuse protesters. But skeptics worry about depriving a president of the power to quickly deploy armed troops in the event of an uprising. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.
Top members of the Oath Keepers currently facing seditious conspiracy charges chatted for days about providing security for some of the highest-profile figures associated with Donald Trump’s effort to overturn the election, according to a newly released trove of text messages. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes and top allies like Florida Oath Keeper Kelly Meggs discussed plans to provide security for figures like Roger Stone, Alex Jones, Ali Alexander and Michael Flynn on Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, describing potential partnerships with other groups and security details. Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
26 Republican governors are launching a multistate initiative aimed at securing the southern border as recent figures from the Biden administration show a surge in border arrests last month. The “American Governors Border Strike Force” is aimed at enhancing intelligence sharing, combating human smuggling and drug trafficking through improved interdiction between Interstates 10 and 40 and keeping an eye on cybersecurity issues, according to a statement made by Gov. Doug Ducey’s (R-AZ) office. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
Three sailors from the USS George Washington aircraft carrier were found dead in less than one week, the Navy has said, as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and local authorities investigate the deaths. The Navy did not provide a cause of death for any of the three, but the ship did bring on board a Special Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Team. These teams are intended to provide short-term mental health support after a traumatic event, such as a loss of life. Oren Liebermann and Barbara Starr report for CNN.
Florida man, David Hannon, pleaded guilty yesterday to threatening to kill Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Hannon entered a guilty plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher P. Tuite to a single count of threatening a federal official with the intent to intimidate and impede Omar and retaliate against her for performing her official duties. The charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a $250,00 fine. Zoe Richards reports for NBC News.
Martial Simon, the schizophrenic man accused of fatally pushing Michelle Alyssa Go in front of a subway train in January, will be sent to a locked psychiatric facility indefinitely after prosecutors agreed yesterday not to contest a finding that he is unfit to stand trial. Simon’s arrest came amid an increase in the number of people pushed to the subway tracks — an average of more than two a month in 2021 — and random-seeming attacks above and below ground linked to mentally ill homeless people. His journey has exposed holes in the system of mental health care, in which no one entity is responsible for the well-being of the most severely ill New Yorkers. Andy Newman reports for the New York Times.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), yesterday appealed a ruling by a federal judge in Georgia who said a lawsuit challenging her qualifications to run for re-election can move forward. Rebecca Shabad reports for NBC News.
COVID-19 has infected over 80.73 million people and has now killed over 989.366 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 506.12 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.