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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
New satellite images show a mass burial site in the Russia-occupied village of Manhusg, about 12 miles west of Mariupol, containing more than 200 new plots alongside an existing cemetery. Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, has said that the mass grave discovered in Manhush is significantly larger than the one discovered in Bucha — the Kyiv suburb where bodies were found strewn on streets after Russian troops withdrew. He estimated that the new mass grave is “prepared for 3,000 people.” Paulina Villegas reports for the Washington Post.
An all-out ground assault on the Azovstal Iron and Steel Works plant in Mariupol would probably result in significant casualties for the Russian military, further diminishing Moscow’s overall combat effectiveness, according to a U.K. Defense Ministry intelligence update.
The mayor of Mariupol appealed today for the “full evacuation” of the devastated southern Ukrainian city which Russian President Vladimir Putin says is now controlled by Russian forces. “We need only one thing – the full evacuation of the population. About 100,000 people remain in Mariupol,” Mayor Vadym Boichenko said on national television. Pavel Polityuk reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS
The U.N. Human Rights Office has described the war in Ukraine as a “horror story of violations against civilians”, in which respect for international law has been “tossed aside”. The U.N. monitoring mission in Ukraine has documented the unlawful killing of 50 people in Bucha, and such wilful killings amount to war crimes, the office said in a statement, adding that U.N. investigations show Bucha is not an isolated incident. Imogen Foulkes reports for BBC News.
Russian forces committed multiple apparent war crimes while occupying the town of Bucha, New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report released yesterday. The rights group’s researchers spent a week interviewing residents in Bucha, a suburb of the capital, Kyiv, earlier this month. They found evidence of summary executions, torture and enforced disappearances by Russian forces, “all of which would constitute war crimes and potential crimes against humanity,” the group said. Maite Fernández Simon reports for the Washington Post.
Attorney General Merrick Garland confirmed yesterday that the U.S. is working with Ukraine on collecting evidence regarding possible war crimes amid Russia’s ongoing invasion. “We have now been in contact with the prosecutor general of Ukraine, and we are assisting … they’ve collected a group of international allies to assist, and so we are helping in the collection of evidence and the preservation of evidence relating to possible war crimes,” Garland said during a press briefing. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
London’s Metropolitan Police has received around 50 referrals of alleged war crimes in Ukraine, the force said today. The Met Police is collating evidence to assist the International Criminal Court with its ongoing investigation into the war in Ukraine. Its War Crimes Team has appealed to anyone in the U.K. with knowledge of war crimes committed in Ukraine to come forward. Dan Wright and Amy Cassidy report for CNN.
Ukraine’s military intelligence has released a purported communications intercept of Russian armed forces referring to an alleged order to kill Ukrainian prisoners of war in the city of Popasna in the eastern region of Luhansk. “The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine received an audio interception of the occupiers’ conversation, which refers to the order to kill all prisoners of war of the Armed Forces of Ukraine who are in their captivity in the area of Popasna (Luhansk Region),” Ukrainian military intelligence tweeted. Jorges Engels reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER FIGHTING
Russia has revealed that the goal of its invasion of Ukraine is to take “full control” over southern Ukraine as well as the eastern Donbas region. “Since the beginning of the second phase of the special operation, which began literally two days ago, one of the tasks of the Russian army is to establish full control over Donbas and southern Ukraine. This will provide a land corridor to Crimea,” Maj. Gen. Rustam Minnekaev, the acting commander of Russia’s Central Military District, said according to Russian state news agency TASS. Anna Chernova and Nathan Hodge report for CNN.
Artillery fire around Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, intensified overnight and into Friday morning, with outgoing and incoming fire echoing through the city. Oleh Synyehubov, the head of Kharkiv’s Regional Military Administration, said on Telegram that Ukrainian forces had recorded about 50 attacks from both artillery and rocket launchers yesterday. Thomas Gibbons-Neff reports for the New York Times.
Russia says it struck 58 military targets in Ukraine overnight, including sites where troops, fuel depots and military equipment were concentrated, according to the latest update from Russia’s defense ministry. BBC News reports.
In his latest video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has told Russia its recent gains in the east of the country are only temporary and its troops will be forced back across the border. Russian forces captured 42 villages in the eastern Donetsk region yesterday. BBC News reports.
Senior Biden administration officials say they believe that the next four weeks will shape the eventual outcome of Russia’s war in Ukraine. While the officials still expect the war to be long and grinding, they say that it is imperative to rush Ukraine as many new weapons as possible to push back Russia’s new advance in the eastern Donbas region. Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and David E. Sanger report for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS
Serhiy Haidai, the head of the Luhansk region military administration, said today that Russian shelling has disrupted an attempt to evacuate civilians from the heavily contested eastern Ukrainian town of Rubizhne. Olga Voitovych reports for CNN.
No evacuation corridors in Ukraine have been agreed with the Russians due to “danger on the routes,” Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said today. Ukrainian officials have appealed for the Russians to guarantee safe passage for civilians, particularly those trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol. Olga Voitovych reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
President Biden announced yesterday that the U.S. would send more military and economic assistance to Ukraine, ban Russian-affiliated ships from U.S. ports and launch a refugee program for Ukrainians. The latest roughly $800 million military package will include heavy artillery weapons, such as 72 155-mm howitzers, 144,000 rounds of artillery and dozens of tactical drones, the Pentagon said. In addition to the military aid, the U.S. will send another $500 million in economic assistance for Ukraine. Tarini Parti, Andrew Restuccia and Michelle Hackman report for the Wall Street Journal.
Retired Army Lt.Gen Terry Wolff has been chosen by the Biden administration to coordinate security assistance for Ukraine. “The NSC [National Security Council] recently brought on Terry Wolff to help coordinate the security assistance the U.S. and our partners are providing to Ukraine, which they are using every day to defend their country,” a National Security Council spokesperson said. The decision comes after a group of bipartisan senators urged Biden last week to appoint a Ukraine assistance coordinator. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will travel to Germany next week to hold Ukraine-focused defense talks with allies at Ramstein Air Base, Pentagon’s press secretary John Kirby has said. Kirby did not say how many countries would participate as the list is not yet finalized, but allies from outside NATO will be included. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
The Russian foreign ministry announced Thursday that it’s sanctioning more than two dozen U.S. citizens, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, by denying them entry to the country. The ministry said in a statement that the move comes in response to “ever-expanding anti-Russian sanctions” brought by the Biden administration that have targeted Moscow officials and their families, as well as scientists, businessmen and cultural figures. Rebecca Shabad reports for NBC News.
Janet Yellen, U.S. Treasury secretary, urged Europe to be “careful” about imposing a complete ban on Russian energy imports, warning of the potential harm such a move could inflict on the global economy. “Medium-term, Europe clearly needs to reduce its dependence on Russia with respect to energy, but we need to be careful when we think about a complete European ban on say, oil imports,” Yellen said during a press conference in Washington yesterday. James Politi reports for the Financial Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The parliaments of Latvia and Estonia — former Soviet states that are now members of NATO and the E.U. — officially declared yesterday that Russia has committed genocide in Ukraine. Statements are provided by the Estonia parliament and the Latvia parliament. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
Serbia will not jeopardise its national interests by joining western sanctions against Russia over Ukraine, according to the country’s re-elected president Aleksandar Vucic. The comments from Vucic suggest that Belgrade would stick to its accommodating line towards Russia and China despite E.U. calls for countries seeking membership to align with Brussels on this issue. Marton Dunai reports for the Financial Times.
Two of India’s biggest businesses, Tata Steel and Infosys, are moving away from Russia, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi refrains from taking a tough stance on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. Diksha Madhok reports for CNN.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson put no pressure on his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi over New Delhi’s position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when they met, India’s foreign secretary told reporters. India has not explicitly condemned the invasion by Russia, its biggest supplier of military hardware. Reuters reports.
Ukrainian soldiers are training in the U.K., according to a spokesperson for Johnson. The troops began training with armoured patrol vehicles donated by Britain this month. “It is only sensible that they get requisite training to make best use of [the equipment],” the spokesman said. “We are always conscious of anything perceived to be escalatory but clearly what is escalatory is the actions of Putin’s regime.” Andrew Macaskill reports for Reuters.
Addressing an International Monetary Fund and World Bank conference via video link, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the world’s finance ministers that his country needs $7bn (£5.4bn) every month until the summer to keep functioning. Zelenskyy also said, “we will need hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild all this later.” BBC News reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Clashes have broken out for the seventh time in eight days at the Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem, which is known to Jews as Temple Mount. The clashes were sparked when Palestinian youths threw stones in the direction of Israeli riot police stationed at the edge of the site, prompting the police to enter its precincts. The New York Times reports.
Japan and New Zealand have opened talks on an agreement for “seamless” sharing of classified information, a step that could strengthen Tokyo’s case to joining the “Five Eyes” intelligence partnership between the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. An announcement of the negotiations came two days after the Solomon Islands said it had reached a security agreement with China, provoking unease among Western-aligned powers in the region. Pete McKenzie reports for the New York Times.
Japan’s ruling party panel said yesterday that Japan should aim to double its defense spending over the next five years to 2% of gross domestic product and ease restrictions on arms exports. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had mentioned the 2% level in its election platform last year, but the latest proposal was the first time party policymakers gave a specific time frame, highlighting how the emergence of a Russia-China authoritarian axis has spurred U.S. allies to revise their defense thinking. Chieko Tsuneoka reports for the Wall Street Journal.
China’s arms sales, military training, and investment in African infrastructure projects are giving Beijing an increasing foothold on the continent, according to analysis by open-source intelligence company, Jane’s. “The trend is clearly upward and what that arms sales diplomacy gives China is a lot more influence, a lot more power, over those African states,” said Dylan Lee Lehrke, a lead analyst at Jane’s. “It’s a military dependency.” Nearly 70% of the 54 countries on the African continent possess Chinese armored military vehicles, and nearly 20% of all military vehicles in Africa are imported from China. Gordon Lubold reports for the Wall Street Journal.
East African heads of state have agreed to deploy a joint military force to eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) to deal with the armed groups operating in that region. At a summit in the Kenyan capital Nairobi yesterday, the regional leaders resolved that such a force should be mobilised with immediate effect. All armed groups operating in eastern DR Congo should unconditionally participate in a political process to resolve their grievances, a statement from the summit says. Those that do not will be dealt with militarily, it adds. Patience Atuhaire reports for BBC News.
The French army says it has filmed Russian mercenaries burying bodies near a Malian military base to falsely accuse France’s departing forces of leaving behind mass graves. The video, filmed with a drone shows what appear to be white soldiers covering bodies with sand near the Gossi base in northern Mali. Agence France-Presse reports.
Somali Foreign Minister Abdisaid Muse Ali says he has survived an assassination attempt involving regional government forces in the north-eastern Somali state of Puntland. State TV reported that one soldier was killed and three people were wounded in the attack on the minister. The incident comes amid heightened political tensions in Somalia and a prolonged electoral process marred by alleged corruption and irregularities. BBC News reports.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
Donald Trump Jr., former President J. Trump’s eldest son, has agreed to meet with the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. The committee has not issued a subpoena for Trump Jr.’s testimony, but he is expected to answer questions voluntarily. John Santucci, Katherine Faulders and Benjamin Siegel report for ABC News.
In the days after the Jan. 6 attack, the two top Republicans in Congress, Representative Kevin McCarthy and Senator Mitch McConnell, told associates they believed President Trump was responsible for inciting the deadly riot and vowed to drive him from politics. McCarthy went so far as to say he would push Trump to resign immediately: “I’ve had it with this guy,” he told a group of Republican leaders, according to an audio recording of the conversation. Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin report for the New York Times.
Florida man Barry Bennett Ramey has been arrested and accused of pepper-spraying officers at the Jan. 6 attack and then making a menacing call to the FBI special agent investigating him, law enforcement officials have said. Ramey, who was reportedly affiliated with the Proud Boys, has been charged with assault on federal law enforcement officers with a deadly or dangerous weapon, obstructing law enforcement, entering or remaining on restricted grounds with intent to impede, knowingly engaging in an act of physical violence while using or carrying a deadly or dangerous weapon and an act of physical violence on Capitol grounds. Ryan J. Reilly reports for NBC News.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Former President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, indicted on drug trafficking and firearms charges, was extradited to the U.S. from Honduras yesterday. Hernández, who allegedly partnered with some of the largest cocaine traffickers in the world to transport tons of cocaine through Honduras to the U.S., will make his initial appearance today before a federal court in New York. The United States Department of Justice reports.
Defense lawyers for those previously held at the C.I.A run Camp 7 facility in Guantanamo Bay, are inspecting the now-closed site, contending that the conditions there were substandard and exceedingly disturbing. The lawyers are trying to make the case that prisoners who were held there, at times in solitary confinement, should receive reduced sentences or dismissal of the death penalty if they are convicted. Carol Rosenberg reports for the New York Times.
The Supreme Court yesterday upheld the government’s power to deny some federal benefits to residents of Puerto Rico, finding 8-1 that Congress’ constitutional power to administer territories provides wide authority for treating them differently than Americans living in the 50 states. The Puerto Rico case involves the Supplemental Security Income program, created in 1972 to provide benefits for low-income Americans who are older than 65 years, blind or disabled. Under current law, it covers residents of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands but not those in Puerto Rico or other U.S. territories. Jess Bravin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
During a speech yesterday, former President Obama placed blame on tech companies for failing to address the disinformation problem he said the industry has amplified. The new information ecosystem, fueled by the rise of dominant social media platforms, is “turbocharging some of humanity’s worst impulses,” he said in the speech delivered at Stanford University. Rebecca Klar reports for The Hill.
21 states filed a temporary restraining order yesterday seeking to block President Biden’s administration from lifting Title 42, a Trump-era policy that allows for the expulsion of migrants at the border and blocks them from claiming asylum. The motion for a temporary restraining order is part of a lawsuit against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in opposition to the administration’s decision to rescind the controversial policy. Mychael Schnell reports for The Hill.
House lawmakers introduced a cybersecurity bill yesterday that would address rising cyber threats against U.S. energy sectors. The Energy Cybersecurity University Leadership Program Act, a bill co-sponsored by Reps. Mike Carey (R-OH) and Deborah Ross (D-NC), would establish a grant program based at the Department of Energy intended to financially assist graduate students and postdoctoral researchers studying cybersecurity and energy infrastructure. Ines Kagubare reports for The Hill.
Guns became the leading cause of death among children and teens in 2020, killing more people ages 1 to 19 in the U.S. than vehicle crashes, drugs overdoses or cancer. More than 4,300 died of firearm-related injuries that year — a 29 per cent increase from 2019 — according to a research letter published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine. Aria Bendix reports for NBC News.
COVID-19 has infected over 80.85 million people and has now killed over 990.679 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 507.97 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.21 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.