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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 – FIGHTING
Russia has made small advances after beginning to focus on the full occupation of the Donbas region, but the lack of resources and combat support is making it hard for the Russian troops to occupy the region, the U.K. Defense Ministry has said in an intelligence update. Russia’s Ministry of Defense has proposed that the military handle payments to families of deceased soldiers, suggesting that Russia is trying to hide the extensive war losses from its own population, the update added. Ayumi Fujimoto reports for NBC News.
Five train stations in central and western Ukraine came under Russian fire this morning, delaying train services, Oleksandr Kamyshim chairman of Ukrainian Railways said in a Telegram post. Julian Duplain reports for the Washington Post.
Russia has said that it would investigate the cause of a large fire that erupted in the early hours of the morning at an oil storage facility in the city of Bryansk 96 miles northeast of the border with Ukraine. The ministry said in a statement that the fire had broken out at a facility owned by oil pipeline company Transneft at 0200 local time (1800 EST) and that there had been no need to evacuate any parts of Bryansk, a city of 400,000 people. Reuters reports.
Nine Russian missiles struck infrastructure in Kremenchuk, an industrial city in central Ukraine, yesterday according to a regional leader. “The enemy does not shy away from anything, even on such a holy day,” Dmytro Lunin, an acting governor and head of the Poltava region’s military administration, wrote on Telegram. María Paúl reports for the Washington Post.
Russian attacks targeting the towns of Gorske and Zolote in the eastern Luhansk region killed six people on Saturday, the region’s governor, Sergiy Haida has said. Cora Engelbrecht reports for the New York Times.
A series of artillery strikes hit central and east Kharkiv on Saturday, including a large residential area. There were no casualties in the strike on central Kharkiv, officials said. Thomas Gibbons-Neff reports for the New York Times.
Russia is planning a staged referendum in the Ukrainian city of Kherson to justify “its occupation,” according to the U.K.’s Defense Ministry. “The city is key to Russia’s objective of establishing a land bridge to Crimea and dominating southern Ukraine,” the ministry tweeted in an intelligence update. María Paúl reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – MARIUPOL
Ukrainian forces are still in full control of the Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol and have repelled continuous assaults by Russian infantry, Capt. Svyatoslav Palamar, the deputy commander of the Azov Battalion, said yesterday. Ukrainian forces are willing to leave the factory and evacuate the city if given guarantees of safe passage for themselves and hundreds of civilians, Palamar said. Michael Schwirtz reports for the New York Times.
Russian troops may be preparing for a renewed assault on the Azovstal steel plant, according to an update by Washington-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War. BBC News reports.
The International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement yesterday saying that it was “deeply alarmed” by the situation in Mariupol. The statement called for unimpeded access to help residents, including hundreds of wounded. Marc Santora and Austin Ramzy report for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during an unannounced trip to Kyiv on Sunday that U.S. diplomats would return to Ukraine this week. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin traveled to the Ukrainian capital, where they met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials, making them the highest-level US officials to have traveled to the country since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Kylie Atwood and Jennifer Hanlser report for CNN.
Bridget Brink, who is currently the ambassador to Slovakia, is expected to be named as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine – a position that has been left vacant since early 2020 under former President Trump’s administration. President Joe Biden will likely nominate her later today. María Paúl and Missy Ryan report for the Washington Post.
At the meeting in Kyiv, the U.S. pledged more than $700m in military financing to help Ukraine’s war efforts, officials have said. About half of the money will go to Ukraine, while the rest will be split among NATO members and other regional allies. In addition, the US will sell $165m of ammunition to Ukraine. BBC News reports.
Russia is failing in its war aims but Ukraine is succeeding, Blinken said following his and Austin’s meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. Reuters reports.
The United States hopes the war in Ukraine will result in a “weakened” Russia that no longer has the capacity to invade its neighbors, Austin told reporters during his trip to Kyiv. “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,” Austin said. Annabelle Timsit and Julie Yoon report for the Washington Post.
Zelenskyy has thanked the US for its “unprecedented” support for Ukraine, following his meeting with Blinken and Austin yesterday. “We appreciate the unprecedented assistance of the United States to Ukraine. I would like to thank President Biden personally and on behalf of the entire Ukrainian people for his leadership in supporting Ukraine, for his personal clear position. To thank all the American people, as well as the Congress for their bicameral and bipartisan support. We see it. We feel it,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said. Ukraine’s presidential website reports.
Alina Kabaeva, the woman the U.S. government believes to be Russian President Vladimir Putin’s girlfriend, has been spared sanctions in a last-minute decision. U.S. officials believe that sanctioning Kabaeva would be deemed so personal a blow to Putin that it could further escalate tensions between Russia and the U.S.. Vivian Salama, Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw report for the Wall Street Journal.
Multiple governors have announced that their state National Guards would be sending armored vehicles to Ukraine in response to a request from the Pentagon. Gov. Mike DeWine (R- OH) and Gov. Jim Justice (R – WV) announced that their state National Guards would be providing an unspecified number of M-113 armored personnel carriers, which help move equipment and soldiers “while providing protection from small arms fire and the effects of artillery,” according to press releases from both governors’ offices. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
In recent days Russian authorities have stopped publishing data on government debt, trade statistics and oil production, while lawmakers work on a bill banning lenders from sharing data with foreign states. The growing blackout is part of an effort by the Russian authorities to protect the economy and domestic companies from further sanctions by the West. Limited data means that Washington and Brussels will have less visibility on whether and how their sanctions are working. Georgi Kantchev reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Top Ukrainian officials yesterday expressed disapproval of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. Igor Zhovkva, deputy head of the officer of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, told NBC in an interview that Guterres is “not really” authorized to speak on behalf of the Ukrainian government. Quint Forget reports for POLITICO.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russia has proposed the forced donation of blood by captured Ukrainian soldiers, according to Ukrainian ombudsperson for Human Rights, Lyudmila Denisova. “This fact testifies to the analogy of the atrocities of the Nazis in the concentration camps during the Second World War,” she said in a post on Facebook. Aaron Reich reports for the Jerusalem Post.
Greenpeace activists have sought to block a tanker from delivering Russian oil to Norway, chaining themselves to the vessel in a protest against the war in Ukraine. As of this morning, the Ust Luga product tanker is anchored outside Exxon Mobil’s Slagen oil terminal some 43 miles south of the capital Oslo, according to the vessel tracker Marine Traffic. “Oil is not only at the root of the climate crisis but also of wars and conflicts. I am shocked that Norway operates as a free port for Russian oil, which we know finances Putin’s warfare,” Greenpeace Norway head Frode Pleym said. Reuters reports.
Ukraine’s postal service has said it was targeted by a cyberattack on Friday following to sale of stamps portraying a Ukrainian soldier making a crude gesture to a Russian warship. Reuters reports.
Ukraine has asked the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for a list of equipment that is necessary for the reliable and safe operation of its nuclear facilities during the war. The list specifically mentions radiation measuring instruments, shielding materials, electrical power systems and diesel generators. The IAEA reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
FBI Director Christopher Wray said yesterday that the current scale of espionage and cybersecurity threats from China were “unprecedented in history.” He noted that China’s hacking program is larger “than that of every other major nation combined,” adding that China’s targets span nearly every sector of the economy. Monique Balls reports for The Hill.
The Chinese government is not only mistreating Uyghurs within China’s borders, it is hunting them down abroad with help from countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, according to a new report by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Kissinger Institute on China and the U.S.. More than 5,500 Uyghurs outside of China have been targeted by Beijing, hit with cyberattacks and threats to family members who remain in China, and more than 1,500 Uyghurs have been detained or forced to return to China to face imprisonment and torture in police custody, according to the report. Anna Schecter reports for NBC News.
President Biden yesterday issued a statement memorializing the Armenian genocide. “Let us redouble our efforts toward healing and building the better, more peaceful world that we wish for our children … A world where human rights are respected, where the evils of bigotry and intolerance do not mark our daily lives, and where people everywhere are free to pursue their lives in dignity and security,” the statement said. David Cohen reports for POLITICO.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Emmanuel Macron won a second term as president of France yesterday, triumphing over his far-right challenger, Marine Le Pen. Projections at the close of voting, which are generally reliable, showed Macron gaining 58.5 per cent of the vote to Le Pen’s 41.5 per cent. His victory was much narrower than in 2017 when the margin was 66.1 per cent to 33.9 per cent for Le Pen. Roger Cohen reports for the New York Times.
Preliminary results for Slovenia’s parliamentary elections show that right-wing Prime Minister Janez Jansa has lost to centrist rivals. With 95 per cent of the vote counted, results indicated that Jansa’s Slovenian Democratic Party had won around 24 per cent of the vote. That is far behind the 34 per cent of its main rival, the centrist Freedom Movement, meaning that Jansa is highly unlikely to keep his post as prime minister. Andrew Higgins reports for the New York Times.
Israel yesterday closed its civilian border crossing with the Gaza Strip, preventing thousands of Gazans from getting to work in Israel, in an effort to pressure Gaza’s ruler Hamas to halt rocket attacks against southern Israel. The closure comes after Palestinian militants fired two rockets at Israel Friday night and one on Saturday morning. Dov Lieber reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Hundreds of Arab militia fighters, attacked a village in Sudan’s western Darfur region yesterday, torching homes and shops and killing at least 150 people, according to aid groups and U.N. officials. The violence, which later spread to a nearby town, was the latest in a series of clashes involving Arab and ethnic African groups in Darfur in recent months. Declan Walsh reports for the New York Times.
British man, Luke Symons, who was held captive in Yemen without charge or trial for five years has been released from jail. U.K. foreign secretary, Liz Truss, confirmed yesterday that Symons “would shortly be reunited with his family.” She thanked Omani and Saudi negotiators as well as U.K. Foreign Office staff as he was released alongside 13 other foreign nationals in Yemen. Joe Middleton reports for the Guardian.
Three policemen were killed in central Nigeria’s Kogi state on Saturday after gunmen stormed a police station in an attack claimed by Islamic State. The attack came a day after explosives planted at a bar in northeast Nigeria injured 11 people. Anna MacSwan reports for the Guardian.
Health authorities in the Democratic Republic and Congo have declared a new outbreak of Ebola, the Work Health organisation reported yesterday. So far, just one case has been confirmed and investigations to determine the source of the outbreak are ongoing. U.N. News Centre reports.
Saudi princes have sold more than $600 million worth of real estate, yachts and artwork in the U.S. and Europe since the kingdom’s de facto ruler Prince Mohammed bin Salman tightened the purse strings of the ultrawealthy ruling family. The transactions represent a radical change of fortune for senior princes who funnelled windfalls from oil booms in the 1970s and 1980s into some of the world’s most exclusive markets. “They’ve clearly been cut down to a disciplined, defined regimen and are having to live on that,” said British historian Robert Lacey, who has chronicled the Saudi ruling family since the 1980s. Prince Mohammed is “here for the long term and he’s reshaping things in a long-term fashion.” Stephen Kalin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) was confronted in court on Friday over past social media posts advocating violence against Democrats. At the hearing in Atlanta, to determine if Greene is constitutionally barred from running for reelection because of her alleged role in the Jan. 6 attack, the congressperson repeatedly said she couldn’t remember past comments or interactions. Andrew Kaczynski and Em Steck report for CNN.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Twitter Inc. is in discussions to sell itself to Elon Musk and could finalize a deal as soon as this week. The two sides met Sunday to discuss Musk’s proposal and were making progress, according to sources familiar with the matter. However, there is no guarantee they will reach a deal. Cara Lombardo and Dana Cimilluca report for the Wall Street Journal.
A U.S. Air Force general officer has been found guilty of abusive sexual contact, in the first-ever court-martial trial and conviction of a general officer in the history of the military branch. Maj. Gen. William T. Cooley was found guilty on one of three specifications of sexual assault connected to a 2018 incident in New Mexico, the Air Force said in a statement. Aaron Pellish reports for CNN.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments today in the case of Joseph Kennedy – a Washington state high school football coach who lost his job after he refused to stop praying on the field immediately after games. “There is good reason to think that its newly expanded conservative majority will not only rule in Kennedy’s favor but also make a major statement about the role religion may play in public life,” Adam Liptak reports for the New York Times.
This morning a judge will consider whether to hold former President Trump in contempt for violating a court order that he comply with a subpoena regarding a civil investigation into his business practices. New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) is asking a state court judge to fine Trump $10,000 for each day that he has failed to turn over documents relevant to the subpoena. Harper Neidig reports for The Hill.
FBI Director Christopher Wray yesterday highlighted an increase in violence against police officers last year, including a jump in police murders. “Violence against law enforcement in this country is one of the biggest phenomena that I think doesn’t get enough attention,” Wray said in an interview, adding that in 2021, “officers were being killed at a rate of almost one every five days.” Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
A Colorado man who set himself on fire in front of the Supreme Court on Friday in an apparent Earth Day protest against climate change has died. The Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C., said that Wynn Bruce, 50, of Boulder, Colo., died on Saturday from his injuries after being airlifted to a hospital following the incident. Chris Cameron reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 80.98 million people and has now killed over 991.254 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 507.56 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.