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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
Explosions struck the building housing the security services of the breakaway Moldovan republic of Transnistria yesterday, days after Moscow said the Russian-backed region could be drawn into the war in Ukraine. The explosions inside the building hosting Transnistria’s state security ministry in Tiraspol were caused by a rocket-propelled grenade attack, the region’s authorities said. No details of who might have carried out the attack have been provided. Henry Foy reports for the Financial Times.
Moldova’s president has convened a meeting of the country’s security council after explosions hit a security headquarters in the breakaway republic of Transnistria. Ellen Francis reports for the Washington Post.
Ukraine’s state-run atomic energy company, Energoatom, has said that Russian missiles flew at low altitude over Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine on Tuesday, and reiterated warnings that Russia’s invasion could lead to a “nuclear catastrophe.” The company said cruise missiles had flown over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during an airstrike. According to local authorities, the strike ultimately hit a commercial building in the city of Zaporizhzhia, killing at least one person. Reuters reports.
A senior official in Ukraine’s Interior Ministry says there has been a large explosion in the town of Kreminna in the Luhansk region, an area recently occupied by Russian forces. Anton Gerashchenko said the explosion took place at an administrative building in the town. “As a result of a gas explosion in the city council’s building in Kreminna, no one survived,” he said on Telegram. The number of casualties and the origin of the explosion have not been verified. Kostan Nechyporenko and Tim Lester report for CNN.
Weeks after first occupying the major Ukrainian city of Kherson, Russian troops have taken control of the Kherson City Council. Kherson Mayor Igor Kolykhaev said on his Facebook that on Monday night, “armed men entered the building of the Kherson City Council, took the keys and replaced our guards with their own.” Paul P. Murphy, Josh Pennington and Natalie Gallon report for CNN.
The Russian defense ministry has claimed it killed 500 Ukrainian soldiers overnight after its air force hit 87 military targets in Ukraine. Two arms depots in the Kharkiv region are said to be among the targets hit. The ministry also posted a video on their website reportedly showing a storage and repair base for the Ukrainian armed forces that they claim to have taken. BBC News reports.
Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov has insisted his country is striving to lower the risk of nuclear war but said it was a real and serious danger. “It is real, and it cannot be underestimated,” Lavrov said in an interview aired on Russian television yesterday. However, the “inadmissibility of nuclear war” remained Russia’s “principled position” he added. Andrew Carey and Josh Pennington Report for CNN.
Lavrov also said that the war in Ukraine would probably end in a treaty, but acknowledged the terms would depend on the military situation in the country at the time. “As in any situation where armed forces are used, everything will end with a treaty,” Lavrov said in an interview with state television. “But its parameters will be determined by the stage of hostilities at which this treaty becomes a reality.” Reis Thebault and Rachel Pannett report for the Washington Post.
The U.K.’s armed forces minister James Heappey has played down comments by Lavrov on the possible use of nuclear weapons in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, dismissing them as “bravado.” Reuters reports.
Moscow’s claims that Western allies could be provoking a wider conflict by supplying Ukraine with weapons have been dismissed as “utter nonsense” by the Heappey. Responding to the suggestion from Russia’s foreign minister that the shipments meant NATO was “in essence engaged in war”, Heappey maintained that the organisation was not donating arms. BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – RAMSTEIN AIRBASE MEETING
Officials from more than 40 countries are gathering at Germany’s Ramstein airbase today, for U.S.-hosted talks expected to focus on how to arm Kyiv against a Russian onslaught in eastern Ukraine. The gathering will be led by U.S. defense secretary Lloyd Austin following his meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday. The Guardian reports.
In his opening remarks to the gathering of defense officials from more than 40 countries, Austin said that he wanted them to leave with a common understanding of Ukraine’s immediate security requirements. “We are going to keep moving heaven and earth so that we can meet them,” he said. John Ismay reports for the New York Times.
In separate remarks, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered a stark picture of the next phase of the war, as Russia attempts to take full control of southeastern and southern Ukraine over the next several weeks. “Time is not on Ukraine’s side,” Milley said in closed-door comments to the group provided to reporters traveling with him. “The outcome of this battle, right here, today, is dependent on the people in this room.” Karen DeYoung reports for the Washington Post.
Germany has said that it would enable the delivery of an unspecified number of antiaircraft tanks to Ukraine amid mounting domestic pressure to send heavy weaponry to the country. The move was announced by Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht during a meeting of defense leaders from dozens of NATO and non-NATO countries at the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany. Loveday Morris reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
President Biden yesterday announced his intention to nominate Bridget Brink as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Brink is currently U.S. ambassador to Slovakia. This comes as part of a move to restore a diplomatic presence in the country. Starting this week, diplomats who have been working from eastern Poland will make day trips to the relatively peaceful city of Lviv in western Ukraine, and return to Poland for the night. Michael Crowley and Edward Wong report for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The International Criminal Court (ICC) will take part in the joint team investigating allegations of war crimes in Ukraine following the Russian invasion, according to the E.U.’s agency for criminal justice cooperation. ICC prosecutor Karim Khan and the Prosecutors General from Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine signed an agreement for the international war crimes tribunal’s first-ever participation in an investigative team, Eurojust said. Reuters reports.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is in Moscow for meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The talks are expected to focus on humanitarian corridors out of the besieged port city of Mariupol. Yesterday, Russia’s first deputy envoy to the U.N., Dmitry Polyanski, said he saw no point in a ceasefire in Ukraine. BBC News reports.
Experts from the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) will visit the Chernobyl nuclear power plant site today, in the first full international inspection since Russian troops entered the site. A team from the international nuclear watchdog will deliver equipment, conduct radiological assessments and restore safeguards monitoring systems, the IAEA said in a statement. Rachel Pannett reports for the Washington Post.
Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is a direct threat to Europe’s security, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during a visit to India yesterday. “Targeting and killing innocent civilians. Redrawing borders by force. Subjugating the will of a free people. This goes against core principles enshrined in the U.N. Charter. In Europe, we see Russia’s aggression as a direct threat to our security,” von der Leyen said in a speech. AP reports.
E.U. energy commissioner Kadri Simson has announced that a sixth package of E.U. sanctions against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine is expected “very soon”. The exact date of the package is not yet confirmed, and as with the previous rounds of E.U. sanctions it would need approval from E.U. countries. Reuters reports.
The E.U. has evacuated around 200 Ukrainian patients requiring urgent medical care from Ukraine and neighboring countries to hospitals in other European nations, European Commission spokesperson Balazs Ujvari said yesterday. The transfer of patients has been supported by the E.U.’s first dedicated medical evacuation plane, which has been operational since March. James Frater reports for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Military spending hit record levels worldwide in 2021, passing $2 trillion for the first time despite the economic fallout from the pandemic, according to a new report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Among the report’s key findings was the boost Russia gave to its military budget in the lead-up to the war in Ukraine. Moscow’s official military spending in 2021 increased by 2.9 per cent to $65.9 billion, or just over 4 per cent of Russia’s gross domestic product, according to SIPRI. Miriam Berger reports for the Washington Post.
Israel fired artillery shells into southern Lebanon after militants there launched a rocket into northern Israel, the Israeli military has said, opening a new front in current Israeli-Palestinian tensions. Israeli officials have said they believed that a faction of Palestinian militants based in Lebanon launched the rocket, but couldn’t be certain. Dov Lieber reports for the Wall Street Journal.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un promised to strengthen the country’s nuclear weapons in a speech at a military parade where intercontinental ballistic missiles and other weapons were displayed. The latest high-profile military showcase, which was held yesterday in the North Korean capital Pyongyang, comes amid signs that North Korea has been stepping up its nuclear capability to pressure the U.S. and its allies. Min Joo Kim reports for the Washington Post.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Mannaseh Sogavare has told a visiting Japanese delegation that he has no intention of allowing China to build military bases in his country. China said it signed a security pact with the Solomon Islands earlier this month, prompting concern that the pact would significantly extend China’s military reach in the region. Reuters reports.
A Turkish court yesterday convicted prominent Turkish philanthropist and activist Osman Kavala of trying to violently overthrow the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Kavala was sentenced to life in prison without parole, in a case that has been denounced by human rights organizations and has heightened tensions with the West. Safak Timur and Elif Ince report for the New York Times.
A Gambian man, identified only as Bai L, went on trial in Germany yesterday for his alleged role in the killing of government critics in the West African Country over 15 years ago. The 46-year-old suspect is charged with crimes against humanity, murder and attempted murder. AP reports.
The leader of Nigeria’s banned Indigenous People of Biafra separatist movement has petitioned the country’s federal high court to overturn a ruling early this month that all terrorism cases will be heard in secret. Nnamdi Kanu said in court papers that the ruling contravened the constitution and several existing laws and should be nullified. BBC News reports.
Islamic extremist rebels in Mali linked to al-Qaida have said that they captured mercenary fighters from Russia’s Wagner Group earlier this month. It’s the first time that Mali’s extremist rebels known as JNIM have claimed to capture Russian fighters. The Wagner Group fighters were seized in the first week of April in the mountainous Segou region of central Mali, said the JNIM statement. Baba Ahmed reports for AP.
At least 17,000 people have been arrested in El Salvador amid a nationwide crackdown on gang violence as part of a state of emergency declared last month. In a post on Twitter, El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele said that on Sunday alone 1,000 people were arrested. Rights group Amnesty International expressed concerns yesterday that some people were victims of “arbitrary detention by security forces.” Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
CNN has obtained 2,319 text messages that former President Trump’s White House chief of staff Mark Meadows sent and received between Election Day 2020 and President Biden’s inauguration. The trove of texts offers a picture of how Trump’s inner circle worked to try to overturn the election results and how they reacted to the Jan. 6 attack. The texts also demonstrate how Meadows played a key role in the attempts to stop Biden’s certification on Jan. 6. Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb and Elizabeth Stuart report for CNN.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Elon Musk acquired Twitter for $44 billion yesterday, the company has announced. “Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated,” Musk said in a news release. “I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.” Under the terms of the deal, Twitter will become a private company and shareholders will receive $54.20 per share. The deal is expected to close this year. Douglas MacMillan, Faiz Siddiqui, Rachel Lerman and Taylor Telford report for the Washington Post.
A New York state judge has held former President Trump in contempt of court for failing to comply with a subpoena from the state attorney general’s office. The judge, Arthur Engoron, ordered Trump to fully respond to the subpoena from New York attorney general Letitia James (D) and assessed a fine of $10,000 a day until he satisfied the court’s requirements. Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess and William K. Rashbaum report for the New York Times.
A federal judge said yesterday that he would block the Biden administration from exempting migrants from expulsion under Title 42 – a Trump-era public health order – until the policy is officially lifted next month. Judge Robert R. Summerhays of the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana did not yet rule on the issue of whether Title 42, adopted early in the coronavirus pandemic, should be kept in place. But he said he would in the meantime grant a request from the states of Missouri, Louisiana and Arizona to prevent the federal government from taking any early steps to disregard Title 42. Miriam Jordan and Eileen Sullivan report for the New York Times.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday will hear a challenge (Biden v. Texas) to the Biden Administration’s repeal of the Trump Migrant Protection Protocols—which require non-Mexican migrants to wait in Mexico until their asylum claims are heard. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ended the policy last June. The two questions before the Court are whether DHS followed proper administrative procedure and whether the law lets it end the policy. The Wall Street Journal provides analysis.
COVID-19 has infected over 81.04 million people and has now killed over 991.609 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 510.28 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.22 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.