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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 – WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS
Ukrainian authorities filed the first war crimes charges yesterday against 10 individual Russian soldiers accused of taking civilians hostage and mistreating them in the Kyiv suburb of Bucha. All 10 were noncommissioned officers and privates from Russia’s 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade, one of the units that took part in the monthlong occupation of Bucha. Brett Forrest reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.K. has announced plans to send experts to help Ukraine with gathering evidence and prosecuting war crimes, with a team due to arrive in Poland in early May. “Russia has brought barbarity to Ukraine and committed vile atrocities, including against women. British expertise will help uncover the truth and hold (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s regime to account for its actions,” U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said. Reuters reports.
There is credible evidence that Russian forces are detaining civilians in occupied Ukrainian towns, and brutally interrogating them for any supposed links to legitimate Ukrainian government or to independent media outlets, Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said yesterday. There is also evidence that those suspected of having such connections are being beaten or tortured before being transferred to the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic,” where they are reportedly disappeared or murdered. Carpenters’ statement is provided by U.S. Mission to the OSCE.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
5 Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian capital Kyiv as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres ended his visit there yesterday. It was the first such attack on Kyiv in weeks since fighting died down around the city after Russian forces withdrew from its suburbs. Ellen Francis, Andrew Jeong, Amy Cheng, Julian Mark and Julian Duplain report for the Washington Post.
Russian forces are making “slow and uneven” progress in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, but are still struggling to overcome the same supply line problems that hampered their initial offensive, a senior Pentagon official has said. “The Russians haven’t overcome all their logistics problems,” the official said, citing slow going on the shipment of food, fuel, weapons and ammunition, despite having much shorter supply lines now than they did during the war’s first several weeks. Eric Schmitt reports for the New York Times.
The battle of Donbas remains Russia’s main strategic focus, however, due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian territorial gains have been limited and achieved at significant cost to Russian forces, according to an intelligence update by the U.K. Ministry of Defense.
A checkpoint in the Russian village of Krupets, Kursk, was hit by incoming shelling and mortar fire, the regional governor has said in a Telegram post. “This morning in the Rylsky district near the border was not peaceful. Around 8:00 a.m. (local time) a checkpoint in the village of Krupets was shelled with mortar fire. The firing points were suppressed by retaliatory fire from our border guards and the military,” Gov. Roman Starovoyt said. Hannah Ritchie and Teele Rebane report for CNN.
Russia’s armed forces struck a number of space industry and military sites across Ukraine, the Russian defense ministry has said. Russian artillery launched 975 “firing missions” overnight, their targets including the Artyom missile and space enterprise in Kyiv, a string of unnamed military assets, and three traction power substations near the Fastov, Krasnosyolka and Polonnoe railway hubs. Russia has been targeting rail infrastructure as part of a strategy to disrupt military supply routes and attack morale, experts have said. Ayumi Fujimoto reports for NBC News.
Russia has used a diesel submarine in the Black Sea to strike Ukrainian military targets with Kalibr cruise missiles. This is the first time Russia’s military has reported using submarine strikes against Ukrainian targets, Interfax news agency reported today. Reuters reports.
Ukraine is boosting its defenses near its southern border with Transnistria, following unexplained explosions in the pro-Russian breakaway region earlier this week. “We have … strengthened the protection of the state border with Transnistria, where the Russian provocations continue in an effort to create tension for Odessa and the region,” Sergey Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odessa regional military administration, said. The cause of the recent blasts is not clear, with Russian and Ukrainian officials blaming each other and denying involvement. Hannah Knowles reports for the Washington Post.
Ukraine’s nuclear regulator recorded a missile flying directly over the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant on April 16, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a news update yesterday. Director Rafael Mariano Grossi said the IAEA was looking into the report, which would be “extremely serious” if confirmed. “Had such a missile gone astray, it could have had a severe impact on the physical integrity of the NPP (nuclear power plant) potentially leading to a nuclear accident.”
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – MARIUPOL
Russian forces have closed off an area in Mariupol, potentially ahead of another attempt to storm the Azovstal steel plant, a Ukrainian official has said. “For now, the occupiers closed the square of the Left Bank district from Veselka Park again. This may be due to another attempt to storm Azovstal or street fights,” said Petro Andrushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol. Tim Lister and Julia Presniakova report for CNN.
Ukraine hopes to evacuate civilians who are holed up in the Azovstal steel plant today. “An operation is planned today to get civilians out of the plant,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said without giving details. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The House yesterday overwhelmingly passed legislation that would allow President Biden to use a World War II-era law to quickly supply weapons to Ukraine on loan. The 417-to-10 vote reflects a growing bipartisan sense of urgency in Congress to bolster the Ukrainian military as it digs in for a protracted artillery war in the south and east of the country. The Senate passed the legislation unanimously earlier this month. Catie Edmondson reports for the New York Times.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday that the U.S. would “strongly support” Sweden and Finland should they decide to pursue membership in NATO. “We, of course, look to them to make that decision. If that’s what they decide, we will strongly support it,” he told Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) during a House hearing. Blinken told Costa he could not provide a timeline but noted it is “under very active consideration by both countries. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
President Biden asked Congress yesterday for an additional $33 billion in military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. The funding request includes $20 billion in military and security assistance, including weapons and ammunition for Ukraine and its regional allies and money to replenish U.S. weapons stockpiles. The package would also include $8.5 billion for the government of Ukraine to respond to the country’s humanitarian crisis, counter Russian disinformation and to continue to provide basic services to the Ukrainian people, a senior administration official said. Shannon Pettypiece and Rebecca Shabad report for NBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The Chinese government will suspend its tariff on imported coal starting on Sunday, a decision that will likely benefit Russia at a time when its coal exports to Europe are being phased out. The Customs Tariff Commission of China’s cabinet said in a brief statement that it was suspending the tariff to improve China’s energy security. The tariff suspension will eliminate the tariff from Sunday until March 31 next year, when it will be reconsidered. Keith Bradsher reports for the New York Times.
The U.K. military will send some 8,000 troops to take part in exercises across Europe as part of a larger allied deployment to deter further Russian aggression. Dozens of tanks will be deployed to countries ranging from Finland to North Macedonia this summer, and joining them will be tens of thousands of troops from NATO and the Joint Expeditionary Force alliance, which includes Finland and Sweden. The Ministry of Defense said the action had been long-planned and subsequently enhanced in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Jamie Grierson reports for the Guardian.
The U.K. government has asked operators of the country’s three remaining coal-fired power stations to keep them online, overriding plans to shut them down in the midst of an energy crunch brought on by the war in Ukraine. “In light of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, it is right that we explore a wide range of options to further bolster our energy security and domestic supply,” a U.K. government spokesperson said. However, “it remains our firm commitment to end the use of coal power by October 2024,” he added. Tom Espiner reports for BBC News.
The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has criticised his own organisation’s security council while visiting Kyiv. During a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Guterres said the council had failed to prevent or end the war in Ukraine. “Let me be very clear. The security council failed to do everything in its power to prevent and end this war. This is a source of great disappointment, frustration and anger,” Guterres said during his opening remarks. The Guardian reports.
The E.U. has warned European buyers of Russian gas that they will be in breach of sanctions against Moscow if they accept the Kremlin’s demands for payment to be completed in roubles. The warning comes after several European companies in Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia indicated they would comply with the March 31 decree by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Valentina Pop and Andy Bounds report for the Financial Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The U.S. government has assessed that Russian intelligence was behind an attack earlier this month on a Nobel Prize winner and prominent Russian editor, Dmitry Muratov. Muratov, who had criticized the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine, was about to travel on a train from Moscow to Samara when an assailant attacked him with a mixture of red paint and acetone, leaving his eyes with a chemical burn. Paul Sonne and Mary Ilyushina report for the Washington Post.
Two British volunteers have been abducted by Russian forces in Ukraine as they were evacuating civilians, Dominik Byrne, the co-founder, and chief operating officer of the UK not-for-profit, Presidium Network has said. The aid workers lost contact with the organization on Monday morning as they were traveling south of the city of Zaporizhzhia in central Ukraine to help organize a civilian evacuation of the area. Arnaud Siad reports for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Premier of the British Virgin Islands Andrew Fahie, was arrested yesterday in the Miami area on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, the authorities have said. According to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. Southern District of Florida, Fahie, who is the elected head of government of the small territory, requested an upfront payment of $500,000 to let cocaine slip through the territory en route to Miami and New York. He was charged with conspiracy to import at least five kilograms of a cocaine mixture and conspiracy to launder money. Vimal Patel reports for the New York Times.
Two South Koreans have been arrested on charges of stealing military secrets on behalf of a suspected North Korean spy agent who paid them in cryptocurrency, the police said yesterday. One of the individuals was an executive at a cyber-currency company and the other was a South Korean military officer, who helped steal classified military data by taking pictures with a smartphone. Chow Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived in Saudi Arabia yesterday for a two-day visit, in an effort to ease tensions between the rival Middle Eastern powers whose relations soured after the 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. The trip comes three weeks after a Turkish court halted the trial of Saudi security officials charged with killing Khashoggi, a reversal for Erdogan. The Turkish presidency said in a statement that the leaders of the two countries would review all aspects of cooperation and exchange views on regional and international issues. Stephen Kalin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Outlining a new four-pronged investigation strategy to the Security Council yesterday, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) pledged his commitment to delivering justice for crimes committed in Libya. “This situation cannot be a never-ending story”, said Karim Khan, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. “Justice delayed may not always be justice denied, but justice that can still be arrived at.” UN News Centre reports.
More than 3,000 refugees, migrants and asylum seekers died or went missing while attempting to reach Europe via the Central and Western Mediterranean and Atlantic last year, a new U.N. refugee agency report has shown. U.N.H.C.R.’s Shabia Mantoo told a news briefing in Geneva the 2021 figure represented nearly twice the number of lives lost in the previous year. UNCHR UK provides a summary of Mantoo’s comments.
Israeli police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades towards rock-hurling Palestinian youths at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque on Friday. At least 42 Palestinians were injured in the early morning clashes at Islam’s third-holiest site, the Palestinian Red Crescent said. Reuters reports.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), who chairs the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, told reporters yesterday that the committee will hold eight hearings throughout the month of June. Thompson also said the committee will be reaching back out to the three lawmakers it initially asked to speak with by the end of the week. Those three are: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Reps. Scott Perry (R-PA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH). Annie Grayer, Daniella Diaz and Ryan Nobles report for CNN.
Gun thefts are on the rise in major cities across the U.S., a factor police and criminologists say is helping fuel the growing homicide rate. The number of stolen guns reported to police rose by 29% in 10 major U.S. cities over the past two years, according to data compiled by The Wall Street Journal. Martin Devine, commander of the Pittsburgh police department’s narcotics and vice unit, attributed the surge of stolen guns to an uptick in gun sales and to new gun owners behaving irresponsibly. Zusha Elinson and Cameron McWhirter report for the Wall Street Journal.
COVID-19 has infected over 81.25 million people and has now killed over 993.164 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 512.50 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.23 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.