Signup to receive the Early Edition in your inbox here.
A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
The chief of the general staff of the Russian military, Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the country’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, made a visit to front-line positions in eastern Ukraine late last week in an effort to “change the course” of Russia’s flagging offensive there. According to a Ukrainian official, Ukrainian forces launched an attack on one position visited by Gerasimov, but he had already departed for Russia. Two U.S. officials have confirmed that Gerasimov had been in eastern Ukraine for the past couple of days. Michael Schwirtz and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times.
Russia will attempt to open up a new front against Ukraine from Moldova, Ukrainian military sources have said. According to one source, there are a “number of indicators” pointing to an attack on the former soviet state, which has only 3,250 soldiers in its army. A successful takeover of Moldova would allow Russian troops access to the Black Sea port of Odesa from the west. Larisa Brown reports for the Times.
It is likely that more than a quarter of Russian military units in Ukraine have been rendered combat ineffective, the U.K.’s Defense Ministry has said in an intelligence update. Some of Russia’s most elite units, including the VDV Airborne Forces, have suffered the highest levels of attrition. It will probably take years for Russia to reconstitute these forces, the updated added.
Two Russian Raptor patrol boats were destroyed near Snake Island by a Ukrainian Bayraktar drone Monday morning, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense has reported. “Two Russian Raptor patrol boats were destroyed in the early hours of this morning near Snake [Zmiinyi] Island. #Bayraktar works! Together to Victory!” the ministry tweeted. Hannah Ritchie reports for CNN.
Russia’s Belgorod region, which borders Ukraine, was hit by two explosions this morning, governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a Telegram post. The explosions come after a large fire broke out at a Russian Ministry of Defense military installation in Belgorod on Sunday. The cause of the incident was unclear. Hannah Ritchie reports for CNN.
Ukrainian attacks have destroyed a headquarters for Russia’s ground troops and airborne forces in Izyum, an eastern city near the Donbas region that has become a hub for Russian military operations. Oleksiy Arestovych, a military adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, also claimed that the attack resulted in significant casualties, including among senior Russian officials. Reis Thebault reports for the Washington Post.
A Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter jet has been destroyed during an air battle in the eastern Donetsk region, the Russian military has claimed. At a press briefing, military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov said Russian air defences also destroyed two Tochka-U missiles in Luhansk, as well as a Smerch missile in Donetsk. BBC News reports.
The Russian military has launched a missile strike on a bridge near Odesa that runs across the Dniester Estuary, according to a Telegram post by Odesa’s regional administration. The bridge, located southwest of Odesa, is the only one to cross the estuary, making it a vital piece of infrastructure. It is the third time Russian forces have attacked the bridge, the administration said. Rahcel Elbaum and Mariia Ulianovska report for NBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – MARIUPOL
A U.N. and Red Cross operation to evacuate civilians trapped in the Azovstal steel plant in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol is underway, the spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Ukraine confirmed yesterday. “A safe passage operation…is ongoing today”, said Saviano Abreu, of OCHA in Ukraine in a note to correspondents, adding that the efforts are being “coordinated” by the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, “in coordination with the parties to the conflict.” UN News Centre reports.
About 100 civilians have been evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant, the last Ukrainian holdout in the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said yesterday. Hundreds of people — dozens of whom are injured — are thought to still be trapped inside the complex. They include civilians and Ukrainian forces who are running out of water, food and medicine after two months. CNN reports.
After a period of quiet which allowed for some evacuations, the Azovstal steel complex in Mariupol has come under fire again, according to a Ukrainian officer. The occupiers began firing on Azovstal again as soon as the evacuation of some Ukrainians was completed,” the commander of the 12th brigade of the National Guard Denis Schlega told a Ukrainian television channel. Mariya Knight, Olga Voitovych and Tim Lister report for CNN.
Buses evacuating civilians from Mariupol left the city this morning, an aide to the city’s mayor has said. The civilians on board the buses were not from the Azovstal steelworks, unlike some previous convoys. An unknown number of civilians and fighters remain trapped at Azovstal. The Guardian reports.
Russian military’s “amazing incompetence” in Ukraine has resulted in a loss of generals and other top officers that is unprecedented in modern history, Retired Adm. James Stavridis, former NATO supreme allied commander for Europe, has claimed. “In modern history, there is no situation comparable in terms of the deaths of generals. … Here, on the Russian side, in a two-month period, we’ve seen at least a dozen, if not more, Russian generals killed,” Stavridis said during an interview on WABC 770 AM. Chloe Folmar reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS
Open sources, like videos on social media, have become an essential part of the effort to document war crimes in Ukraine, however, questions have been raised about whether any of this evidence will hold up in court. Data from open sources is untested at the International Criminal Court and has been tossed out by national courts in some cases. “The proliferation of open-source investigators can go two ways,” said Siobhan Allen, of Global Legal Action Network, which has worked with Bellingcat to establish protocols for using open-source data in court cases. The growing use of open sources could help normalize them in court, she said, “but if 90% of people are doing it in a slapdash way…it’s only going to increase the perception that it’s not trustworthy.” Ian Lovett reports for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi met with Polish President Andrzej Duda today, as the U.S. moves to escalate its investment in Ukraine’s war effort. Pelosi, whose unannounced visit to Kyiv on Saturday made her the most senior American official to go there since the war began, vowed on Sunday to back Ukraine “until victory is won.” Ron DePasquale reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. has started to train Ukrainian troops on howitzer artillery systems and radars at U.S. military installations in Germany, the Pentagon press secretary John Kirby has said. Kirby noted that Germany is one of “roughly three” sites being used by the U.S. to train Ukrainians outside of their country, but he would not say where the other sites were. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
U.S. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has said that he thinks “it’s only a matter of time” before President Biden visits Ukraine. Schiff also detailed the roughly three-hour discussions members of the Congressional delegation to Kyiv had with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy yesterday, saying that the meeting focused on Zelenskyys priorities for further assistance. Sarah Fortinsky reports for CNN.
First Lady Jill Biden will become the latest U.S. political figure to visit eastern Europe amid the war in Ukraine. The first lady will travel to Romania and Slovakia, two NATO members that share a border with Ukraine, during the five-day trip that starts Thursday. Max Burman reports for NBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Denmark and Sweden are summoning Russia’s ambassadors after a Russian spy plane violated the airspace of both countries. Officials from the two countries said the plane entered Danish airspace on the evening of April 29 east of the Danish Baltic island of Bornholm before flying into Swedish airspace. Radio Free Europe reports.
Finland will decide to apply for NATO membership on May 12, according to anonymous government sources. The decision to join will come in two steps, with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto first announcing his approval for the Nordic neighbour of Russia to join the Western defence alliance, followed by parliamentary groups giving their approval for the application. Reuters reports.
Hungary remains opposed to the introduction of an E.U. embargo on oil and gas imported from Russia, government spokesperson Zoltan Kovacs has said. A total embargo on the two Russian fossil fuels is currently being considered by the E.U. Commission for inclusion in its sixth round of sanctions against Moscow. E.U. energy ministers are hoping to reach a united stance on Russian gas and oil via a series of emergency talks this week. BBC News reports.
The European Commission may spare Hungary and Slovakia from an embargo on buying Russian oil, wary of how dependent the two countries are on Russian crude, two E.U. officials have said. To keep the 27-nation bloc united, the Commission might offer Slovakia and Hungary “an exemption or a long transition period”, one of the officials said. The oil embargo is likely to be phased in anyway, most likely only taking full effect from the start of next year, according to the officials. Jan Strupczewski and Kate Abnett report for Reuters.
Taiwan’s foreign minister said yesterday that his island nation is carefully studying Russia’s invasion of Ukraine for lessons applicable to its situation with China. “We try to see what we can learn from Ukraine in defending ourselves,” Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said during an interview on CNN, noting how the Russian invasion has been unexpectedly bogged down. David Cohen reports for POLITICO.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The Russian rouble was set to be used in occupied Kherson from Sunday, but Kherson’s Ukrainian mayor, Ihor Kolykhaiev, who has now been overthrown by Russian authorities, has said that he doesn’t believe this will be possible while the only working banking system in the region is Ukrainian. Despite being occupied for 60 days, many residents are trying to find small ways to defy the Russian forces – like exchanging any roubles they receive back into Ukraine’s currency, the hryvnia. Caroline Davies reports for BBC News.
Russia will pull out of the International Space Station (ISS) in response to international sanctions imposed on the country following its invasion of Ukraine, state media has reported. “The decision has been taken already, we’re not obliged to talk about it publicly,” Tass and RIA Novosti reported Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Russian space agency Roscosmos, as saying. Bloomberg reports.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov defended Russia’s goal of Ukraine’s “denazification” on Sunday, saying that he believed Hitler had Jewish heritage. “The wise Jewish people say that the worst anti-Semites are Jews,” he said, hinting at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s Jewish heritage. Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid has called remarks by Lavrov “unforgivable and outrageous,” and has summoned the Russian ambassador to Isreal for a “clarification meeting.”
The war in Ukraine is aggravating a “triple food, energy and financial crisis,” across Africa, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said during a press conference with Senegalese President Macky Sall. The U.N. chief made the remarks after a meeting with Sall, who said that the war in Ukraine was “a human tragedy” which will have “a dramatic impact on economies, in particular, those of developing countries.” UN News Centre reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
European officials are preparing to make a fresh push to salvage the 2015 nuclear deal between the U.S. and Iran, offering to send a top E.U. negotiator to Tehran in an effort to break a stalemate in talks. Enrique Mora, the E.U. coordinator of the negotiations, has told Iranian counterparts he is ready to return to Tehran to open a pathway through the deadlock, according to Western diplomats. So far, Iran hasn’t responded with an invitation. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Saudi Arabia feels “let down” by the U.S. in tackling security threats to the kingdom and wider region by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement, a senior member of the Saudi royal family and former intelligence chief has said. “Saudis consider the relationship as being strategic, but (feel) its being let down at a time when we thought that America and Saudi Arabia should be together in facing what we would consider to be a joint, not just irritant, but danger to the stability and security of the area,” Prince Turki al-Faisal said in a video interview, referring to Houthi missile and drone attacks. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
At least 100 people have been killed in the past two weeks, in a spate of terrorist attacks targetting minorities in Afghanistan. The attacks, carried out by the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan – known as Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K – are an attempt to undermine the Taliban government and have reinforced concerns about a potential resurgence of extremist groups in the region. Christina Goldbaum reports for the New York Times.
The U.K. is poised to impose a form of direct rule over the British Virgin Islands after the Caribbean territory’s premier was arrested in Miami on suspicion of drug running. A U.K.-appointed commission of inquiry has also found rampant failing in governance in the territory, with its highly critical final report recommending that the territory should have its constitution suspended, its elected government dissolved and be effectively ruled from London. Patrick Wintour reports for the Guardian.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Georgia man Brian Ulrich has pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy, admitting he conspired to stop President Biden from taking office through force in connection with the Jan. 6 attack. Ulrich is the second Jan. 6 defendant to plead guilty to seditious conspiracy in the most serious case the Justice Department has brought to date. Appearing virtually at a hearing on Friday, Ulrich also pleaded guilty to the charge of obstructing an official proceeding. Alexa Corse reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The FBI performed potentially millions of searches of American electronic data last year without a warrant, according to an annual report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The report, published Friday, disclosed that the FBI conducted as many as 3.4 million searches of U.S. data that had been previously collected by the National Security Agency, a revelation likely to stoke concerns in Congress about government surveillance and privacy. Dustin Volz reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A member of a brutal cell of British Islamic State fighters who tortured Western hostages, killing four Americans, was sentenced to life in prison on Friday. Alexander Kotey, who pleaded guilty last year to eight criminal counts, including hostage-taking resulting in death, conspiring to murder Americans outside the U.S., and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III in a federal courtroom packed with victims and their relatives. Sadie Gurman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas defended his department’s new disinformation board yesterday, arguing that it does not infringe on free speech and was implemented to combat dangerous misinformation being spread by South American cartels. Mayorkas emphasised that the board will only tackle rhetoric that presents a threat to the homeland, citing disinformation spread by cartels and drug smugglers about the U.S. border that has led to a surge at crossings. Brad Dress reports for The Hill.
COVID-19 has infected over 81.37 million people and has now killed over 993.733 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 513.890 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.24 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.