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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 is preparing to annex vast new swaths of Ukrainian territory in the coming days, according to U.S. intelligence. A senior U.S. official has revealed “highly credible” intelligence indicates that Russia will probably stage fraudulent referendums in mid-May in which citizens of Donetsk, Luhansk or Kherson appear to express support for leaving Ukraine and becoming part of Russia. After that, Russia would probably install leaders loyal to Moscow in those areas. Missy Ryan, John Hudson, Louisa Loveluck and David Stern report for the Washington Post.
Russian President Vladimir Putin could formally declare war on Ukraine as soon as May 9, U.S. and Western officials believe. A formal declaration of war could potentially bolster public support for the invasion. It would also, under Russian law, allow Putin to mobilize reserve forces and draft conscripts, which officials say Russia desperately needs amid a growing manpower shortage. Natasha Bertrand, Katie Bo Lillis, Jennifer Hansler, Alex Marquardt and Brad Lendon report for CNN.
Russia has struck a military airfield near Ukraine’s southwestern city of Odesa, destroying drones, missiles and ammunition supplied to Ukraine by the U.S. and its European allies, Russia’s defense ministry said today. “High-precision Onyx missiles struck a logistics centre at a military airfield in the Odesa region through which foreign weapons were being delivered,” the defence ministry said. “Hangars containing unmanned Bayraktar TB2 drones, as well as missiles and ammunition from the U.S. and European countries, were destroyed,” it added. Reuters reports.
A 14-year-old boy was killed and a 17-year-old girl was wounded in a missile strike in the southern port of Odesa, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said during yesterday’s nightly address. Zelenskyy said the missile hit a dormitory. Earlier, the secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council, Oleksiy Danylov, was quoted by media as saying the strike also hit a church, blowing the roof off. Reuters reports.
Russia has been taking measures to replenish “significant losses” of military equipment during its invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian armed forces has said in its latest operational update. It said that according to available information, 17 tanks and 60 BMP-1 military vehicles were taken out of storage in Russia between 27 April and 2 May and were sent to the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russian troops. BBC News reports.
The Ukrainian military has confirmed that its forces have won back control of several settlements to the north and east of Kharkiv, making it more difficult for the Russians to launch missile and artillery attacks against the city. Ruska Lozova — a village north of Kharkiv, “returned to our control despite aggravation and losses,” the military said yesterday. The military also said the village of Verkhnya Rohanka in the east of Kharkiv was back in Ukrainian hands, and that the operation had been led by Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, the commander of land forces. Kostan Nechyporenki and Tim Lister report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – EVACUATIONS
About 200 civilians, including 20 children, remain at the Mariupol steel plant where Ukrainian soldiers have refused Russian demands to surrender, Ukrainian officials have said. Mykhailo Vershynin, head of the Donetsk regional patrol police, said a convoy of buses was supposed to leave yesterday for Zaporizhzhia, but “something didn’t work out.” The convoy is instead set to leave today. David Stern and Hannah Knowles report for the Washington Post.
Almost 1.1 million people have been evacuated from Ukraine to Russian territory since the invasion began, Russian officials have said. Of that figure, almost 200,000 are children, according to Russia’s defense ministry. Russian authorities have also claimed that thousands of people have been evacuated in the past 24 hours from “danger areas.” Tim Lister and Josh Pennington report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
More than 70 M777 Howitzers have arrived in Ukraine — which is about 80% of the total 90 the U.S. committed to giving the country, a senior U.S. defense official said yesterday. “Over 200 Ukrainian artillerymen” have now been trained on the M777 Howitzers, including a group of 50 Ukrainians that are scheduled to graduate from the training today, the official added. Ellie Kaufman reports for CNN.
The U.S. embassy in Ukraine hopes to return to Kyiv by the end of May if conditions permit, the charge d’affaires, Kristina Kvien, said yesterday. “We very much hope that the conditions will permit us to go back into Kyiv by the end of the month,” Kvien said. “We listen to the security professionals, and when they tell us we can go back, we will go back.” Mohammed Tawfeeq reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The E.U. is likely to propose ending purchases of Russian crude oil by the 27-country bloc before the end of 2022, and a ban on purchases of Russian refined-oil products by the end of the year. The proposals, set to be circulated to E.U. member states today, will form part of the sixth package of E.U. sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. All 27 E.U. member states would need to back the new sanctions proposals, and diplomats warn that a consensus might take some time. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The E.U.’s sixth package of sanctions against Moscow will also exclude more Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system, a network that enables millions of international transactions per day. Speaking at a news conference, E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell did not say which Russian banks would be targeted. Andrew Jeong and Bryan Pietsch report for the Washington Post.
The E.U.’s anti-fake news agency, EUvsDisinfo, is looking to counter Chinese propaganda, especially as it relates to the war in Ukraine. EUvsDisinfo, a project from the European External Action Service, has reportedly published two reports in Chinese over the past few weeks about misinformation on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Among the litany of lies Russia has spread about its war in Ukraine, disinformation that Ukraine is developing biological weapons is particularly insidious,” the European External Action Service said in a translated tweet originally posted in Chinese. Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban told Pope Francis last month during a meeting at the Vatican that “the Russians have a plan, that everything [in Ukraine] will be over on May 9,” the pontiff said in remarks published by an Italian newspaper. The pope said he hopes the war in Ukraine will end on that date but expressed concerns over the escalating conflict: “I am pessimistic, but we must make every possible gesture to stop the war.” Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
A World Health Organization spokesperson has confirmed that its European region would hold a special meeting next week on the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on health and healthcare. “There will be a meeting on 10 May on the impact of war on Ukraine’s health system,” said Tarik Jasarevic at a Geneva press briefing. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russia has rerouted internet traffic in the Ukrainian region of Kherson through Russian communications infrastructure, according to the internet service disruption monitor NetBlocks. The London-based organisation said it had tracked a near-total internet blackout across Kherson on Saturday. BBC News reports.
A coalition of 25 human rights organizations yesterday called on the U.N. to condemn Russia’s imprisonment of Vladimir Kara-Murza, a journalist, activist and Kremlin critic who is being held for speaking out against the war in Ukraine. The Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy called on U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet to make public comments condemning Kara-Murza’s detention. The U.N. has so far not released a public statement condemning the activist’s imprisonment last month. Brad Dress reports for The Hill.
Russia’s foreign ministry accused Israel on Tuesday of supporting neo-Nazis in Ukraine. The comments further escalate a row which began when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov claimed Adolf Hitler had Jewish origins. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The premier of the British Virgin Islands has demanded his immediate release from U.S. custody, arguing he is immune from prosecution on cocaine-smuggling charges because he is the elected, constitutional head of government of the British overseas territory. An attorney for Andrew Fahie made the request in a filing with Miami federal court on Monday. Joshua Goodman reports for AP.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed responsibility yesterday for a deadly shooting that left an Israeli security guard dead at the entrance of a Jewish settlement in the West Bank last week. It was the first time Hamas has claimed such an attack targeting Israelis in the occupied West Bank since 2018. On Sunday, Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip also called for more attacks against Israelis in the West Bank, saying the “real battle arena is there.” In a speech, Yehiyeh Sinwar saluted the attackers who killed the guard. AP reports.
The number of terrorist attacks in the Sahel region of Africa “continues to increase” according to the U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, who arrived in the capital of Niger, Niamey, on Monday. Speaking after meeting Niger President Mohamed Bazoum, he said that the “international community must realize” that terrorism is “not just a regional or African issue, but one that threatens the whole world.” He also reiterated his call for more resources to tackle the problem saying that “peace, stability and prosperity in Niger and across the Sahel remains an absolute priority for the United Nations.” UN News Centre.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack sent letters yesterday seeking interviews with three Republican members of Congress – Rep. Andy Biggs (AZ), Rep. Mo Brooks (AL), and Rep. Ronny Jackson (TX). The panel also said it had gathered evidence that some House Republicans sought presidential pardons in the aftermath of the violence that engulfed the Capitol. Luke Broadwater reports for the New York Times.
Former New York City police officer Thomas Webster has been found guilty in federal court after assaulting a Washington D.C. police officer during the Jan. 6 attack. Webster was the first person charged in connection with the riot to defend himself at trial by claiming that the officers protecting the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, had used excessive force against the pro-Trump mob that stormed the building. Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.
A federal judge has rejected a lawsuit filed by the Republican National Committee (RNC) in March seeking to stop one of its vendors, Salesforce.com Inc., from turning over records to the Jan. 6 committee. The ruling, published late Sunday, means that the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack can obtain data from one of the RNC’s vendors about fundraising and political efforts. Alexa Corse and Lindsay Wise report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Supreme Court has voted to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, according to a leaked initial draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito. “We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” he writes in the document, labeled as the “Opinion of the Court.” “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” The immediate impact of the ruling as drafted in February would be to end a half-century guarantee of federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to restrict or ban abortion. No draft decision in the modern history of the court has been disclosed publicly while a case was still pending. Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward report for POLITICO.
Sources have said that Chief Justice John Roberts did not want to completely overturn Roe v. Wade, meaning he would have dissented from part of Alito’s draft opinion – likely with the court’s three liberals. That would mean that the five conservative justices that would make up the majority overturning Roe are Alito and Justices Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. Tierney Sneed, Ariane de Vogue and Joan Biskupic report for CNN.
Philadelphia police officer, Edsaul Mendoza, who was fired after he fatally shot a 12-year-old boy in the back in March has been charged with murder in connection with the shooting. Larry Krasner, the Philadelphia district attorney, said at a news conference yesterday that Mendoza was arrested on Sunday and had been charged with first-degree murder, third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and possession of an instrument of crime. He was being held without bail, Krasner added. Jesus Jimenez reports for the New York Times.
A special grand jury was selected yesterday to hear evidence in a county prosecutor’s probe into efforts by former President Trump and others to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results. The jurors were sought for a “special purpose” grand jury, which wouldn’t have the authority to return an indictment but could make recommendations regarding criminal prosecution. The special grand jury, which can sit for up to a year, will only focus on this investigation. Cameron McWhirter and Alexa Corse report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Navy is allowing sailors to move off the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and live at a local installation after a string of deaths over the past year, including three suicides last month alone. “The Commanding Officer of USS George Washington has taken steps to provide an opportunity to every Sailor who is currently living on the ship to elect to move to off-ship accommodations at a local installation,” Lt. Cmdr. Rob Myers, a Naval Air Force Atlantic spokesperson said in a statement. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper has claimed in his memoir that former President Trump asked authorities if they could shoot protestors in the legs amid the demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd. Esper enraged Trump by publicly stating in June 2020 that he opposed invoking the Insurrection Act — an 1807 law that permits the president to use active-duty troops on U.S. soil — in order to quell protests against racial injustice. Mike Allen reports for Axios.
COVID-19 has infected over 81.44 million people and has now killed over 993.999 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 514.284 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.