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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
The U.S. has provided intelligence about Russian units that has allowed Ukrainians to target many of the Russian generals who have died in action in the Ukraine war, senior U.S. officials have said. The targeting help is part of a classified effort by the Biden administration to provide real-time battlefield intelligence to Ukraine. Ukrainian officials have said they have killed approximately 12 generals on the front lines, a number that has astonished military analysts. Julian E. Barnes, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times.
The Kremlin is carrying out strikes on infrastructure that is critical to Ukraine’s efforts to resupply its forces in their defense against Russia’s invasion, Ukrainian officials and the Pentagon said yesterday. Russia’s targets have included electrical substations, a railroad facility and a bridge in two major cities in western and central Ukraine. However, Ukraine is still able to move weapons through the country a senior U.S. official said. Abigail Hauslohner, Dan Lamothe and Hannah Allam report for the Washington Post.
A Russian rocket attack has injured at least 25 civilians, six of whom were hospitalized, the military chief of the eastern Donetsk region in Ukraine has said. Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Donetsk regional military administration, said in a post on Telegram that the attack occurred overnight, damaging nine homes, a school and other civilian buildings in the city of Kramatorsk. Bryan Pietsch reports for the Washington Post.
Over 600 Ukrainians were killed overnight, according to claims made by Russia’s Ministry of Defense. In a post on Telegram, it said Russian artillery had struck multiple Ukrainian military posts and equipment, including aviation equipment at the Kanatovo airfield in the central Kirovohrad region, and a large ammunition depot in the southern city of Mykolaiv. BBC News reports.
The Ukrainian armed forces say the Russians have had “no success” with efforts to break through front lines in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions over the past 24 hours. In its operational update for today, the General Staff said: “Lyman, Severodonetsk and Popasna areas. The enemy units are trying to conduct offensive operations; no success.” Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych report for CNN.
Russia will likely seek to inflate the threat posed to Ukrainian posed by Belarusian drills in order to fix Ukrainian forces in the North, preventing them from being committed to the battle for Donbas, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s intelligence update. However, deviation from normal exercise activity that could pose a threat to allies and partners is not currently anticipated.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov yesterday dismissed speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin planned to declare war against Ukraine and a national mobilisation on May 9. Asked about speculation from some Western politicians that Putin will declare war against Ukraine on May 9, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “There is no chance of that. It’s nonsense.” Peskov also said that people should not listen to speculation that there could be a decision on a national mobilisation. Reuters reports.
U.S. Cyber Command Director Gen. Paul Nakasone yesterday challenged the prevailing narrative that Russia hasn’t launched destructive cyberattacks against Ukraine amid its military invasion. Nakasone said his agency has observed a series of destructive attacks in Ukraine, on top of those that targeted the country’s satellite communications system in March. Ines Kagubare reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – MARIUPOL
Heavy fighting engulfed the Azovstal steel plant yesterday as its Ukrainian defenders fought a “very difficult” battle against Russian forces attempting to storm the complex, Mariupol’s mayor said. Mayor Vadym Boychenko described Russian troops using heavy weaponry against the plant, including tanks and bombs. He also said that contact with the Ukrainian forces inside had been lost. Paulina Firozi, Annabelle Chapman and David Stern report for the Washington Post.
Russian forces are now likely to be operating within the Azovstal steel plant for the first time, Washington-based think tank the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said in its latest assessment.
A Russian announced ceasefire is due to begin today at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. It is hoped that the ceasefire will allow civilians to flee, whilst the city’s defenders have vowed to fight to the end. France 24 reports.
In his nightly video address yesterday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said some 344 evacuees from the city of Mariupol and its suburbs had arrived in Zaporizhzhia. “We hope to continue rescuing people from Azovstal, from Mariupol. There are still civilians there. Women, children,” Zelenskyy said. “To save them, we need to continue the ceasefire. The Ukrainian side is ready to provide it.” BBC News reports.
Zelenskyy has appealed to the U.N. for help in saving the lives of the remaining injured Ukrainians trapped in the Azovstal steel plant. In a phone call with the U.N.’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last night, Zelenskyy thanked the U.N. for a successful evacuation from the steel plant this week – which rescued more than 100 people – but called on the U.N. to “assist in the removal of all the wounded from Azovstal.” BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Sweden has received assurances from the U.S. that it would receive support during the period a potential application to join NATO is processed by the 30 nations in the alliance, Foreign Minister Ann Linde said yesterday. “Naturally, I’m not going to go into any details, but I feel very sure that now we have an American assurance,” Linde told Swedish TV from Washington after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Reuters reports.
More than 3,000 Finnish troops are taking part in a two-week military exercise alongside hundreds of American, British, Estonian and Latvian soldiers, shadowed by growing fears that Russia’s war in Ukraine could spread to other parts of Europe. A series of other drills involving members of NATO and its allies have been held this spring and will continue into the summer and include the world’s largest ground-based integrated air and missile exercise, in Poland and the Baltic states, in June. Sune Engle Rasmussen reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The E.U. aims to cut off Sberbank, Russia’s largest lender, from the SWIFT international payment system as Western allies seek to further isolate Moscow from financial markets over its war in Ukraine. The E.U. had previously spared Sberbank from what is seen as the harshest measure because it, along with Gazprombank, is one of the main channels for payments for Russian oil and gas, which E.U. countries have been buying despite the conflict in Ukraine. This proposal forms part of the E.U.’s sixth and toughest round of sanctions, which also includes an embargo on crude oil in six months. The measures still have to be approved by the governments of the 27 member states. Kirstin Ridley and Krin Strohecker report for Reuters.
The Czech Republic will seek an exemption period to the E.U.’s proposed embargo of Russian oil, gaining time for pipeline capacities to be increased, Prime Minister Petr Fiala said yesterday. The Czech Republic joins other E.U. countries seeking a longer transition to introduce the ban. Slovakia, which gets nearly all its crude imports from Russia, wants a three-year transition period. Hungary also said it could not support measures in their current form. Reuters reports.
Two-time former Brazilian President Lula Inacio da Silva has said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin share the blame for the war in Ukraine. “And now, sometimes I sit and watch the President of Ukraine speaking on television, being applauded, getting a standing ovation by all the parliamentarians,” da Silva said in an interview with TIME magazine. “This guy is as responsible as Putin for the war. Because in the war, there’s not just one person guilty.” Jack Guy reports for CNN.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said yesterday that the problem of global food security could not be solved without restoring Ukrainian agricultural production and Russian food and fertilizer output to the world market. “There is really no true solution to the problem of global food security without bringing back the agriculture production of Ukraine and the food and fertilizer production of Russia and Belarus into world markets despite the war,” Guterres told reporters during a visit to Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. Felix Onuah reports for Reuters.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Colombia has extradited the leader of the country’s biggest crime gang to the U.S., Colombia’s President Ivan Duque has announced. Announcing the extradition Duque said that Dairo Antonio Usuage, better known as Otoniel, was the world’s most dangerous trafficker. BBC News reports.
U.S. authorities yesterday charged the leader of the notorious 400 Mawozo gang, Germaine Joly, with conspiracy to violate export control laws and to defraud the United States, violating export control laws, money laundering, and smuggling, according to a 28-count indictment. Joly’s gang is also thought to be behind many of the mass kidnappings that have terrorized Haiti, including the abduction of 17 American and Canadian missionaries associated with an Ohio-based charity last year. Widlore Merancourt and Amanda Coletta report for the Washington Post.
Taiwan signalled today that it had abandoned a plan to buy advanced new anti-submarine warfare helicopters from the U.S., saying they were too expensive. Asked in parliament about recent changes to Taiwan’s purchases of new U.S. weapons, Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng mentioned the helicopter case first. “The price is too high, beyond the scope of our country’s ability,” he said. Two other arms purchases have also been delayed – M109A6 Medium Self-Propelled Howitzer artillery systems, and mobile Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. Chiu said they had already signed the contract for the Stingers and paid for them, and they would press the U.S. to deliver them. Reuters reports.
The Biden administration is preparing to refresh the message that the U.S. sees China, not Russia, as its biggest geopolitical rival. In a speech, which was set to be delivered today, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was expected to reaffirm and clarify the administration’s China policy in advance of the summit with Southeast Asian leaders in Washington next week. The speech has been postponed as Blinken has tested positive for COVID-19. Lingling Wei reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Russian mercenaries in Mali have been linked to massacres in which several hundred civilians have died, raising new fears about the impact of Moscow’s intensifying interventions on the stability and security of countries across the continent. Western officials have so far steered clear of naming the perpetrators of the killings but witnesses, local community leaders, diplomats and analysts have blamed many of the deaths on fighters deployed by the Wagner Group, a network of private companies run by a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Internal Malian army documents seen by the Guardian reveal the presence of Wagner members on “mixed missions” with Malian soldiers and gendarmes during operations in which many civilians have been killed. Jason Burke and Ammanuel Akinwotu report for the Guardian.
The premier of the British Virgin Islands Andrew Fahie has been given a $500,000 bond that would allow him to be released from prison as he awaits trial on charges tied to a U.S. narcotics sting. Federal court judge Alicia Otazo-Reyes rejected prosecutors’ argument that Fahie would flee the U.S. and possibly engage in criminal activity if he is freed. Instead, she said that he could remain in Miami if he and his family surrender their passports and he wears an ankle bracelet monitor. AP reports.
Researchers from security firm Cybereason said yesterday that hackers connected to the Chinese government have attempted to access sensitive information from dozens of global organizations. Cybereason published research on a cyberattack believed to have had the goal of stealing sensitive proprietary information from technology and manufacturing companies mainly in East Asia, Western Europe and North America. The group said it had “medium-high confidence” that the attack was linked to the Winnti APT group, which specializes in cyber espionage and intellectual property theft and is believed to work for Chinese state interests. Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The Oath Keepers founder facing seditious conspiracy charges tried to speak directly with President Trump on the night of Jan. 6, and implored an intermediary to tell the president to use militia groups to stop the transfer of power, according to fellow Oath Keeper William Todd Wilson. Wilson, who pleaded guilty yesterday to seditious conspiracy and obstruction of an official proceeding in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, said he joined Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes shorting after the attack and listened as Rhodes called an unnamed Trump intermediary. Ryan J. Reiley reports for NBC News.
Donald Trump Jr., the son of former president Trump, interviewed with the Jan. 6 committee on Tuesday, according to people familiar with the matter. The interview was undertaken voluntarily and latest several hours. Trump Jr. is the latest member of the Trump family to provide testimony to the committee, following the panel’s interview last month with Ivanka Trump. Kyle Chenery, Betsy Woodruff Swan and Nicholas Wu report for POLITICO.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack that removing former President Trump through the 25th Amendment “takes too long,” according to the latest leaked recording of a call with top House Republican colleagues. McCarthy also said that what Trump did was “atrocious and totally wrong” but expressed opposition to impeachment. The 25th Amendment provides a mechanism for the vice president and a majority of the president’s Cabinet to remove him if he “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” But the president can object to that assessment, sending the issue to Congress. Emily Brooks reports for The Hill.
Attorneys with the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently clashed with staff members for the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, according to sources familiar with the matter. In an interview conducted by the committee last month with former Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin, attorneys from the DOJ’s Office of Legislative Affairs repeatedly objected to questions that they argued could impact the DOJ’s ongoing work prosecuting those involved in the Jan. 6 attack. At one point, interactions between Jan. 6 staffers and DOJ attorneys grew so contentious that Sherwin stepped out of the room so the discussion could continue in private, sources said. Alexander Mallin and Luke Barr report for ABC News.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A federal judge yesterday accepted a plea deal that will sentence former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin to between 20 and 25 years in prison for violating the rights of George Floyd, whose murder in 2020 was followed by widespread protests. Chauvin is already serving a 22½-year sentence for Floyd’s murder and last month asked a state appeals court to overturn his conviction. Hannah Knowles reports for the Washington Post.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) has reiterated his call for the Justice Department (DOJ) to investigate former Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) for his alleged work for Venezuela’s Maduro regime. In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, Menendez, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was concerned that the DOJ had made little progress into “serious and credible allegations” that Rivera failed to register as a foreign agent despite working for Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., Venezuela’s state-owned oil company. Stephany Matat reports for POLITICO.
President Biden attacked the Trump movement as the “most extreme political organisation” that has existed in recent American history yesterday. Biden’s comments represent a sharpening of his criticism of the former president’s hold on the Republican party in the wake of revelations over the conservative-led Supreme Court’s likely move to gut abortion rights. James Politi reports for the Financial Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 81.62 million people and has now killed over 996.705 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 515.639 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.25 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.