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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
Around 60 people were killed after a bomb hit a school in east Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said. Earlier, the governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said 90 people had been sheltering in the building in Bilohorivka, and 30 were rescued. Haidai said a Russian plane had dropped the bomb on Saturday. BBC News reports.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres has condemned the attack on the school building in Bilohorivka. “This attack is yet another reminder that in this war, as in so many other conflicts, it is civilians that pay the highest price,” Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement on behalf of the U.N. chief. UN News Centre reports.
The Ukrainian military says that Russia is holding back some of its forces within its borders to prevent a Ukrainian counterattack that has made some headway east of Kharkiv. In its latest operational update, the armed forces’ general staff says that “in order to prevent the advance of units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the enemy has concentrated up to nineteen battalion tactical groups in the Belgorod region” of Russia. Tim Lister reports for CNN.
Ukrainian counterattacks northeast of Kharkiv have likely forced Russian troops to redeploy to Kharkiv instead of reinforcing stalled Russian offensive operations elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, the Washington-based think-tank the Institute for the Study of War has said in an assessment. Russian forces are continuing their attempt to reach the borders of Donestk and Luhansk but have not made any significant gains since securing Popasna on Saturday.
Russian forces have fired four Onyx cruise missiles at the Odesa region in southern Ukraine, according to the spokesman for the Odesa region military administration, Serhiy Bratchuk. “The missiles arrived from the territory of the temporarily occupied Crimea,” he said. Julia Kesaieva reports for CNN.
Russia’s stockpile of precision-guided munitions has likely been heavily depleted, forcing the use of readily available but ageing munitions that are less reliable and more easily intercepted, according to the latest U.K. Defense Ministry intelligence update. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has revealed shortcomings in its ability to conduct precision strikes at scale, and Russia will likely struggle to replace the precision weaponry it has already expended, the update adds.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – MARIUPOL
The commanders of the Ukrainian forces holding out against Russian troops in the Azovstal plant in Mariupol have lashed out at the government in Kyiv for not doing enough to help them defend the city. “Our government failed in the defense of Mariupol, failed in the preparation of the defense of Mariupol,” said Ilya Somoilenko, a lieutenant in the Azov regiment. Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov regiment, accused the government of “cynicism” for celebrating the evacuation of small groups of civilians when so many people had been killed in Russia’s assault on the south-eastern port city. Ben Hall reports for the Financial Times.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said that “all women, children and elderly people” have been evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant. “The order of the president has been done,” she said. “This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation has been completed.” Tim Lister, Julia Presniakova and Olga Voitovych report for CNN.
Russia is poised to begin shipping goods through the port of Mariupol in the coming weeks, officials said yesterday, signaling that Moscow will soon try to capitalize on the strategic value of the ruined city. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin and the leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, toured the port in recent days, Pushilin said on Telegram. He said shipments will begin this month. Reis Thebault reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – INTERNATIONAL CRIMES
The Open Society Justice Initiative – headed by former senior International Criminal Court prosecutor and with input from a range of experts – has drafted a 65-page model indictment demonstrating the feasibility of building a solid case against Russian President Vladimir Putin and the six other most senior Russian officials responsible for the crime of aggression. These names include Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Patrushev; Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu; foreign intelligence director Sergey Naryshkin, and others. An introduction to the model indictment is provided by James A. Goldston for Just Security.
Putin and Russian leaders are “mirroring” the fascism of Nazi Germany, U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace will say today in a speech at the National Army Museum in London. Wallace will say that Russian leadership should share the same fate as the Nazis, who ended up facing the Nuremberg trials for their atrocities. In his address, Wallace will also slam Russian senior officers for such incompetence that they should be brought to court. “Not only are they engaged in an illegal invasion and war crimes, but their top brass have failed their own rank and file to the extent they should be court-martialled.” Camille Gijs reports for POLITICO.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – VICTORY DAY
Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking from Moscow’s Red Square at the start of a military pageant, did not use his Victory Day speech to announce plans to intensify the war against Ukraine or order a mobilization of men to fight, as Ukrainian officials had feared. Instead, he said that Russian forces entered Ukraine as “preemptive pushback” to what he claimed, without evidence, were Western plans to carry out attacks on eastern Ukraine. Robyn Dixon, Mary Ilyushina and Jennifer Hassan report for the Washington Post.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has used Victory Day to call on Russia’s leader to end the war in Ukraine immediately, saying that Putin should pull his troops back from Ukraine and start peace negotiations. “We stand firmly by Ukraine’s side and will continue to help the country assert its right to self-defense,” he said. BBC News reports.
Protesters threw red paint on the Russian ambassador to Poland as he arrived at a cemetery in Warsaw to pay respects to Red Army soldiers who died during World War II. Ambassador Sergey Andreev arrived at the Soviet soldiers cemetery to lay flowers, where a group of activists opposed to Russia’s war in Ukraine were waiting for him. The protesters carried Ukrainian flags and chanted “fascist” at him, while some were dressed in white sheets smeared with blood, symbolizing the Ukrainian victims of Russia’s war. AP reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The Biden administration is accelerating plans to reopen the U.S. embassy in Kyiv. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has told his Ukrainian counterpart that this progress — marked by Kyiv Embassy charge d’affaires Kristina Kvien’s visit yesterday to commemorate V-E Day — is a testament to Ukraine’s success and Moscow’s failure in the early phase of the war. Jonathan Swan and Zachary Basu report for Axios.
The Biden administration has announced new sanctions targeting Russian state-controlled media and banking executives, as well as a ban on Americans providing accounting and management consulting services and new export controls targeting the country’s industrial sector. The package will seek to clamp down on advertising dollars flowing into three Russian television stations, bar U.S. consulting firms from providing services to Russian companies seeking to evade sanctions and limit Russia’s access to industrial engines, motors and bulldozers. The U.S. will also sanction banking executives from Sberbank, the largest financial institution in Russia, and Gazprombank, a Russian bank that facilitates business by Russia’s Gazprom, one of the world’s largest natural-gas exporters. Ken Thomas reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin claimed on Saturday that the U.S. is directly participating in hostilities against Russia amid its war with Ukraine. “This is not only about the supply of weapons and equipment,” Volodin wrote on Telegram, saying the Ukrainian government was given “the aid of American intelligence forces.” “After the coup d’etat, foreign advisers and instructors are working in Ukraine. But today, Washington essentially coordinates and develops military operations, thereby directly participating in the hostilities against our country,” he added. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
First Lady Jill Biden met her Ukrainian counterpart Olena Zelenska in Ukraine yesterday. The two first ladies met at a school in the border town of Uzhhorod. Zelenska said it had been a “courageous act” to visit Ukraine while it was at war. BBC News reports.
Lockheed Martin CEO Jim Taiclet said yesterday that his company would nearly double production of their javelin missiles as the U.S. has sent hundreds of the weapons to aid Ukraine.“Right now, our capacity is 2,100 Javelin missiles per year. We’re endeavoring to take that up to 4,000 per year, and that will take a number of months, maybe even a couple of years to get there because we have to get our supply chain to also crank up,” Taiclet said. Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Leaders of the Group of 7 nations pledged during a virtual meeting yesterday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to ban or phase out Russian oil. The group did not provide details but said in a statement that the plans would be enforced in a “timely and orderly fashion, and in ways that provide time for the world to secure alternative supplies.” Emma Bubola and Eduardo Medine report for the New York Times.
E.U. capitals should consider seizing frozen Russian foreign exchange reserves to cover the costs of rebuilding Ukraine after the war, the E.U.’s high representative for foreign policy has said. Josep Borrell, speaking in an interview with the Financial Times, highlighted how the U.S. had taken control of billions of dollars of assets belonging to the Afghan central bank, in part to potentially compensate victims of terrorism as well as to provide humanitarian aid for the country, saying that it would be logical to consider similar steps with Russia’s reserves. Sam Fleming reports for the Financial Times.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany will continue sending heavy weapons to Ukraine, adding that it was the country’s historical responsibility to help the government in Kyiv defend itself against Russian aggression. Scholz made the comments during a speech on Sunday to mark the 77th anniversary of the Allied victory in the second world war. “We have learned a central lesson from the disastrous history of our country between 1933 and 1945,” Scholz said in the televised address. “No more war. No more genocide. No more tyranny.” Guy Chazan reports for the Financial Times.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Russian President Vladimir Putin “can only lose” in Ukraine following his unannounced visit to the country yesterday. “What Putin needs to understand is that the West is absolutely determined and resolved to stand against what he is doing,” Trudeau told Reuters in an interview. Tom Balmforth reports for Reuters.
In a joint news conference with Zelenskyy in Kyiv yesterday, Trudeau announced the reopening of the Canadian embassy in Kyiv. He also announced more military assistance for Ukraine would be given including drone cameras, satellite imagery, small arms, ammunition and funding for de-mining operations. Karen Smith reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russian users of smart TV systems reported today that the services were hacked, with names of shows and channels replaced by a message: “The blood of thousands of Ukrainians and hundreds of murdered children is on your hands. TV and the authorities are lying. No to war.” The same line appeared on the platforms of Yandex, Russia’s IT giant that, similar to Google, combines many products under its umbrella, including a search engine and a service providing TV programming schedules. Russia’s answer to YouTube, called RuTube, was also affected, according to a statement from the streaming platform. Mary Ilyushina reports for the Washington Post.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said yesterday that he will emphasize to President Biden that no country should be left out of the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles in June. “Nobody should exclude anyone,” Lopez Obrador said during a visit to Cuba. The U.S. government has stated that Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government were unlikely to be invited because the summit is meant to showcase democracy in the hemisphere. Reuters reports.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced sanctions on Friday against the online cryptocurrency tool Blender, which is used by North Korea to steal and launder virtual currencies. A North Korean cyber operations unit, known as the Lazarus Group, which had already been sanctioned by the U.S., carried out a $620 million heist in March and used the Blender tool to launder more than $20 million of the stolen funds, the department said. Tobias Burns reports for The Hill.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the U.N., has postponed a visit planned for Monday to the Syria-Turkey border. However, she will still travel to Brussels next week for an E.U. conference on the future of Syria, the U.S. Mission to the United Nations said on Saturday. Kylie Atwood reports for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
North Korea fired a short-range, submarine-launched ballistic missile off its east coast on Saturday, hours after the U.S. warned that the country could carry out a nuclear test as soon as this month. The missile, the first of its kind tested since October, was launched from waters near the coastal city of Sinpo and flew 372 miles, the South Korean military said. Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times.
Israeli security forces captured two Palestinians yesterday who were suspected of perpetrating an axe attack that killed three Israeli Jews in the central town of Elad on Thursday night. Their arrests ended an intensive search and calmed immediate fears that the assailants could come out of hiding and strike again. However, Israel remains on high alert for possible copycat attacks. Isabel Kershner reports for the New York Times.
The U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asked a top official at a U.N. agency to resign on Saturday, following an article describing how the agency had given out $61 million in loans and grant money to a single British family. The United Nations Office for Project Services teamed up with the private sector for profit in 2015 by operating like an investment bank. Now it may lose as much as $22 million in bad debt, according to U.N. auditors. Farnaz Fassihi and David A. Fahrenthold report for the New York Times.
Millions of Filipinos are heading to the polls today to choose their next president in an election that could bring the son of the country’s former dictator to power more than 3½ decades after his father’s regime was overthrown in a popular uprising. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., 64 years old, held a commanding lead over his closest competitor, current Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo, in an April opinion poll, with 56% of respondents saying they would vote for him against 23% for her. The winner will succeed President Rodrigo Duterte, a tough-talking populist who steered the U.S. ally closer to China and oversaw a brutal war on drugs that left thousands dead. The Philippines’ constitution limits presidents to a single six-year term. His daughter, Sara Duterte-Carpio, is seeking the vice presidency alongside Marcos. Feliz Solomon report for the Wall Street Journal.
John Lee, a hard-line former policeman who as Hong Kong’s security chief oversaw Beijing’s imposition of a draconian security law in the city, was chosen as its next chief executive yesterday in a contest with no opponents. Lee’s selection was decided by a vote of a 1,500-member committee of mostly Beijing loyalists in the city, held amid tight security. Lee was the first candidate seeking an initial term in office to be unopposed, reflecting how Beijing has tightened its grip on the city in recent years. Cao Li and James T. Areddy report for the Wall Street Journal.
A political party committed to the reunification of Ireland is set to win a historic victory in Northern Irish elections, marking a shift in the U.K. region which traditionally has been dominated by parties loyal to Britain. Pro-unification party Sinn Féin claimed 29% of votes cast in elections held Thursday, beating a field of other parties including the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party, which secured 21.3%. The victory for Sinn Féin, which for decades was the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, is a first in Northern Ireland since its creation in 1921 and threatens to upend a delicate power-sharing arrangement in the region. Max Colchester and Paul Hannon report for the Wall Street Journal.
At least 11 troops, including an officer, were killed in a militant attack in the northern part of the Sinai peninsula, Egypt’s military said on Saturday. It said in a statement that the militants attacked a water pumping station east of the Suez canal. It did not give further details on the location. The statement said security forces clashed with the attacking militants. It said at least five other troops were wounded in the attack. They were pursuing the militants in an isolated area of Sinai, it added. AP reports.
Colombia has sent an additional 2,000 troops and police to help contain a gang that has burned cars and threatened people as reprisal for the extradition of its leader to the US. Defense Minister Diego Molano said the extra troops would be sent to support almost 50,000 personnel already deployed. Dairo Antonio Úsuga, better known as Otoniel, was extradited to the U.S. last week after Colombia’s Supreme Court approved the extradition last month. BBC News reports.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Investigators investigating the Jan. 6 attack are preparing to open a new, public phase of their probe, as they attempt to make a case that former President Trump and people involved with his campaign motivated some rioters who took part in the violence. The Democrat-led committee plans to hold public hearings in June, some in prime time, with a full report on the investigation expected in the fall. Scott Patterson reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The headquarters of an anti-abortion group in Madison, Wis., was set on fire yesterday morning in an act of vandalism that included the attempted use of a Molotov cocktail and graffiti that read “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either.” No one in the group, Wisconsin Family Action, was in the building at the time, and there were no injuries reported. The Madison Police Department did not say whether it had made any arrests or whether more than one person was involved. Luke Vander Ploeg and Addison Lathers report for the New York Times.
A clerk for a conservative justice is the “leading theory” amid intense speculation about who released a draft opinion authored by Justice Samuel Alito showing the court is set to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg of NPR. Totenberg said on ABC’s “This Week” that the prevailing theory is that a conservative clerk released the decision in an attempt to lock in the five justices who voted to support overturning Roe as Chief Justice John Roberts reportedly attempts to pull his colleagues toward a more moderate position. Brad Dress reports for The Hill.
COVID-19 has infected over 81.86 million people and has now killed over 997.528 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 517.371 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.