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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
Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing for a long war in Ukraine, with even victory in the east potentially not ending the conflict, U.S. intelligence has warned. Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, told a U.S. Senate committee hearing yesterday that Putin was still intending “to achieve goals beyond the Donbas,” but that he “faces a mismatch between his ambitions and Russia’s current conventional military capabilities.” She added that the Russian president was “probably” counting on U.S. and E.U. support for Ukraine to weaken as inflation, food shortages and energy prices got worse. George Wright reports for BBC News.
Ukrainian troops have reclaimed some towns near the northern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, in an effort to push Russian forces back towards the border. The settlements of Cherkaski Tyshky, Ruski Tyshki, Borshchova and Slobozhanske were back in Ukrainian hands, according to a military spokesperson. BBC News reports.
Russia’s defense ministry said yesterday that it had repelled Ukrainian efforts to reclaim Snake Island in the Black Sea and had inflicted heavy losses in terms of men, vessels and aircraft. However, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said earlier that Ukraine was not trying to recapture Snake Island as it was far easier to continue hitting Russian targets there. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – INTERNATIONAL CRIMES
Matilda Bogner, the head of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, said yesterday that there is “credible” information regarding the mistreatment of Russian prisoners by Ukrainian troops during the war. “We have received credible information of torture, ill-treatment and incommunicado detention by Ukrainian Armed Forces of prisoners of war belonging to the Russian armed forces and affiliated armed groups,” Bogner said. Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
Lithuania’s parliament announced yesterday that it had adopted a resolution in which it called Russia “a state supporting and carrying out terrorism” and recognized Russia’s actions in Ukraine as a genocide. The Seimas, Lithuania’s parliament, urged that a special international criminal tribunal be established to look into Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – MARIUPOL
Heavy Russian airstrikes and shelling continued yesterday in Mariupol, according to the chief of the Donetsk regional police, striking a field hospital in the Azovstal steel plant. “The aviation strikes don’t stop,” Mykhailo Vershynin, who is inside the plant said. “Since the morning, the shelling from tanks, artillery, aviation, naval artillery — the shelling is all the time.” Paulina Vellegas and David L. Stern report for the Washington Post.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Maltese lawmakers that Ukraine had not received the amount of weapons it would need to unblock the siege of Mariupol and free the city. Zelenskyy said defenders “still continue their resistance in the plant of Azovstal. We are using all possible diplomatic instruments to rescue them, but Russia doesn’t allow for any of the proposed options. We have asked our partners to provide weapons in order to unblock Mariupol and rescue both civilians and military personnel.” AP reports.
Kremlin troops and Russian-backed separatists in Donetsk are consolidating their control over Mariupol and laying the groundwork to reopen a captured steel plant in the southern port city, the Institute for the Study of War wrote in its latest assessment. Amy Cheng reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. has joined with its allies and partners to condemn Russia’s destructive cyber activities against Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said in a press statement. “In the months leading up to and after Russia’s illegal further invasion began, Ukraine experienced a series of disruptive cyber operations, including website defacements, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and cyberattacks to delete data from computers belonging to government and private entities – all part of the Russian playbook,” Blinken said.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a delegation of Democratic lawmakers updated President Biden yesterday afternoon about their visit to Ukraine. She said their “long and detailed meeting” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had begun with him thanking Biden for his support and covered security, sanctions and aid. Anushka Patil reports for the New York Times.
The House approved a $39.8 billion aid package for Ukraine yesterday, sending the massive supplemental to the Senate. The aid package passed in a 368-57 vote. All lawmakers who voted against the bill were Republicans. Two Democrats and three Republicans did not vote. The legislation includes $6 billion for security assistance — including training, equipment, weapons, logistical support, supplies and services for military and national security forces in Ukraine — and $900 million for refugee support services such as housing, language classes and trauma services for individuals fleeing Ukraine. Mychael Schell and Emily Brooks report for The Hill.
Mario Draghi, the Italian prime minister, visited President Biden at the White House and pressed for a path to a negotiated peace in Ukraine. He said Italians and Europeans wanted to put an end to “these massacres, to this violence, this butchery that’s happening.” Andrea Kannapell reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The U.N. General Assembly elected the Czech Republic to the U.N. Human Rights Council, filling the seat left vacant in April by Russia’s suspension over its invasion of Ukraine and related accusations of war crimes. 157 countries voted in favor and 23 abstained. The rights council is holding a session on Ukraine tomorrow. Farnaz Fassihi reports for the New York Times.
Belarus will deploy special operations troops in three areas near its southern border with Ukraine, the armed forces said yesterday. Minsk has complained for months about NATO countries amassing soldiers near its borders – Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are all members of the alliance – and is increasing the amount and intensity of its own military exercises in response. Belarus is also deploying air defense, artillery and missile units for drills in the west, Belarus’s Chief of General Staff Viktor Gulevich said. Reuters reports.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban continues to hold up an E.U. agreement on a phased-in embargo on Russian oil, demanding more E.U. money and time to help his country to switch to other energy suppliers. However, E.U. officials and some of the bloc’s member states are wary of bowing to all of Orban’s demands, against a backdrop of long frustrations over his government’s alleged misuse of E.U. funding and warm relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Laurence Norman and Marcus Walker report for the Wall Street Journal.
European nations have pushed the World Health organisation to take a harder stance against Moscow, voting in favor of a resolution that could lead to the closure of a WHO office in Russia. At a regional meeting in Geneva, the vast majority of European WHO members backed the resolution. In doing so, they disregarded Russian claims that the censure of a member state was a “gross violation” of the WHO’s founding charter and that the closure of the Moscow hub, whose mission is to curb non-communicable diseases across the continent, would lead to suffering. Adam Taylor and Jennifer Hassan report for the Washington Post.
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba has made clear that he believes if the U.S. and other allies had trusted Kyiv more – and provided the weapons Kyiv requested earlier – thousands of lives may have been saved. “Our partners were reluctant,” Kuleba said in an interview with POLITICO. He was repeatedly told by his Western counterparts before Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale assault on his country that it would take weeks, if not months, to train the Ukrainians on many of the more advanced weapons they asked for, such as air-defense systems. Christopher Miller and Lara Seligman report for POLITICO.
U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has arrived in Sweden for the start of a 24-hour trip where he will also visit Finland, as the two countries consider whether to join NATO. Johnson will meet the leaders of both nations and discuss Europe’s response to the ongoing war in Ukraine. BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – REFUGEES
More than 8 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced by the war, according to the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM). In its latest Ukraine Internal Displacement Report, the IOM found that the number of people displaced in Ukraine has increased by 24 per cent since the agency published its first internal displacement figures on March 16. Paulina Villegas reports for the Washington Post.
The U.N. chief told Moldovan President Maia Sandu in a meeting yesterday that the U.N. would bolster its support for her country to help it deal with the refugee crisis. More than 450,000 refugees from Ukraine have fled into Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries. Guterres also visited the home of a family hosting Ukrainian refugees, saying he was impressed by their hospitality. U.N. News Centre reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The intelligence arm of the Ukrainian defense ministry has said that grain stolen by Russian troops in occupied areas is already being sent abroad. The intelligence directorate claimed that a “significant part of the grain stolen from Ukraine is on dry cargo ships under the Russian flag in the Mediterranean.” Last week, the defense ministry said nearly half a million metric tons of Ukrainian grain had already been stolen from regions including Zaporizhzhia and Kharkiv. Tim Lister reports for CNN.
Flows of Russian gas to Europe through a transit point in Ukraine dried up earlier today. Blaming the presence of occupying forces for the suspension, Ukraine’s gas pipeline operator said it would redirect gas from the Sokhranivka transit point, which is in an area occupied by Russian forces, to another in a Ukraine-controlled area. Jonathan Landay reports for Reuters.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
A leader of a notorious street gang responsible for abducting 17 people tied to an American-based missionary group in Haiti last year was indicted by a federal grand jury yesterday on charges of conspiracy to commit hostage-taking. Joly Germine was a top member of the 400 Mawozo gang when it captured volunteers with Christian Aid Ministries, based in Ohio, in October, according to the indictment. Glenn Thrush reports for the New York Times.
The U.N. Security Council is expected to hold a public meeting this afternoon on North Korea’s recent ballistic missile test. The U.S. has been pushing a new resolution on the issue, but no vote is scheduled at this time. Richard Roth reports for CNN.
China’s military has monitored and warned a U.S. warship that sailed through the sensitive Taiwan Strait yesterday. The U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet said the guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal conducted a “routine” Taiwan Strait transit through international waters “in accordance with international law,” the second such mission in two weeks. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was fatally shot in the West Bank city of Jenin yesterday during clashes between the Israeli military and Palestinians, the Palestinian health ministry has said. The circumstances surrounding the shooting of the Palestinian American journalist were not immediately clear. Al Jazeera, citing the health ministry, said she had been shot in the head by Israeli forces during a raid. Raja Abdulrahim reports for the New York Times.
Angry young voters gathered in the Philippines on Tuesday to protest against Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the former dictator, who clinched a landslide victory this week in the country’s presidential elections. Multiple election observers said they had received thousands of reports of election-related anomalies since the vote on Monday. Malfunctioning voting machines were one of the biggest concerns, with VoteReportPH, an election watchdog, saying the breakdowns had “severely impaired this electoral process.” Sui-Lee Wee reports for the New York Times.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Elon Musk has said he plans to reverse Donald Trump’s ban from Twitter, accusing the social media company of leftwing bias that had aggravated political divisions in the U.S.. “I think it was a morally bad decision, and foolish in the extreme,” Musk said of the lifetime ban of Trump, which was imposed soon after the Jan. 6 attack. “I would reverse the permaban,” he added. “Obviously I don’t own Twitter yet, so this is not a thing that will definitely happen.” Richard Waters reports for the Financial Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The White House is expanding its cyber policy office with three new senior hires, including former Microsoft executive and CIA official Kemba Eneas Walden. Neal Higgins, a former CIA official, and Rob Knake, a cybersecurity policy expert, will also join the office. Ines Kagubare reports for The Hill.
The Senate is expected to vote today on the Women’s Health Protection Act, a Democrat-led bill that would effectively codify a right to an abortion. However, the vote is seen as largely symbolic, as Democrats do not have enough support from Republicans to reach the threshold. Deepa Shivaram reports for NPR.
The U.S. firearm homicide rate during the first year of the pandemic was at its highest level since 1994, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate hit 6.1 homicides per 100,000 residents, rising 34.6 % during 2020 compared with a year earlier, according to the report. Based on preliminary data, Dr. Debra Houry, a deputy director at the CDC, said the increase continued in 2021. Zusha Elinson reports for the Wall Street Journal.
COVID-19 has infected over 82.06 million people and has now killed over 998.048 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 518.814 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.26 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.