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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
There has been intense shelling along the front lines in the Luhansk region today, a Ukrainian official has said. Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration, said the enemy had “completely destroyed the captured settlements in Luhansk … Shelling intensified along the entire Luhansk front.” However, Hayday gave no indication that any towns or villages in the area had fallen to the Russians. Tim Lister reports for CNN.
Ukrainian forces are continuing to counter-attack to the north of Kharkiv, recapturing several towns and villages towards the Russian border, according to the U.K. Ministry of Defense’s latest intelligence update. Russia’s prioritisation of operations in the Donbas has left Russian units deployed in the Kharkiv region vulnerable to Ukrainian counterattacks, the update adds.
There is a growing threat of the fighting in Ukraine spilling into a direct conflict between Russia and NATO, Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council, has said. Growing Western arms supplies to Ukraine and training for its troops have “increased the probability that an ongoing proxy war will turn into an open and direct conflict between NATO and Russia” he said, adding that “there is always a risk of such conflict turning into a full-scale nuclear war, a scenario that will be catastrophic for all.” AP reports.
The Russian military’s failure to seize the Ukrainian capital was inevitable because in the preceding years they had never directly faced a powerful enemy, a former mercenary with the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group has said. Marat Gabidullin took part in Wagner Group missions on the Kremlin’s behalf in Syria and in a previous conflict in Ukraine, before deciding to go public about his experience inside the secretive private military company. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – INTERNATIONAL CRIMES
A Russian soldier in Ukrainian custody will be the first to stand trial on war-crimes charges, Ukraine’s prosecutor-general said yesterday, after an investigation alleged he fatally shot an unarmed 62-year-old man. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said her office filed an indictment on charges of violating the laws and customs of war against the 21-year-old tank-division commander, identified as Vadim Shishimarin. He could face life imprisonment. Mauro Orru and Matthew Luxmoore report for the Wall Street Journal.
Russian forces have used at least six types of cluster munitions inside Ukraine in attacks that caused hundreds of civilian casualties and violated international prohibitions on indiscriminate weapons, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. Most incidents have taken place in Ukraine’s southern and eastern regions, including in populated areas. Ukrainian forces have also used cluster munitions “at least once” during the conflict, the report says. Erin Cunningham reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A thousand bodies had been recovered in the area of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv in recent weeks, U.N. Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet has said, adding that many of the violations it is verifying since the Russian invasion may amount to war crimes. “The scale of unlawful killings, including indicia of summary executions in areas to the north of Kyiv, is shocking,” Bachelet told the Human Rights Council. The Council will decide today whether to task investigators with an official probe into the events that occurred in Kyiv and other regions in February and March. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE- NATO MEMBERSHIP
Finland’s prime minister and president have announced their support for the nation to apply to join NATO. “Finland must apply for NATO membership without delay,” they said. “We hope that the national steps still needed to make this decision will be taken rapidly within the next few days.” The announcement had been widely expected. Public opinion in Finland has shifted significantly in favor of joining NATO, from some 20 per cent in favor six months ago to nearly 80 per cent now. Steven Erlanger reports for the New York Times.
Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde says Sweden will consider Finland’s assessments on NATO membership as it also considers joining the military alliance. “Finland is Sweden’s closest security and defence partner, and we need to take Finland’s assessments into account,” Linde said in a tweet. Amy Cassidy reports for CNN.
NATO members Denmark and Estonia said they would welcome Finland joining the alliance. Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said: “Strong messages from the President and Prime Minister of Finland. DK (Denmark) will of course warmly welcome Finland to NATO. Will strengthen NATO and our common security. DK will do everything for a rapid accession process after the formal application.” Meanwhile, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said that Estonia supports “a rapid accession process” for Finland to join NATO, adding that Finland’s potential application will have the country’s “full support.” Lauren Kent, Chris Liakos and Antonia Mortensen report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – MARIUPOL
Thousands of civilians have been killed in the south-eastern city of Mariupol, and “the true scale” of alleged atrocities is yet to be revealed, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has said. In areas of intense hostilities, like Mariupol, it has been difficult for her team to get access and collect information, she added. Radina Gigova reports for CNN.
A Ukrainian captain in the besieged Azovstal steel plant has said that he believes all civilians sheltering inside have now been evacuated. However, he added that it’s difficult to make a full assessment of the massive facility, given the constant bombardment from Russian forces. CNN reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
U.S.-led sanctions are forcing Russia to use computer chips from dishwashers and refrigerators in some military equipment, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told a Senate hearing yesterday. “We have reports from Ukrainians that when they find Russian military equipment on the ground, it’s filled with semiconductors that they took out of dishwashers and refrigerators,” Raimondo said. “Our approach was to deny Russia technology — technology that would cripple their ability to continue a military operation. And that is exactly what we are doing,” she added. Jeanne Whalen reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russia “is today the most direct threat to the world order with the barbaric war against Ukraine, and its worrying pact with China,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said following talks with Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida. Von der Leyen and European Council president Charles Michel are in Japan for talks that have touched on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but also growing concerns about China’s role in Asia and beyond. Agence France-Presse reports.
Russian authorities are forcing Ukrainians who seek safety to submit to strip searches and interrogations, placing some refugees in guarded camps, stripping them of their vital documents and in some cases forcing them to remain in Russia. People suspected of having sympathies with the Ukrainian military are being detained and tortured, according to refugees, representatives of volunteer organizations, and Ukrainian and U.S. officials. Michael Birnbaum and Mary Ilyushina report for the Washington Post.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield criticised China and Russia yesterday for opposing further sanctions against North Korea, which has conducted a spate of missile tests this year that have alarmed the West and neighboring South Korea. Thomas-Greenfield said at a U.N. Security Council meeting that the U.S. wished to tighten sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which she said has test-fired 17 ballistic missiles this year. The effort to ratchet up sanctions was blocked by two veto-holding nations — China and Russia — which have instead proposed a counter-resolution that would relieve sanctions on North Korea over humanitarian concerns. Brad Dress reports for The Hill.
The families of four U.S. citizens detained in Iran on espionage charges are appealing to President Biden to secure their release, as nuclear talks with Tehran that were expected to include their release stall. “We implore you, Mr. President, to fulfill a priority you, your administration, and Congress have repeatedly stated of bringing home our American hostages still held in Iran,” the families wrote in a letter delivered Tuesday. Stephen Kalin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The Palestinian Authority said this morning that it had declined a request to give Israeli officials the bullet that killed the Palestinian American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh. Hussein al-Sheikh, the Palestinian official who helps oversee the Authority’s relationship with the Israeli government, said it would investigate Abu Akleh’s death independently, rejecting Israeli calls for a joint inquiry and for the bullet to be assessed in an Israeli laboratory. al-Sheikh also accused Israeli soldiers of killing Abu Akleh, dismissing Israeli claims that the journalist may have been hit by Palestinian fire. The New York Times reports.
The Hong Kong police arrested three prominent activists yesterday, including a retired bishop and a pop star who were leaders of a legal aid organization. Those arrested are under investigation for suspected violations of the city’s strict national security law, a lawyer for the group has said. Austin Ramzy and Tiffany May report for the New York Times.
Ethiopia’s government-appointed human rights body has accused security forces and their allied armed men of killing 11 people and wounding at least 30 others in the country’s eastern Somali region. This happened during a traditional ceremony to choose a new clan leader in March. Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission interviewed witnesses and visited graves in the Gursum District. It said security forces had used excessive force to disperse the gathering and recommended a criminal investigation. Kalkidan Yibeltal reports for BBC News.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
An investigation by the U.S. Interior Department has found evidence of burial sites at 53 boarding schools for Native American children, according to a government report released yesterday. The Interior Department said yesterday that the burial sites it identified were both marked and unmarked, and that it anticipated the number to rise. So far the investigation has found that at least several hundred children died while attending the schools, but the report noted that further investigation was expected to reveal “the approximate number of Native American children who died at Federal Indian boarding schools to be in the thousands or tens of thousands.” Dan Frosch reports for the Wall Street Journal.
An appeals court panel ruled yesterday that California’s ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to adults under the age of 21 violated the right to bear arms found in the Second Amendment of the Constitution. “America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army,” Judge Nelson, writing for a two-to-one majority, said. “Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms.” Glenn Thrush reports for the New York Times.
Senate Democrats failed to advance a bill seeking to ensure women’s access to abortion, in a vote designed to draw a clear contrast with Republicans ahead of a potential Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. The vote was 49 in favor to 51 against, falling short of the 60 votes needed to advance the Women’s Health Protection Act. Joe Manchin (D-WV) broke with his party and opposed the bill. Siobhan Hughes and Eliza Collins report for the New York Times.
A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that Texas can enforce a law that prohibits the internet’s biggest social media platforms from suppressing users’ content based on the viewpoint of their speech. Texas Republicans enacted the social-media law last year, saying they were striking back against what they view as Silicon Valley’s suppression of conservative political views. However, the industry warned that the law would flood their platforms with hate speech, dangerous medical misinformation, terrorist propaganda and foreign-government disinformation. Jacob Gershman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Yesterday the Senate voted to confirm privacy expert Alvaro Bedoya to the Federal Trade Commission. With the confirmation of a third Democrat to the Federal Trade Commission, the progressive chair Lina Khan has regained the agency’s majority — and the ability to speed ahead with her anti-monopoly and consumer-protection agenda. This could pose serious problems for both Amazon and Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter. Emily Birnbaum and Leah Nylen provide analysis for POLITICO.
Former President Trump has been released from a judicial order holding him in contempt of court. New York State judge, Arthur F. Engoron, held Trump in contempt late last month after finding that he had failed to comply with the terms of a subpoena requesting documents from his personal files. The judge ordered Trump to pay $10,000 a day until he complied, leading to a $110,000 penalty. Justice Engoron yesterday withdrew the contempt order, but set a few conditions, including requiring Trump to pay the fine. The judge ruled that if Trump and his company did not meet the conditions by May 20, he would reinstate the contempt order and retroactively apply the $10,000-a-day fine. Jonah E. Bromwich and Ben Protess report for the New York Times.
The chief of the US Navy defended the service’s plans to scrap nine relatively new warships in the coming fiscal year even as the service tries to keep up with China’s growing fleet. Three of the littoral combat ships slated for decommissioning are less than three years old. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that the anti-submarine ships could not perform their primary mission. Oren Leibermann, Ellie Kaufman and Brad Lendon report for CNN.
COVID-19 has infected over 82.22 million people and has now killed over 998.997 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 519.514 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.