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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
Ukrainian forces destroyed a pontoon bridge and parts of a Russian armoured column as it tried to cross a river in the Donbas region, video footage released today has shown. Ukraine is now in control of territory stretching to the banks of the Siverskiy Donets River, around 25 miles east of Kharkiv. Jonathan Landay reports for Reuters.
Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky manoeuvre, and the fact that Russian forces have been attempting them speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operation in eastern Ukraine, a U.K. Ministry of Defense intelligence update has said. Russian forces have failed to make any significant advances despite concentrating forces in this area after withdrawing and redeploying units from the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions, the update added.
Ukrainian officials say their forces took out another Russian ship in the Black Sea. Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, said yesterday the Vsevolod Bobrov logistics ship was struck as it was trying to deliver an anti-aircraft system to Snake Island. He said the ship was badly damaged but was not believed to have sunk. AP reports.
In southern Ukraine, the regional administration in Zaporizhzhia has said that there are signs the Russians are trying to reinforce their units by bringing in more equipment and troops. It said a new Russian contingent had arrived in Mykhailivka, just south of current frontlines. Tim Lister and Julia Kesaieva report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – INTERNATIONAL CRIMES
A court in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, began hearings today in the case against Sgt. Vadim Shishimarin, the first Russian soldier to go on trial for alleged war crimes. He is accused of shooting a 62-year-old civilian in the northeastern Ukrainian region of Sumy. A spokesperson for Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said that the hearing was a “preparatory meeting” and was set to start at noon local time at Kyiv’s Solomianskyi district court. David L. Stern reports for the Washington Post.
Russian forces have sent “at least several thousand Ukrainians” to be processed at Russia’s so-called filtration centers “and evacuated at least tens of thousands more to Russia or Russia-controlled territory,” U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Michael Carpenter said yesterday. The forced displacement – and reported violence that is faced by those at the so-called filtration centers – amount to war crimes, Carpenter said according to the transcript of his remarks to the OSCE Permanent Council. Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.
China’s Foreign Ministry has criticized the U.N. Human Rights Council after it adopted a resolution for an investigation into alleged human rights abuses by Russian troops in Ukraine, saying the body portrays “double standards.” The U.N. Human Rights Council passed the resolution yesterday with all members except China and Eritrea voting in favor. “Politicized double standards and selective practices are on the rise in the Human Rights Council. The reason why China voted against Ukraine is based on China’s principled position on the Ukrainian issue,” spokesperson Zhao Lijan said. CNN reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – NATO MEMBERSHIP
Russia has said it will be forced to take “retaliatory steps” over its neighbour Finland’s move to join NATO. A foreign ministry statement said the move would seriously damage bilateral relations, as well as security and stability in northern Europe. Russia’s deputy U.N. representative Dmitry Polyansky said Sweden and Finland would become possible targets for Russia if they become Nato members, according to Russian news agency Ria. BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GROUP OF SEVEN MEETING
Foreign ministers from The Group of Seven (G7) nations aim to give what Germany called a “powerful sign of unity” as they meet today to discuss the war in Ukraine. “Never since the end of the Cold War have we G7 partners been more profoundly challenged. Never before have we stood more united,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a tweet. The annual meeting brings together top diplomats from Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United States and the European Union. The foreign ministers of Ukraine and its neighbour Moldova will also attend. Alexander Ratz and John Irish report for Reuters.
E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said today that the bloc would provide a further 500 million euros worth of military support to Ukraine and that he was confident a deal could be reached in the coming days to agree an embargo on Russian oil. Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the G7 foreign ministers meeting in Germany, Borrell said the military support would be for heavy weapons such as tanks and artillery and take the bloc’s aid to about 2 billion euros. Reuters reports.
More weapons need to be sent to Ukraine to help “keep up the pressure” on Russian President Vladimir Putin, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said today. ”It is very important at this time that we keep up the pressure on Vladimir Putin by supplying more weapons to Ukraine, by increasing the sanctions,” Truss said, speaking on her way to a meeting of the G7. Nadine Schmidt reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) objected yesterday to a Senate vote on assistance for Ukraine, delaying passage of the bill till next week. Paul was able to single-handedly block the package’s advancement because the Senate requires unanimous consent to quickly move such a bill to a final vote. Paul requested that an inspector general be appointed to oversee the funding but rejected an offer from Senate leaders to hold an amendment vote on his provision. Changing the bill would have forced it back to the House. Amy Cheng and Eugene Scott report for the Washington Post.
The European Union’s executive body has proposed setting up trade corridors that would allow Ukraine to sidestep Russia’s blockade of its Black Sea ports and resume exporting millions of tons of grain that are essential to the world’s food supply. European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean said 22 million tons of grain must leave Ukraine via E.U. “solidarity lanes” within the next three months. In a news release, she called the effort a “gigantesque challenge” but stressed the “urgent need.” Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
David Beasley, head of the U.N. World Food Programme, is pleading with Russian President Vladimir Putin to reopen Ukraine’s Black Sea ports before global calamity strikes. “Millions of people around the world will die because these ports are being blocked,” Beasley said during a conference yesterday. Matt Egan reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
U.N.I.C.E.F. has verified that almost 100 children were killed in Ukraine in April alone, but actual figures could be significantly higher. “In just this past month, the U.N. verified that nearly 100 children were killed, and we believe the actual figures to be considerably higher,” U.N.I.C.E.F. Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi told the U.N. Security Council yesterday. Hande Atay Alam reports for CNN.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
A group of 18 progressive House Democrats sent a letter to President Biden, urging him to lift all sanctions against Venezuela that “exacerbate the humanitarian situation” in the country. In a letter dated May 10, led by Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Jesús García (D-IL), the group wrote, “It is clear that broad sanctions have failed to achieve their aims.” “In light of this, and the dire human costs incurred, we urge you to lift all U.S. financial and sectoral sanctions that exacerbate the humanitarian situation, though without hindering or delaying the urgent action needed to transition the U.S. economy off of fossil fuels,” the letter reads. Rachel Scully reports for The Hill.
The U.S. yesterday signed the Second Additional Protocol to the Budapest Convention, a multilateral treaty aimed to protect citizens from cybercrime and hold cybercriminals accountable. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard Downing signed the treaty at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. According to a statement by the Justice Department, the U.S. will join more than 60 countries that have pledged to combat cybercrime, with more expected to join in the coming years. Ines Kagubare reports for The Hill.
President Biden welcomed leaders from Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to the White House yesterday night for an intimate dinner ahead of a two-day summit, the first meeting of the group to be held in Washington in its 45-year history. Biden is looking to nudge southeast Asian leaders to be more outspoken about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however, finding consensus with ASEAN members on the Russian invasion could prove difficult. The White House is also trying to demonstrate that it is stepping up in the Pacific. It announced that the United States would commit to more than $150 million in new projects to bolster Southeast Asia’s climate, maritime and public health infrastructure. Aamer Madhani reports for AP.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will refer the killing of Palestinian American journalist Shireen Abu Aqla to the International Criminal Court (ICC). Abu Aqla was shot while covering an Israeli raid in the occupied West Bank. There was no immediate response from the ICC or the Israeli government, which does not recognise the court’s authority and has refused to cooperate with an investigation into possible war crimes in the occupied territories. BBC News reports.
Sri Lanka’s president Gorabaya Rajapaksa has appointed opposition politician Ranil Wickremesinghe as prime minister in an effort to appease protesters. Rajapaksa appointed Wickremesinghe to the post yesterday after his older brother, Mahinda Rajapaksa, stepped down. The move followed a spate of violence that began on Monday when hundreds of ruling party supporters rallied outside the prime minister’s official residence in Colombo, the capital, before marching toward sites where antigovernment protesters had been demonstrating peacefully for weeks. Philip Wen reports for the Wall Street Journal.
U.N.-appointed independent human rights experts have called for Singapore to immediately impose a moratorium on the death penalty, saying the continued use of capital punishment for drug-related crimes runs contrary to international law. States that have not yet abolished the death penalty may only impose it for “the most serious crimes,” the group of eleven experts said in a joint statement, adding that under international law, “only crimes of extreme gravity involving intentional killing” should be considered “most serious.” “Drug offences clearly do not meet this threshold,” they argued. The experts condemned Singapore’s recent execution of Malaysian nationals Abdul Kahar bin Othman and Nagaenthran Dharmalingam for drug-related offences. UN News Centre reports.
A Turkish court upheld a prison sentence for a prominent leader in the country’s largest opposition party, deepening a clampdown on opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Court of Cassation in Ankara yesterday approved an earlier sentence against Canan Kaftancioglu, the leader of the Istanbul branch of the Republican People’s Party. She was sentenced to four years and 11 months in prison on charges of insulting the Turkish Republic and defamation of a public official in connection with her social media posts. She will also be banned from participating in politics for nearly five years. Jared Malsin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
After a month of crippling ransomware attacks, Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves has declared a state of emergency. The attacks began in April when the finance ministry was the first to report that a number of its systems were affected, including tax collection and customs. The Costa Rican government has not reported an expansion of the attacks, but some systems, especially at the finance ministry, are still not functioning normally. The Russian-speaking Conti gang had claimed responsibility for the attacks. AP reports.
One of the biggest donors to Britain’s Conservative Party is suspected of secretly funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to the party from a Russian account, according to a bank alert filed to Britain’s national law enforcement agency. The donation, of $630,225, was made in February 2018 in the name of Ehud Sheleg, a wealthy London art dealer who was most recently the Conservative Party’s treasurer. However, documents filed with the authorities last year say that the money originated in a Russian account of Sheleg’s father-in-law, Sergei Kopytov, who was once a senior politician in the previous pro-Krelim government of Ukraine. The donation was flagged by Barclays bank as both suspected money laundering and a potentially illegal campaign donation. Jane Bradley reports for the New York Times.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack issued subpoenas yesterday to five Republican members of Congress, including Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader. This move was an extraordinary step in the annals of congressional investigations and represents a significant escalation as the panel digs deeps into the role Republicans played in attempts to overthrow the 2020 election. Luke Broadwater and Emily Cochrane report for the New York Times.
Federal prosecutors have begun a grand jury investigation into whether classified White House documents that ended up at former President Trump’s Florida home were mishandled. In recent days, the Justice Department has taken a series of steps showing that its investigation has progressed beyond the preliminary stages, according to sources familiar with the matter. First, prosecutors issued a subpoena to the National Archives and Records Administration to obtain the boxes of classified documents. Second, the authorities have made interview requests to people who worked in the White House in the final days of Trump’s presidency. Maggie Haberman and Michael S. Schmidt report for the New York Times.
Elon Musk has said that his planned $44 billion purchase of Twitter is “temporarily on hold” pending details on spam and fake accounts on the social media platform. The announcement that the Tesla billionaire tweeted is another twist amid signs of internal turmoil over his planned buyout of Twitter, including that the social media company fired two of its top managers yesterday. AP reports.
COVID-19 has infected over 82.32 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 rollout 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.