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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
Russia has launched a renewed attack on Sievierodonetsk in the Luhansk region, according to military authorities and analysts. Yesterday Russian forces attempted to breach the city’s defenses from four directions. However, neither side has been able to move the front line substantially in its favor. The city is one of the last major Ukrainian strongholds in the region and a victory there would give Russian forces control of Luhansk. Carlotta Gall, Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Maria -Abi Habib report for the New York Times.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says up to 100 people are being killed each day in fighting in eastern Ukraine, where Russia has centered its military efforts in recent weeks. Zelenskyy made the comment yesterday while speaking to the press alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda. Svitlana Budzhak -Jones and Alex Stambaugh report for CNN.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak has ruled out a ceasefire with Russia, saying that Kyiv would not accept any deal with Moscow that involved ceding territory. Podolyak said making concessions would backfire on Ukraine because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting. Tom Balmforth reports for Reuters.
Ukraine’s culture minister said yesterday that Russian forces have destroyed or damaged more than 350 cultural and historic sites since invading the country. “The cultural heritage of the Kharkiv region has suffered the most,” Oleksandr Tkachenko said in a statement posted on Facebook. Erika Solomon reports for the New York Times.
In the first three months of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia has probably lost the same number of troops as the Soviet Union did during its nine-year war in Afghanistan that began in December 1979, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense has said. The death toll is a result of “poor low-level tactics, limited air cover” and “a lack of flexibility,” the ministry said in an intelligence update, adding that Russian commanders are prone to repeating mistakes.
Russia is likely experiencing a shortage of appropriate reconnaissance Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), which it has attempted to use to identify targets to be struck by combat jets or artillery, the U.K.’s Defense Ministry has said. Russia is likely experiencing a shortage of appropriate reconnaissance UAVs, which is exacerbated by limitations in its domestic manufacturing capacity resulting from sanctions, according to an intelligence update.
The war in Ukraine will turn into a long and bloody “slog,” retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, predicted yesterday. “I think we’re in for a long one,” Mullen said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” referring to the continuing battle between Ukrainian and Russian forces over eastern Ukraine. “It’s going to be bloody. It’s going to be visible. It’s going to be what war is.” Carolyn Y. Johnson reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – MARIUPOL
Russian soldiers cleared mines and debris on the industrial grounds of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol yesterday after hundreds of Ukrainian forces holed up in the vast plant for weeks were ordered to stand down. “The task is huge, the enemy planted their own landmines, we had also planted anti-personnel mines while blocking the enemy. So we’ve got some two weeks of work ahead of us,” said a Russian soldier who only gave his nom de guerre Babai. Reuters reports.
The leader of Ukraine’s breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic has said that the fighters who surrendered at the Azovstal steel will face trial in the separatist region. “The prisoners from Azovstal are being held on the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” Interfax news agency quoted Denis Pushilin as saying. “Organising an international tribunal on the republic’s territory is also planned.” Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – WAR CRIMES
A Ukrainian court today sentenced a Russian soldier to life in prison for killing an unarmed civilian in the first war crimes trial arising from Russia’s invasion. Vadim Shishimarin had pleaded guilty to killing 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov in the northeastern Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka. “Given that the crime committed is a crime against peace, security, humanity and the international legal order … the court does not see the possibility of imposing a (shorter) sentence of imprisonment on Shishimarin for a certain period,” Judge Serhiy Agafonov said during the sentencing hearing. Pavel Polityuk reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
U.S. military and diplomatic officials are weighing plans to send special forces troops to Kyiv to guard the newly reopened embassy there. The proposals, which have yet to be presented to Biden, would force his administration to balance a desire to avoid escalating the U.S. military presence in the war zone against fears for the safety of American diplomats, U.S. officials have said. Gordon Lubold, Courtney McBride and Warren P. Strobel report for the Wall Street Journal.
An American delegation is scheduled to hold talks in The Hague this week on “responses to atrocities committed in Ukraine,” the State Department said in a statement. However, while the Biden administration wants to see Russia held to account, American laws limit what assistance the government can provide to the International Criminal Court. Austin Ramzy reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The World Economic Forum in Davos today is expected to focus on Russia’s war and its fallout, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy opening the gathering with a virtual address. Both Russian government officials and all Russian nationals, who normally have a prominent presence at the annual summit, have been barred from attending. Anushka Patil reports for the New York Times.
Representatives of the U.S. and several other nations walked out of an Asia-Pacific trade ministers meeting in Bangkok on Saturday to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, officials said. The walkout was “an expression of disapproval at Russia’s illegal war of aggression in Ukraine and its economic impact in the APEC region,” one diplomat said. Reuters reports.
“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine undermines the foundation of global order,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan told President Biden during a meeting in Tokyo. “We can in no way allow whatsoever such attempts to change the status quo by force wherever it may be in the world.” Austin Ramzy reports for the New York Times.
In a visit to Kyiv yesterday, Polish President Andrzej Duda said that Ukraine alone should determine its future and that the international community must demand Russia’s complete withdrawal from its territory. In the first address by a foreign leader to Ukraine’s Parliament since the war began, Duda said it would be a “huge blow not only for the Ukrainian nation but also for the entire Western world,” if even a tiny part of the country was sacrificed in a peace deal. Matthew Mpoke Bigg reports for the New York Times.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
President Biden has enlisted a dozen Asia-Pacific nations to join a new Asia-Pacific economic bloc. The aim of the new alliance is to counter China’s dominance and reassert American influence in the region. The alliance will bring the U.S. together with regional powerhouses such as Japan, South Korea and India to establish new rules of commerce in the fastest-growing part of the world and offer an alternative to Beijing’s leadership. Biden will formally inaugurate what he has dubbed the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity today in Tokyo. Peter Baker and Zolan Kanno-Youngs report for the New York Times.
Biden today said the U.S. would be willing to defend Taiwan militarily if China were to try and take it by force. Biden also said he does not believe China will attempt to take Taiwan by force, adding that the united global response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine can serve as a deterrent against possible aggression by Beijing. Brett Samuels reports for The Hill.
Biden has indicated that he supports Japan becoming a permanent member of a “reformed” U.N. Security Council. Biden with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, where the two discussed the Japan-U.S. alliance and ways to ensure security and cooperation on the international stage. Brett Samuels reports for The Hill.
The U.S. Secret Service has decided to send home two employees, who were in South Korea for President Biden’s visit, home following an alleged altercation with a local resident. “The Secret Service is aware of an off-duty incident involving two employees which may constitute potential policy violations,” the Secret Service said in a statement. The Secret Service said the incident had no impact on the trip and declined to comment further on the matter. Andrew Restuccia and Dasl Yoon report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas held into a third day on Sunday as mediators spoke to all sides about extending the period of calm after the worst outbreak of fighting in years. Lynn Hastings, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian territories, also announced yesterday that the U.N. would launch an appeal to repair the damage in densely populated Gaza. Reuters reports.
Israeli lawmaker Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi, who quit the government last week, has decided to rejoin the ruling coalition helping Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to stay in power and avoid new elections. On Sunday Rinawie Zoabi said she would rejoin the coalition following intense pressure from Arab municipal officials worried about an alternative government that would likely include hard-right figures. Dov Lieber and Adam Rasgon report for the Wall Street Journal.
A senior member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps was assassinated in Tehran yesterday outside his home, according to a statement by the Guards. The statement identified the man as Col. Sayad Khodayee and blamed the assassination on foreign “terrorists” affiliated with world powers considered enemies of Iran’s Islamic revolution. Farnaz Fassihi and Adam Nossiter report for the New York Times.
Allegations of human rights abuses in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region are dominant issues as the U.N.’s top rights official begins her visit. Michelle Bachelet’s visit is the first to China by a U.N. high commissioner for human rights since 2005. However, rights groups have warned that the visit may serve to whitewash the ruling Communist Party’s abuses in Xinjiang. “The U.N. must take steps to mitigate against this and resist being used to support blatant propaganda,” Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General said in a statement. AP reports.
The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) has said the global number of forcibly displaced people has passed 100 million for the first time, describing it as a “staggering milestone”. The U.N. high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, said the new statistic should act as a wake-up call for the international community and that more action is needed internationally to address the root causes of forced displacement around the world. Diane Taylor reports for The Guardian.
Australia’s new prime minister Antony Albanese was sworn in today, before flying to Tokyo for a summit with President Biden. Anthony Albanese’s center-left Labor Party ousted predecessor Scott Morrison’s conservative coalition at Saturday’s election. However, it is not yet clear whether Albanese will control a majority in Parliament. Rod McGuirk reports for AP.
Rudy Giuliani testified on Friday before the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The onetime attorney of former President Trump met with the committee for roughly nine hours, including breaks. Garrett Haake and Zoe Richards report for NBC News.
Senate Republicans are set to vote against a House-passed bill that would authorize special offices within the government to investigate and monitor domestic terrorism. The Republican Party has compared the proposal, which sets up offices in the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice and the FBI to target domestic terrorism, to the recently paused disinformation board set up by the Biden administration. Senate conservatives say empowering the departments of Homeland Security and Justice with new authority to monitor domestic terrorism could easily morph into federal policing of political speech, and they worry it would be more targeted toward anti-government, anti-immigration activists than extreme left-wing groups. Alexander Bolton reports for The Hill.
COVID-19 has infected over 83.28 million people and has now killed over 1.00 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 525.617 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.28 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.