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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 President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said yesterday that 87 people had been killed in an attack last week in the Chernihiv region north of the capital, Kyiv – making it one of the deadliest single incidents since the Russian invasion. “Unfortunately, according to the statistics, we’ve got 87 dead bodies, 87 victims,” he said during questions after he delivered a video address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It was not clear whether those killed were civilians or military personnel. Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Christiaan Triebert reports for the New York Times.
The city of Sievierodonetsk on the east bank of the Siverskiy Donets river and its twin Lysychansk on the west bank have become a pivotal battlefield in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Russian forces today launching an all-out assault to encircle troops there. “The enemy has focused its efforts on carrying out an offensive in order to encircle Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk,” said Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk, where the two cities are among the last territory still held by Ukraine. Pavel Polityuk reports for Reuters.
Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the Dnipropetrovsk regional military administration, said yesterday that Russian missiles had struck railway infrastructure in the region, causing serious damage. Russian forces have targeted Ukraine’s railway infrastructure in an apparent bid to interrupt the supply of Ukrainian forces. Kostan Nechyporenko reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – RUSSIAN DISSENT
A Russian diplomat, Boris Bondarev, has quit his job in protest of the “bloody, witless” war “unleashed by Putin against Ukraine.” Bondarev, whose LinkedIn says he worked at the Russian mission to the U.N. in Geneva, told the BBC he knew his decision to speak out may mean the Kremlin now considers him a traitor. But he stood by his statement, made in a letter posted on social media, which described the war as “a crime against the Ukrainian people” and “the people of Russia.” Flora Durry reports for BBC News.
CNN has spoken to a Russian officer who has resigned in protest over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – potentially one of many as Russian troops struggle with low morale and heavy losses in Ukraine. The officer and his comrades were unaware of Russia’s invasion when it was launched, as no news was passed to them, and they were out of touch with the outside world, the officer told CNN. When they themselves were ordered into Ukraine, some of the soldiers refused outright, he added, bolstering reports by the U.K.’s Intelligence, Cyber and Security Agency that some Russian soldiers have refused to carry out orders. Uliana Pavlova reports for CNN.
Russian nationalist figures are increasingly criticizing the failures of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine according to an assessment by the Institute for the Study of War. These critics, which include the All-Russian Officers Assembly, an independent pro-Russian veterans’ association that seeks to reform Russian military strategy, are calling on the Kremlin to declare war on Ukraine and introduce partial mobilisation. However, the Kremlin has so far declined to take this step likely due to concerns over domestic backlash and flaws in Russia’s mobilization systems.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. has significantly boosted its military presence in Europe since the start of the Ukraine war, Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said yesterday. There are now 102,000 troops stationed in European ground, sea and air — a 30 per cent increase since Russia’s invasion began, Milley said at a news conference after the second meeting of the Ukrainian Defense Contact Group. Paulina Villegas reports for the Washington Post.
The U.S. is still “a way away” from any possible decision on whether to re-introduce U.S. troops into Ukraine, Milley said yesterday. Whilst he acknowledged that there had been some degree of staff planning ahead of a potential decision to send U.S. troops back into Ukraine, he said that the planning had not yet made it to his level for review or to the level of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Phil Stewart reports for Reuters.
During a summit in Tokyo today, President Biden called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine unprovoked and said that it had triggered a humanitarian catastrophe. The president was sitting alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, who has been reluctant to condemn Russia. Zolan Kanno-Youngs reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Twenty nations have agreed to provide new weapons to Ukraine, offering the government of President Volodymyr Zelensky additional ways to fight Russian troops, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said yesterday. At a news conference with Gen. Mark Milley, Austin said that the new munitions would include U.S.-made Harpoon anti-ship cruise missiles and a launcher, which will be provided by Denmark for coastal defense. John Ismay reports for the New York Times.
The Czech Republic has donated attack helicopters to Ukraine, and along with Slovakia, has allowed Ukraine’s military to send dozens of armored vehicles across their borders for repairs before they are returned to the conflict. The moves mark a significant escalation in Western support for the country in its fight with Russia. The helicopters—Soviet-designed Mi-24 gunships—were deployed to Ukraine in recent weeks, part of a broader effort to help the country reclaim its airspace. Austin thanked the Czechs for their donation during public comments after a Monday meeting of allied defense officials. Drew Hinshaw reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A breakthrough in negotiations over an E.U. embargo on Russian oil could come “within days,” according to Germany’s vice-chancellor and energy minister, Robert Habeck. “I’m positive that Europe will find a solution within the next days,” Habeck said yesterday in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Negotiations have been stalled by Hungary, which is overly dependent on Russian oil imports. However, concessions for Hungary wouldn’t make a big difference in the substance of the oil embargo, Habeck said. Patricia Cohen and Matina Stevis-Gridneff report for the New York Times.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has downplayed the effects of sanctions on Russia for the invasion of Ukraine, according to remarks published by his office yesterday, while talking up the resilience of his country’s economy. “Despite all the difficulties, I would like to note that the Russian economy is withstanding the sanctions blow quite well, as evidenced by all the key macroeconomic indicators,” Putin said in a conversation with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
Coffee giant Starbucks says it has exited Russia and will no longer have a brand presence there, according to a press release yesterday. Starbucks says it will “support” its nearly 2,000 workers in Russia, including pay for six months and assistance for partners to transition to new opportunities outside of Starbucks. It joins other companies like McDonald’s and Exxon Mobil in taking its business completely out of Russia. Alison Kosik reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S. Oksana Markarova took aim yesterday at suggestions that Ukraine “allow Putin to save face” or cede territory for peace in an effort to end the war. “Peace at any cost is not in anyone’s interest, because it’s not possible. Either you win and you can live peacefully in your own country, or you die, and it doesn’t matter whether you die quickly, right away from the shells, or you die slowly [from] occupation and torture,” she said at an event in Washington D.C. Sarakshi Rai reports for The Hill.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv is ready for a prisoner exchange with Russia “even tomorrow,” as he called on allies to continue to put pressure on Moscow. “The exchange of people — this is a humanitarian matter today and a very political decision that depends on the support of many states,” Zelensky said yesterday during his address to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Josh Pennington and Alex Stambaugh report for CNN.
Russia’s theft of Ukrainian grain appears to be increasing as it continues its war on the country, according to new satellite photos of the Crimean port of Sevastopol. The satellite images show two Russia-flagged bulk carrier ships docking and loading up with what is believed to be stolen Ukrainian grain. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of “gradually stealing” Ukrainian food products and trying to sell them. Alex Marquardt and Tim Lister reports for CNN.
Ihor Terekhov, the mayor of the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, said the city’s subway system would resume operations today, after months of serving as a shelter for citizens looking to escape Russian bombardment. During the height of the Russian bombardment of Kharkiv — Ukraine’s second-largest city — many residents of Kharkiv took refuge in the city’s metro system. Terekhov said many of those who remained underground had been relocated in dormitories, in areas further away from the shelling. Julia Presniakove reports for CNN.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
President Biden stressed today that his policy toward Taiwan had not changed, one day after forcefully pledging that the U.S. would defend the island if it came under assault by neighboring China. At a meeting of leaders from the U.S., India, Australia and Japan, Biden was asked to elaborate on his unequivocal remarks that were an apparent change to long-standing U.S. policy. “The policy has not changed at all. I stated that when I made my statement yesterday,” he told reporters when asked whether he would send U.S. troops to Taiwan if China invaded. Cleve R. Wootson Jr, Seung Min Kim and Michelle Ye Hee Lee report for the Washington Post.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan repeated his claims yesterday that the U.S. had orchestrated his ouster, saying that “anti-Americanism” was growing in the South Asian nation as a result of “all this becoming public.” Khan has repeatedly claimed that Donald Lu, the Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, had met with Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington in March and told him that Khan should be dismissed from power in the confidence vote. Khan said yesterday in an interview with CNN that Lu threatened “Pakistan will suffer consequences” unless Khan was removed from power. Becky Anderson, Sophia Saifi and Rhea Mogul report for CNN.
Unilateral action on the Northern Ireland Protocol “will not work,” a delegation of U.S. politicians has told the U.K. government. Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI) urged Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to have face-to-face negotiations with Brussels, saying that this was the only way to protect the progress made by the Good Friday Agreement. The group also met Irish premier Micheál Martin on Monday in Dublin, and will later visit Northern Ireland. BBC News reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he no longer recognises the leader of neighbouring Greece and will refuse to meet him at a planned summit. “There’s no longer anyone called Mitsotakis in my book,” Mr Erdogan told reporters after a cabinet meeting. Erdogan also accused Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of seeking to block the sale of American-made F-16 fighter jets to Turkey while visiting the U.S. and of harbouring “terrorists.” Matt Murphy reports for BBC News.
The age of appeasing North Korea is over and any new talks between Seoul and Pyongyang must be initiated by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, South Korea’s new conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol said yesterday. “Just to escape temporarily North Korean provocation or conflict is not something that we should do,” he said, pointing at the previous liberal administration’s conciliatory strategy. “This kind of approach over the past five years has proven to be a failure.” However, despite his stance, Yoon also said that he did not want North Korea to “collapse.” Jessie Yeung, Paula Hancocks and Yoonjung Seo report for CNN.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has revised rules governing the use of force by law enforcement agencies overseen by the Justice Department, requiring federal agents to intervene when they see officials using excessive force or mistreating people in custody. A memo containing the rule change was posted on the department’s website yesterday. The changes represent the first revision of the department’s use-of-force policy in 18 years. It now requires officers to “recognize and act upon the affirmative duty to intervene to prevent or stop, as appropriate, any officer from engaging in excessive force or any other use of force that violates the Constitution, other federal laws or department policies on the reasonable use of force.” Glenn Thrush reports for the New York Times.
As federal investigators weigh the potential criminality of former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, legal experts say a decades-old ethics law — one routinely violated by members of Trump’s inner circle — could provide them with a path to prosecution. The Hatch Act prohibits electioneering by executive branch officials, including the promotion of the president’s political interests, during the course of their formal duties. The law was regularly flouted by the Trump administration while in office, a trend that continued throughout the two months between the presidential election and the Jan. 6 attack. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
Active shooter incidents rose more than 50 per cent over 2021, according to new data released by the FBI. There were 61 active shooter situations in 2021, a jump of 53 per cent from 2020, with a similar rise in the number of casualties. The report also noted a trend of shooters increasingly targeting multiple locations. “The FBI observed an emerging trend involving roving active shooters; specifically, shooters who shoot in multiple locations, either in one day or in various locations over several days,” the agency wrote in its report. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
Ruling against two Arizona death row inmates, the Supreme Court on Monday cut back on prisoners’ ability to challenge their convictions in federal court by arguing that their lawyers had been ineffective in state court proceedings. The 6-to-3 decision split was split along ideological lines. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority, said that a federal court considering a habeas corpus petition “may not conduct an evidentiary hearing or otherwise consider evidence beyond the state-court record based on ineffective assistance of state post-conviction counsel.” Adam Liptak reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 83.39 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 526.187 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.