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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.
ROBB ELEMENTARY SCHOOL SHOOTING
A gunman killed at least 19 children and two adults yesterday in a rural Texas elementary school, a state police official has said, in the deadliest American school shooting since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary a decade ago. The gunman, whom the authorities identified as an 18-year-old man who had attended a nearby high school, was armed with several weapons, officials said. He also died at the scene, they said. Josh Peck and J. David Goodman report for the New York Times.
Americans must stand up to the gun lobby and pressure members of Congress to pass sensible gun laws, President Biden said yesterday following the killing of at least 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Texas. “As a nation, we have to ask when in God’s name we’re going to stand up to the gun lobby, when in God’s name we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done,” Biden said in a televised speech. “I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage,” he said. Andrea Shalal and Trevor Hunnicutt report for Reuters.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) who once held a 15-hour filibuster on the Senate floor on the need for stricter gun laws in the U.S., returned there yesterday night to plead with his colleagues to work together to prevent mass shootings. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) also charged Republicans with robbing the lives of young children. Describing the shooting as “a crisis of existential proportions,” Pelosi in a tweet called on senators to finally vote “House-passed bipartisan, commonsense, life-saving legislation into law.” Colby Itkowitz, Marianna Sotomayor and Mile DeBonis report for the Washington Post.
Mexico’s government is offering consular assistance to Mexican families affected by yesterday’s school shooting. The country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said its consulates in Texas — including one in Eagle Pass and another in San Antonio — were closely working with law enforcement officials and local hospitals to determine whether any Mexican nationals were killed or injured in the Robb Elementary School attack. María Paúl reports for the Washington Post.
Pope Francis said he was “heartbroken” by the Texas school shooting and called for broader gun-control measures: “It is time to say ‘enough’ to the indiscriminate trafficking of weapons.” “Let us all make a commitment so that tragedies like this cannot happen again,” he said. Reuters reports.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Candidates who take part in an insurrection may be barred from holding public office under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, a federal appeals court has ruled, overturning a lower court judge’s decision. The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals issued the ruling yesterday in a challenge to former North Carolina Representative Madison Cawthorn’s candidacy for the House of Representatives. While the ruling is legally binding only in the states that make up the 4th Circuit — Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina — it could influence the outcome of legal challenges to multiple Republican House candidates tagged by critics for participating in events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Bloomberg Law reports.
The Justice Department yesterday released new videos of a meeting between the leaders of the two most prominent extremist organizations connected to Jan. 6 which took place just 24 hours before the attack. The six new videos provide greater detail as to what was discussed at the meeting between Oath Keeper leader Stewart Rhodes and Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio and show that the conversations between those at the meeting only briefly touched on Jan. 6. Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand report for CNN.
President Biden will today sign an executive order aimed at promoting police accountability, people familiar with the matter have said. The wide-ranging order, to be signed on the second anniversary of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer while three others looked on, builds on Justice Department policies that limit federal officers’ ability to use force. Among other measures, it also will create a registry of major disciplinary actions taken against officers and require at least some of that data to be made public. Sadie Gurman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Russian forces launched offensives on towns in eastern Ukraine today, with constant mortar bombardment destroying several houses and killing civilians, Ukrainian officials have said. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office said the Russians launched an offensive on Sievierodonetsk early today and the town was under constant fire from mortars. Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said six civilians were killed and at least eight wounded, most near bomb shelters, in Sievierodonetsk. Pavel Polityuk and Max Hunder report for Reuters.
Russian forces have likely given up on planning a single large encirclement of Ukrainian troops in the country’s east, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in their latest assessment. Although their forces have secured more terrain in the past week than earlier in May, this has been achieved by scaling back their objectives, the ISW said — largely abandoning operations around Izyum and concentrating on key front-line towns. Overall, Russia’s performance “remains poor.”
Workers digging through the rubble of an apartment building in Mariupol have found 200 bodies in the basement, Ukrainian authorities said yesterday. The authorities did not say where the bodies were discovered, but the number of victims makes it one of the deadliest known attacks of the war. Elena Becatoros, Oleksandr Stashevskyi and Ricardo Mazalan report for AP.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – WAR CRIMES ALLEGATIONS
Eight Russian soldiers and mercenaries were charged yesterday with the murder of the mayor of a small Kyiv suburb and her family, Ukraine’s prosecutor general said. The mayor, Olha Sukhenko, was found in a shallow grave in her village, Motyzhyn, about 30 miles west of Kyiv, on April 2, after Russians withdrew from their positions around the capital. Her husband and son were buried with her. The group of accused soldiers and mercenaries also terrorized other civilians, torturing and killing them, as well as pillaging and destroying their homes, prosecutor general Irina Venediktova said. Valerie Hopkins reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The Biden administration will start blocking Russia from paying American bondholders, increasing the likelihood of the first default of Russia’s foreign debt in more than a century. An exemption to the sweeping sanctions that the United States imposed on Russia as punishment for its invasion of Ukraine has allowed Moscow to keep paying its debts since February. However, that carve-out will expire today, and the United States will not extend it, according to a notice published by the Treasury Department yesterday. Alan Rappeport and Eshe Nelson report for the New York Times.
Henry Kissinger, the 98-year-old former secretary of state who played a pivotal role in orchestrating American detente with the Soviet Union, has advised Ukraine to cede territory to make peace with Russia. Speaking via video link to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kissinger said the failure to restart negotiations with Russia and the further alienation of the Kremlin would have dire long-term consequences for stability in Europe. His statements have drawn wide criticism, including from members of the Ukrainian parliament. Dan Bilefsky reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
E.U. officials yesterday suggested the bloc might not decide whether to impose an oil embargo on Russia for weeks, as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban declared a state of emergency over the Ukraine war. Polish Prime Minister Matteusz Morawiecki also told the Wall Street Journal that a deal on the embargo, which Poland has pushed, might not happen until E.U. leaders gather again in Brussels in late June. Drew Hinshaw and Laurence Norman report for the Wall Street Journal.
Delegates from Finland and Sweden will visit Ankara today in a bid to clear up Turkey’s opposition to the Nordic states’ applications for NATO membership. Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto confirmed the trip during a World Economic Forum event yesterday, adding that he thinks diplomatic efforts could assuage Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s concerns. Amy Cheng reports for the Washington Post.
The British government approved the sale of Chelsea Football Club after sanctions were placed on Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, the longtime owner of the London-based team. “Last night the Government issued a licence that permits the sale of @ChelseaFC,” Nadine Dorries, the British cabinet minister responsible for sports, said in a tweet. “Given the sanctions we placed on those linked to Putin and the bloody invasion of Ukraine, the long-term future of the club can only be secured under a new owner.” Adela Suliman reports for the Washington Post.
Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki has said developments in Ukraine are a continuation of a long-term Western strategy to contain Russia, and that Ukraine and its people are “victims”. He made the remarks while addressing the nation on Eritrea’s 31st Independence Day from the main stadium in the capital, Asmara yesterday. He alleged that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, “forces of hegemony” decided to “rule the world through anchor states” against Russia. BBC News reports.
Russian lawmakers yesterday gave the first stamp of approval to a bill that would allow Russian entities to take over foreign companies that have left the market in opposition to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. The bill, passed in the first reading by the lower house of parliament, or Duma, would allow the state development bank VEB or other entities approved by a commission to act as external administration at companies where foreign ownership, specifically from countries that Moscow deems “unfriendly”, exceeds 25%. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
China’s Army held combat drills in the sea and airspace around Taiwan, a Chinese military official has said. The drills come one day after China and Russia held their first joint military exercise since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. China and Russia both said that Tuesday’s exercise was not aimed at a third party and that it was part of routine measures to strengthen cooperation between the two nations. Paul Mozur and John Liu report for the New York Times.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will speak only directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, not via intermediaries, for peace negotiations, he said at the World Economic Forum today. Zelenskyy also said his country would fight until it has recovered all of its territory, as Russia presses on with an offensive in the south and east of Ukraine. If Putin “understands reality,” he added, there could be a diplomatic solution to the conflict. Reuters reports.
Newly declassified U.S. intelligence shows that a Russian naval blockade has halted maritime trade at Ukrainian ports, in what world leaders call a deliberate attack on the global food supply chain. Russia’s navy now effectively controls all traffic in the northern third of the Black Sea, making it unsafe for commercial shipping, according to a U.S. government document. Shane Harris reports for the Washington Post.
Russia is ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine, in return for the lifting of some sanctions, the Interfax news agency cited Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko as saying. Ukraine’s Black Sea ports have been blocked since Russia sent thousands of troops into Ukraine and more than 20 million tonnes of grain are stuck in silos in the country. Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies and the lack of significant grain exports from Ukraine ports is contributing to a growing global food crisis. Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
An Iraqi man in the U.S. accused of being linked to ISIS operatives planned to kill George W. Bush in his Dallas home, according to an FBI search-warrant application filed March 23 and unsealed this week. The man, Shihab Ahmed Shihab Shihab, went as far as travelling to Dallas in November to take videos around the former president’s home and recruiting a team of compatriots he hoped to smuggle into the country over the Mexican border. The FBI said it uncovered the scheme through the work of two confidential informants and surveillance of the alleged plotter’s account on the Meta-owned WhatsApp messaging platform. Thomas Brewster reports for Forbes.
President Biden has finalized his decision to keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on a terrorist blacklist, according to a senior Western official. The decision, which was reportedly conveyed to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on April 24, will further complicate efforts to restore the 2015 nuclear deal. However, according to a person familiar with the matter the decision was conveyed as absolutely final, creating no room for Iranian concessions. Alexander Ward and Nahal Toosi report for POLITICO.
New evidence suggests that Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in a targeted attack by Israeli forces. Audio and video analysis indicates that Abu Akleh was shot from a distance of 200 meters. Israel claims she could have been hit by Palestinian militants, or an Israeli soldier returning fire, but eyewitnesses say there were no armed Palestinians or clashes in her vicinity. Zeena Saifi, Eliza Mackintosh, Celine Alkhaldi, Kareem Khadder, Katie Polglase and Gianluca Mezzofiore report for CNN.
The State Department has started to inform some of the Afghans housed for months at a military base in Kosovo that they won’t be allowed to enter the U.S.. The U.S. sent Afghans—many accompanied by spouses and children—to the base in Kosovo after they were flagged for additional screening during the vetting process following their evacuation from Kabul last year. U.S. officials said the decision to deny entry for some of the cases at the base came after disqualifying information was found about them. Jessica Donati and Gordon Lubold report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
North Korea launched three ballistic missiles, including a possible intercontinental ballistic missile, toward the waters off its east coast today, South Korea’s military has said. Shortly after the North’s tests, the South Korean and United States militaries each launched a land-to-land missile off the east coast of South Korea to demonstrate what Seoul called the allies’ “swift striking capability to deter further provocations from North Korea,” as well as the South Korean military’s “overwhelming” ability to launch “precision strikes at the origin of North Korean provocation.”Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times.
A cache of leaked documents detailing draconian surveillance and reeducation practices in Xinjiang has shed light on the scale of Beijing’s multiyear crackdown on ethnic Uyghurs in the region. The files, which include thousands of mug shots of detainees held in a network of camps in Xinjiang, cast a shadow over the highly orchestrated six-day trip to China by the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet. Lily Kuo and Cate Cadell report for the Washington Post.
Israel and Turkey’s top diplomats have said their countries were hoping to expand economic ties as they seek an end to more than a decade of strained relations. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is on the second-day of a two-day trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories, the first such visit by a senior Turkish official in 15 years. Reuters reports.
Security forces in Sudan have mounted a crackdown in recent days to crush remaining unrest, six months after a coup that brought a military regime to power in the country. Police fired teargas and shotguns at protesters as thousands took to the streets in the capital, Khartoum, and twin city of Omdurman on Monday. The violence followed a similarly harsh response to demonstrations over the weekend. In all, 113 people have been injured and one killed in recent days, according to doctors. Jason Burke and Zeinab Mohammed Salih report for the Guardian.
Zambia is making moves to abolish the death penalty, President Hakainde Hichilema has announced. “We will work with parliament to run this process as we transition away from the death penalty and focus on the preservation, rehabilitation of life while still delivering justice for all,” he said yesterday. Kennedy Gondwe reports for BBC News.
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.