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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 shelled the northeastern city of Kharkiv yesterday, killing nine people and wounding more than a dozen. The renewed attack follows almost two weeks of relative quiet in Ukraine’s second-largest city. Several neighborhoods “came under fire from rocket-propelled grenade launchers and artillery,” the regional governor, Oleh Synehubov, said. Another person was killed and another wounded in the nearby town of Dergachi. Valerie Hopkins reports for the New York Times.
Four people have been killed in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk over the past 24 hours by Russian shelling, according to Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai. “The residents of Sievierodonetsk have forgotten when was the last time there was silence in the city for at least half an hour,” he wrote in a Telegram post. One more person was also killed by a Russian shell in the village of Komushuvakha. AP reports.
Russian-backed separatists claim to have taken control of the city of Lyman in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region. In a Telegram post, the armed forces of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic says 220 settlements are now under their control. Lyman is on the road to the Ukrainian city of Slovyansk – which is a key Russian target as Moscow tries to take full control of the Donbas. BBC News reports.
Russian forces are continuing to carve out incremental gains in eastern Ukraine, fighting to take hamlets and villages and shelling cities from afar. The diminishing scale of the fighting has generated anxiety among some Western allies that the war could reach an extended impasse with severe economic consequences. However, U.S. defense officials have pushed back against calling the state of the battle in the Donbas a stalemate, saying there remains fierce, active fighting by Russian troops and stiff Ukrainian resistance, if on a diminishing scale. Victoria Kim reports for the New York Times.
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba, pleaded with Western nations yesterday to provide Kyiv with heavy weapons to enable it to push Russian forces back. “We need heavy weapons. The only position where Russia is better than us it’s the amount of heavy weapons they have. Without artillery, without multiple launch rocket systems we won’t be able to push them back,” he said in a video posted on Twitter. AP reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – ALLEGATIONS OF GENOCIDE
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of executing “an obvious policy of genocide” as its military keeps pummeling cities and towns in the eastern part of Ukraine. The Russians’ goal is clear, Zelensky said — to raze more towns in Donbas to rubble, as they did in Mariupol. “All this, including the deportation of our people and the mass killings of civilians, is an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia.” Jonathan Edwards reports for the Washington Post.
Russia’s actions in Ukraine provide enough evidence to conclude that Moscow is inciting genocide and committing atrocities intended to destroy the Ukrainian people, according to the first independent report into allegations of genocide in that country. The report, set to be released today, is signed by more than 30 leading legal scholars and genocide experts and accuses the Russian state of violating several articles of the United Nations Genocide Convention. It warns there is a serious and imminent risk of genocide in Ukraine, backing the accusations with a long list of evidence including examples of mass killings of civilians, forced deportations and dehumanizing anti-Ukrainian rhetoric used by top Russian officials. The report was put together by New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights. Ivana Kottasova reports for CNN.
Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been processed through a series of Russian “filtration camps” in Eastern Ukraine and sent into Russia as part of a systemized program of forced removal, according to four sources familiar with the latest Western intelligence. This estimate is far higher than U.S. officials have publicly disclosed and forms a key element of Russia’s effort to cement political control over occupied areas – in part by eliminating Ukrainians believed to be sympathetic to Kyiv and in part by diminishing the Ukrainian national identity through depopulation. Katie Bo Lillis, Kylie Atwood and Natasha Bertrand report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The Biden administration is considering sending advanced, long-range rocket systems to Ukraine, multiple officials have said. The administration is leaning toward sending the systems – which can fire a barrage of rockets hundreds of kilometers – as part of a larger package of military and security assistance to Ukraine, which could be announced as soon as next week. Jim Sciutto, Natasha Bertrand and Alex Marquardt report for CNN.
As the U.S. and its allies provide Ukraine with increasingly sophisticated arms, Washington has held discussions with Kyiv about the danger of escalation if it strikes deep inside Russia. The behind-the-scenes discussions, have not put explicit geographic restrictions on the use of weapons supplied to Ukrainian forces. However, the conversations have sought to reach a shared understanding of the risk of escalation, three U.S. officials and diplomatic sources said. Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali report for Reuters.
The U.S. general nominated to become NATO’s next supreme allied commander warned yesterday that Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian grain exports could enable terrorist networks in other parts of the world. Gen. Christopher Cavoli, commander of all U.S. Army forces in Europe and Africa, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that groups including the Islamic State, al-Shabab and Boko Haram stand to benefit from food shortages resulting from the war. He also said that U.S. military intervention may be required to ensure global markets don’t become destabilized. Karound Demirjian, Alex Horton and Stefano Pitrelli report for the Washington Post.
Cavoli, also told senators that Sweden and Finland’s push to join NATO won’t require adding more U.S. ground forces into either country. However, military exercises and occasional American troop rotations will probably increase, he said. AP reports.
The White House expects minimal impact on the U.S. and global economy from a potential Russian debt default, as Washington decided to not extend a waiver that enabled Russia to pay U.S. bondholders. “We expect the impact on the U.S. and the global economy to be minimal, given Russia has already been isolated financially,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said in a press briefing yesterday. Steve Holland and Kanishka Singh report for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The World Health Assembly yesterday voted in favor of a resolution that condemned Russian attacks on the healthcare system in Ukraine before rejecting a parallel proposal presented by Moscow. Ukraine’s successful resolution, which was backed by member states 88-to-12 with 53 abstentions, raises the possibility that Russia could be suspended from the assembly if attacks on hospitals and clinics continue. Adam Taylor reports for the Washington Post.
Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko yesterday ordered the creation of a new military command for the south of the country, bordering Ukraine. “A new front has opened and we can’t fail to pay attention to it,” Lukashenko told a televised meeting of defense officials. The new command had been proposed last year but needed to be set up immediately, he said. Reuters reports.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi yesterday discussed ways to help ease the international food crisis, with the Kremlin saying this could be done only if the West lifts sanctions. “Vladimir Putin emphasized that the Russian Federation is ready to make a significant contribution to overcoming the food crisis through the export of grain and fertilizers, provided that politically motivated restrictions from the West are lifted,” Moscow said in a statement. Reuters reports.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday said the U.S. will rally the global alliance supporting Ukraine’s defensive war against Russia to confront China’s global ambitions, calling it a “charged moment for the world.” “Beijing’s defense of President Putin’s war to erase Ukraine’s sovereignty and secure its sphere of influence in Europe should raise alarm bells for all of us who call the Indo-Pacific Region home,” Blinken said in a speech at George Washington University. Laura Kelly reports for The Hill.
The U.S. yesterday urged Yemen’s Houthi rebels to release all U.S. Embassy local staffers that they had detained, following the death of one of them after seven months in captivity. The Iran-backed Houthis seized the headquarters of the U.S. Embassy in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa last October. They detained dozens of former staffers, at least 11 of whom remain in the rebels’ custody. Samy Magdy reports for AP.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
China and Russia vetoed a new round of U.N. sanctions on North Korea yesterday, for the first time since 2006. The sanctions were proposed after a year in which North Korea launched dozens of ballistic missiles, in violation of U.N. resolutions. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. criticized Russia and China for their use of the veto, saying that “these council members have decided to shield a proliferator from facing the consequences of its actions and they have demonstrated the worthlessness of their word by giving an explicit nod of approval to the DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea].” Samantha Beech reports for CNN.
Palestinian Authority’s investigation has accused Israel of deliberately killing Palestinian-American journalist, Shireen Abu Akleh. The investigation’s conclusions, reported by the Authority’s attorney general, were based in part on the bullet used in the killing, which they argue demonstrates Israeli responsibility. The Israeli government is conducting its own investigation and has requested access to the bullet used, but their request has been denied by the Authority. Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz, said that any claim that their military intentionally harms journalists is a “blatant lie.” Raja Abdulrahim and Hiba Yazbek report for the New York Times.
Saudi officials have rejected any near future meeting with Iran, suggesting that before a meeting can take place, Iran must take steps to reduce regional tensions. An official with the Saudi foreign ministry said that the talks with Iran have made limited but insufficient progress and that a bilateral meeting is unlikely to take place in the foreseeable future. “Iran must build confidence for future cooperation, and there are several issues that can be discussed with Teheran if it has the desire to de-escalate tensions in the region,” the official told Reuters. Iran’s foreign minister, however, presented a differing view, suggesting that he hopes to meet his Saudi counterpart soon. Aziz El Yaakoubi reports for Reuters.
U.N. human rights envoy in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, has called on the Taliban to reverse new restrictions on Afghan women. Bennett said Thursday that the country faces “severe” human rights challenges and that the Taliban must relax its restrictions on womens’ rights. “I urge the authorities to acknowledge human rights challenges that they are facing and to close the gap between their words and the deeds,” he said. He referred specifically to the decision to ban girls from attending high-school and to impose mandated facial coverings for women. Mohammad Yunus Yawar and Charlotte Greenfield report for Reuters.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Former House Republicans have called on current members to comply with Jan. 6 subpoenas. Twenty-one former Republican representatives urged leading Republican members of the House to engage with the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. “We believe our country is at a pivotal moment. In the wake of the January 6th, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol, current Members bear a responsibility to do all they can to secure our institutions. As part of that duty, we write to urge you to cooperate with the House Select Committee investigating the attack,” the former lawmakers wrote. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A New York State appeals court ruled yesterday that former President Trump must testify in the New York Attorney General’s fraud investigation. Attorney General Letitia James has argued that she needs the testimony of Trump, and two of his children — Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. — for her investigation into the financial dealings of the former president and his business. Lawyers for the Trump family argued that they were unfairly targeted in a politically motivated investigation, an argument rejected by the appeals court. The Trumps “have failed to demonstrate that they were treated differently from any similarly situated persons,” the court said. Corrine Ramey reports for the Wall Street Journal.
A bipartisan group of senators are set to begin exploring possible federal gun-control laws. The group is led by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) and will examine modest reform proposals. More progressive proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines are not on the table, according to Republicans. Instead, negotiators are eyeing expansions of background checks and “red flag” laws that would allow authorities to keep guns away from people found to pose a potential threat. While Cornyn said that the most recent mass shooting could “provide some impetus” for compromise, “restricting the rights of law-abiding citizens is not going to make our communities or our country any safer.” Mike DeBonis reports for the Washington Post.
California looks to implement stricter gun control laws in the wake of the Uvalde mass shooting. Governor of California Gavin Newsom pledged to swiftly enact a string of new laws, including one that would limit ghost guns and another that would allow victims of shootings to sue the gun industry. “We’re going to control the controllable — the things we have control of,” Newsom said during an event at the State Capitol. “California leads this national conversation. When California moves, other states move in the same direction.” California is already one of the strictest states in terms of gun control, which Newsom argues is part of why the state enjoys one of the lowest firearm death rates in the nation. Soumya Karlamangla reports for the New York Times.
Republicans in the Senate have blocked a domestic terrorism bill which would have established domestic terrorism offices within federal law enforcement agencies. The new offices were designed to analyze and combat white supremacist infiltration in the military and federal law enforcement agencies. The vote in the senate fell down party lines — 47 to 47 — with not a single Republican supporting the measure. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
COVID-19 has infected over 83.72 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 527.412 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.