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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the weekend. Here’s today’s news.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Russian missiles struck Kyiv for the first time in five weeks on Sunday. The strikes shattered a sense of relative safety that had settled over the capital in May, following a month without Russian strikes. At least five strikes were reported by local media and the city’s mayor reported one injury. Before Sunday, the last missile strike in Kyiv had been on April 29, during a visit by the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres. Valerie Hopkins reports for the New York Times.
Ukrainian forces recaptured half of the key eastern city of Severodonetsk, according to local officials today. As recently as Friday, Russia had taken control of 70% of the city, the control of which is crucial to Russia’s strategy in the Donbas. The incremental Ukrainian success comes as Russia is unable to deploy its artillery superiority in the close-quarters combat in the city streets. However, in the statement released today, Sergiy Gaiday, the governor of the Luhansk region, warned that the situation in the city had “worsened a little” again. The Telegraph reports.
Putin threatened to hit new targets if the U.S. sends long-range missiles to Ukraine. In a statement released Sunday, Putin also downplayed the recent announcement from President Biden that the U.S. would send short-range missiles to Ukraine as “nothing new.” The warning comes despite the fact that Biden has not offered longer-range weapons and is not expected to do so. Biden also has insisted that Ukraine not use shorter-range weapons systems to attack Russia within its borders. Julian Duplain, Kim Bellware, David Walker and Akilah Johnson report for the Washington Post.
Russia has increased its use of air power in support of troops fighting in the Donbas, according to a British intelligence report released on Saturday. The fighting is concentrated in the battle over control of the crucial eastern city of Severodonetsk. “The combined use of air and artillery strikes has been a key factor in Russia’s recent tactical successes in the region,” the report said. It noted that the increased use of unguided munitions has “almost certainly” caused civilian casualties. Matthew Mpoke Bigg reports for the New York Times.
A Russian general was killed in the east of Ukraine, according to Russian state media. The death of Major General Roman Kutuzov was announced on Sunday, but state media declined to release precisely where he had been killed. His death adds to a string of high-ranking military casualties sustained by Moscow. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Britain will send long-range weapons to Ukraine despite heightened Russian threats, the U.K. defense secretary announced today. Ukraine will receive three M270 multiple-launch rocket systems, according to the BBC. The decision was made in conjunction with the U.S.’s move to send advanced artillery. Like the U.S., the U.K. has insisted that Ukraine promise to not use the systems to strike Russian territory. Adam Durbin reports for the BBC.
Ukraine rejected Macron’s pleas to not ‘humiliate’ Putin. In an interview published Friday, French President Macron said that while Putin had made a “historic mistake” and was isolated, he should be allowed to save face and that humiliating him will close diplomatic paths to ending the war. On Saturday, the Ukrainian foreign minister rebuffed Macron, arguing that lives would be saved and peace restored if nations focused “on how to put Russia in its place.” Alan Yuhas reports for the New York Times.
Putin met with the chair of the African Union on Friday to discuss the export of grain from Ukraine. The shortages have caused a deterioration in the food situation across Africa and the African Union head, President Macky Sall of Senegal, said the grain should be freed up. The meeting was also significant for Putin, who seemingly gained a new ally when Sall called on the West to lift some of its sanctions in order to release the grain. Elian Peltier reports for the New York Times.
Millions of Ukrainian refugees may stay in the E.U., according to an E.U. official. 7 million people have fled Ukraine into its four neighboring E.U. states who have all opened their borders without question to Ukrainian refugees. It is “a very generous offer, far beyond the classical asylum protections,” Margaritis Schinas, Vice President of the European Commission, said. However, while Schinas said he expects the majority to return to their homeland after the fighting is over, he anticipates that “at least 2.5 million to 3 million people will stay.” Ishaan Tharoor provides analysis for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff visited Stockholm on Saturday in a show of support for the nation’s NATO bid. The U.S. is also planning to launch a broad naval exercise in the Baltic Sea with Sweden, Finland, and 13 NATO countries, a sign of a growing partnership as Stockholm and Helsinki apply to join the military alliance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The visit to Sweden came one day after Chairman Mark Milley visited Helsinki. Dan Lamothe reports for the Washington Post.
Russia is seeking to profit from stolen Ukrainian grain, U.S. diplomats warn. In mid-May, U.S. diplomats warned 14 mostly African nations that Russian cargo vessels were leaving ports near Ukraine laden with what a State Department cable described as “stolen Ukrainian grain.” This comes after Ukraine has been unable to export its grain, triggering a global shortage and worsening food crises around the world. Declan Walsh and Valerie Hopkins report for the New York Times.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry summoned U.S. media chiefs in Moscow to inform them of new restrictions. The meeting, set to take place today, will announce tough measures in response to U.S. restrictions against Russian media. “If the work of the Russian media – operators and journalists – is not normalized in the United States, the most stringent measures will inevitably follow,” Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Friday. Reuters reports.
U.S. intelligence agencies have begun a review of where its analysis was wrong in Ukraine. Though the agencies accurately predicted that Russia would in fact invade Ukraine, they underestimated the will of the Ukrainian government and armed forces, thinking Kyiv would fall within days under the immense Russian pressure. Nomaan Merchant and Matthew Lee report for AP.
Former CIA Director Gina Haspel oversaw torture at black sites abroad, according to new testimony. James E. Mitchell, a psychologist who helped develop the agency’s interrogation program, testified that the chief of base in Thailand, whom he referred to as Z9A in accordance with court rules, watched while he and a teammate subjected Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri to “enhanced interrogation” that included waterboarding at the black site. Z9A is the code name used in court for Haspel. During her confirmation hearing to become director of the CIA in 2018, Senator Dianne Feinstein asked her if she had overseen the interrogations of al-Nashiri, to which Haspel declined to answer, saying it was part of her classified career. Carol Rosenberg and Julian E. Barnes report for the New York Times.
Key senators said on Sunday that there is growing support for bipartisan gun legislation. However, no deal has been finalized and the talks are set to continue for a few more days as negotiators seek sufficient Republican support in the Senate. Should an agreement come together, it is certain to fall well short of the parameters that President Biden laid out in a White House address on Thursday, when he called for renewing the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004, as well as significantly expanding federal background checks for gun buyers and removing the firearms industry’s immunity from lawsuits. Mike DeBonis reports for the Washington Post.
Texas Republican donors urged Congress to enact gun control measures on Sunday. In an open letter published in The Dallas Morning News, major Republican donors, including supporters of Governor Greg Abbot, voiced their support for congressional action in the wake of the Uvalde Elementary School shooting. The letter, which has more than 250 signatories, calls on Congress to expand background checks and raise the age to purchase a gun to 21. Eleanor Klibanoff reports for the Dallas Morning News.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
January 6 attacks were part of an “extremely well organized conspiracy” to overturn the election, Congresswoman Cheney said yesterday. Cheney said that the conspiracy was “extremely broad” and organized by then-President Donald Trump and his allies. She further added that the attack on the U.S. Capitol was just one instance of an “ongoing threat” to democracy. Cheney’s remarks come days before the committee begins prime-time, televised hearings throughout June. Amy B. Wang reports for the Washington Post.
Former Trump White House official Peter Navarro has been indicted on two counts of criminal contempt of Congress in connection with Jan. 6 hearings. Navarro was indicted after he refused to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, the Justice Department announced Friday. In the same announcement, however, the DOJ revealed that it would not prosecute two other high ranking aides who had been referred for contempt: former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and communications chief Daniel Scavino Jr. Spencer S. Hsu and Jacqueline Alemany report for the Washington Post.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
South Korea and the U.S. launched missiles today in response to North Korean weapons testing. On Sunday, North Korea tested its short range ballistic missiles in their 18th test of the year. The U.S. and South Korean response of launching eight missiles off the east coast of South Korea is a demonstration of “the capability and readiness to carry out precision strikes” against the source of North Korea’s missile launches or the command and support centers, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency cited the South Korean military as saying. Jack Kim and Soo-Hyang Choi report for Reuters.
The U.S. will exclude Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua from the Summit of the Americas. The Biden administration made the final decision despite threats from Mexico’s president to skip the gathering unless all countries in the Western Hemisphere were invited. U.S. officials determined that concerns about human rights and lack of democracy in the three countries weighed too heavily against inviting them to the gathering this week. Matt Spetalnick and Dave Graham report for Reuters.
Two delegations from Saudi Arabia plan to visit the U.S. this month as relations improve. The visit comes as the two nations are laying the ground for an eventual visit by President Biden to the Kingdom. The first delegation is expected to visit Washington on June 15 and will be led by Saudi Minister of Commerce Majid bin Abdullah al-Qasabi. The second, led by Investment Minister Khaled Al-Falih, is planned for the end of the month, two officials said. Aziz El Yaakoubi reports for Reuters.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Al-Qaeda has found a haven in Afghanistan, according to a new U.N. report based on intelligence supplied by member states. In Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, the terrorist organization has “increased freedom of action” with the potential of launching new long-distance attacks in coming years, the report says. Jason Burke reports for the Guardian.
Israel has developed a laser weapon capable of intercepting rockets, mortar shells, drones and anti-tank missiles in flight. It has taken two decades of research and experimentation and hundreds of millions of dollars of investment to develop the weapon. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett described the new tool as a “strategic game changer.” He has pledged “to surround Israel with a laser wall.” Isabel Kershner reports for the New York Times.
The death of another senior Iranian officer last week comes amidst heightened tensions between Iran and Israel, which previously has targeted Iranian officials. There are conflicting reports as to how Colonel Ali Esmaelzadeh died in his home in Tehran last week with reports that he fell from a balcony, committed suicide or was killed. His death comes just one week after another high-ranking officer in the same unit, Colonel Sayad Khodayee, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Tehran. Israel told its American counterparts that it was responsible for the death of Khodayee, who was a commander in the Quds Force — the powerful unit within the Guards responsible for operations outside Iran’s borders. By Farnaz Fassihi and Ronen Bergman report for the New York Times.
Dozens are believed to be dead after an attack in a church in Nigeria yesterday. The assailants attacked a catholic church in the southwest of the country. It was the deadliest attack on a church in Nigeria in years, and brought the kind of violence usually seen in the country’s north to a relatively peaceful area of Africa’s most populous nation. As of Sunday night, nobody had claimed responsibility for the attack. Ben Ezeamalu and Elian Peltier report for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 84.44 million people and has now killed over 1.01 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 530.742 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.29 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.