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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 forces continue to successfully hold Severodonetsk, stopping Russia from seizing control of the crucial eastern city, according to Ukrainian officials today. It comes as Russian troops bring in new resources to the Donbas in an intense battle for control of the eastern region. “The absolutely heroic defense of Donbas is ongoing,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video statement yesterday. Pavel Polityuk reports for Reuters.
Ukraine faces a strategic dilemma in Severodonetsk about whether to withdraw from the mid-size city and take up more defensible positions, or to continue fighting. It reflects the choices the country has had to make since the Russian invasion began, between giving ground to avert death and destruction in the short term, and holding out against long odds in hopes it will pay off later. Zelenskyy appears to have made his position clear, remaining determined to hold onto the territory and yielding not an inch to Russia. Andrew Kramer provides analysis for the New York Times.
Ukraine requested security guarantees for the exports of grain through the Black Sea. In a statement released yesterday, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it is working with the United Nations and other mediating countries to secure a humanitarian corridor for agricultural exports in the Black Sea. The announcement came on the same day as the Russian government said its military has prepared two safe maritime corridors: one allowing shipment from Russian-occupied Mariupol to travel through the Sea of Azov, and another connecting cities including Kherson and Odessa along Ukraine’s southwestern coast on the Black Sea. Despite this, no deal has been brokered between the two nations on the matter. Amy Cheng reports for the Washington Post.
Ukraine has requested more weapons systems from western countries to defend itself against Russia. The request for sixty multiple-launch rocket systems suggests that the number pledged by the West so far may be inadequate. Kyiv also requested access to sophisticated air defenses to help protect vulnerable citizens from relentless shelling. According to Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, sixty launchers would stop Russian forces “dead in their tracks.” The Ukrainian ambassador to Israel also told reporters that he was seeking to purchase Iron Dome air defense systems from Israel. Andrew Jeong, Lateshia Beachum and Mary Ilyushina report for the Washington Post.
In Mariupol, fears of a cholera outbreak have triggered a quarantine. Decomposing bodies and piles of garbage are contaminating drinking sources, leaving residents vulnerable to cholera, dysentery, and other ailments, according to the exiled mayor of the city. According to an aide to the mayor, Petro Andryushchenko, Russian officials who now control the city have imposed a quarantine. Reis Thebault reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Sweden’s NATO application may be derailed by its own domestic political infighting. . An effort by right-wing lawmakers in Sweden to remove the justice minister via a no-confidence vote became tangled in geopolitics on Tuesday, complicating Sweden’s bid to become part of NATO. A lawmaker of Iranian-Kurdish origin abstained from the razor-close, no-confidence vote, defeating it and averting a political crisis for the government of Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. But the lawmaker, Amineh Kakabaveh, exacted a price, first securing a commitment from the government that Sweden would not bow to Turkish demands tied to the NATO application. Christina Anderson and Isabella Kwai report for the New York Times.
Norway has donated 22 M109 tracked self-propelled howitzers, a self-propelled long range weapon, to Ukraine. The Norwegian ministry of defense also announced that it would send additional gear, spare parts and ammunition for the long-range weapons to the Ukrainian armed forces. Norway has trained Ukrainian soldiers in Germany on how to use the M109s, according to a defense ministry statement.“The development in the war in Ukraine now suggests that it is necessary to also donate heavier artillery and weapons’ systems,” Norway’s Defense Minister Bjørn Arild Gram said in the statement. Luana Muniz and Zoya Sheftalovich report for POLITICO.
The World Bank approved an additional $1.49 billion in aid to Ukraine yesterday. The additional funding is expected to go towards helping to pay wages for government and social workers, and brings the total aid from the World Bank to $4 billion. The World Bank said in a statement that the latest funding is supported by financing guarantees from Britain, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Latvia. David Lawder reports for Reuters.
Russia and Turkey have begun talks on securing the safe passage of grain from Ukraine. The talks began today with the aim of creating a sea lane to export grain from Ukraine as a part of a United Nations-backed effort to address a global food crisis. The potential agreement would involve Turkish warships demining Ukrainian ports and creating a safe passage for ships carrying wheat and other products across the Black Sea. But Ukraine hasn’t agreed to the possible deal between Turkey and Russia, saying that it needs guarantees that Russia wouldn’t use a potential safe corridor to launch additional attacks. Jared Malsin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. has permission to seize a Russian oligarch’s yacht docked in Fiji, Fiji’s Supreme Court ruled yesterday. The $300 million yacht is owned by Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov, U.S. officials say. The decision comes about a month after the Justice Department asked Fijian officials for permission to seize the yacht after the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated Kerimov as part of a group of oligarchs who it says profited from the Russian government through corruption and suspect activity, including the occupation of Crimea. The Treasury Department also said Kerimov was an official of the Russian government and a member of Russia’s upper chamber of parliament. Lateshia Beachum and Andrew Jeong report for the Washington Post.
The Treasury Department barred investors yesterday from purchasing Russian debt in secondary markets. The new guidance appears to be a broader interpretation of existing sanctions that were levied against Russia back in April, which seek to curtail new capital inflows into Russia. The expansion of sanctions is likely to force U.S. investors to sell Russia-linked debts or write them off as having little to no value. “Consistent with our goal to deny Russia the financial resources it needs to continue its brutal war against Ukraine, Treasury has made clear that U.S. persons are prohibited from making new investments in the success of Russia, including through purchases on the secondary market,” a Treasury spokesperson said. Alexander Saeedy, Andrew Duehren and Caitlin Ostroff report for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – WAR CRIMES
Ukraine will begin collecting the names of those Russians responsible for war crimes, Zelenskyy announced last night. Ukraine will soon launch a data collection system — a “Book of Executioners” — on Russian forces determined to have committed or ordered war crimes, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address. The system, which Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials have said for months would be part of their efforts to hold Russia accountable, is set to launch next week. Anushka Patil reports for the New York Times.
Voters in seven states weighed in on key contests in Tuesday’s primaries. Some of the most significant results came out of California, where voters chose to recall the progressive San Francisco District Attorney, Chesa Boudin. Boudin had championed bail reform, vowed to hold police accountable and worked to reduce the number of people sent to prison. Early returns showed 60 percent of voters in the city approving of the recall. And the L.A. mayoral contest is heading to a runoff in November after neither billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso nor Representative Karen Bass received 50% of the vote. Azi Paybarah reports for the New York Times.
A quick deal over gun legislation in the Senate is unlikely to pass as negotiations continue. Leading senators called for patience as a small bipartisan group of senators continued delicate talks on a legislative package that could include the first significant new federal gun restrictions in three decades, along with provisions dealing with school security and mental health. Mike DeBonis reports for the Washington Post.
The retired four-star Marine General John Allen is under investigation for undisclosed lobbying for Qatar. Allen, who commanded all U.S. troops in Afghanistan and now heads the Brookings Institution, secretly lobbied for the government of Qatar, lied to investigators about his role, and tried to withhold evidence sought by a federal subpoena, according to court documents. The court records are the latest evidence of a broad investigation by the Justice Department and FBI into the influence that wealthy Arab nations like Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia wield in Washington. Mark Mazzetti and David D. Kirkpatrick report for the New York Times.
The Department of Homeland Security has warned that election misinformation and the upcoming Supreme Court ruling on abortion rights could increase domestic volatility. The bulletin pointed to the upcoming midterm election as a source of threats. “As the United States enters mid-term election season this year, we assess that calls for violence by domestic violent extremists directed at democratic institutions, political candidates, party offices, election events, and election workers will likely increase,” the bulletin, obtained by CNN, said. It also says that the impending decision on Roe v. Wade has led to individuals encouraging violence online. Whitney Wild reports for CNN.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The House January 6 Committee is in talks to have a former Trump White House lawyer testify publicly. Pat Cipollone, who was one of the few aides who was with then-President Donald Trump in the West Wing on Jan. 6, and former deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin previously met with committee investigators for an informal interview in April. In the days following the attack on the Capitol, he advised Trump that Trump could potentially face civil liability in connection with his role encouraging supporters to march on the Capitol. Katherine Faulders and John Santucci report for ABC News.
Former acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and his then-deputy, Richard Donoghue, have been invited by the January 6. committee to testify publicly during one of its hearings. Rosen and Donoghue have previously spoken with the committee behind closed doors about former President Donald Trump’s pressure campaign against top Justice Department officials to investigate baseless claims of election fraud prior to January 6, 2021. The two men are not slated to appear during the first day of testimonies. Zachary Cohen, Evan Perez, Annie Grayer and Ryan Nobles, report for CNN
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The U.S. blamed the stalled Iran nuclear negotiations on Iran’s demand for sanctions relief. In a statement released yesterday to a meeting of the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s Board of Governors, the U.S. said that “What we need is a willing partner in Iran. In particular, Iran would need to drop demands for sanctions lifting that clearly go beyond the JCPOA and that are now preventing us from concluding a deal,” referring to the 2015 deal by its official name, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Francois Murphy reports for Reuters.
The U.S. failed to assess civilian deaths in the war in Yemen, according to a new internal report from the Government Accountability Office. The report says that The State Department and the Defense Department have failed to evaluate the civilian casualties caused by a Saudi-led coalition in the catastrophic war in Yemen and the use of American-made weapons in the killings. This comes two years after the State Department inspector general issued a report that said the department had failed to take proper measures to reduce civilian deaths. Edward Wong reports for the New York Times.
A woman from Kansas who led a female ISIS battalion in Syria has pled guilty to conspiring to provide support to the terrorist group. Allison Elizabeth Fluke-Ekren led and trained a unique battalion of over 100 women and children in Syria. During her time with ISIS, Fluke-Ekren also discussed plans for terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, including parking a van full of explosives under a shopping mall, telling one witness that any attack which didn’t kill a large number of people was a waste of resources. She was arrested in Syria and taken into custody in the United States in January where she was charged with providing and conspiring to provide material support or resources to ISIS. Holmes Lybrand reports for CNN.
Democratic lawmakers called on Biden to take a more guarded approach to Saudi Arabia. The letter comes as Biden is planning to travel to Saudi Arabia this summer, a trip some leading Democrats have criticized. The letter — from Rep. Adam Schiff, four other committee leaders and another senior lawmaker — does not urge Biden to call off his trip, but it says that engagement with the kingdom should be aimed at “recalibrating that relationship to serve America’s national interests.” The letter also urged Biden to warn the kingdom against pursuing more strategic cooperation with China on ballistic missiles. Julian E. Barnes and Edward Wong 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.