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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
Russian forces control most residential neighborhoods in the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, according to its mayor, Oleksandr Stryuk. Street fighting in the city is almost constant, and Russian troops have forced residents out of their neighborhoods while bringing in heavy weaponry, Stryuk said. Bryan Pietsch reports for the Washington Post.
Russia is likely to seize Severdonetsk in the coming weeks, according to an assessment by the Institute for the Study of War. However, this comes at a cost: The number of troops lost and equipment expended in that battle will probably hinder Moscow’s ability to mount offensives elsewhere, the assessment says. Other Russian operations in the east have made little headway in recent weeks, it adds.
Both Ukrainian and Russian troops are suffering from low morale as intense combat in the Donbas continues, the U.K. Ministry of Defense has said in its latest intelligence update. Russian morale is likely to be especially troubled, with cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continuing to occur. Drivers of low Russian morale include perceived poor leadership, limited opportunity for rotation of units out of combat, very heavy casualties, combat stress, continued poor logistics and problems with pay.
The West must prepare to continue supporting Ukraine in a war lasting for years, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has warned. In an interview with the German newspaper Bild, Stoltenberg said that while the costs of war were high, the price of letting Moscow achieve its military goals was even greater. He also said that sending more weapons would make a victory for Ukraine more likely. Leo Sands reports for BBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
House Republicans are calling for President Biden to outline a stronger response to Russia’s threat of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine. In a letter to Biden sent Friday, the lawmakers say “every tool of national power should be leveraged to achieve deterrence of Russian nuclear aggression.” “The U.S. cannot be a passive spectator as Russia uses nuclear intimidation,” reads the letter from Reps. Mike Rogers (R-AL), Mike Turner (R-OH) and Michael McCaul (R-TX). “If Russia uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the U.S. must act. This must be clear to Russia to deter their use of nuclear weapons in this unprovoked war of aggression against Ukraine,” the letter adds. Jordan Williams reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The leaders of Finland and Sweden will meet today with Turkish officials to discuss Ankara’s continued objections over their bids to join NATO. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to block the two nations from joining the alliance, saying Sweden and Finland sympathize with Kurdish militants whom he regards as terrorists. His stance has complicated the applicants’ prospects because NATO operates by consensus. The New York Times reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy framed the upcoming week as one of the most important in decades, as it awaits a decision from the European Council on its candidate status for E.U. membership. “I think it is obvious to everyone that since 1991 there have been few such fateful decisions for Ukraine as we expect now,” Zelenskyy said in a Sunday evening address. “And I am convinced that only a positive decision meets the interests of the whole of Europe.” Reis Thebault reports for the Washington Post.
Zelenskyy also warned that Russia will likely escalate its attack this week. “Obviously, this week we should expect from Russia an intensification of its hostile activities,” Zelenskyy said in a Sunday nightly video address. “We are preparing. We are ready.” Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder report for Reuters.
E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has called the Russian blockade of Ukrainian grain exports a “real war crime,” adding that the bloc’s sanctions on Russia have played no part in the global food crisis. Borrell’s remarks come after Putin said that Russia’s actions in Ukraine are not responsible for the global food crisis and accused the United States of driving up food prices in his speech to the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum on Friday. Niamh Kennedy reports for CNN.
Senegalese President Macky Sall, who currently chairs the African Union, yesterday called on Brussels to provide some scope for African countries to pay for imported cereals and fertilizers from Russia despite E.U. sanctions. Whilst Brussels didn’t impose sanctions on the export of Russian cereals or fertilizers to non-EU countries, it has excluded several Russian banks, including Sberbank, from the international payment mechanism SWIFT. EU rules, however, leave some room for countries to make payments to Russia for other imports such as gas. “We want to pay, but it is becoming impossible. So we ask the Europeans for the same mechanism as for gas and oil,” Sall told Le Journal du Dimanche in an interview. Giorgia Leali reports for POLITICO.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Ukraine’s parliament yesterday voted through two laws which will place severe restrictions on Russian books and music. The move comes as Kyiv seeks to break any remaining cultural ties between the two countries. One law will forbid the printing of books by Russian citizens unless they renounce their Russian passport and take Ukrainian citizenship. The ban will only apply to those who held Russian citizenship after the 1991 collapse of Soviet rule. The other law will prohibit the playing of music by post-1991 Russian citizens on media and on public transport, while also increasing quotas on Ukrainian-language speech and music content in TV and radio broadcasts. Max Hunder reports for Reuters.
China’s crude oil imports from Russia soared 55% from a year earlier to a record level in May, as refiners cashed in on discounted supplies amid sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. Imports of Russian oil, including supplies pumped via the East Siberia Pacific Ocean pipeline and seaborne shipments from Russia’s European and Far Eastern ports, totalled nearly 8.42 million tonnes, according to data from the Chinese General Administration of Customs. Russia has now displaced Saudi Arabia as China’s top supplier. Chen Aizhu reports for Reuters.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Senators in both parties briefed recently by senior Biden administration officials on negotiations with Iran say they doubt Tehran will agree to any new deal to limit its development of nuclear weapons. Lawmakers say the administration has an offer on the table, but that Iran is showing little willingness to reestablish the 2015 deal, which placed significant restrictions on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Biden officials said in January that they were on the cusp of restoring the agreement but cautioned at the time that it would be up to Tehran to accept it. However, four months later, Iran still hasn’t shown any serious interest in accepting the offer from the United States and its European allies, Alexander Bolton reports for The Hill.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it has dismantled a Russian network of hacked internet-connected devices in a coordinated effort with foreign counterparts to crack down on malicious cyber activities. DOJ said it had worked with law enforcement agencies in Germany, the Netherlands and the U.K. to take down the Russian botnet, known as RSOCKS. The network reportedly hacked millions of computers and other electronic devices around the world. Ines Kagubare reports for The Hill.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has rejected calls for him to publicly demand the U.S. drop its prosecution of WikiLeaks founder and Australian citizen Julian Assange. The Australian government has been under mounting pressure to intervene since the British government last week ordered Assange’s extradition to the U.S. on spying charges. “I intend to lead a government that engages diplomatically and appropriately with our partners,” Albanese told reports. AP reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Gustavo Petro, a former rebel and a longtime legislator, won Colombia’s presidential election yesterday. His victory means that, for the first time, Colombia will have a leftist president. Petro has promised to expand social programs, tax the wealthy and move away from an economy he has called overly reliant on fossil fuels. Julie Turkewitz reports for the New York Times.
French President Emmanuel Macron’s coalition lost its absolute majority in the lower house of Parliament yesterday. With all votes counted Macron’s coalition won 245 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, the lower and more powerful house of Parliament. That was more than any other political group, but less than half of all the seats, and far less than the 350 seats Macron’s party and its allies won when he was first elected in 2017. This represents a serious blow to the centrist coalition, which lost out to a resurgent far-right and a defiant alliance of left-wing parties. Aurelien Breeden and Constant Méheut report for the New York Times.
Ethiopian rebel group the Oromo Liberation Army (O.L.A) massacred more than 200 members of the Amhara ethnic group yesterday, according to officials and news reports. Witnesses and officials told The Associated Press that at least 230 people were killed when members of the O.L.A. attacked Tole, a village in Oromia, Ethiopia’s largest region. The O.L.A. denied carrying out the killings and said they were committed by a militia aligned with the regional government supporting Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. AP reports.
China successfully conducted an anti-ballistic missile test yesterday night, according to the country’s Defense Ministry. It was a land-based mid-course missile tested within China’s borders, the ministry said in a brief statement, adding the test was defensive in nature and not targeted against any country. The test comes amid rising tensions in the region, with a recent spate of missile tests from North Korea including short-range ballistic missiles and a presumed ICBM. Jessie Yeung reports for CNN.
Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of outgoing Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, was sworn in as the country’s 15th vice president yesterday. Duterte-Carpio, 44, was the running mate of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the country’s former dictator who also won in the May 9 elections. In her inauguration speech, she called for national unity, despite her divisive election campaign. Reuters reports.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack will use its third week of public hearings to dive into the construction of slates of pro-Trump electors seeking to overturn President Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Panel member Adam Schiff (D-CA) said yesterday that the committee will “weave it all together,” transitioning from its hearing focused on the pressures facing then-Vice President Mike Pence to not certify the election results to “how a similar pressure campaign directed against state and local elections officials put their lives in danger.” The committee has already unveiled that lawyers working for the former president were part of the efforts. Schiff says the panel will next make the case that former President Trump himself was involved in the scheme. Myah Ward reports for POLITICO.
Schiff also said yesterday that the committee may subpoena Pence. “We’re not taking anything off the table in terms of witnesses who have not yet testified,” said Schiff, who described a Pence subpoena as “certainly a possibility.” The committee is also waiting to hear from Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, about her role in the illegal plot to overturn the 2020 election. Hope Yen reports for AP.
One of two Republican members of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack issued a warning yesterday that his own party’s lies could feed additional violence. “There is violence in the future, I’m going to tell you,” said Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on ABC’s “This Week.” Kinzinger, who defied party leadership by serving on the Democratic-led committee, also described a message he received at home in the mail several days ago threatening to execute him, his wife and their 5-month-old baby. Rosalind S. Helderman reports for the Washington Post.
More Americans say former President Trump should face criminal charges in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, according to a new poll. The ABC News-Ipsos survey published yesterday found that 58 per cent of respondents said Trump should be criminally charged, while 40 per cent of respondents said Trump should not face charges. Olafimihan Oshin reports for The Hill.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A 15-year-old boy was killed and a D.C. police officer and two other people were shot yesterday night in Northwest Washington after a concert, police have said. Based on initial accounts, the incident followed a concert linked to the District’s Juneteenth celebration. What led to the gunfire was not immediately clear. Martin Weil reports for the Washington Post.
The Texas Republican Party made a series of far-right declarations as part of its official party platform over the weekend, including claiming that President Biden was not legitimately elected. The Party also issued a “rebuke” to Senator Cornyn for his work on bipartisan gun legislation and referred to homosexuality as “an abnormal lifestyle choice.” The platform was voted on in Houston at the state party’s convention, which concluded on Saturday. Azi Paybarah and David Montgomery report for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 86.246 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 538.986 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.32 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.