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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.
SHINZO ABE ASSASSINATION
Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe has died in hospital after he was shot at a political campaign event. Abe was shot at twice while he was giving a speech in the southern city of Nara on Friday morning. A 41-year-old suspect is in police custody. In an emotional press conference, current Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida condemned the attack, saying: “It is barbaric and malicious and it cannot be tolerated.” Yvette Tan reports for BBC News.
The shooting of Abe has sparked condemnation from political leaders across the world. Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of Nato, the western military alliance, said he was “deeply saddened by the heinous killing of Shinzo Abe, a defender of democracy and my friend and colleague over many years.” Japan’s fellow Quad members, Australia, Indian and the U.S. were also among the first to respond after the shooting, with India’s prime minister Narendra Modi calling for a day of national mourning. Edward White reports for the Financial Times.
China’s government has dismissed a joint U.S.-U.K. warning to businesses that Beijing seeks to steal their corporate secrets, alleging instead that Washington represents the biggest threat to world peace. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said yesterday that the U.S.-U.K. statements have no factual basis and expose an “entrenched Cold War zero-sum mentality and ideological prejudice.” James T. Areddy reports for the Wall Street Journal.
China’s military recently held joint combat readiness exercises, patrols and combat drills in the sea and airspace around Taiwan, as a senior U.S. senator visited Taipei for a meeting with President Tsai Ing-wen. The exercises, announced by the Eastern Theater Command of the People’s Liberation Army, were organized in response to “collusion and provocations” by the United States and Taiwan, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said in a statement. Martin Quin Pollard and Yimou Lee report for Reuters.
Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to drug charges in a Russian courtroom yesterday. Appearing before a judge outside the Russian capital on the second day of her trial, Griner said she had unintentionally carried a banned substance into the country because she had packed in a hurry. By pleading guilty, Griner has potentially accelerated her case’s conclusion, clearing a path for either a deal with the U.S. or, perhaps, a request for clemency. Anton Troianovski, Ivan Nechepurenko and Tania Ganguli report for the New York Times.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday that the U.S. would “not relent until Brittney [Griner], Paul Whelan, and all other wrongfully detained Americans” are freed. Blinken’s remarks came after President Biden said he had responded to a letter from the basketball player this week pleading for his administration’s help in securing her release. Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
President Biden said yesterday that he looks forward to continuing America’s “close cooperation with the government of the United Kingdom” amid its government reshuffle in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation. Biden did not mention Johnson by name in his statement but said that “the United Kingdom and the United States are the closest of friends and Allies, and the special relationship between our people remains strong and enduring.” He said the U.S. and the U.K. would maintain a “strong and united approach to supporting the people of Ukraine” in that nation’s war to repel a Russian invasion. Mohar Chatterjee and Ari Hawkins report for POLITICO.
GROUP OF 20 MEETING
Secretary of State Antony Blinken called out Russia for blocking Ukrainian grain exports in a contentious closed-door session at the Group of 20 (G-20) meeting. “To our Russian colleagues: Ukraine is not your country. Its grain is not your grain. Why are you blocking the ports? You should let the grain out,” Blinken said, according to a Western diplomat in the room who spoke on the condition of anonymity to relate events at the session. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was not in the room during Blinken’s remarks, having walked out of both plenary sessions as soon as his Western counterparts began to speak. John Hudson reports for the Washington Post.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told foreign ministers at the G-20 Meeting that Russia has embarked on “a well-thought and cynical strategy” to destroy Ukraine’s agriculture. “The Russian naval blockade of Ukrainian ports has already shredded global chains of food supply and has a detrimental effect on global food security. Adding insult to injury, Russia steals Ukrainian grain and bombs Ukrainian granaries,” he said via video link. “Russia is essentially playing hunger games with the world by keeping the naval blockade of Ukrainian ports with one hand and shifting the blame for it on Ukraine with the other hand,” he added. Tim Lister and Olga Voitovych report for CNN.
Speaking on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in Indonesia, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West of undermining the chance to tackle global economic issues with “frenzied” criticism of the conflict in Ukraine. Lavrov said ministers from Western nations “strayed almost immediately, as soon as they took the floor, to the frenzied criticism of the Russian Federation in connection with the situation in Ukraine”. Stanley Widianto and David Brunnstrom report for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv yesterday to push for legislation that would classify Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism.” The bipartisan duo introduced a resolution in May seeking to make Russia the fifth addition to the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, joining North Korea, Iran, Syria and Cuba. “Bicameral and bipartisan support is really important for Ukraine. We feel it, we feel this unity,” Zelenskyy said, according to a report from the president’s office. Julia Mueller reports for The Hill.
NASA issued a rare condemnation of the Russian space agency, its main partner on the International Space Station, after its cosmonauts celebrated Russia’s capture of a region of eastern Ukraine. In a statement, the U.S. space agency said that it “strongly rebukes using the International Space Station for political purposes to support [the] war against Ukraine, which is fundamentally inconsistent with the station’s primary function among the 15 international participating countries to advance science and develop technology for peaceful purposes.” Christian Davenport reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told CNN yesterday that Ukraine is unwilling to cede any of its land to Russia, standing firm that a concession of Ukrainian territory won’t be part of any diplomatic negotiations to end the war. “Ukrainians are not ready to give away their land, to accept that these territories belong to Russia. This is our land,” Zelenskyy said. He also praised U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who resigned from his position yesterday, for his support of Ukraine. Jeremy Herb reports for CNN.
Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday issued a warning to the West and Ukraine, saying the war might drag on until the “last Ukrainian is left standing.” “Today we hear that they want to defeat us on the battlefield. Well, what can I say? Let them try,” Putin said during a meeting with the heads of the State Duma party factions that aired on state media television Russia-24. “We have continuously heard that the West is ready to fight with us until the last Ukrainian is left standing. This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people. However, it seems like everything is going towards this,” he said. Uliana Pavlova reports for CNN.
Russia’s defense ministry said in a briefing today that Russian forces had destroyed two British-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missile systems in Ukraine’s Odesa region overnight. The U.S.-designed missile systems are one of several weapons supplied to Ukraine by NATO. Reuters reports.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The U.N. Human Rights Council has passed a resolution condemning rights violations against women and girls in Afghanistan, urging the ruling Taliban to end restrictive practices described as making them “invisible” in society. The resolution, backed by dozens of countries, was passed without a vote, although China’s mission disassociated itself from the outcome, describing it as “not balanced”. Emma Farge reports for Reuters.
Derek Chauvin, the police officer who murdered George Floyd, was sentenced to 21 years in federal prison yesterday. Chauvin, who is already serving more than 22 years in state prison for murder, pleaded guilty to federal charges that he used excessive force against Floyd and a 14-year-old boy. Jay Senter and Shaila Dewan report for the New York Times.
The director of the Secret Service announced yesterday that he would retire at the end of the month. The director, James M. Murray, was appointed by President Trump in 2019 after Trump became disillusioned with the agency’s director at the time. He has accepted a position with the social media company Snap, which is known for its messaging app, Snapchat, an agency spokesman said. Eileen Sullivan reports for the New York Times.
Following reports that the IRS may have targeted President Trump’s political enemies with audits, congressional Democrats and Republicans have issued shared calls for a full federal probe into the matter. The demands arrived in response to reports that the IRS initiated detailed reviews into the tax records of James B. Comey, the former FBI director, and Andrew McCabe, a deputy who later took over the agency. An investigation into the matter would be carried out by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which typically opens probes at lawmakers’ request. A senior government official familiar with the matter said Charles Rettig — the head of the IRS under Trump, who stayed in his position at President Biden’s request — had referred the issue to the watchdog for review. Tony Romm, Lisa Rein, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett report for the Washington Post.
A Florida man who threatened to kill Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was sentenced to probation on Wednesday. David Hannon, 67, of Sarasota, was also fined $7,000 in connection with the threat, which was emailed in 2019. In the email, Hannon, who was a supporter of former President Trump, called Omar a “radical Muslim,” threatened “mass assassinations” of what he called “radicals” and said Omar was on a “hit list,” according to court documents. Phil Helsel reports for NBC News.
Elon Musk’s deal to buy Twitter is in jeopardy, three people familiar with the matter say, as Musk’s camp concluded that Twitter’s figures on spam accounts are not verifiable. Musk’s team has stopped engaging in certain discussions around funding for the $44 billion deal, including with a party named as a likely backer, one of the people said. Now that Musk’s team has concluded it cannot verify Twitter’s figures on spam accounts, one of the people said, it is expected to take potentially drastic action. The person said it was likely a change in direction from Musk’s team would come soon, though they did not say exactly what they thought that change would be. However, the terms of the deal mean it wouldn’t be easy for Musk to walk away. Musk has agreed to complete it unless something major happens to Twitter’s business, and legal experts doubt the bot issue would qualify. Faiz Siddiqui and Gerrit De Vynck report for the Washington Post.
COVID-19 has infected over 88.38 million people and has now killed over 1.02 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 553.563 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.35 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