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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 are preparing for a high-stakes counteroffensive to retake Kherson, a critical Russian stronghold in southern Ukraine. The port city serves as Russia’s base to launch multiple attacks across a large part of Ukrainian territory and would be one of the most significant military efforts of the war. Kherson was the first city to fall to Russian forces in the war. Michael Schwirtz and Daniel Berehulak report for the New York Times.
Ukraine continues to push ahead with grain shipments, despite a Russian airstrike on the port of Odessa. Ukraine and Russia reached an agreement last week to export millions of tons of grain that had been stuck in the port of Odessa, however, the Russian missile attack over the weekend threatened the viability of the agreement. At a news conference yesterday, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy said Ukraine remains determined to export the grain, helping to alleviate a global food crisis. “Ukraine, for its part, will do everything necessary to ensure the export of agricultural products from its Black Sea ports, and the issue of the safety of ships of various countries depends on the United Nations and Turkey, which negotiated with the Russian Federation in this regard,” Zelenskyy said. Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Eric Nagourney report for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Russia’s state-owned gas company, Gazprom, announced yesterday that it would halve its gas flows to Germany. The news comes just a week after it resumed limited flows of gas. In announcing the reduction, Gazprom cited issues with one of the powerful turbines that are manufactured by the German company Siemens Energy. Germany’s economy ministry, however, rejected this explanation, saying that the reduction in gas has been another way for Russia to punish Europe for supporting Ukraine. Melissa Eddy reports for the New York Times.
Tensions continued to mount between Israel and Russia as Moscow threatens to ban the Jewish Agency, an organization responsible for aiding Russia-Jewish migration to Israel. This week, a Russian court is expected to grant a government request to shut down the Jewish Agency. Since 1989, the Agency has aided in the migration of nearly 300,000 Russian Jews to Israel, and is responsible for bringing 16,000 immigrants since the war in Ukraine began. Israel said it was preparing a range of potential retaliatory actions if Russia follows through with the ban. Steve Hendrix and Shira Rubin report for the Washington Post.
Moldova is ‘very worried’ that Russia may invade, the prime minister said on Sunday. The rising concern comes as Russian forces prepare to ramp up their assault on south and east Ukraine. In an interview with CNN, Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita said that, while an invasion remains hypothetical for now, potential Russian advances further into the southwestern part of Ukraine and toward Odessa is a cause for greater worry. Jennifer Hassan reports for the Washington Post.
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy called on Europe to expand sanctions on Russia in response to its ‘gas war.’ In a Telegram message yesterday, Zelenskyy, referring to Gazprom’s recent announcement of reduced gas supplies to Europe, urged European leaders to further sanction Moscow. “Do everything to limit Russian revenues not only from gas and oil, but also from any remaining exports,” Zelenskyy said. “Sever trade ties with Russia as much as possible, because every such tie is Russia’s potential tool of putting pressure.” Vivian Salama reports for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
Russia is using over a dozen camps to detain and deport thousands of Ukrainians, according to a new U.S. intelligence report. The so-called “filtration camps”are designed to detain any Ukrainian who pose a threat to Russian occupying forces, and have grown as resistance in the occupied regions mounts. According to the assessment from the National Intelligence Council, those in the camps face one of three outcomes: either they are permitted to remain in the Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine, are deported to Russia, or are “detained in prisons in eastern Ukraine and Russia, though little is known about their fates.” Marc Santora reports for the New York Times.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp will testify on Monday afternoon in Fulton County’s district attorney Fani Willis’ investigation of Trump’s attempts to change the outcome of the 2020 election. 16 Trump allies involved with Georgia’s alternate elector scheme were notified they could face charges in the ongoing investigation, and Willis has issued subpoenas from some of Trump’s confidantes and team, including for Rudy Giuliani and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham. Brett Pulley and Billy House report for Bloomberg.
The Justice Department’s subpoenas to Arizona regarding alternate electors from last month demanded any communications with any member, employee, or agent of the Executive Branch, Congress, Trump, and the Trump Campaign. The subpoenas issued to the President of the Arizona Senate Karen Fann and Sen. Kelly Townsend also sought communications “relating to any effort, plan, or attempt to serve as an [pro-Trump and pro-Pence] Elector.” Devlin Barrett and Yvone Wingett Sanchez report for the Washington Post.
The Justice Department has questioned two senior aides to former Vice President Mike Pence over former President Trump’s bid to overturn the election. Mr. Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, and legal counsel Greg Jacob, appeared before a grand jury under subpoena in Washington, DC. One focal point for prosecutors was a Jan. 4, 2021, Oval Office meeting where conservative lawyer John Eastman pushed Pence, in Trump’s presence, to either reject the electoral votes outright or suspend the proceedings and ask several state legislatures to re-examine the results. This investigation comes as the department continues to escalate its criminal probe into the January 6 Capitol riot. Sadie Gurman and Aruna Viswanatha report for the Wall Street Journal.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney blocked District Attorney Fani Willis’ investigation into Republican state senator Burt Jones, who was one of Georgia’s 16 alternate electors. McBurney’s ruling stated that Willis’ office may “ask witnesses about the Senator’s role in the various efforts the State Republican party undertook to call into question the legitimacy of the results of the election. What her office may not do is make sure of any such evidence to develop a case against the Senator.” Jones is currently running for Georgia’s lieutenant governor office against Democrat Charlie Bailey, for whom Willis hosted a campaign fundraiser last month. Jason Morris reports for CNN.
Today at 6:30 pm ET, NBC News’ Lester Holt will interview U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. Two major investigations may be the areas of focus. One is the Jan. 6 investigation, and the other may be about Hunter Biden. Daniel Chaitin reports for the Washington Examiner.
Three different jury trials that will determine how much far-right conspiracy broadcaster Alex Jones must pay for the lies he spread about the Sandy Hook school shooting began on Tuesday in Austin. Neil Heslin and Scarlett Lewis, the parents of 6-years-old Jesse Lewis who died at Sandy Hook will testify. Although it is not clear whether Jones will be called to testify in Texas, his efforts to defend himself have continued, with Jones reaching out to the Justice Departmentto share his knowledge regarding Jan. 6 in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Elizabeth Williamson reports for the New York Times.
As part of their endeavor to cool down an overheating economy, Federal Reserve officials are set to make a second abnormally large interest rate increase this week. By raising interest rates quickly, officials aim to swiftly return policy to a setting at which it is no longer adding to economic growth. Many central banks around the world have spent recent weeks speeding up their interest rate increases (also known as, “front-loading”). Jeanna Smialek reports for the New York Times.
Responding to longtime pleas from Indigenous people, Pope Francis begged forgiveness on Monday for church-run residential schools that were centers of abuse, forced assimilation, cultural devastation, and death. “I humbly beg forgiveness for the evil committed by so many Christians against the Indigenous peoples,” Francis said to a large group of Indigenous people in Alberta. His six-day visit to Canada includes a visit today to Lac Ste. Anne, a sacred pilgrimage site to many Indigenous people, along with several meetings with Indigenous community leaders and representatives. Jason Horowitz and Ian Austen report for the New York Times.
Despite significant outstanding disagreements, the United States and Taliban have exchanged proposals for the release of billions of dollars from Afghan central bank reserves abroad into a trust fund. The Taliban still refuses, however, to replace the bank’s top political appointees and opposes a U.S. proposal for third-party control of the fund that would hold returned reserves. Charlotte Greenfield and Jonathan Landay report for Reuters.
COVID-19 has infected more than 90.56 million people and has killed around 1.03 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 571.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.4 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 theWashington Post.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.