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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.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several other Congress members have arrived in Singapore. The delegation started their two-day visit to the city-state by meeting Singaporean President Halimah Yacob, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Singapore’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. During the meeting, they discussed U.S.-Singapore cooperation on a number of issues, including the climate crisis and economic development, according to the statement. The visit to Singapore is the first official stop in a high-profile Asia tour that has attracted international attention over speculation that Pelosi may visit Taiwan. Jessie Yeung reports for CNN.
China has said today that its military will “not sit idly by” if Pelosi visits Taiwan. The latest warning was issued during a Chinese foreign ministry regular briefing. Spokesperson Zhao Lijian also said that because of Pelosi’s status as the “No. 3 official of the U.S. government”, a visit to Taiwan, which China claims as its own, would “lead to egregious political impact”. Reuters reports.
China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conducted “live-fire exercises” on Saturday in Pingtan, a coastal area about 125km from Taiwan. The exercises mark an escalation in threats over Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan later this week. State media also broadcast footage of a Chinese destroyer firing its weapons in the South China Sea, which the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier group is believed to be sailing through after visiting Singapore. China’s Maritime Safety Administration has warned vessels that the PLA will conduct more live-fire exercises in another area of the South China Sea on Aug. 2 and Aug. 3. Tom Mitchell and Demetri Sevastopulo report for the Financial Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GRAIN SHIPMENTS
The first grain ship to leave the Ukrainian port of Odesa under a U.N.-brokered deal to ensure safe passage through the Black Sea departed this morning. The ship, the Razoni, was led by a government vessel through a maze of mines that had been laid by Ukrainian forces to forestall any attempt by Moscow to launch an assault on Odesa. A rescue ship followed and Russia’s Navy, which controls the Black Sea, granted safe passage. The Razoni, which has been stuck in port since Feb. 18, was carrying 26,000 metric tons of corn, the U.N. said. There are 16 more ships waiting to leave Odesa in the coming days, according to Ukraine’s infrastructure minister, Oleksandr Kurbakov. The New York Times reports.
The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv has praised the departure of the first grain shipment from Odesa. “We welcome the departure of the first vessel from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports since Russia’s full-scale invasion on Feb 24,” the embassy said in a tweet. “The world will be watching for continued implementation of this agreement to feed people around the world with millions of tons of trapped Ukrainian grain.” U.S. Ambassador Bridget A. Brink called the development “progress.” Olga Voitovych, Vasco Cotovio and Jo Shelley report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OLENIVKA DETENTION CENTER BOMBING
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of a “war crime” for bombing a detention center containing Ukrainian prisoners of war in Olenivka. Zelenskyy called on international organizations and the U.S. to take action and investigate Russia. “There should be a clear legal recognition of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Zelenskyy said. The Ukrainian president specifically called on the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross (I.C.R.C), saying those bodies “must react” to the bombing. More than 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war died in the shelling in the town of Olenivka, in territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014, according to authorities in the Donetsk People’s Republic. Giorgio Leali reports for POLITICO.
The E.U. should designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkēvičs has said. “We see all the brutality of Russian forces, that actually resemble a lot of ISIS, who we have been always calling a terrorist organization,” Rinkēvičs told POLITICO in a phone interview. “Let’s call a spade a spade,” he said. Rinkēvičs’ remarks come after an attack that killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war. Ukraine’s military has accused Russia of deliberately shelling a jail containing Ukrainian POWs in the eastern Donetsk region, while Russia’s Defense Ministry has accused Ukraine of striking the prison. Lili Bayer reports for POLITICO.
The I.C.R.C has not received confirmation that it will be allowed to visit the detention center in Olenivka, the organization said in a statement yesterday. This is despite Russia’s claim that it had formally invited both the U.N. and the I.C.R.C to investigate. In its statement, the I.C.R.C noted that all parties to the conflict have an obligation under international law to give the I.C.R.C access to prisoners of war. “We are ready to deploy to Olenivka,” the I.C.R.C. said, adding that it already had medical, forensic and humanitarian teams in the vicinity. “It is imperative that the I.C.R.C. be granted immediate access to the Olenivka facility, and other places where the wounded and dead might have been transferred.” The New York Times reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The southern region of Mykolaiv came under intense shelling last night, with Russian forces hitting several civilian buildings including a hospital trauma center, Ukrainian officials have said. “Tonight, Russian terrorists cynically fired at a number of civilian objects in Mykolaiv. Among them is our modern, brand-new trauma center,” Mykolaiv Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said. Olga Voitovych reports for CNN.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has announced mandatory evacuation from the Donetsk region. In his nightly address on Saturday Zelenskyy called on the remaining residents to leave the region urgently in what he called a “government decision.” The government has created a coordination center to help evacuate the residents of Donetsk to safer parts of Ukraine, Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, told reporters earlier on Saturday. The evacuation will be carried out by trains and by buses, and those who refuse to evacuate will have to sign “a certain form of refusal from mandatory evacuation” stating they understand and are aware of all the consequences of staying in the combat zones and bear personal responsibility for their lives, Vereshchuk added. Mariya Knight reports for CNN.
Amnesty International and the E.U. have joined Kyiv in calling for an investigation into footage that appears to show pro-Russian forces castrating and executing a captive Ukrainian fighter. “This horrific assault is yet another apparent example of complete disregard for human life and dignity in Ukraine committed by Russian forces,” Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said. The E.U. top diplomat Josep Borrell also described the footage as an example of “inhumane, barbaric acts” that amount to war crimes. “The European Union condemns in the strongest possible terms the atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces and their proxies,” he said. Dalton Bennett and Ellen Francis report for the Washington Post.
Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday signed a new naval doctrine, casting the U.S. as Russia’s main rival and setting out Russia’s global maritime ambitions. The 55-page naval doctrine says Russia will aim to become a “great maritime navy” with a presence across the world to counter the “strategic policy of the USA to dominate the world’s oceans.” “Guided by this doctrine, the Russian Federation will firmly and resolutely defend its national interests in the world’s oceans, and having sufficient maritime power will guarantee their security and protection,” the doctrine reads. It also says Russia will expand its ambitions in the Arctic Ocean – something the U.S. has previously warned of. Brad Dress reports for The Hill.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
A dispute over license plates between Kosovo and Serbia yielded protests and gunfire yesterday night. The demonstrations come on the eve of a new law requiring ethnic Serbs living in Kosovo to switch from Serbian license plates to Kosovar ones in the next two months. Kosovo’s government had also said that beginning today, all Serbian ID and passport holders must obtain an extra document to enter Kosovo, just as Kosovars must do to enter Serbia. After a meeting with the U.S. ambassador, Kosovo’s government announced it would delay the implementation of both the license plate and identification decisions by one month. However, the unrest has prompted fears of further violence, with NATO saying that its peacekeeping forces in Kosovo were “ready to intervene if stability is jeopardized.” Valerie Hopkins reports for the New York Times.
Thousands of protesters rallied in the Sudanese capital Khartoum yesterday to call for an end to military rule. Clashes erupted after hundreds of demonstrators attempted to head to the Republican Palace — Sudan’s presidential offices — but were met by police, who responded by firing tear gas at the protesters. The protests follow a CNN investigation which uncovered evidence of a gold operation siphoning Sudanese wealth to Russia to boost its war effort in Ukraine and Russian collusion with the military leadership of Sudan. Nima Elbagir reports for CNN.
Influential Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called for a change in Iraq’s constitution and election procedures a day after his supporters occupied its parliament building. In a statement released on Twitter, Sadr called the takeover of the parliament a “revolution” and an “opportunity for radical change” in the political process that shouldn’t be wasted. Sadr’s demands for change are likely to intensify tensions between him and his rival for power, former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In a statement, the Coalition Framework, the alliance of Iranian-backed Shiite parties aligned with Maliki, rejected Sadr’s demands, calling them “a coup against the legitimate system.” David S. Cloud and Ghassan Adnan report for the Wall Street Journal.
Iran has the technical capability to produce an atomic bomb but has no intention of doing so, Mohammad Eslami, head of the country’s atomic energy organisation, has said. Eslami reiterated comments made by Kamal Kharrazi, a senior adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in July. Kharrazi’s remarks amounted to a rare suggestion that the Islamic Republic might have an interest in nuclear weapons, which it has long denied seeking. “As Mr. Kharrazi mentioned, Iran has the technical ability to build an atomic bomb, but such a program is not on the agenda,” said Eslami. Reuters reports.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – JAN. 6 ATTACK
In its next round of public hearings in September, the Jan. 6 committee is expected to focus on the intelligence and law enforcement failures of the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. Those failures, which left police underprepared for the attack on the Capitol, will also be a key component of the committee’s final report. “The team has conducted more than 100 interviews and depositions touching on these matters of security and intelligence across several federal and local agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Department of Homeland Security, Fusion Centers, Office of Intelligence & Analysis, among others,” a committee aide told NBC News. “The team is looking into what intelligence these agencies had at their disposal; how that intelligence was analyzed, stitched together, and distributed; and whether law enforcement operationalized that intelligence,” he added. There’s a limited time frame to help call attention to the need to fix the intelligence failures. If Republicans take back the House in the midterms, as many analysts expect, oversight could very quickly turn from examining FBI shortcomings to investigating alleged law enforcement overreach against those involved in the Jan. 6 attack. Ryan J. Reilly reports for NBC News.
The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) chief watchdog scrapped its investigative team’s efforts to try to recover deleted Secret Service texts from around the time of the Jan. 6 attack. In February of this year, after learning that the Secret Service’s text messages had been erased as part of a migration to new devices, staff at Inspector General Joseph V. Cuffari’s office planned to contact all DHS agencies offering to have data specialists help retrieve messages from their phones, according to two government whistleblowers who provided reports to Congress. But later that month, Cuffari’s office decided it would not collect or review any agency phones, according to three people briefed on the decision. The latest revelation comes as Democratic lawmakers have accused Cuffari’s office of failing to aggressively investigate the agency’s actions in response to the violent attack on the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump on Jan. 6, 2021. Maria Sacchetti and Carol D. Leonnig report for the Washington Post.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
A New York man has been arrested near the home of an Iranian dissident who was previously the target of an alleged kidnapping plot by the Iranian government, according to people familiar with the matter. Khalid Mehdiyev, 23 years old, was arrested in Brooklyn after New York Police Department officers pulled him over for running a stop sign and found a suitcase containing a loaded AK-47-style assault rifle, according to a criminal complaint filed Friday in Manhattan federal court. A Federal Bureau of Investigation agent said in the complaint that surveillance video and other records showed that over two days last week Mehdiyev parked for hours near a Brooklyn residence occupied by Iranian dissident Masih Alinejad. James Fanelli reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Justice Department has charged Russian man Aleksandr Viktorovich with conspiring to have American citizens act as illegal agents of the Russian government. Ionov, 32, who lives in Moscow and is not in custody, is accused of recruiting three political groups in Florida, Georgia and California from December 2014 through March 2022, providing them with financial support and directing them to publish Russian propaganda. David Walker, the top agent in the F.B.I.’s Tampa field office, called the allegations “some of the most egregious and blatant violations we’ve seen by the Russian government in order to destabilize and undermine trust in American democracy.” On Friday, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions against him. Patrica Mazzei reports for the New York Times.
The House on Friday passed a bill to ban the sale of assault-style weapons largely on party lines. The bill passed with a vote of 217-213, with 215 Democrats and two Republicans voting for the legislation, and 208 Republicans and five Democrats voting against. The bill isn’t likely to move forward in the 50-50 Senate for a vote, as it would almost certainly fail to get the 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster. However, the vote provided a way for Democrats to demonstrate to voters before the midterm elections their resolve to tackle gun violence in America. In a statement on Friday evening, President Biden applauded the House’s passage of the assault weapons ban. Annie Karni and Julian E. Barnes report for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 90.05 million people and has now killed over 1.03 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 566.846million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.38 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.