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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.
In a long-awaited report released yesterday, the U.N. accused China of serious human rights violations that “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity” in its mass detention of Uyghurs and other Muslim groups in Xinjiang. The assessment was released shortly before midnight in Geneva and minutes before Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, was set to leave office. The 48-page report did not use the word “genocide,” a designation applied by the U.S. and by an unofficial tribunal in Britain last year. But it validated rights groups’ and activists’ claims that China has detained Uyghurs, Kazakhs and others, often for having overseas ties or for expressing religious faith. Nick Cumming-Bruce and Austin Ramzy report for the New York Times.
China has lashed out at the U.N. human rights office over the release of its damning report concerning Beijing’s treatment of Muslim groups in Xinjiang. Hours after the report was released, Liu Yuyin, spokesperson for the Chinese mission to Geneva, called the “so-called ‘assessment’ on Xinjiang” a “farce” and a politically motivated attempt to smear China. “It is completely a politicized document that disregards facts, and reveals explicitly the attempt of some Western countries and anti-China forces to use human rights as a political tool,” Liu said in a statement released by the mission. Lily Kuo reports for the Washington Post.
Ukrainian army units pushing toward Kherson in the south are retaking ground held for months by Russia’s invading troops, according to Ukrainian soldiers taking part in the offensive. Russian soldiers seemed well equipped and were putting up stiff resistance, the Ukrainians said.“They’re throwing everything against us,” said a 22-year-old Ukrainian soldier who said Russians were fighting with artillery, tanks, helicopters and mortars. “They have a lot of equipment but few men.” The Pentagon’s assessment, given at a briefing by its spokesperson yesterday, appeared to support the soldiers’ cautious optimism. “We are aware of Ukrainian military operations that have made some forward movement, and in some cases in the Kherson region we are aware of Russian units falling back,” Air Force Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters. Matthew Luxmoore reports for the Wall Street Journal.
U.N. inspectors set off on the final part of their journey to the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear-power plant today. To reach the facility, the 14-member team from the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency (I.A.E.A.) must travel 75 miles from the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, across the front line with Russian forces to the town of Enerhodar. I.A.E.A. Director General Rafael Grossi said early Thursday that he was aware of intensified fighting near the team’s planned route, but that the mission would continue. Isabel Coles reports for Wall Street Journal.
Moscow and its separatist allies in Ukraine have forcibly transferred hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia since the start of the war, according to U.S. officials and human rights investigators. Many are sent through a vast and punitive “filtration” system that includes detentions, interrogations and mass data collection. The system operates in Russian-occupied areas and is overseen by the Kremlin, which is using “advanced technology” to gather data on Ukrainian citizens, a U.S. State Department official said in a briefing with reporters yesterday. In recent days, two reports — from the New York-based Human Rights Watch and Yale University’s Humanitarian Research Lab — have shed new light on the scale of the filtration network and its impact on civilians. Both reports say there is evidence the system violates the laws of war. Claire Parker reports for the Washington Post.
European foreign ministers have agreed to suspend a 2007 agreement with Russia that makes it easier for Russians to get visas to travel to the E.U.. The suspension of the agreement will make it harder for Russians to get E.U. visas — they will cost more, require more paperwork and involve longer delays. The bloc’s foreign-policy chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, said after a two-day meeting in Prague that the suspension will “significantly reduce” the number of visas issued to Russians. The full suspension of the agreement was a predicted compromise between states such as Poland, Finland, the Baltic Nations and the Czech Republic, who wanted to ban all Russian tourism and those such as France and Germany who opposed such a blanket ban as a form of collective punishment. Steven Erlanger reports for the New York Times.
The chairman of Russia’s Lukoil oil giant, Ravil Maganov, has died after falling from a hospital window in Moscow, reports say. Maganov is the latest of a number of high-profile business executives to die in mysterious circumstances. Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the Lukoil board called for the conflict to end as soon as possible, expressing its sympathy to the victims of this tragedy. Investigating authorities said they were working at the scene to establish how he died. Tass news agency quoted sources saying he had fallen out of a sixth-floor window, adding later that he had taken his own life. BBC News reports.
The Biden administration has imposed new restrictions on sales of some sophisticated computer chips to China and Russia. This is the U.S. government’s latest attempt to use semiconductors as a tool to undermine rivals’ advances in fields such as high-performance computing and article intelligence. The new limits affect high-end models of chips known as graphics processing units, or GPUs, which are sold by the Silicon Valley companies Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices. Don Clark and Ana Swanson report for the New York Times.
China has been simulating attacks on U.S. Navy ships and is aiming to prevent foreign forces from coming to Taiwan’s aid in the event of a war, Taiwan’s defense ministry has said. In a report to parliament, Taiwan’s defense ministry said China was continuing to strengthen its combat preparedness for an attack on the island. It was focusing on the first island chain, which runs from Japan through Taiwan, the Philippines and on to Borneo, enclosing China’s coastal seas. China has been “using combat drills to carry out simulated attacks on U.S. ships that enter into the first island chain”, the report said, and aims to gain strategic control of that island chain by 2035. Yimou Lee reports for Reuters.
President Biden sought to assure Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid on Wednesday that the U.S. would not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. “The President underscored U.S. commitment to never allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” the White House said in a readout of the call between the two leaders. “The President expressed appreciation for the warm reception during his July trip to Israel, a visit that illustrated the unbreakable bonds and friendship between our two countries,” the readout continued. Lapid tweeted that the two leaders discussed threats from Iran’s nuclear program and Tehran’s support for terror groups, adding that the U.S. and Israel are “resolute in our shared commitment to prevent a nuclear Iran.” The call between the two leaders came as talks about reviving the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran – something Israel has opposed – show signs of progress. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
The FBI is deploying a team of cybersecurity experts to Montenegro to investigate a massive cyberattack that hit the country’s critical infrastructure over the weekend, the country’s Ministry of Internal Affairs announced yesterday. The announcement came as the government’s main websites — including the ministries of defense, finance and interior — remained unreachable. Officials said they were offline “for security reasons.” The ministry called the FBI assistance “another confirmation of the excellent cooperation between the United States of America and Montenegro and a proof that we can count on their support in any situation.” Montenegro’s Agency for National Security blamed the attack, which began late last week, on Russia, though no evidence was provided to support this claim. Predrag Milic reports for AP.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – MAR-A-LAGO SEARCH
Former President Trump’s legal team yesterday renewed its push for a special master to review documents seized by the FBI from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence. In an 18-page filing, Trump’s lawyers suggested that by undertaking what they described as an “unprecedented, unnecessary and legally unsupported raid” on Mar-a-Lago the Justice Department was “criminalizing a former president’s possession of personal and presidential records in a secure setting.” Trump’s lawyers argued that the Presidential Records Act has no enforcement mechanism, suggesting that the government had no basis to seize the files Trump took to Mar-a-Lago and did not return even after repeated requests by the National Archives and a subpoena from the Justice Department. “The law exhorts a former president to interface with the archivist to ensure the preservation of presidential records, but it does not oblige the former president to take any particular steps with respect to those records,” the lawyers wrote. Charlie Savage, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
The Justice Department’s Tuesday court filing, which laid out the case that documents had been concealed at Mar-a-Lago, raises new scrutiny for former President Trump’s lawyers. The fact that the FBI’s search uncovered scores of classified material “cast serious doubt” on the sworn statement one of Trump’s lawyers made in June attesting that all classified material had been returned and a “diligent search” had been conducted, the Justice Department wrote. Trump’s attorney Christina Bobb was the individual who signed the June 3 letter attesting that all materials requested by the subpoena issued to Trump had been turned over to the Justice Department. CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said that the statements made in the June certification are demonstrably false, and the question is whether prosecutors can establish that Trump’s attorney “made that statement, knowing that it was false.””If so — and that’s a big if — then we could see false statements and obstruction charges in play,” Honig said. Jeremy Herb and Tierney Sneed report for CNN.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – 2020 ELECTION PROBES
Former Trump lawyer John Eastman, appeared yesterday before the grand jury investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. Eastman’s counsel, Charles Burnham and Harvey Silvergate indicated in a statement that Eastman pleaded the Fifth and asserted attorney-client privilege “where appropriate.” “Out of respect for grand jury secrecy we will not disclose the substance of the questions or testimony,” the lawyers said. Eastman is the latest member of Trump’s inner circle to face questions from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis for his role in the attempts to overturn the election results in Georgia by appointing pro-Trump presidential electors. Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu report for POLITICO.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Taliban fighters and senior leaders gathered yesterday for a celebration at Bagram air base, to mark one year since U.S. and NATO forces withdrew from the country. Images released by Taliban media show fighters marching in Western-style uniforms, followed by columns of armored vehicles bearing the group’s black-and-white flag moving down one of the main runways. Helicopters flew above the crowd. “We are gathered here to celebrate the first anniversary of the withdrawal,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told local media attending the ceremony. “I am proud that our country was liberated on this day and American troops were forced to leave Afghanistan,” he said. Susannah George reports for the Washington Post.
Four people have been killed in clashes among rival Shi’ite Muslim militants in the southern Iraqi city of Basra, local security officials said. This is the latest violence to hit the country in a political crisis that pits followers of the Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr against mostly Iran-aligned parties and paramilitary groups. The violence erupted earlier this week when armed supporters of Sadr fought with security forces and Iran-aligned gunmen in Baghdad in the fiercest street fighting the capital has seen for years. Reuters reports.
Ethiopian and Eritrean government forces have launched an attack in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray, a Tigrayan military spokesperson said. The Tigrayan military command said the northern town of Adybayo had been attacked from four directions. “The enemy, having already relocated a massive force to Eritrea, has now begun a joint campaign with the foreign invading force of Eritrea,” it added in a statement. The Ethiopian government said attacks by Tigrayan forces had intensified, leading to the deaths and displacement of civilians and property destruction. It also accused the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) of diverting food aid meant for hungry Tigrayans. The government statement did not directly address claims about an attack by Ethiopian and Eritrean troops in northwestern Tigray. Reuters reports.
COVID-19 has infected over 94.532 million people and has now killed over 1.05 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 603.153million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.50 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.