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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 – SHAM REFERENDUMS
The referendums underway in occupied territories in Ukraine are set to conclude today, with Russian President Vladimir Putin likely to announce the accession of these regions to the Russian Federation on Sept. 30. This is according to an intelligence update by the U.K. Ministry of Defense. “Russia’s leaders almost certainly hope that any accession announcement will be seen as a vindication of the special military operation and will consolidate patriotic support for the conflict”, the update added. Reuters reports.
Ukrainians who help Russian-backed referendums to annex large swathes of the country will face treason charges and at least five years in jail, Ukraine’s presidential adviser has said. “We have lists of names of people who have been involved in some way,” presidential adviser Mikhailo Podolyak said in an interview. “We are talking about hundreds of collaborators. They will be prosecuted for treason. They face prison sentences of at least five years.” Ukrainians who were forced to vote would not be punished, he added. Tom Balmforth reports for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – RUSSIAN MOBILIZATION
In a rare admission of official mistakes, the Kremlin acknowledged yesterday that its new military draft to reinforce the Russian assault on Ukraine has been rife with problems. Since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “partial mobilization” last week, there have been widespread reports of disproportionate conscription of ethnic minorities and conscription of people unfit for duty, leading to protests across the country. However, whilst Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov, admitted to irregularities in the call-up, he tried to shift blame to the local authorities carrying out the mobilization. “There are cases when the decree has been violated,” Mr. Peskov told reporters during a daily phone call. “In some regions, governors are actively working to correct the situation.” Valerie Hopkins, Shashank Bengali, and Alan Yuhas report for the New York Times.
Kyiv has reiterated calls for Russian men summoned to fight in Ukraine to lay down their arms in protest as soon as they arrive in the country. During a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on Russians to continue protesting against the draft and urged them to desert or give themselves up to Ukrainian troops as prisoners of war. Ukraine has pledged to treat Russian POWs fairly. Matthew Luxmoore reports for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
European countries have launched investigations following unexplained leaks in two Russian gas pipelines running under the Baltic Sea near Sweden and Denmark. The pipelines have been at the heart of an energy crisis since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, raising suspicions of sabotage from both European security sources and Russia itself. “There are some indications that it is deliberate damage,” said a European security source, while adding it was still too early to draw conclusions. “You have to ask: Who would profit?” Russia also said the leak in the Russian network was cause for concern and sabotage was one possible cause. “No option can be ruled out right now,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters. Anna Ringstrom and Stine Jacobsen report for Reuters.
The U.S. State Department announced yesterday that it would send $457.5 million in new nonmilitary aid to Ukraine. The aid is intended to bolster the country’s law enforcement and criminal justice services and support investigations into reported Russian war crimes, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. Michael Crowley reports for the New York Times.
Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday granted Russian citizenship to Edward Snowden. Snowden, who became one of the world’s most high-profile fugitives after he disclosed U.S. mass surveillance techniques to news organizations, said in 2020 that he was applying for Russian citizenship, describing the decision as a practical measure to give his family greater freedom crossing borders. His request was granted by Putin in a decree published yesterday. Snowden, 39, was among dozens of foreigners granted citizenship in the decree. Alan Yuhas reports for the New York Times.
Russia detained a Japanese consular officer yesterday, in a move Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi called “extremely regrettable and unacceptable.” “The consular officer was taken away in a state of immobility, blindfolded from start to finish, with his hands and head held down, and was subjected to intimidating interrogation,” Hayashi told reporters, adding that “there is absolutely no evidence of illegal activities as claimed by the Russian side.” Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Mori has summoned Russian Ambassador to Japan Mikhail Galuzin and has lodged a formal protest, demanding an apology and the prevention of recurrence. Junko Ogura and Uliana Pavlova report for CNN.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has caused a dire human rights situation and has led to a wide range of rights violations that could amount to war crimes, the U.N. human rights office has said. In a report released today, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said it was particularly concerned about torture and ill-treatment of detainees by Russian forces and affiliated armed groups, but said there had been rights violations by both sides. The report was carried out between Feb. 1 and Jul. 31 and was based on the work of the U.N. Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. Reuters reports.
Iranian forces unleashed drone and artillery attacks on the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq yesterday. The attacks by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps targeted what Tehran said were bases of militant Iranian Kurdish separatist groups there. The new strikes come as Iran continues to reel from 10 days of protests over the killing of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian Kurdish woman accused of violating the country’s strict dress code, in police custody. The unrest has been especially intense in northwest Iran, where many members of the country’s Kurdish minority live. Cora Engelbrecht and Jan Arraf report for the New York Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Japan will hold a state funeral for assassinated former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today, amid public opposition to the cost of the event. Police have ramped up security, with public broadcaster NHK reporting that about 20,000 police officers will be deployed to keep the peace. However, altercations have broken out anyway between police and demonstrators outside the funeral venue. Some critics have pointed to Abe’s unpopular policies as a reason for discontent and questioned why so much taxpayer money is going to the state funeral – which will cost some $12 million (1.66 billion yen) – at a time of acute economic strain. The event will be Japan’s first state funeral for a Japanese leader since 1967, with foreign dignitaries such as U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expected to be in attendance. Jessie Yeung and Emiko Jozuka report for CNN.
At least 11 children were killed when a gunman wearing Nazi symbols opened fire at a school in the western Russian city of Izhevsk, Russian authorities said yesterday. Fifteen fatalities have been recorded so far. Among those killed was the school’s security guard, head of the regional government Alexander Brechalovn said in a video statement. Investigators said 24 people, including 22 children, were injured. The shooter, who was reportedly wearing a black T-shirt with Nazi insignia and a helmet, died by suicide following the attack. Radina Gigova reports for CNN.
The U.S. Navy has sent its most advanced surface warship to the western Pacific, setting the stage for the eventual deployment of U.S. hypersonic missiles to the region. The USS Zumwalt is the first in a class of three multi-mission guided missile destroyers the Navy says will “create a new level of battlespace complexity for potential adversaries.” Analyst and former U.S. Navy captain, Carl Schuster says that the presence of the ship will draw a great deal of interest, particularly from China. This is especially true if the Zumwalt is fitted with hypersonic weapons, which an August report from the U.S. Naval Institute indicated might soon be the case. Brad Lendon reports for CNN.
Vice President Kamala Harris will visit the Korean Demilitarized Zone (D.M.Z.) that divides North and South Korea on Thursday as part of her visit to South Korea, a White House official has said. Harris’ trip will include site visits at the D.M.Z., meetings with service members, and an operational briefing from U.S. commanders, the official said, reiterating the U.S.’ commitment “to stand beside” South Korea in the face of “any threats” posed by North Korea. Paul LeBlanc, Jasmine Wright and Nikki Carvajal report for CNN.
Colombia and Venezuela reopened their 1,400-mile border yesterday, following a seven-year closure. The move by the leftist government in Bogotá is a major step towards normalizing relations with a regime that the U.S. has accused of narco-trafficking and rights abuses. The reopening of the border underscores how the U.S. has lost its closest ally in its bid to oust Venezuela’s autocratic President Nicolás Maduro after Colombia’s previous administration had worked closely with Washington to lead a block of dozens of nations to isolate his regime. “The reality is that the U.S. policy has failed,” said Phil Gunson, a Caracas-based political analyst with the International Crisis Group. “The region is re-engaging with Maduro.” Kejal Vyas reports for the Wall Street Journal.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – JAN. 6 ATTACK
The Jan. 6 committee will hold its next live hearing tomorrow, as it enters the final phase of its investigation. The committee hasn’t announced the focus of tomorrow’s hearing, but it likely will include new information the panel has received from the Secret Service, responsible for the security of former President Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence. Rep. Liz Cheney (R – WY), vice chair of the committee, said Saturday that the committee had received about 800,000 pages of Secret Service material, including emails and other documents. “We will be presenting new information, new evidence to the American people,” she said. She said some Secret Service officials “have not been forthcoming with the committee,” and the public will “hear more about that.” Scott Patterson and Sadie Gurman report for the Wall Street Journal.
A mysterious nine-second call from the White House on the afternoon of the Jan. 6 attack was made to 26-year-old Trump supporter Anton Lunyk, CNN has revealed. The call is significant as it is the only call made from the White House to the phone of someone involved in the attack during this critical time period. Who made the call remains a mystery, and it is still not clear what, if any, connection exists between the White House and Lunyk, including whether the call was made by mistake or whether the call went to voicemail. According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, Lunyk, who was sentenced for his role in the attack earlier this month, says he doesn’t remember receiving the nine-second call and claims he doesn’t know anyone who worked in the Trump White House. Jamie Gangel and Elizabeth Stuart report for CNN.
The Jan. 6 committee has subpoenaed Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, to compel him to testify about a phone call he received from Trump in July. The Wisconsin lawmaker is suing to block the subpoena, claiming that it is outside the scope of the select committee’s mission and imposes an “undue burden” by requiring him to comply so quickly. “Speaker Vos’ conversations with former President Trump pertained to a recently decided Wisconsin Supreme Court decision about Wisconsin election law and any actions that could be taken in response to this decision moving forward,” the suit says. “These topics do not pertain to the events of January 6th, or even (to construe the authorizing resolution broadly) the events leading up to it or its immediate aftermath,” it adds. Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu report for POLITICO.
Kellye SoRelle, a high-ranking member of the Oath Keepers who has been charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, exchanged messages in Nov. 2022 with then-White House aide Andrew Giuliani about election issues. SoRelle also tried to text a White House number on Dec. 20, according to a new book by Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman from Virginia, and journalist Hunter Walker. The revelation of the text messages adds to a growing web of links between people close to Trump and his advisers and fringe groups charged in connection with the attack. Ryan J. Reilly and Ben Collins report for NBC News.
The founder of the Oath Keepers and four other individuals linked to the group will stand trial today for seditious conspiracy and other charges stemming from the Jan. 6 attack. Stewart Rhodes, who established the Oath Keepers in 2009, and his co-defendants are accused of spending months recruiting, training and conspiring to use force to prevent the transfer of presidential power to President Biden. The stakes are high on both sides. For the defendants, a conviction for seditious conspiracy alone carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. For the government, a failure to win convictions in the most consequential Jan. 6 prosecution so far would undermine the Justice Department’s assertion that the Capitol attack posed a uniquely dangerous threat to American democracy. The trial is expected to last around five weeks. Ryan Lucas reports for NPR.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Justice Department has asked a judge to order former Trump White House trade adviser Peter Navarro to return federal records they say he wrongfully kept after leaving the administration. In the filing, the Department said that Navarro used a private email account to conduct presidential business and that these records are the property of the U.S.. “Because Dr. Navarro remains in possession of property that belongs to the United States, this Court should issue a writ of replevin requiring Dr. Navarro to return what he wrongfully continues to possess,” the lawyers continued. The Justice Department’s aggressive move seeks to bring a quick resolution to their lawsuit filed against Navarro earlier this year in yet another records dispute where the administration maintains the Trump White House inappropriately handled their official records. Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.
The Justice Department yesterday filed a revised inventory of items seized from former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort last month, alongside a declaration supporting the accuracy of the new list. The minor changes mostly concern the quantity of non-classified government documents and Trump’s collection of magazine and newspaper articles. The updated list adds 55 items to the more than 11,000 government-owned documents and photographs that the Justice Department says were removed from Mar-a-Lago. Zoë Richards and Daniel Barnes report for NBC News.
COVID-19 has infected over 96.12 million people and has now killed over 1.06 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 615.657 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.54 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.