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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
Moscow-installed officials are claiming almost total support for joining Russia among those who voted in the sham referendums in Russian-occupied Ukraine. For instance, news agencies run by the pro-Kremlin administrations in Donetsk and Luhansk are reporting that up to 99.23% of people voted in favor of joining Russia – a high percentage that would be unusual in a vote of this nature. Yesterday night Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of “brutally violating the U.N. statute” by trying to annex territories seized by force. “This farce in the occupied territory cannot even be called an imitation of referendums,” he said. There is speculation that Russian President Vladimir Putin may announce the annexation of the regions in a speech to a joint session of Russia’s parliament on Friday. Patrick Jackson reports for BBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – RUSSIAN MOBILIZATION
The Kremlin has dispatched forces to Russia’s borders to confront Russian men trying to leave the country. As the avenues for Russians to escape a draft order issued last week narrowed, the Federal Security Service sent armored vehicles to the frontiers, where some men waiting to flee were being served military call-up papers, the state news media reported. According to a statement issued by the service, the forces were deployed at border crossings to ensure that reservists did not leave the country “without completing border formalities.” The Kremlin has dismissed reports that it may soon forbid nearly all military-age men from leaving the country. Marc Santora, Andrew E. Kramer, and Eric Nagourney report for the New York Times.
Russia will soon open an army enlisting center on the border with Georgia, the interior ministry of Russia’s North Ossetia republic has said. Officers at the Verkhniy Lars crossing will be tasked with serving summons to “citizens of the mobilization age,” the authorities say. Massive queues have formed at the border, as Russian men try to flee the country to avoid being sent to fight in Ukraine. The interior ministry of Russia’s North Ossetia said 60 of its personnel had already been deployed there, describing the situation as “extremely tense.” It added that the army enlisting center would be opened “in the nearest future.” Yaroslav Lukov reports for BBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – NORD STREAM LEAKS
Leaks in the major natural gas pipelines from Russia to Germany appeared to be caused by a deliberate attack, European officials have said. Three separate leaks erupted from the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines, which were already caught up in the conflict over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, sending swirling streams of methane to the surface of waters off Denmark and Sweden. Swedish seismologists reported detecting the underwater explosions on Monday, and pipeline monitors registered a swift drop in the conduits’ pressure. “It’s hard to imagine that it’s accidental,” Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, told reporters yesterday- a judgment echoed by officials in several countries. Melissa Eddy reports for the New York Times.
The CIA issued a warning in June to a number of European nations, including Germany, that the two Nord Stream gas pipelines could be targeted in forthcoming attacks, three senior officials familiar with the intelligence have said. The warning was not specific, the officials said, and they declined to say whether Russia itself was identified as a possible attacker. The Biden administration has so far been careful not to blame Moscow – or anyone else – for the damage to the pipelines. At a White House news briefing yesterday, Karine Jean-Pierre, the press secretary, said she was not going to “speculate on the cause of this.” “Our partners are investigating this, so we stand ready to provide support to their efforts once they have completed their investigation,” she said. Several officials cautioned that because the warning was three months old, it may not be connected to the most recent incidents. David E. Sanger and Julian E. Barnes report for the New York Times.
The E.U. is seeking to ramp up security safeguarding the bloc’s energy infrastructure in response to apparent deliberate attacks on the Nord Stream pipelines. Neither pipeline was in operation amid an energy standoff between Russia and Europe. However, the E.U. warned of a strong response should any of the bloc’s active infrastructure be attacked.”Any deliberate disruption of European energy infrastructure is utterly unacceptable and will be met with a robust and united response,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
U.S. and allied intelligence agencies are stepping up efforts to detect any military moves that might signal that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, according to current and former U.S. officials. Recent efforts include tasking additional U.S. and allied intelligence assets — in the air, space and cyberspace — and relying more heavily on commercial Earth-imaging satellites to analyze Russian units in the field that might be in position to get the nuclear order, one official said. However, the officials also warned that any indications that Putin was planning on using nuclear weapons could come too late. Bryan Bender reports for POLITICO.
Defense officials from more than 40 countries supplying weapons to Ukraine will meet today to discuss ramping up arms production. The meetings, held this week at the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, will also focus on longer-term demands for militaries around the world that want NATO-compatible munitions. The talks are led by the U.S., which has sent more than $15 billion of military aid to defend Ukraine, and include allies in Europe and the Indo-Pacific. Lara Jakes reports for the New York Times.
A Japanese diplomat detained in Russia on allegations that he obtained classified information has been released and will leave the country, Japanese officials have said. The official, identified by Russia’s Tass news agency as Tatsunori Motoki, was declared persona non grata and given 48 hours to leave, Tass reported. Japanese officials said the diplomat did not engage in illegal activity and condemned Russian officials for detaining the consul for interrogation, calling it a violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Julia Mio Inuma report for the Washington Post.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
North Korea’s first nuclear test since 2017, if it takes place, is likely to happen between Oct. 16 and Nov. 7, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency has reported. Preparations for a nuclear test had been completed at North Korea’s Punggye-ri test tunnel, the news agency said, citing legislators briefed by the National Intelligence Service. The timing of the test is likely to be determined by events in China and the U.S, and will likely take place between China’s 20th party congress on Oct. 16 and the U.S. midterm elections on Nov. 7. Soo-hyang Choi reports for Reuters.
At least 76 protesters have been killed by Iranian security forces during 11 days of unrest sparked by the death of a woman in custody, activists say. Iran Human Rights (IHR), a Norway-based organization, accused authorities of using disproportionate force and live ammunition to suppress the dissent. Hundreds of people have also been arrested in the protests. “The risk of torture and ill-treatment of protesters is serious and the use of live ammunition against protesters is an international crime,” said IHR’s director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam. “The world must defend the Iranian people’s demands for their fundamental rights.” The U.N. human rights office also said it was very concerned by the authorities’ violent response and urged them to respect the right to protest peacefully. David Gritten reports for BBC News.
The E.U. is seeking to reset its relationship with Israel next week, convening a summit on Monday of senior political figures for the first time in a decade. The meeting format, known as the E.U.-Israel Association Council, has essentially been dormant since 2013, when Israel canceled a gathering in protest over the E.U.’s stance on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Since then, the two sides have continued to clash over similar issues. However, the exit of hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2021 opened the door for current rapprochement. His replacement, Yair Lapid, who also holds the foreign minister role, has embraced a two-state solution with Palestine — a position more in line with many E.U. countries’ approach. Brussels is also eager to shore up energy supplies from Israel amid Russia’s war in Ukraine. Ilya Gridneff and Suzanne Lynch report for POLITICO.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has been named prime minister, a post traditionally held by the king. Prince Mohammed, who has already been the kingdom’s de facto ruler for several years, has been instrumental in spearheading a sweeping reform agenda which has included granting women the right to drive. However, he has also jailed critics and, in a sweeping purge of the nation’s elite, detained and threatened some 200 princes and businessmen in Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in a 2017 anti-corruption crackdown that tightened his grip on power. Prince Mohammed gained global notoriety for the 2018 killing of the dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate. Agence-France Presse reports.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has discovered and taken down what it described as the first targeted Chinese campaign to interfere in U.S. politics ahead of the midterm elections. Unlike Russian efforts over the last two presidential elections, the Chinese campaign appeared limited in scope and at times clumsy. Fake posts began appearing in Nov. 2021, with users first posing as conservative Americans, promoting gun rights and opposition to abortion, and then as liberals. The posts used mangled English and failed to attract many followers. What made the effort unusual, however, was what appeared to be the focus on divisive domestic politics. In previous influence campaigns, China’s propaganda apparatus concentrated more broadly on criticizing American foreign policy, while promoting China’s view of its own domestic issues, such as the crackdown on political rights in Hong Kong. Ben Nimmo, Meta’s lead official for global threat intelligence, said the operation reflected “a new direction for Chinese influence operations.” Steven Lee Myers reports for the New York Times.
The Solomon Islands will not endorse a joint declaration that the Biden administration planned to unveil following a White House summit of Pacific island leaders. As President Biden prepared to host the leaders of a dozen Pacific countries on Wednesday and Thursday in a first-of-its-kind gathering, the Solomon Islands sent a diplomatic note to other nations in the region saying there was no consensus on the issues and that it needed “time to reflect” on the declaration. The setback, which was revealed just hours before the start of the summit, is a sign of the challenges Washington faces as it attempts to reassert influence in a region with increasing diplomatic ties to China. Michael E. Miller reports for the Washington Post.
Hurricane Ian lashed Cuba yesterday, knocking out power to the entire island, according to the authorities. The Ministry of Mines and Energy said the power grid had collapsed in the wake of the storm, leaving the country in the dark as it tried to recover from heavy flooding and extensive damage. At least two people were killed, according to local news reports. The hurricane comes as Cuba continues to recover from one of the worst periods of financial hardship in the country’s history, with the nation’s ailing infrastructure already producing widespread power blackouts. The financial misery, along with ongoing political repression, sparked one of the largest protest movements in decades last year. Camilla Acosta and Oscar Lopez report for the New York Times.
Hurricane Ian is forecast to approach the west coast of Florida this afternoon. Gov. Ron DeSantis said in a news conference late yesterday that the storm is likely to become a Category 4 hurricane and warned of catastrophic flooding and life-threatening storm surges in the Gulf Coast region. “If you are in an evacuation zone particularly in those southwest Florida counties, your time to evacuate is coming to an end,” he said. “You need to evacuate now. You’re going to start feeling major impacts of this storm relatively soon.” DeSantis also spoke to President Biden yesterday. The two men discussed “the steps the Federal government is taking to help Florida prepare for Hurricane Ian,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote on Twitter. “The President and the Governor committed to continued close coordination,” she added. The Wall Street Journal provides live reporting.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell announced yesterday he would support legislation that would make it harder to overturn a certified presidential election. McConnell said the “chaos” of the pro-Trump attack on the Capitol last year “certainly underscored the need for an update.” “I strongly support the modest changes that our colleagues in the working group have fleshed out after literally months of detailed discussions,” McConnell said. “I’ll proudly support the legislation, provided that nothing more than technical changes are made to its current form.” McConnell’s endorsement bolsters the chances of the legislation passing and puts him at sharp odds with former President Trump, who has called on Republican senators to sink the bill. Alex Rogers and Manu Raju report for CNN.
Roger Stone Jr., a political operative who stoked violence during the Jan. 6 attack, sought pardon from the president, text messages show. Following the events of Jan. 6, Stone started texting David I. Schoen, a lawyer representing President Donald J. Trump in his second impeachment trial, asking if Schoen could “plug” his pardon request the next time he spoke to the president. The text messages are part of a trove of video evidence Danish filmmakers have turned over to the Jan. 6 committee, which also shows Stone threatening violence and spelling out plans to fight the election results. The committee is interested in Stone due to his relationship with the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys, and his role in communicating with them before and after Jan. 6, the Danish filmmakers said. Some of the material was expected to feature in the panel’s next hearing, which had been planned for today but was postponed abruptly due to Hurricane Ian. Luke Broadwater, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
President Biden said on Tuesday that his administration will maintain the current cap on refugee entries over the next year. The decision to leave the cap at 125,000 reflects his campaign pledge to open the country to more displaced people from around the world. This contrasts with the policy of the Trump administration, which severely restricted entry. However, whilst refugee advocacy groups have largely praised Biden’s decision, some have also raised concerns that migrants are being processed too slowly. Although 125,000 refugees could have been allowed entry last year, the administration processed only about 20,000. Michael D. Shear reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 96.16 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 616.207 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.