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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
Russian President Vladimir Putin will hold a signing ceremony on Friday formally annexing four areas of Ukraine. The move follows referendums in Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson. No independent monitoring of the process took place and there were accounts of election officials going from door to door escorted by armed soldiers. The U.S. has said it will impose sanctions on Russia because of the referendums and E.U. member states are considering an eighth round of measures. BBC News reports.
Russian news agencies have released the final tallies of ballots cast in four Russian-occupied Ukrainian provinces in referendums to join Russia. Tass, the Russian state news agency, said the ballot count showed 87 percent of voters supported joining Russia in Kherson region; 93 percent in Zaporizhzhia region; 99 percent in Donetsk region; and 98 percent in Luhansk region in the east. The voting was widely seen in Ukraine and the West as a sham, with residents of occupied territories reporting how occupation authorities used intimidation and propaganda to influence the vote. Andrew E. Kramer reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – NORD STREAM LEAKS
A fourth leak has been discovered in the Nord Stream pipelines connecting Russia to Germany, according to Germany’s ambassador to the U.K, Miguel Berger. There was a “very strong indication” that these leaks were acts of sabotage, he added. Berger said that in Germany’s view, “everything indicated” the leaks were not the product of natural causes and that a non-state actor could not have caused this damage. He did not blame Russia for the leaks but said it was too early to rule anything out, adding that it is currently too dangerous to investigate. Jorge Engels reports for CNN.
European security officials observed Russian navy support ships in the vicinity of the leaks in the Nord Stream pipelines earlier this week, according to two Western intelligence officials. It’s unclear whether the ships had anything to do with the leaks, these sources and others said – but it’s one of the many factors that investigators will be looking into. Russian submarines were also observed not far from those areas last week, one of the intelligence officials said. Whilst the presence of the ships does not necessarily indicate that Russia caused the damage, the sightings cast further suspicion on Russia, which has drawn the most attention from both European and U.S. officials as the only actor in the region believed to have both the capability and motivation to deliberately damage the pipelines. Katie Bo Lillis, Natasha Bertrand and Kylie Atwood report for CNN.
Russia’s foreign ministry said ruptures to the Nord Stream pipelines occurred in territory that is “fully under the control” of U.S. intelligence agencies. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova told a pro-Kremlin broadcast that Washington had “full control” over the waters around Denmark and Sweden where four leaks have been detected on the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 pipelines. Zakharova did not provide evidence of U.S. control over Sweden and Denmark. Russia frequently rails against American influence and military support for Europe. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. Embassy in Moscow issued a security alert overnight urging U.S. citizens to leave Russia immediately while there are still options for departing the country. The alert comes in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s order for partial mobilization of Russian men to fight in his war in Ukraine. “Russia may refuse to acknowledge dual nationals’ US citizenship, deny their access to US consular assistance, prevent their departure from Russia, and conscript dual nationals for military service,” the alert said. Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.
The Pentagon said yesterday it would send an additional $1.1 billion in long-term military aid to Ukraine. This will include 18 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers, or HIMARS, one of the most vaunted weapons of the seven-month war with Russia. However, unlike the 16 HIMARS the military rushed to Ukraine from its existing stockpiles over the summer, these new weapons will be ordered from the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, and will take “a few years” to deliver, a senior Defense Department official told reporters. Shifting the source of Ukrainian military supplies from the Pentagon’s own stockpile to items newly manufactured by the defense industry indicates that the White House and military leaders are transitioning to a sustainable model Kyiv can depend on for an open-ended war with Russia. Eric Schmitt reports for the New York Times.
Iran’s morality police, responsible for monitoring and arresting women who defy the Islamic dress code, have disappeared from the streets of Tehran. This comes after dozens were killed in protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman who died in custody after being arrested by the morality police. Outrage over her death has led people from across the Iranian political spectrum to call for an end to the official policing of women’s clothing, and the disappearance of morality police appears to suggest that Tehran is weighing up a less heavy-handed approach. Najmeh Bozorgmehr reports for the Financial Times.
Nine people have been killed and at least 32 others injured in the semiautonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq after Iranian forces bombarded the region for the fifth straight day. The drone and missile strikes targeted offices and paramilitary bases of Iranian Kurdish opposition groups in Iraqi Kurdistan, including in the cities of Erbil, Sulaimaniya and Pirde, Kurdish officials and rights groups said. They were the latest in a string of attacks on the region since Saturday, after Tehran accused Kurdish groups based in northern Iraq of fomenting some of the demonstrations that have embroiled cities across Iran for more than a week. Cora Engelbrecht reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. yesterday shot down an Iranian drone that appeared to be heading towards U.S. forces in Erbil, Iraq, a U.S. official has said. U.S. forces launched an F-15 jet to shoot down the drone after tracking dozens of Iranian short-range ballistic missiles headed for Kurdish positions in northern Iraq, according to two other U.S. officials. The initial assessment is that the launches originated inside Iran, the officials said, calling the incident “significant.” Barbara Starr and Ellie Kaufman report for CNN.
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters yesterday, a day before U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to South Korea. During her trip, Harris is set to visit the Demilitarized Zone that divides North and South Korea, in what U.S. officials call an attempt to underscore the strength of the U.S.-South Korean alliance and the U.S. commitment to “stand beside” South Korea in the face of any North Korea threats. Hyung-Jin Kim and Kim Tong-Hyung report for AP.
Sean Turnell, an economic adviser to Myanmar’s imprisoned civilian leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, was convicted of violating an official secrets act yesterday and sentenced to three years in prison. Turnell, who is an Australian citizen, was arrested in Myanmar five days after the military seized power in a coup last year. He pleaded not guilty to the charge and has remained in prison since February 2021, unable to meet with his lawyer or representatives of the Australian embassy. Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the army and the general behind the coup, reportedly said Turnell’s continued detention was in retaliation for Australia choosing to downgrade its embassy’s representation in Myanmar, a decision that was made to avoid legitimizing the military junta. Seth Mydans reports for the New York Times.
The trial of Guinea’s former president Capt. Moussa Dadis Camara and 10 others accused of responsibility for a 2009 stadium massacre began yesterday in the country’s capital. According to a U.N. investigation and witness accounts gathered by Human Rights Watch, more than 150 people were killed in the massacre, with hundreds of others wounded and at least 109 women raped or sexually assaulted. The trial is unprecedented in Guinea, with a new courtroom built in the capital, Conakry, for the occasion. The case is seen by many human rights experts as a test for the West African country in holding army officers to account, with some wondering whether its judiciary, which has historically been weak, can hold a fair trial on the massacre. Elian Peltier reports for the New York Times.
One of the alleged masterminds and financiers of the 1994 Rwandan genocide has gone on trial at a U.N. tribunal in The Hague. Félicien Kabuga is charged with genocide, incitement to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide as well as persecution, extermination and murder. He has pleaded not guilty. If convicted he faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. France 24 reports.
Paraguay’s president Mario Abdo Benítez has called on Taiwan to invest $1bn in his country to help him resist “enormous” pressure to switch diplomatic recognition to China. Most of Taiwan’s remaining diplomatic allies are in Latin America and the Caribbean, but Beijing has been gradually prising them away with offers of aid, loans, and trade. A switch by Paraguay, the largest country by area that still recognizes Taiwan, would be a heavy blow to Taipei. Taiwan’s foreign ministry said Abdo’s hope for $1bn in Taiwanese investment “would have profound significance for the Taiwan-Paraguay strategic partnership.” Michael Stott and Kathrin Hille report for the Financial Times.
The Defense Department’s inspector general has identified “concerns” with the department’s use of phone messaging apps in relation to calls for an investigation into the department’s failure to preserve texts from Jan. 6, 2021. In a letter to Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin, who had requested the probe, acting Inspector General Sean O’Donnell said that his office will be issuing an advisory on the department’s use of mobile messaging applications “that we believe will be relevant to the concerns you raised in your letter” requesting the review. “This advisory will notify DoD officials responsible for approving the use of mobile applications of concerns we identified during our ongoing audit of Defense Digital Service (DDS) support of DoD programs and operations,” O’Donnell said, according to the letter that Judiciary Committee Democrats posted to Twitter yesterday. The inspector general also told Durbin in the letter that his office was planning an audit of actions the Defense Department took to preserve its electronic records and whether its approach complied with federal law. Tierney Sneed reports for CNN.
Survivors of the mass shooting at a suburban Chicago Independence Day parade and family members of those killed filed 11 lawsuits yesterday against the manufacturer of the rifle used in the attack. The suit accused gun-maker Smith & Wesson of illegally targeting its ads at young men at risk of committing mass violence. The sweeping effort by dozens of victims of the Highland Park shooting, anti-gun violence advocates and private attorneys is the latest bid to hold gun manufacturers accountable for a mass killing despite broad protections for the industry in federal law. The group’s strategy mirrors the approach used by relatives of victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook school killings, who in February reached a $73 million settlement with the firearm company that produced the rifle used in that attack. AP reports.
A pair of cases about the reach the Supreme Court, one out of North Carolina and the other out of Alabama, could reshape the 2024 election. In the North Carolina case, Republican legislators are asking the Supreme Court to revoke the ability of state courts to review election laws under their states’ constitutions. Whilst, the Alabama case, which will be heard on Tuesday, involves a challenge to the state’s congressional map — and whether Black voters’ power was illegally diluted. Practically, the results of the cases could open the door to even more gerrymandering by legislators around the country, and they could also give legislatures even more power within their states to determine rules for voting — including how, when and where voters could cast their ballots. Zach Montellaro provides analysis for POLITICO.
COVID-19 has infected over 96.25 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 616.733 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.