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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 – ANNEXATION OF UKRAINIAN TERRITORIES
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed documents today for the annexation of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions of Ukraine. Documents on Russian plans for the regions say the Luhansk and Donetsk militias will be incorporated into Russia’s military, while residents will become Russian citizens upon taking an oath of loyalty. The annexations have no legitimacy under international law. Eric Cunningham, Rachel Pannett, Jennifer Hassan and Robyn Dixon report for the Washington Post.
The U.S. and its international allies are engaged in a large-scale lobbying effort to convince countries to vote in favor of a U.N. resolution slamming Russia’s territorial claims. Csaba Kőrösi, president of the U.N. General Assembly, has convened an emergency special session of the body to begin debate next Monday, with a vote expected later next week. If passed, the resolution would boost the Western effort to isolate Putin, undermine his argument that he is a liberator and, ideally, convince him that escalating the war will only invite more global backlash. Nahal Toosi and Ryan Heath report for POLITICO.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – UKRAINIAN COUNTER-OFFENSIVES
Ukrainian forces have liberated a key village in the southern region of Kherson, hastening another Russian military retreat. The defense ministry in Kyiv posted a video showing the 35th marine brigade hoisting a Ukrainian flag above the village of Davydiv Brid, amid reports of several other nearby villages being recaptured. Russia still controls Kherson city, the regional capital, in the south. But its grip is looking increasingly shaky on the entire area north of the River Dnieper, known as Dnipro in Ukrainian. Paul Kirby reports for BBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
Ukraine’s recent battlefield wins in the east and south of the country are a “significant operational accomplishment,” a top Pentagon official said yesterday. “Even as the Russian government moves legislation today to claim parts of Ukrainian territory illegitimately, the reality on the ground is that the Ukrainian armed forces continue to reclaim territory and consolidate their claims,” said Laura Cooper, the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs. Her comments came as the Biden administration announced it would transfer another $625 million of weapons to Kyiv. Lara Seligman reports for POLITICO.
The U.S.’s decision to send more military aid to Ukraine “increases the danger of a direct military clash” between Russia and the West, Moscow has warned. In a statement posted on Facebook, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, said the decision was an “immediate threat” to Moscow. He also described the U.S. as “a participant of the conflict”. Yaroslav Lukov reports for BBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – INTERNATIONAL CRIMES
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy today called for the creation of a “special tribunal” to pursue Russian political and military leaders for their role in the invasion of Ukraine. “We must bring to justice those whose decisions started all this,” he told a conference in Paris. While he praised the work of the International Criminal Court for investigating alleged crimes committed by Russian troops on Ukrainian territories, he added that “for the original crime of armed aggression to receive a fair answer as well, we must supplement the activities of the International Criminal Court.” Mick Krever reports for CNN.
Just Security has published a piece by Ambassador David Scheffer titled “The Case for Creating a Special Tribunal to Prosecute the Crime of Aggression Committed Against Ukraine.”
U.N. investigators in Ukraine say they are receiving accounts of Russian forces torturing civilian and military prisoners, and of disappearances in areas controlled by Russia. Most of the documented cases of torture involved Ukrainian prisoners, Christian Salazar Volkmann, director of U.N. field operations, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday. In two cases, he said, members of the Ukrainian military were tortured to death. Ukrainian troops have also tortured and abused prisoners of war during their capture or transit to detention sites, but “on a lesser scale,” Volkmann said. Nick Cumming-Bruce reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies, including Russia, are expected to approve a cut in oil production in order to bolster prices when officials meet in Vienna today. Analysts say a very large cut on the order of two million barrels a day, or about 2 percent of world supplies, could be on the table. “To the extent that prices rise, it will make it that much more challenging for Europe to proceed with its sanctions on Russian oil in December,” said Bhushan Bahree, an executive director of S&P Global Commodity Insights. A substantial cut in production would also be a blow to the Biden administration, which has lobbied Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s de facto leader, to increase output. Stanley Reed reports for the New York Times.
A Kyiv suburb was hit overnight by Iranian-made attack drones, the head of the regional military administration has said in a Telegram post. The attack caused at least one injury and damage to infrastructure, he added. It appeared to be the first time the Iranian-supplied attack drones have been used against a target near the Ukrainian capital, which lies far from the front lines of the battlefield. Victoria Kim reports for the New York Times.
Japan has ordered a Russian diplomat to leave the country in retaliation for Russia’s expulsion last week of a Japanese consul general. Calling Russia’s move “an indisputable and serious violation of international laws,” Japan’s foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, said yesterday that a diplomat at the Russian consulate in Sapporo had been declared persona non grata and ordered to leave within six days “in an equivalent response.” The move represents a further deterioration of relations between the two countries. Victoria Kim and Hisako Ueno report for the New York Times.
Iran has summoned the U.K.’s ambassador for the second time since nationwide protests erupted last month, stepping up accusations of Western meddling in ongoing protests sparked by a woman’s death in police custody. The envoy was summoned in reaction to “interventionist comments” from the U.K.’s foreign ministry, the semi-official news agency Tasnim reported. A senior Iranian foreign ministry official said “unilateral statements” by Britain showed it had “a role in the belligerent scenarios of terrorists active against the Islamic Republic,” Tasnim said. Parisa Hafezi reports for Reuters.
The U.S. is expected to issue new sanctions this week against law enforcement officials and those directly involved in the crackdown on protests in Iran, a source familiar with the matter has said. This comes after President Biden’s intentionally vague statement on Monday, which promised further costs “on perpetrators of violence against peaceful protestors.” The effort to move quickly to respond to the protests sweeping Iran also follows an acknowledgment by some top officials in the Biden administration that the U.S. was too slow to respond when protests erupted in Iran in 2009. Kaitlin Collins reports for CNN.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps bombarded opposition bases in the semi autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq yesterday. This is the latest in a string of attacks against Kurdish groups that Iran blames for fomenting some of the protests that have gripped the country for almost three weeks. Iranian forces used drones and artillery to target Iranian Kurdish positions on Halgurd mountain and in the Sidakan and Bernezin districts, according to the Tasnim news agency. Cora Engelbrecht reports for the New York Times.
U.S RELATIONS – SOUTH KOREA
The U.S. and South Korea launched four missiles off the east coast of the Korean Peninsula this morning local time, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff. The test was the allies’ second exercise in under 24 hours after neighboring North Korea fired a ballistic missile without warning over Japan in a significant escalation of its weapons testing program. According to John Kirby, the National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, today’s launch was designed to demonstrate that the U.S. and its allies have “the military capabilities at the ready to respond to provocations by the North.” Yoonjung Seo, Caitlin Hu, Eric Cheung, and Brad Lendon report for CNN.
One of the South Korean missiles fired during live-fire exercises with the U.S. crashed this morning, panicking confused residents in the already wary city of Gangneung. The sound of the blast and subsequent fire led many in the city to believe it could be a North Korean attack, a concern that only grew as military and government officials failed to acknowledge the missile malfunction for hours after the explosion. No injuries have been reported from the accident, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff have said. AP reports.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
During the second day of the Oath Keepers’ seditious conspiracy trial, Federal prosecutors played the court an audio recording of Oath Keepers allegedly planning to bring weapons to Washington D.C. and fight on behalf of former President Trump. The recording is of an alleged Nov. 2020 Oath Keepers planning meeting, which was secretly recorded by an attendee, FBI agent Michael Palian told jurors. The recording, which is primarily of Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes, is the first major piece of evidence that prosecutors have used to establish a plan by the far-right group to allegedly descend on Washington and oppose the transfer of power. “We’re not getting out of this without a fight. There’s going to be a fight,” Rhodes said in the recording played in court. “But let’s just do it smart and let’s do it while President Trump is still commander in chief,” Rhodes said. “So our mission is going to be to go into DC, but I do want some Oath Keepers to stay on the outside and to stay fully armed and prepared to go in if they have to,” he continued. Hannah Rabinowitz and Holms Lybrand report for CNN.
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, told a federal judge Monday night that Trump election attorney John Eastman has been “consistently unreliable” as he’s tried to protect his communications from the ongoing probe. The House also argued that investigators should now get access to more emails from one of his work email accounts. The judge, David O. Carter of the federal district court in central California, has already released many of Eastman’s emails from around Jan. 2021 to House investigators, but the two sides are still arguing over 562 additional documents from Eastman’s Chapman University email account. Katelyn Polantz reports for CNN.
Former President Trump asked the Supreme Court yesterday to intervene in the dispute over materials marked as classified that the FBI seized from his Mar-a-Lago residence this summer. In his emergency request, he specifically asked the court to ensure that the more than 100 documents marked as classified are part of the special master’s review. The request is limited in scope, however, and does not ask the Supreme Court to block the Justice Department from using the document in its criminal probe into how materials from his White House were mishandled. It is not clear whether allowing the special master to access the classified documents poses a real threat to the investigation, or whether the court will be sympathetic to Trump’s claims, which largely rest on technical arguments about whether an appeals court had the authority to carve out the 100 documents from the review. The Justice Department has been given until 5 p.m. (EST) on Oct. 11, to respond. Tierney Sneed reports for CNN.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Supreme Court yesterday heard a challenge to a key section of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), presenting the conservative majority with another opportunity to curtail the 1965 law that aims to address racial discrimination in voting. The case, titled Merrill v Milligan, concerns the U.S. congressional map Alabama drew after the 2020 census and could redefine how the VRA can be used to challenge redistricting plans in court. Much of the two hours of oral arguments featured conservatives testing how broadly or narrowly they would need to rule to uphold Alabama’s map. The lawyers for the Black voters who challenged Alabama’s map, as well as U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, cautioned the court that even seemingly minor changes to how courts handle VRA cases would drastically complicate the path minority voters have for challenging discriminatory maps in court. That in turn could undermine the political power of voters of color, while shrinking minority representation in Congress and state legislatures. CNN provides 5 key takeaways from yesterday’s oral arguments.
Elon Musk has offered to close his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter on the terms he originally agreed to. The potential agreement follows months of disputes that have created existential challenges for Twitter, cratering its share price, demoralizing its employees and spooking the advertisers it relies on for revenue. If Musk does take over Twitter, one of his first big moves could be allowing Trump to return. Musk has said it was a “mistake” for Twitter to bar Trump. Kate Conger, Lauren Hirsch and Andrew Ross Sorkin report for the New York Times.
The U.S. Navy’s newest and most advanced aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, left on its first deployment yesterday from Norfolk, Virginia. “This deployment is an opportunity to push the ball further down the field and demonstrate the advantage that Ford and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 bring to the future of naval aviation, to the region and to our allies and partners,” Carrier Strike Group 12 Commander Rear Adm. Gregory Huffman said in a statement. The deployment will involve “approximately 9,000 personnel from nine nations, 20 ships, and 60 aircraft,” a U.S. Navy release said. The nations participating in the exercise include the U.S., Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden, the release added. Ellie Kaufman and Oren Liebermann report for CNN.
COVID-19 has infected over 96.44 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 618.652 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.55 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
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.