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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 – KERCH BRIDGE EXPLOSION
The Kerch Bridge in Crimea was partially destroyed by an explosion Saturday morning. The damage to the bridge, which comes as Ukrainian advances continue to reclaim occupied territories from Moscow’s forces, endangers a crucial route for Russian military supplies to support its forces in southern Ukraine. The head of the Russian-installed regional parliament in Crimea, Vladimir Konstantinov, blamed the damage to the bridge on “Ukrainian vandals,” according to Russian media. Kyiv hasn’t claimed responsibility for the damage to the bridge, but Ukrainian officials celebrated the blast on social media. Sergei Kuznetsov reports for POLITICO.
Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday accused Ukraine of being behind the attack on the bridge linking Crimea to Russia, calling it an act of terrorism. “There is no doubt that this is a terrorist attack aimed at destroying the critically important civilian infrastructure of the Russian Federation,” Putin said, summing up the attack in just two sentences. “The authors, performers, and customers are the secret services of Ukraine.” After the president’s remarks were published, a reporter from the state-run Russian news outlet RIA Novosti asked Putin’s spokesperson whether the “terrorist attack” fell within the category under Russian defense doctrine that allowed for a nuclear response. “No,” the spokesperson, Dmitri Peskov, responded, according to the outlet. Neil MacFarquhar reports for the New York Times.
Putin will hold a meeting of his national security council today, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told Russian state-owned news agency TASS. Although Peskov declined to say whether they would discuss the explosion on the Kerch Bridge connecting Russian-occupied Crimea to Russia, it is bound to be on the security council’s agenda. Russia has opened an investigation into the explosion. Sarah Anne Aarup reports for POLITICO.
Former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia will destroy the “terrorists” responsible for the attack on the Kerch bridge in Crimea. In an interview with Russian journalist Nadana Friedrichson, Medvedev said the hit on the crucial artery was a “terror attack” carried out by “the failed state of Ukraine.” “Russia’s response to this crime can only be the direct destruction of terrorists, just as other countries would react. This is exactly what the citizens of Russia are waiting for,” Medvedev said. “This is a terrorist act and sabotage committed by the criminal Kyiv regime. There was never any doubt about this. All reports and conclusions have been made.” Katharina Krebs reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
In what appears to be the heaviest wave of missile and rocket attacks since the opening week of the war, Russia hit cities across Ukraine on Monday, including the capital Kyiv, where at least five people were killed. Explosions were reported across other major Ukrainian cities, including in Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, Kharkiv, and Lviv, as Moscow unleashed a barrage of missiles in waves. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said Kyiv was reaching out to its Western allies to organize a response to the strikes, which appear to be retribution for Saturday’s attack on the Kerch Bridge. Missy Ryan and Isabelle Khurshudyan report for the Washington Post.
A children’s playground was among the sites hit by missile attacks on Kyiv. Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs, posted photos on Twitter of what appears to be a playground with the caption: “Children’s playground in the center of Kyiv after the attack.” Angus Watson reports for CNN.
China has expressed hope that the situation in Ukraine will be “de-escalated soon,” following apparent Russian strikes on Kyiv. Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Mao Ning said China had noted reports of both the explosion on the Kerch bridge linking Crimea with mainland Russia on Saturday and Monday’s strikes on Kyiv. Speaking during a daily briefing in Beijing, Mao reiterated China’s position on the situation in Ukraine, stressing China has “always maintained that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be respected.” Niamh Kennedy reports for CNN.
Power cuts have been reported in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv following an explosion “at a critical infrastructure facility,” Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi posted on Telegram. “Part of the city is without electricity. A third of the traffic lights do not work,” Sadovyi wrote. “Due to the lack of electricity, the operation of the city’s thermal power stations has been temporarily suspended. Therefore, hot water is not provided at the moment.” Tim Lister reports for CNN.
European leaders have criticized Russian missile attacks on residential buildings that have left scores of civilians dead and wounded in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia over the past week. Top E.U. diplomat Josep Borrell said: “The E.U. condemns Russia’s relentless attacks against civilians all over Ukraine, with dozens of victims every week. All those responsible will be held to account.” The European Commissioner for Crisis Response Janez Lenarcic also reacted to the attacks, saying, “Civilians and civilian infrastructure must not be the target. Never. Nowhere.” The attacks have also been condemned by the foreign ministries of Lithuania, Belgium, Romania, Croatia, and North Macedonia. Mariya Knight reports for CNN.
External power has been restored to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant after repeated shelling caused an outage lasting nearly two days. This is according to a statement by the director of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog Rafael Grossi, who is set to visit Russia early this week for talks about establishing a safety zone around the plant. Carly Olson reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The Central Asian nation of Kyrgyzstan has unilaterally cancelled joint military drills between the six nations making up the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). The Kyrgyz defense ministry did not specify the reason for cancelling the “Indestructible Brotherhood-2022” command and staff exercises, which were set to be held in the country’s eastern highlands Monday to Friday. According to earlier reports, the exercises were set to involve army personnel from CSTO members Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, and focus on securing ceasefires. Observers from five further states, including Serbia, Syria, and Uzbekistan, had also been invited. AP reports.
India has declined to say whether it will vote to condemn Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukrainian territory in a U.N. General Assembly session this week. “As a matter of prudence and policy, we don’t predict our votes in advance,” India’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said at a news conference. The U.N. General Assembly is expected to vote on Wednesday on a resolution that condemns Russia’s recent illegal annexation of four Ukrainian provinces. Jake Kwon, Richard Roth and Rhea Mogul report for CNN.
North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles toward its eastern waters yesterday. Japanese Vice Defense Minister Toshiro Ino who confirmed the launches said the weapons could be submarine-launched ballistic missiles. North Korea’s pursuit of the ability to fire missiles from a submarine would constitute an alarming development for its rivals because it’s harder to detect such launches in advance. The launch, North Korea’s seventh round of weapons tests in two weeks, came hours after the U.S. and South Korea wrapped up two days of naval drills off the Korean Peninsula’s east coast. Hyung-Jin Kim and Mari Yamaguchi report for AP.
North Korea’s recent missile tests are part of a series of simulated procedures intended to demonstrate its readiness to fire tactical nuclear warheads at South Korea, North Korean state media has said. Quoting leader Kim Jong Un, who oversaw the drills, the state-run Korean Central News Agency said the tests showed Pyongyang was ready to respond to regional tension by involving its “huge armed forces.” The series of seven drills of North Korea’s “tactical nuclear operation units” showed that its “nuclear combat forces” are “fully ready to hit and wipe out the set objects at the intended places in the set time,” the agency said. Brad Lendon Yoonjung Seo and Gawon Bae report for CNN.
The Biden administration has announced new sanctions targeting businessmen and companies in Asia that officials say help support the development of North Korea’s weapons and military. “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continues its unprecedented pace, scale, and scope of ballistic missile launches this year,” U.S. secretary of state Antony Blinken said in a statement, using North Korea’s formal name. “This year alone, it has launched 41 ballistic missiles. Six of these were intercontinental ballistic missiles,” he added. Edward Wong reports for the New York Times.
Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen has said that there is “no room for compromise” over the self-ruled island’s sovereignty. She is, however, willing to work with China to find “mutually acceptable ways” to maintain peace across the Taiwan Strait. “I call on the Beijing authorities that resorting to war must not be the option for cross-strait relations,” Tsai said during a speech marking Taiwan’s National Day. “Only by respecting Taiwanese people’s insistence on sovereignty, freedom, and democracy can we resume positive interactions across the Taiwan Strait,” she added. Eric Cheung reports for CNN.
Five teenagers with a Hong Kong group advocating independence from Chinese rule have been sentenced to three years at a correctional facility for urging an “armed revolution.” The five, some of whom were minors aged between 15 and 18 at the time of the alleged offense, had pleaded guilty to “inciting others to subvert state power” through a group named “Returning Valiant.” Justice Kwok Wai-kin detailed how the defendants had advocated a “bloody revolution” to overthrow the Chinese after the adoption of a sweeping, China-imposed national security law. Whilst Kwok accepted that there was no evidence proving that anyone was incited by the defendants, he found that the defendants’ actions had posed a real risk to the stability of Hong Kong and the safety of its residents. Reuters reports.
An Israeli soldier was killed and a security guard severely wounded in an attack at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Jerusalem on Saturday. Israeli security forces said yesterday that they were still searching for the gunman and that three Palestinians had been arrested in connection with the shooting. The attack came as tensions surged before the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, when worshipers and pilgrims pour into the city. Israeli forces were put on high alert across the city ahead of the holiday, which began at sundown on Sunday and lasts a week. Isabel Kershner reports for the New York Times.
An Iranian state broadcaster was allegedly hacked during its nightly news program on Saturday, according to the pro-reform IranWire outlet. A clip of the incident shows the Islamic Republic of Iran News Network airing a segment on Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attending a meeting in the southern city of Bushehr, which was interrupted by a video of a cartoon mask with a beard and heavy brows against a black backdrop. The video of the mask was followed by a screen showing a photo of Khamenei with a target superimposed on his face alongside photos of Nika Shahkarami, Hadis Najafi, Mahsa Amini, and Sarina Esmailzadeh – all young women who have died in Iran in the last month. Alongside the photos on screen was a message that read, “Join us and rise up” and “The blood of our youth is dripping from your grip,” along with the social media handles for the hacker group Edaalat-e Ali, which translates to Ali’s Justice. The image remained on screen for several seconds. Artemis Moshtaghian, Raja Razek and Jennifer Deaton report for CNN.
The government of Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry plans to request the intervention of foreign security forces to restore order in the country. The government intends to ask “international partners” for “a specialized armed force” to shore up basic services, according to a resolution signed Thursday by a council of top ministers. The goal is to “achieve a secure climate that should make it possible to fight cholera effectively, promote the resumption of the distribution of fuel and drinking water across the country, the functioning of hospitals, the restarting of economic activities, the free movement of people and goods, and the reopening of schools,” the resolution reads. Wildlore Mérancourt and Maite Fernández Simon report for the Washington Post.
Top Biden administration officials met in person with the Taliban on Saturday, two officials familiar with the talks said. The administration sent the CIA’s deputy director and the top State Department official responsible for Afghanistan to the Qatari capital of Doha for the talks with the Taliban delegation which included their head of intelligence, Abdul Haq Wasiq. The talks mark the first time officials from the two governments have met since al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed by the U.S. in his apartment in Kabul in late July. The presence of CIA Deputy Director David Cohen and the Taliban’s Wasiq at the meeting on Saturday indicates an emphasis on counterterrorism. Alex Marquardt reports for CNN.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
In Dec. 2020 Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes posted a letter on his website urging President Trump to undertake a series of unprecedented moves to stay in office. In the open letter, which was presented as evidence at the trial of Rhodes and four of his subordinates on seditious conspiracy charges, Rhodes told Trump that the country was at war with “Communist China” and a secret army of “willing American agents,” and implored him to invoke the Insurrection Act. Rhodes also instructed Trump to seize data from digital voting machines across the country that would purportedly prove the election had been rigged; declassify a trove of the nation’s secrets; and then perform a WikiLeaks-style “data dump,” exposing a supposed cabal of corrupt judges, law enforcement officers, and state election officials. Alan Feuer reports for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Think tank analyst Igor Danchenko, who contributed to research about former President Trump and Russia, will go on trial tomorrow for lying to the FBI about his sources of information. Danchenko is the third person to be prosecuted by Special Counsel John Durham, who was appointed to investigate the origins of “Crossfire Hurricane” — the designation given to the FBI’s 2016 probe into former President Trump’s Russia connections. Danchenko was a source of information for Christopher Steele, a former British spy who was paid by Democrats to research ties between Russia and Trump. Prosecutors say Danchenko lied when the FBI asked him about how he obtained the information he gave to Steele. Specifically, they say he denied that he relied on a Democratic operative, Charles Dolan, a public relations executive who volunteered for Hillary Clinton’s presidential 2016 campaign. Matthew Barakat and Eric Tucker report for AP.
President Biden has signed a classified policy limiting counterterrorism drone strikes outside conventional war zones, according to officials. The policy, which the White House sent to the Pentagon and the CIA on Friday, institutionalizes the temporary limits Biden put in place following his inauguration as a stopgap for reducing risks to civilians. A description of the policy, along with a classified new counterterrorism strategy memo Biden has also signed, suggests that the U.S. intends to launch fewer drone strikes and commando raids away from recognized war zones than it has in the recent past. The policy requires Biden’s approval before a suspected terrorist is added to a list of those who can be targeted for “direct action.” This represents a return to a more centralized control of decisions about targeted killing operations after Trump gave commanders in the field greater latitude to decide who to target. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.
The Uvalde, Texas, school district is suspending its entire police force, amid questions about its officers’ response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. “The District has made the decision to suspend all activities of the Uvalde CISD Police Department for a period of time,” officials said in a statement, adding that the department’s suspension was in response to recent developments that “uncovered additional concerns with department operations.” The suspension also comes after parents of victims recently camped outside school district offices for 10 days to protest the police. Elizabeth Findell reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Two people were shot outside the home of New York congressman and Republican candidate for governor Lee Zeldin yesterday. In a statement, Zeldin said that he does not know the identities of the two people who were shot but that they were found under his porch and in the bushes in front of his home in Shirley, New York. Zeldin, who is running against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has made rising crime rates and violent crime a focus of his campaign. “Like so many New Yorkers, crime has literally made its way to our front door,” Zeldin said in his statement. AP reports.
COVID-19 has infected over 96.699 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 621.524 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.56 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.