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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 – STRIKES ON CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE
Thirty percent of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed in the last week causing “massive blackouts” across the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said. Russia yesterday attacked several energy facilities across Ukraine, including in the capital Kyiv, amid ongoing attempts to cripple the country’s energy infrastructure. Zelenskyy called it a “terrorist” attack and reiterated that there is “No space left for negotiations with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s regime.” Wilhelmine Preussen reports for POLITICO.
Parts of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine are now without power due to a strike on an energy infrastructure facility, the city’s Mayor Oleksandr Vilkul said in a Telegram post. “Due to destruction caused by a strike on an energy infrastructure facility in Kryvyi Rih during the last air raid many settlements of the district and the Ingulets micro district in Kryvyi Rih are without electricity,” Vilkul wrote. “Electrical engineers are working to restore power.” Josh Pennington reports for CNN.
The illegally occupied city of Enerhodar in southeastern Ukraine is facing power and water outages due to shelling overnight, Mayor Dmytro Orlov said in a Telegram post. “At night, Enerhodar came under fire again. The city is partially without electricity and water. The shelling, first of the industrial zone, and then of the city itself, began around midnight and did not stop in the morning,” Orlov said. “There are reports of damage to one of the substations, as well as to the building of the executive committee of the city council,” he continued, adding there was no information regarding potential casualties yet. The city sits on the south bank of the Dnipro River, near the illegally occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Olga Voitovych reports for CNN.
Moscow’s strikes on critical energy infrastructure in Ukraine constitute “war crimes,” according to the head of the European Commission. In a speech to lawmakers at the European Parliament, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen described the attacks as “acts of pure terror,” which she said were “marking a new chapter in an already very cruel war.” Allegra Goodwin reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – IRANIAN DRONES
The U.S., France and the U.K. plan to discuss Iran’s drone transfers to Russia at a closed U.N. Security Council meeting today, according to a U.S. official. The meeting comes as Russia has launched Iranian-made drones against Ukrainian cities and infrastructure, killing several people. The three countries have said that the transfer of Iranian-made drones is a violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which restricts certain arms transfers to or from Iran. It is unclear whether this specific point will be raised in the meeting, or whether they will move to sanction Iran for the transfers. Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.
Iran has sent military personnel to illegally occupied territory inside Crimea to train and advise the Russian military on the use of Iranian-built drones. It is not immediately clear how many trainers have traveled to Crimea and whether they remain present. One source briefed on U.S. intelligence said “dozens” of Iranian personnel had been sent. U.S. State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said yesterday that the “deepening” of relations between Moscow and Tehran should be seen as “a profound threat.” Katie Bo Lillis and Natasha Bertrand report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has signaled that the Republican Party is likely to oppose more aid to Ukraine if it wins the House majority in next month’s midterm elections. “I think people are gonna be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine,” he recently told Punchbowl News. “They just won’t do it.” McCarthy suggested that Americans want Congress to focus on issues closer to home. “There’s the things [the Biden administration] is not doing domestically,” he said. “Not doing the border, and people begin to weigh that. Ukraine is important, but at the same time, it can’t be the only thing they do, and it can’t be a blank check,” he added. Eugene Scott reports for the Washington Post.
Lockheed Martin plans to increase production of its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), a weapon in high demand in Ukraine and across Europe as Russia continues to sow instability in the region. The company is poised to boost HIMARS production to 96 launchers annually, up from its current level of 60 launchers, CEO Jim Taiclet told investors during a third-quarter earnings call yesterday. However, it will likely take the company months to ramp up production from five to eight systems a month, which may not be fast enough for countries like Estonia, Poland, and Ukraine – which have recently ordered dozens of launchers – to strengthen their militaries in the face of Russian aggression. Lee Hudson and Paul McLeary report for POLITICO.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
A U.N. commission has concluded that numerous war crimes, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law have been committed in Ukraine following the Russian invasion. The commission announced the conclusion yesterday in a report submitted to the U.N.’s Human Rights Council. “The impact of these violations on the civilian population in Ukraine is immense,” Erik Møse, the commission’s chairman, said in a statement. “The loss of lives is in the thousands. The destruction of infrastructure is devastating.” Russian armed forces are responsible for the vast majority of the violations identified, the report states. OHCHR Media Center reports.
Russia’s top military commander in Ukraine has signaled that Moscow’s hold on the southern city of Kherson is weakening. Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the recently appointed commander of Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine, gave a rare pessimistic take of his invading forces’ position, telling state television yesterday that the situation in Kherson “is not at all easy right now” and that the priority in the south was preserving civilians and military personnel. “Difficult decisions cannot be ruled out,” he said, without elaborating, in his first significant public comments since taking over the role. Thomas Grove and Yuliya Chernova report for the Wall Street Journal.
The German government’s top cybersecurity chief was removed from his post yesterday after a comedy TV show highlighted his proximity to a German lobbyist group with ties to Russian intelligence. The Interior Ministry confirmed the dismissal of Arne Schönbohm, who had led the Federal Office for Information Security since 2016. The allegations of possible ties to Russian intelligence, which were reported this month by a German satirical news show, “have permanently damaged the necessary public trust in the neutrality and impartiality” of Mr. Schönbohm, a spokesperson for the ministry said. Christopher F. Schuetze reports for the New York Times.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused China of speeding up plans to seize Taiwan, saying that Beijing is “determined to pursue reunification on a much faster timeline.” Blinken did not provide details about the claim of a shorter timeline and said China may be willing to use coercive means, a prospect that is “creating tremendous tensions.” Responding yesterday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry described Blinken’s comments as an example of the U.S. reneging on its commitment to the one-China policy. “The U.S. has time and again broken its word,” ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters. “Resolving the Taiwan question is a matter for the Chinese,” Wenbin added. Ellen Francis reports for the Washington Post.
A French cement company has been charged in the U.S. with making $10 million in payments to the Islamic State (ISIS) and another terrorist group in exchange for the protection of its plant in Syria. Lafarge paid ISIS and the al-Nusrah Front from August 2013 to October 2014 when ISIS was carrying out kidnappings and beheadings and transmitting waves of propaganda designed to inspire terrorist attacks against innocent civilians, the Justice Department said. The company pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist group and agreed to pay a financial penalty of $778 million. While no individuals have been charged, Justice Department officials said the investigation is ongoing. Jonathan Dienst, Tom Winter and Ken Dilanian report for NBC News.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – MAR -A- LAGO DOCUMENTS
The special master reviewing materials seized from former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate expressed skepticism yesterday about claims from Trump’s lawyers that certain documents were privileged. In a phone conference, the special master, Judge Raymond J. Dearie, complained that the log of an initial batch of documents over which Trump is seeking to claim privilege lacked sufficient information to determine whether the arguments were valid. Judge Dearie encouraged Trump’s lawyers to give him a better sense of why they believed the documents could be lawfully shielded from the Justice Department’s inquiry into whether Trump unlawfully kept classified records at his estate and obstructed the government’s repeated efforts to retrieve them. “It’s a little perplexing as I go through the log,” Judge Dearie said. “What’s the expression — ‘Where’s the beef?’ I need some beef.” Charlie Savage and Alan Feuer report for the New York Times.
According to a new audiobook, Trump admitted to journalist Bob Woodward that the letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which he had shown Woodward in Dec. 2019, should not have been shared around. Woodward also pressed Trump in a phone call in Jan. 2020 to let him also see the letters that Trump wrote to Kim. “Oh, those are so top secret,” Trump said, according to notes of the call taken by Woodward and highlighted in a new audiobook: “The Trump Tapes: Bob Woodward’s Twenty Interviews with President Trump.” The comments by Trump show he was well aware that the 27 letters exchanged between himself and Kim were classified, despite his repeated claims that none of the documents he improperly took from the White House when leaving office, including the Kim letters, were in that category. Ashley Parker reports for the Washington Post.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – JAN. 6 ATTACK
A former member of the Oath Keepers militia testified yesterday that the far-right group intended to block the certification of the 2020 election “by any means necessary.” The former Oath Keeper, Jason Dolan, gave his account at the seditious conspiracy trial of the organization’s leader, Stewart Rhodes, and four others, telling the jury that the Oath Keepers were firmly committed to Trump and wanted to stop the certification of Biden’s victory in any way they could. “That’s why we brought our firearms,” he said. The testimony was the first time the jury heard direct evidence that the Oath Keepers had sought to disrupt the certification. It was also the first time that one of the government’s cooperating witnesses provided a personal account of being part of the crowd that stormed the Capitol. Alan Feuer and Zach Montague report for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Igor Danchenko, an analyst who provided research for a dossier of unproven assertions about former President Trump and Russia, was acquitted on Tuesday on four counts of lying to the FBI. The verdict was a final blow to the criminal investigation by John Durham, the special counsel appointed by Attorney General William P. Barr three years ago to scour the FBI’s inquiry into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia for any wrongdoing. The case was the second of the two cases developed by Durham to end in an acquittal, after Michael Sussmann – also accused of lying to the FBI – was acquitted in May. During closing arguments in both the Sussmann and Danchenko cases, defense lawyers pointed to evidence they said showed that Durham and his team had lost their way, ignoring signs of serious flaws in their cases because they were so intent on convicting someone. Durham expressed disappointment in yesterday’s verdict, issuing the same statement he had shared after Sussmann’s trial in May. “We respect the jury’s decision and thank them for their service,” he said. Charlie Savage and Linda Qiu report for the New York Times.
Suicides in prisons across the U.S. have risen sharply over the past two years, according to data collected by The Wall Street Journal. This is driven in part by the increased isolation of inmates during the pandemic, more abuse of drugs including fentanyl, and staff shortages, officials and inmate advocates say. The surge in inmate suicides follows a steady rise for nearly two decades before the pandemic. According to a report released last year by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, the number of suicides increased 85% in state prisons, 61% in federal prisons, and 13% in local jails from 2001 to 2019. Kris Maher and Dan Frosch report for the Wall Street Journal.
The Biden administration has released over 1,000 previously classified documents relating to the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The 1,491 documents include filings from the CIA, FBI, State Department, and other federal agencies. Among them is a report that Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald visited the Cuban and USSR embassies in Mexico in search of a visa in the months before Kennedy’s killing. The documents were originally scheduled to be released earlier this year, but President Biden issued an extension for the National Archives to produce the documents in October after the archivist said their work had been slowed by the pandemic. Dareh Gregorian reports for NBC News.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
North Korea fired hundreds of artillery shells as South Korea began military drills aimed at responding to the North’s nuclear and missile threats. On Tuesday, North Korea fired about 100 shells into the sea off its west coast around 10 p.m. local time and 150 shells off its east coast about an hour later, Seoul’s military said on Wednesday. About 100 more shells were fired off North Korea’s west coast at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday. South Korea’s annual military drills began on Monday. Dasl Yoon reports for the Wall Street Journal.
At least eight people have been killed in explosions at Myanmar’s notorious Insein prison in Yangon. Insein prison is the country’s largest jail housing about 10,000 prisoners, many of whom are political prisoners. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet. Eighteen other people were injured, officials confirmed. The authorities said the bombs had gone off in the prison’s post room. Another bomb – which did not detonate – was later found there wrapped in a plastic bag. All five of the visitors who were killed were women and relatives of prisoners, the authorities confirmed. Jonathan Head reports for BBC News.
Malian forces say they killed 50 militants in air strikes conducted in the Tessalit area in the northern Kidal region, the state broadcaster ORTM reported. “We had a successful aerial operation and the toll was as follows: 50 terrorists killed, five armored vehicles burnt and 35 motorcycles belonging to the terrorists destroyed. I urge the residents in the area to resume normal activities,” Col. Ibrahim Samassa, the commander in charge of the Gao zone, told the state broadcaster. The airstrikes come a day after two improvised explosive devices hit a U.N. peacekeeping convoy killing four Chadian soldiers and injuring two others. BBC News reports.
COVID-19 has infected over 96.990 million people and has now killed over 1.07 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 625.340 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.57 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.