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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 – ATTACKS ON CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE
Russia unleashed a fresh wave of attacks across Ukraine yesterday, damaging more than a dozen critical infrastructure facilities and causing sustained power outages, Ukrainian officials said. Ukraine’s prime minister, Denys Shymal, reported missile and drone strikes on 18 targets in 10 regions, the heaviest and most widespread strikes since a similar barrage two weeks ago. Isabelle Khurshudyan, Leo Sands, Sammy Westfall and Jennifer Hassan report for the Washington Post.
Russian missile strikes across Ukraine yesterday had “widespread impact” on the country’s power grid, according to Pentagon officials. “Ukraine has been able to defend against some of these attacks, but damage to the electric grid and water supply are serious concerns directly harming the civilian population,” a senior U.S. defense official told reporters. Another U.S. military official said they did not have specific information to provide on the extent of the damage but were “keeping a close eye” on it and still gathering information. “In terms of the infrastructure, by virtue of the electrical grid being impacted, we are seeing impacts in terms of water supply systems, water treatment, things like that, which is affecting access to water among the civilian population,” they said. Ellen Mitchell reports for The Hill.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said during a news conference yesterday that the infrastructure attacks were “not all we could have done.” Putin last week denied having any intentions of using nuclear weapons in Ukraine. He repeated the unsupported accusation that Kyiv used the marine corridors negotiated by the U.N. to attack Moscow’s fleet with drones. Reuters reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Inspectors from the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog have started verification work at two sites in Ukraine where Russia alleges “dirty bomb” preparations are taking place. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which is inspecting the sites at Kyiv’s request, will release its initial conclusions by the end of the week. The Washington Post reports.
Finland’s Prime Minister has urged Hungary and Turkey to swiftly approve the Swedish and Finnish applications for membership to NATO. Hungary and Turkey are the only two remaining NATO members to not yet have ratified the applications. “All eyes are now on Hungary and Turkey. We are waiting for these countries to ratify our applications. I think it would be important that this would happen preferably sooner than later,” Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin told a joint news conference with other Nordic leaders. Reuters reports.
Just Security has published a piece by Ben Keith titled “Turkey’s Erdoğan Deploys Sweden and Finland’s NATO Membership Bids to Further His Repression.”
Iran is preparing to send approximately 1,000 additional weapons, including surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles and more attack drones, to Russia to use in its war against Ukraine, western officials have said. The shipment is being closely monitored because it would be the first instance of Iran sending advanced precision-guided missiles to Russia, which could give the Kremlin a substantial boost on the battlefield. While the precise timing of when the shipment will arrive in Russia is unclear, officials believe the weapons will definitely be delivered before the end of the year. Sending further Iranian weaponry to Russia is a move that will likely cause relations with the U.S. to further deteriorate. Yesterday, the U.S. envoy to Iran Rob Malley said the Biden administration is not going to “waste our time” on talks to revive the nuclear deal “if nothing’s going to happen.” Kylie Atwood reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
U.S. military forces inside Ukraine have recently begun doing onsite inspections to ensure that Ukrainian troops are properly accounting for the Western-provided weapons they receive. Talking to reporters yesterday, a senior U.S. defense official said so far Ukrainian officials have been transparent about the weapons’ distribution and are supporting the inspections. The effort is part of a broader U.S. campaign, announced last week by the State Department, meant to make sure that weapons provided to Ukraine don’t end up in the hands of Russian troops, their proxies, or other extremist groups. Lolita C. Baldor reports for AP.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Afghan special forces soldiers who fled to Iran after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan last year are now being recruited by the Russian military to fight in Ukraine, according to three former Afghan generals. They said the Russians want to attract thousands of the former elite Afghan commandos into a “foreign legion” with offers of steady, $1,500-a-month payments and promises of safe havens for themselves and their families so they can avoid deportation home to what many assume would be death at the hands of the Taliban.“They don’t want to go fight — but they have no choice,” said one of the generals, Raof Arghandiwal. The Russian recruitment, which is reportedly being led by the Wagner Group, follows months of warnings from U.S. soldiers who fought with Afghan special forces that the Taliban was intent on killing them and that they might join with U.S. enemies to stay alive or out of anger with their former ally. Bernard Condon reports for AP.
The Department of Defense has released Saifullah Paracha from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility after 17 years. Paracha, who at 75 was the oldest detainee at Guantanamo, was successfully repatriated and moved back to Pakistan after a nearly seven week-long process to fulfill transfer requirements. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin told Congress Sept. 12 that Paracha would be repatriated after a review committee determined last year that his detention was “no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.” Two additional detainees were determined in March 2021 to be held unnecessarily at Guantanamo, one of whom was also from Pakistan, and one who was from Yemen. None of the three detainees had been charged with a crime against the U.S. Chloe Folmar reports for The Hill.
JAN. 6 ATTACK AND 2020 ELECTION PROBES
A federal judge yesterday dismissed the challenge brought by former Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows over subpoenas from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. In a 27-page ruling issued yesterday night, U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols said that the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause – which prohibits lawsuits against lawmakers for anything associated with their legislative work – applied in the case of the committee’s subpoenas to Meadows issued in the fall of 2021. “The record makes clear that the challenged subpoenas are protected legislative acts,” Nichols wrote in the decision. Meadows is likely to appeal the ruling, effectively putting his testimony out of reach for the Jan. 6 select committee, which is slated to dissolve at the end of the year. Moreover, whilst the ruling is a victory, in some ways it is a hollow one. The panel told Nicholas it has chosen not to assert its “speech or debate” immunity and wanted the judge – a Trump appointee – to issue a more sweeping ruling on Trump’s efforts to assert executive privilege over Meadows’ testimony. A ruling in the committee’s favor would have been an exclamation point in its 14-month investigation, underscoring the panel’s urgent need to hear from Meadows. Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Justice Department has stepped in to an ongoing Arizona election lawsuit, supporting a claim by the League of Women Voters of Arizona that monitoring ballot drop boxes can amount to illegal voter intimidation. The department said “vigilante ballot security measures,” including filming voters at drop boxes, probably violate the federal Voting Rights Act. “When private citizens form ‘ballot security forces’ and attempt to take over the State’s legitimate role of overseeing and policing elections, the risk of voter intimidation — and violating federal law — is significant,” the department said in a “statement of interest” filed in the case. Tom Hamburger and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez report for the Washington Post.
The man alleged to have attacked Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is expected to appear in a San Francisco court today for his arraignment. David DePape, 42, is facing a litany of state charges, including attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon, San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins said yesterday. These charges are in addition to the federal charges DePape faces, which include assault and attempted kidnapping. Based on DePape’s statements, Jenkins said, it appears the attack was “politically motivated.” According to court documents, DePape told police he planned to hold Nancy Pelosi hostage, calling her the “leader of the pack of lies” promoted by the Democrats. Paul Pelosi is “making steady progress on what will be a long recovery process,” Speaker Pelosi said in a statement yesterday evening. Paul LeBlanc reports for CNN.
Prominent figures on social media, including some of the loudest voices on the political right, are pushing a false conspiracy theory that Paul Pelosi and the man who attacked him were gay lovers. The claim, which has been debunked by state police and an FBI affidavit, is being promoted by big names like Elon Musk, Donald Trump, Jr., and Dinesh D’Souza. “There is absolutely no evidence that Mr. Pelosi knew this man,” San Francisco Police Chief William Scott said in an interview “As a matter of fact, the evidence indicates the exact opposite.” Casey Tolan, Curt Devine, Scott Bronstein and Daniel A. Medina report for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Israelis have begun voting for the fifth time in less than four years today, with former premier Benjamin Netanyahu bidding for a comeback. Israel’s longest-serving premier, Netanyahu is on trial on corruption charges, which he denies, but his rightist Likud party is still expected to finish as the largest in parliament. However, the final opinion polls from last week showed him still short of the 61 seats needed for a majority in the 120-seat Knesset, opening the prospect of weeks of coalition wrangling and possibly new elections. James Mackenzie reports for Reuters.
About 1,000 people in Tehran have been charged in connection with the anti-government protests that have swept the country, the city’s chief prosecutor says. Suspects accused of “acts of sabotage”, including murdering security guards and arson, face open mass trials this week. Authorities have not said how many have been arrested nationwide, but rights activists have put the total at 14,000. Authorities have portrayed the protests as “riots” fomented by Iran’s foreign enemies and warned that those who take part will face severe punishment. David Gritten reports for BBC News.
South Korea’s police chief has said that crowd control was “inadequate” in the Itaewon area in Seoul where at least 156 partygoers were killed in a crush. There were emergency calls from the area before the crush, warning of the large number of people gathered in the narrow alleyway where the surge later occurred, Yoon Hee-geun, the national police chief, said in a briefing. Independent investigators within the agency are now determining whether the response to those calls was sufficient, he said. Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Min Joo Kim report for the Washington Post.
COVID-19 has infected over 97.450 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 630.283 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.59 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.