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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.
MIDTERM ELECTIONS AND MISINFORMATION
Russia has reactivated its trolls and bots ahead of tomorrow’s midterm elections. Researchers have identified a series of Russian information operations which use accounts that pose as enraged Americans to stoke anger among conservative voters and undermine trust in the American electoral system. The operations also appear intended to undermine the Biden administration’s extensive military assistance to Ukraine. Steven Lee Myers reports for the New York Times.
Cyber experts have criticized Elon Musk’s “Twitter Blue” product roll-out ahead of the midterm elections. Chris Krebs, former director of the U.S. Cyber security and Infrastructure Agency called the roll-out, a “major risk” on the cusp of the elections, during which the “source of information is critical.” He described the new model for verifying users’ identities as Twitter “taking their $ & their word for it.” Edward Perez, a former director of product management at Twitter said in a tweet that the verification scheme was “a clash between moneymaking & validating authenticity . . . Rushing this out days before election day is a bad idea.” Yesterday, the New York Times quoted sources as saying that Twitter would delay the rollout of the new verification system until the day after the election. However, Twitter has not confirmed this. Hannah Murphy and Tabby Kinder report for the Financial Times.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
A top aide to Nancy Pelosi will be on the witness stand this week in the trial of a woman charged with storming the speaker’s Capitol suite during the Jan. 6 attack and stealing a laptop. Jamie Fleet will become the highest-ranking Capitol Hill aide to testify in the more than two dozen trials that have been held stemming from the attack. Prosecutors are expected to call on Fleet to describe the importance of the joint session of Congress held every four years on Jan. 6 to certify the presidential election. He may also be asked about his own role that day, which was to help fend off efforts by congressional Republicans to challenge the election results. Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Elon Musk says Twitter users engaging in impersonation without clearly specifying it as a parody account will be permanently suspended. Whilst Twitter previously issued a warning before suspending accounts, there would now be no warning, he announced. A number of accounts that changed their name to Elon Musk and mocked the billionaire have already been suspended or placed behind a warning sign, including comedian Kathy Griffin and former NFL player Chris Kluwe. Other accounts, including one parodying former President Trump by comedian Tim Heidecker, are yet to be suspended. George Wright reports for BBC News.
North Korean state media has released images purporting to show last week’s missile launches with a warning that the “reckless military hysteria” of the U.S. and its allies is moving the Korean peninsula towards “unstable confrontation.” According to a Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) report published Monday, Pyongyang fired more than 80 missiles between Nov. 2 and 5, and conducted air force drills involving “500 fighters … to show the will to counter the combined air drill of the enemy.” The report, however, made no mention of the suspected failed launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile last Thursday, and the information released was too incomplete for experts to gain any real insight into what, if anything, the tests achieved. Yoonjung Seo and Hilary Whiteman report for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING
Fighting raged around the Ukrainian-held eastern city of Bakhmut, Russian and Ukrainian authorities said yesterday. A correspondent for Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency said that troops with the Wagner Group, a private military force with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, had seized the village of Ivangrad, which is close to a road on Bakhmut’s southern approach. A spokesperson for Ukraine’s forces in the east, Serhii Cherevaty, told a Ukrainian television channel that 30,000 Russian personnel were deployed to the assault on Bakhmut. Independent military analysts have said that the campaign for Bakhmut, an industrial center that was home to 70,000 people before the war, serves little strategic purpose for Moscow because Ukrainian advances to the north have severed the city from important rail links. Matthew Mpoke Bigg reports for the New York Times.
Russian state media yesterday claimed that Ukraine had struck a dam near the strategic city of Kherson with U.S.-made missiles. RIA Novosti and other state media said Ukrainian troops in the purported attack used six high-mobility artillery rocket systems, a key system the U.S. has supplied to Kyiv, including one rocket that damaged the dam lock. Ukraine has not yet commented on the reports, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy previously accused Moscow of planting mines at the dam for a potential “false flag” attack that Moscow would blame on Ukraine. Zach Schonfeld reports for The Hill.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The Group of Seven (G7) nations announced Friday that they would work together to rebuild critical infrastructure in Ukraine that has been destroyed by Russian attacks. Top diplomats from the countries also discussed sending more defensive military equipment to Ukraine to help it ward off missile and drone attacks by Russia, a senior U.S. State Department official said. The G7 issued a broad statement that declared positions on a wide range of issues — from Russia and the Ukraine war to China to Iran. However, the emphasis was on protecting Ukrainian infrastructure. In its statement, the G7 also denounced Putin’s recent hints at Moscow’s possible use of tactical nuclear weapons. Edward Wong reports for the New York Times.
The Biden administration is privately encouraging Ukraine’s leaders to signal an openness to negotiate with Russia, according to people familiar with the discussions. The administration is also encouraging them to drop their public refusal to engage in peace talks unless Russian President Vladimir Putin is removed from power – a position adopted by Ukraine in late September, following the illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions in the east and south. The request by American officials is not aimed at pushing Ukraine to the negotiating table, these people said. Rather, they called it a calculated attempt to ensure the government in Kyiv maintains the support of other nations facing constituencies wary of fueling a war for many years to come. Missy Ryan, John Hudson and Paul Sonne report for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Ukraine suffered a comms outage when 1,300 SpaceX satellite units went offline over funding issues, according to two sources familiar with the matter. The satellite dishes made by Elon Musk’s private rocket company SpaceX have been universally hailed as a game-changing source of communication for Ukraine’s military, allowing it to fight and stay online even as cellular phone and internet networks have been destroyed in its war with Russia. However, concerns have risen recently over the dependability of SpaceX after discussions about funding were revealed and outages were reported near the frontlines. The recent outages started on October 24 and were described by one person briefed on the situation as a “huge problem” for Ukraine’s military. The terminals had been disconnected, this person said, due to a lack of funding. Alex Marquardt and Sean Lyngaas report for CNN.
A senior Russian military commander who was publicly criticized by a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin is no longer in post, Russian state media has reported. The fate of Col. Gen Alexander Lapin had been the subject of increasing speculation since Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, slammed him as “incompetent” in a Telegram post last month. Kadyrov’s post blamed General Lapin directly for Russian forces’ loss of the key city of Lyman in eastern Ukraine, and said that the general should be “sent to the front to wash his shame off with blood.” On Thursday Russian state news agency Tass reported that Maj. Gen Alexander Linkov was now the interim commander of the Central Military District, meaning that he had assumed General Lapin’s role. This was the first official acknowledgment that General Lapin, on whom in July Putin conferred the title “Hero of Russia,” was no longer in command. Cassandra Vinograd and Oleg Matsnev report for the New York Times.
Putin has signed a law to conscript citizens with unexpunged or outstanding convictions for serious crimes under the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. This makes it possible to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people who have been sentenced to probation or have recently been released from colonies who were previously forbidden to serve. The law applies to prisoners who were conditionally convicted or released from colonies. These people usually must remain under the supervision of the authorities for eight to ten years until the conviction is canceled. Certain groups of criminals are exempted from the decree including those convicted of treason, spying, or terrorism. Uliana Pavlova reports for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Nigeria’s military has announced the death of Abu Musab al-Barnawi, the head of the West African branch of the Islamic State group. “He is dead and remains dead,” said Chief of Defence Staff General Lucky Irabor. General Irabor did not give any details of the circumstances of Barnawi’s death and the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) has not commented on the claims. ISWAP has been regarded as the strongest jihadist group in Nigeria since the death of Boko Haram Leader Abubakar Shekau earlier this year. Under Barnawi’s leadership, ISWAP made territorial gains in northern Nigeria, and the wider Chad Basin. It is also active in neighboring countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Mali. BBC News reports.
The deteriorating health of jailed Egyptian-British activist Alaa Abd El-Fattah will dominate the upcoming COP27 climate summit if Egyptian authorities fail to intervene, Amnesty International has warned. Fears have mounted for the life of writer Abd El-Fattah, who escalated a more than 200-day hunger strike on Sunday by refusing to drink water. “Let’s be very clear, we’re running out of time. So, if the authorities do not want to end up with a death they should have and could have prevented, they must act now,” Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard told a news conference. “If they don’t, that death will be holding on to COP27, it will be in every single discussion, every single discussion there will be Alaa there,” Callamard said, adding that the “extraordinarily severe human rights situation” in Egypt was “at the heart” of the agenda of the COP27 summit, which kicked off in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Sunday. “In other words, yes it’s about climate justice but you cannot deliver climate justice anywhere in the world, including in Egypt, if you don’t have human rights protection,” Callamard told journalists. Niamh Kennedy reports for CNN.
Iranian lawmakers have urged the country’s judiciary to “show no leniency” to protesters in a letter cited by state-run Press TV on Sunday. In an open letter signed by 227 of Iran’s 290 members of Parliament, lawmakers called for protesters to be taught a “good lesson” to deter others who threaten the authority of the Iranian government. “We, the representatives of this nation, ask all state officials, including the Judiciary, to treat those, who waged war (against the Islamic establishment) and attacked people’s life and property like the Daesh (terrorists), in a way that would serve as a good lesson in the shortest possible time,” the letter read according to state-run Press TV. The Islamic Republic is facing one of the biggest and unprecedented shows of dissent following the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman detained by the morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code. Jennifer Deaton and Kathleen Magramo report for CNN.
In his first public appearance after being shot in the foot last Thursday, former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan said he knew about the attack the day before it occurred, describing it as a plan to kill him. Khan repeated his accusation that Pakistani officials were behind the attack. He named three individuals — Pakistan’s prime minister, the interior minister and a senior intelligence official — and demanded their resignations. The gunman responsible for the attack opened fire on Khan and his supporters during a controversial march demanding early elections. The gunman was arrested shortly afterward by police and remains in custody. Khan said one person was killed in the attack and 11 wounded. Shaiq Hussain, Susannah George and Haq Nawaz Khan report for the Washington Post.
The recent spate of global assassination attempts potentially points to a new, volatile era in global politics, experts say. The attempted assassination of Khan, came just days after an intruder broke into the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in what prosecutors say was a failed bid to harm or kidnap her. Weeks before that, a man approached former Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in Buenos Aires and tried to shoot her in the face at close range. That attack followed the July assassination of former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe by a man wielding a homemade gun in Nara city. And Abe was slain almost exactly a year after gunmen killed Haitian President Jovenel Moïse in a raid on his home in Port-au-Prince. Colin P. Clarke, director of research and policy at the Soufan Group, an intelligence and security consultancy, said that several factors could lead to a rise in the assassination, including the “decline, at least in some parts of the world, of jihadi organizations” that favored different tactics. In their place, “you’ve got the rise of far-right extremists who are far more decentralized,” he said. Adam Taylor provides analysis for the Washington Post.
Evidence has revealed “an extreme right-wing motivation” behind an attack last week at an immigration center on the English coast, U.K. police have said. A 66-year-old man threw at least two gasoline bombs at the walls of a migrant center on Oct. 30 near the port town of Dover, a point of arrival for many who attempt the perilous journey to Britain across the English Channel in small boats. The assailant was later found dead. Authorities identified him as Andrew Leak. No one was killed in the attack, which is being treated as a terrorist incident. Ellen Francis reports for the Washington Post.
COVID-19 has infected over 97.741 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 632.675 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.60 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.