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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.
GROUP OF TWENTY SUMMIT
President Biden is meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping today, on the sidelines of the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Indonesia. The meeting is the first in-person encounter between the two men since Biden took office. The objective of the meeting is not about reaching concrete agreements but about gaining a better understanding of each other’s priorities and reducing misconceptions, according to a senior White House official. The two leaders will not release a joint statement following the meeting. Simone McCarthy and Nectar Gan provide living coverage of the meeting for CNN.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said that the U.S. was prepared to help China in its efforts to combat COVID-19. Speaking on the sidelines of the G20 summit, Yellen said: “I believe that we have offered China American mRNA vaccines, and I believe that they have not been interested in taking us up on that.” Yellen added: “To the extent that it might be helpful to them, certainly we want to see them be able to deal effectively with the pandemic, both for their own sake and the sake of the entire world. So we certainly stand ready to be of assistance.” Alan Rappeport reports for the New York Times.
Senior Indonesian politicians are calling on Western leaders to make concessions on how far to go in criticizing Russia over the war in Ukraine. U.S, European, Australian, Canadian, and Japanese officials are among those under pressure, as part of a last-ditch effort to avoid leaving the G20 summit without a joint declaration, three diplomats said. Indonesian President Joko Widodo “considers it a personal success” if a declaration could be reached, one of the officials said, adding that the Indonesian leader has lamented repeatedly that he is chairing the “most difficult” G20 summit ever. Stuart Lau reports for POLITICO.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was reportedly taken to hospital after arriving at the G20 summit. Russia’s foreign ministry has called the report baseless. Reuters reports.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made an unannounced visit to Kherson earlier today. His visit came just days after Ukrainian forces retook the city. During the visit, he addressed a crowd of several hundred people, many wrapped in the blue and gold of the Ukrainian flag. “We are, step by step, coming to all of our country,” he said. Jeffrey Gettleman report for the New York Times.
Authorities in Kherson have found evidence of atrocities similar to those found in other reclaimed areas, Zelenskyy said yesterday. Ukrainian investigators have documented more than 400 possible Russian war crimes in parts of the Kherson regions that Ukrainian forces have retaken. Carly Olson and Marc Santora report for the New York Times.
Whilst Biden administration officials continue to state in public that Washington won’t press Kyiv to negotiate with Russia, most of them believe that talks should be considered sooner rather than later. The U.S. and some of its allies are concerned that their stockpiles of weaponry, including some ammunition, are being depleted at an unsustainable rate. “We are seeing real, practical problems of making military progress, we are seeing shortages of munitions,” said a Western official. Chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and President Biden both signaled last week that the coming weeks and months might provide an opportunity for talks. Gordon Lubold, Nancy A. Youssef, Laurance Norman, and Drew Hinshaw report for the Wall Street Journal.
The United Arab Emirates has made extensive efforts to manipulate the American political system, a new classified U.S. intelligence report has shown. The activities covered in the report, which was compiled by the National Intelligence Council, include illegal and legal attempts to steer U.S. foreign policy in ways favorable to the Arab autocracy. The report is unprecedented in that it focuses on the influence operations of a friendly nation rather than an adversary. John Hudson reports for the Washington Post.
American private investigators are being hired under false pretenses by authoritarian governments such as Iran and China to surveil dissidents living in the U.S.. Federal indictments and complaints over the past two years detail cases in which private investigators were drawn into such schemes in New York, California, and Indiana. Most appear to have been used unwittingly and later cooperated with the authorities. However, a few were charged. Benjamin Weiser and William K. Rashbaum report for the New York Times.
A gunman killed three people and wounded two others at the University of Virginia yesterday. The suspect, identified by police as student Christopher Darnell Jones, Jr, remains at large and is believed to be armed and dangerous. Susannah Cullinane and Tina Burnside report for CNN.
While in office, President Trump repeatedly told his second White House chief of staff John Kelly that he wanted his political enemies investigated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This is according to Kelly, who said that Trump’s demands were part of a broader pattern of him trying to use the Justice Department and his authority as president against those critical of him. Among those Trump wanted investigated by the IRS were former FBI director James Comey, and his deputy Andrew McCabe. Michael S. Schmidt reports for the New York Times.
The Jan. 6 committee’s final report will focus mostly on former President Trump and less on findings about failures by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. Committee staff were told last week in a phone call that material prepared by several of the teams whose work did not directly link to Trump would largely not be included, according to three sources familiar with the matter. Ken Dilanian, Ryan J. Reilly and Jonathan Allen report for NBC News.
President Biden has accepted the resignation of the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency in charge of border security. Chris Magnus, who served in the role since Dec. 2021 after being narrowly confirmed by the Senate, had initially refused to step down after a request from the Biden administration. Rebecca Shabad, Julia Ainsley, Kristen Welker and Sally Bronston report for NBC News.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
At least six people were killed and 81 injured in an explosion in Istanbul yesterday. The incident has been deemed a terrorist attack, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said. Turkish officials believe Kurdish separatists from the Kurdistan Worker’s Party and the Democratic Union Party were most likely behind the attack. A woman who was caught on CCTV leaving a bag on a bench a few minutes before the explosion has been taken into custody. Isil Sariyuce, Sophie Tanno and Holly Yan report for CNN.
A least two people were killed and nine wounded when Iran launched cross-border attacks at Kurdish-Iranian opposition bases in Iraq. Iran’s semiofficial Fars news agency said today that the security forces had targeted “terrorist groups” with missiles and drones. They blame the groups for fueling protests that have swept Iran since the death in custody of a young Kurdish-Iranian woman accused of violating the country’s Islamic dress code. Jane Arraf and Sanger Khaleel report for the New York Times.
Ethiopia’s government and Tigrayan rebels have agreed to facilitate immediate humanitarian access to those in Tigray and neighboring regions. The agreement followed talks in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi on the implementation of a deal signed 10 days ago to end the two-year conflict in Northern Ethiopia. African Union special envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, who has been mediating the peace negotiations, said the agreement was “with immediate effect.” AFP report.
Tens of thousands of people attended a demonstration in Mexico City yesterday to protest President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s proposal to overhaul the country’s electoral authority. The huge turnout signaled a defense of democracy, in the face of a reform agenda that critics say will threaten the independence of the country’s National Electoral Institute. The proposal is expected to be discussed in Mexico’s Congress in the coming weeks, where the president’s Morena party and allies hold an advantage. AP reports.
A former British security guard has pleaded guilty to spying for Russia when he worked at the British Embassy in Berlin. David Ballantyne Smith, 58, was extradited to the U.K. last April and faces up to 14 years in prison. Ellen Francis reports for the Washington Post.
Slovenia has elected its first-ever female head of state. Natasa Pirc Musar, a lawyer linked to former U.S. first lady Melania Trump, ran as an independent with the backing of Slovenia’s center-left government. She defeated former foreign minister Anze Logar – a veteran of conservative politics. George Wright reports for BBC News.
The Hong Kong government has demanded an investigation after a song associated with the 2019 pro-democracy protests was played before a match by the city’s rugby team. The song was played instead of the Chinese national anthem. Asia Rugby and Korea Rugby Union, who were hosting the match, extended a joint apology to the governments of Hong Kong and China, saying that the mix-up resulted from a “simple human error.” Tiffany May report for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 97.997 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 635.235 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.61 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.