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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 – FIGHTING
An oil tanker close to an airfield in Russia’s Kursk oblast caught fire following a drone strike, Governor Roman Starovoit said on Telegram. The strike comes a day after explosions at two other military bases deep inside Russia. Russia’s Defense Ministry blamed Ukraine for the attacks and said it had intercepted low-flying drones in the area. Ukraine’s role in the strikes has been confirmed by a senior Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Mike Ives and Ivan Nechepurenko report for the New York Times.
Russia launched a fresh barrage of missiles toward Ukraine yesterday, as it accused Kyiv of conducting strikes in Russian territory. The Russian strikes cut off water and electricity supplies in some areas, killing at least one person in the Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih, and at least two people in Zaporizhzhia, according to local authorities. Olga Voitovych, Tim Lister, Sana Noor Haq, Tara John and Sebastian Shukla report for CNN.
The U.S. secretly modified the advanced HIMARS rocket launchers it sent to Ukraine so that they can’t be used to fire long-range missiles into Russia. This is according to U.S. officials, who said the precaution was taken to reduce the risk of a wider war with Moscow. Michael R. Gordon and Gordon Lubold report for the Wall Street Journal.
Russia appears to be capable of producing guided missiles despite Western sanctions, according to a report by U.K.-based Conflict Armament Research. Experts from the group examined two cruise missiles that struck Kyiv last month, concluding that they were both produced in recent months, even after export controls prohibited vital components from reaching Russia. This indicates that Russia has either been able to subvert these sanctions, or had significant stockpiles of the components before the war began. John Ismay report for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The U.N. nuclear watchdog has come under pressure from Ukraine to reveal what it knows about alleged abuses by Russian soldiers at the occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear-power plant. In a Nov. 28 letter sent to the secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Ukraine’s government requested an update on allegations that Russia had detained hundreds of plant workers, and tortured, beat, shot, and electrocuted local staff. Drew Hinshaw and Joe Parkinson report for the Wall Street Journal.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned yesterday that Russia may be looking for a way to step back from Ukraine without negotiating a lasting peace agreement. “One of the things that you can imagine is the Russians trying to find an off-ramp” in order to rest, refit, regroup and re-attack, he said. William Mauldin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law yesterday banning expressions of LGBTQ identity in Russia. The new law makes it illegal to spread “propaganda” about “non-traditional sexual relations” in the media, advertising, or on social media. It had passed the Duma, Russia’s Parliament, by a vote of 397 to 0 on Nov. 24. Emma Bubola reports for the New York Times.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Thursday for a two-day state visit, according to sources with knowledge of the trip. The visit to Riyadh, which comes amid high tensions between the U.S. and the two countries, will include a China-Arab summit and a China-GCC conference. At least 14 Arab heads of state are expected to attend the China-Arab summit, according to an Arab diplomatic source who described the trip as a “milestone” for Arab-Chinese relations. Nadeen Ebrahim, Tamara Qiblawi and Carolina Faraj report for CNN.
Chinese government-linked hackers have stolen at least $20 million in U.S. government coronavirus relief funds, a U.S. Secret Service spokesperson said. It is unclear if the hackers conducted the theft for personal gain or if they were operating on behalf of Beijing. The accusation is the first time the agency has connected COVID-19 fraud to hackers affiliated with a foreign government. Sean Lyngaas reports for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Iranian officials have said they are finalizing plans to overhaul the enforcement of laws around women’s dress. Yesterday a spokesperson for the country’s morality police said its mission to enforce laws mandating the hijab “has now ended.” “New methods, more up-to-date and more precise” were under consideration,” he added. This statement comes as hundreds of businesses across Iran began a three-day strike in support of anti-government protestors. David S. Cloud reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Media outlet Al Jazeera has filed a lawsuit at the International Criminal Court against Israeli forces over the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Abu Akleh was shot during an Israeli raid in the West Bank in May. Israeli Prime Minister responded to the news, saying that no one would question Israeli soldiers. Reuters reports.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (A.N.C) party has said it will block attempts to impeach the country’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, at a vote in parliament today. A report handed over last week by an independent panel appointed by parliament accused Ramaphosa of serious misconduct in relation to a theft from his private game ranch. Ramaphosa has launched legal action against the report and given the A.N.C.’s dominance in parliament, it seems unlikely there will be enough votes for impeachment to go ahead. Jason Burke reports for the Guardian.
Nearly 300 people were killed when rebels attacked villagers in the Democratic Republic of Congo last week, officials said yesterday. This raises the death toll from an earlier estimate of 50. The government blamed the intensified fighting in the country’s east on the M23 rebel group, which denied responsibility for the attacks. Erin Cunningham reports for the Washington Post.
The trial against 10 men accused of involvement in the March 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels began yesterday. The judge identified all of the participants, including the nearly 1,000 victims, witnesses and experts registered as civil parties. The hearings will resume today, starting with the reading of the indictment, which is more than 400 pages long. Monika Pronczuk reports for the New York Times.
Former president Trump’s political action committee is paying the legal fees for some of the key witnesses involved in the Justice Department’s investigation into the mishandling of classified documents seized from Mar-a-Lago. According to people familiar with the matter, the witnesses include Kash Patel, who is key to Trump’s defense, and Walt Nauta, a potentially critical prosecution witness. Both Patel and Nauta are represented by Brand Woodward Law, which according to public records has been paid more than $120,000 by Trump’s Save America PAC. Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, and Isaac Stanley-Becker report for the Washington Post.
Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has threatened to remove news content from Facebook in the U.S.. This is in response to a new law that would give news organizations greater power to negotiate fees for content shared on Facebook. Meta claims that their platform, in fact, provides increased traffic to struggling news outlets and that publishers put their content on Facebook because “it benefits their bottom line.” The legislation, known as the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA) was introduced in Congress by Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and has bipartisan support. Ben Derico and James Clayton report for BBC News.
COVID-19 has infected over 98.972 million people and has now killed over 1.08 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 645.367 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.64 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.