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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.
Ukrainian air defenses are working to intercept Russian attacks after Russia’s forces fired more than 30 missiles at Ukraine this morning. According to the head of the Kyiv city military administration, more than 15 cruise missiles had been launched in the direction of the capital and all had been shot down. Maria Kostenko reports for CNN.
Ukrainian forces have retreated from the town of Soledar near the strategic eastern city of Bakhmut, a military spokesperson said yesterday. The capture of Soledar brings Russia closer to encircling and possibly capturing Bakhmut. Col. Sergei Cherevaty, the spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern military command, said that the retreat from Soledar was ordered “to preserve our personnel.” Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Michael Schwirtz report for the New York Times.
A Russian warship armed with advanced hypersonic missiles completed a drill in the Atlantic Ocean, the Russian Defense Ministry said yesterday. The test was part of a voyage of the Admiral Gorshkov frigate launched earlier this month. The deployment will also include joint training with the Chinese and South African navies off the coast of South Africa next month. Radina Gigova and Simone McCarthy report for CNN.
A bipartisan group of U.S. House lawmakers introduced legislation yesterday to designate Russian paramilitary organization Wagner group a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). The Holding Accountable Russian Mercenaries Act, sponsored by nine members of the lower chamber, would require the State Department to designate the Wagner Group an FTO within 90 days of becoming law. While the Biden administration designated Wagner Group as a transnational criminal organization last week, an FTO designation would authorize the U.S. to impose criminal penalties on entities supporting the group. Brad Dress reports for The Hill.
A former engineering student was sentenced to eight years in prison yesterday for spying for the Chinese government by gathering information on engineers and scientists in the U.S.. Ji Chaoqun, a Chinese national who came to the U.S. to study at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 2013 and later enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves, was arrested in 2018. The 31-year-old was convicted last September of acting illegally as an agent of China’s Ministry of State Security and of making a material false statement to the U.S. Army. Nectar Gan reports for CNN.
Colombian drug kingpin Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, who was once one of the U.S.’s most wanted fugitives, pleaded guilty yesterday in a Brooklyn federal court to overseeing the smuggling of more than 100 tons of cocaine. Úsuga David was extradited to the U.S. last year after the Justice Department accused him of being the former leader of the Gulf Clan, one of the largest and most powerful cocaine-trafficking organization in Colombia. He pleaded guilty to running a criminal enterprise and two other drug-related charges. James Fanelli reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The Biden administration believes that border enforcement measures it rolled out earlier this month have led to a decline in illegal crossings on the southern border. On Jan.5, the administration introduced measures to deny people from Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Haiti the chance to apply for asylum if they cross the Mexican border without authorization between official ports of entry. According to the Homeland Security Department the number of times individuals from these four countries were caught crossing illegally fell 97 percent from Dec. 11 to Jan.24. Eileen Sullivan reports for the New York Times.
The classified documents found at the home of former Vice President Mike Pence included background briefing memos that were prepared for Pence’s foreign trips. One source said that those briefings may have been overlooked during the packing process because they were tucked into old trip binders. According to another source, the classified briefing materials would not have been visible unless the packers went through the binders page by page. It is not unusual for presidents and vice presidents to be given travel briefing binders, which may sometimes contain sensitive information. Jamie Gangel, Jeremy Herb, Elizabeth Stuart and Evan Perez report for CNN.
A San Francisco judge ruled yesterday that footage of the attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, could be released publicly. The decision was made in Superior Court by Judge Stephen M. Murphy, said Thomas R. Burke, a lawyer representing a group of news organizations that pushed for the evidence to be released. Prosecutors objected to the release arguing that publicizing the footage would harm the suspect David DePape’s right to a fair trial. Michael Corkery reports for the New York Times.
The man accused of killing seven people in two shootings in Half Moon Bay, California has been charged with seven counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. An arraignment hearing for the suspect, Chunli Zhao, was moved from Wednesday to Feb. 16. Talal Ansari reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Louisiana routinely incarcerates people past the end of their prison sentences, a Justice Department review has revealed. According to the multiyear review, since 2012, more than one quarter of the people released from Louisiana state custody were held past their sentences. The state was deliberately indifferent to the due-process rights of those individuals, the department said. The state has 49 days to implement meaningful changes or the Justice Department may file a lawsuit to force corrective measures. Mariah Timms reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, plan to reinstate former President Trump’s accounts in the coming weeks. Meta suspended Trump from its platforms on Jan.7, 2021 the day after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. Sheera Frenkel and Mike Isaac report for the New York Times.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Nine Palestinians have been killed in an Israeli military raid in the occupied West bank, Palestinian officials have said. The Palestinian health minister warned that the situation in Jenin was “critical” with many other people injured and ambulances unable to reach them. Israel’s military released few details, but Israeli media said it had acted to foil “a major attack” by militants. BBC News reports.
Tanzania’s leading opposition figure returned to the country yesterday after more than two years in exile. Tundu Lissu, of the opposition Chadema party, said that he had decided to return because of President Samia Suluhu Hassan’s decision this month to lift a ban on political rallies that had been seen by some as an attempt to weaken the opposition. The move, he said, was a sign of the government’s commitment to political reforms and gave hope of an end to the intimidation and prosecution of opposition figures. Abdi Latif Dahir reports for the New York Times.
France has agreed to withdraw all its troops from Burkina Faso, following a request from the country’s military leaders. There are currently 400 French special forces in Burkina Faso, who have just one month to leave. France said it would also recall its ambassador to the country for consultations. Burkina Faso’s junta had demanded the ambassador’s replacement over his comments about the country’s deteriorating security situation. Cecilia Macaulay and Joseph Winter reports for BBC News.
COVID-19 has infected over 102.034 million people and has now killed over 1.10 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 669.124 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.74 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.