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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.
TURKEY, SYRIA EARTHQUAKE
The U.N. is preparing to send its first aid convoy into northwestern Syria since Monday’s deadly earthquake which has so far killed over 17,000 people. The convoy arrived at the border crossing earlier today after snowfall impeded rescue efforts there yesterday. Syria has also lodged a formal request for aid with the E.U., but little assistance has arrived so far as the country’s civil war complicates efforts to deliver it. Ben Hubbard, Raja Abdulrahim, Safak Timur, Vivian Yee and Mike Ives report for the New York Times.
A former Chechen commander wanted by Ukraine for alleged war crimes is leading the Russian earthquake relief effort in Turkey. Daniil Martynov, who is thought to be close to the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, was appointed last year as an advisor in Russia’s Emergency Situations Ministry. Last August, the Ukrainian security service alleged that he had committed a series of war crimes in the town of Borodianka, north of Kyiv. Tim Lister, Victoria Butenko and Josh Pennington report for CNN.
Twitter was blocked on several networks inside Turkey yesterday, taking out a key communication channel for coordinating rescue efforts following Monday’s earthquake. According to NetBlock, a group that tracks internet outages, the coordinated nature of the block suggests that it was likely the result of a government order. Turkey has a history of imposing social media restrictions during emergencies, but when asked about the access issues yesterday Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay attributed them to “technical problems.” Adam Satariano reports for the New York Times.
The U.K. has said it is looking into sending fighter jets to Ukraine, following Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s impassioned plea before the U.K. parliament yesterday. U.K. officials said that defense secretary Ben Wallace has been asked to examine what jets the country might be able to give Ukraine, but warned that this was a “medium to long term” solution. Jasmine Cameron-Chileshe, George Parker, John Paul Rathbone, Robert Wright and Roman Olearchyk report for the Financial Times.
The possible U.K. delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine will “escalate and prolong” the war and “make it more painful,” according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. “Fundamentally, these actions of countries will not change the outcome of the conflict and will not change the trajectory that our country is following in terms of achieving its goals,” he added. Anna Chernova reports for CNN.
Zelenskyy also visited France yesterday, where he met with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. During this meeting, Zelenskyy repeated his demands for fighter jets and longer-range missiles. Both the German and French leaders pledged to support Ukraine in its war with Russia for as long as necessary. Angela Diffley reports for France 24.
Zelenskyy addressed E.U. lawmakers today, renewing his appeal for his country to become part of the E.U.. The Ukrainian President underlined that Ukraine shares values with Europe, rather than with Russia, which he said is trying to take Ukraine back in time. Nic Robertson reports for CNN.
SpaceX has taken steps to limit Ukraine’s use of the company’s satellite internet connections for military purposes. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that Starlink, as the company’s satellite-internet business is called, was “never intended to be weaponized,” adding that Ukraine had used it in ways that weren’t part of their agreement. The network can still be used by the military for typical communication purposes and to help coordinate humanitarian aid, Shotwell said. Micah Maidenberg reports for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
There are “strong indications” that Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to supply the missile system that Russian-backed separatists used to shoot down flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014. This is according to a Dutch-led team of international investigators. The team said yesterday that it had suspended its criminal investigation because of insufficient evidence and immunity privileges that prevent new prosecutions in the downing of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet, which killed all 298 people on board. Constant Méheut reports for the New York Times.
North Korea has unveiled what analysts believe to be a new solid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile. The missile was unveiled during a nighttime military parade in Pyongyang yesterday and is the latest example of the country’s effort to fill its arsenal with increasingly advanced nuclear technology. Presiding over a meeting of the country’s ruling Workers’ Party’s Central Military Commission earlier this week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un also urged the military to expand its drills and perfect “preparedness for war.” Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times.
Greece’s parliament yesterday passed a bill that bars from the legislature parties whose leaders have been convicted of serious crimes and are deemed a potential threat to democracy. While not explicitly mentioned in the bill, the new legislation would disqualify the extreme-right party National Party-Greeks, which was founded by a former top official of the neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn, on the grounds that he is a convicted criminal. Niki Kitsantonis reports for the New York Times.
U.S. RELATIONS – CHINESE SURVEILLANCE BALLOON
The Defense Intelligence Agency flagged that a foreign object was headed toward the U.S. a day before the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon entered U.S. airspace, sources familiar with the matter have said. The report was disseminated through classified channels accessible across the U.S. government but was not marked as urgent. Instead of treating it as an immediate threat, the U.S. moved to investigate the object, seeing it as an opportunity to collect intelligence. This lack of urgency has drawn stark criticism from Republican lawmakers. Katie Bo Lillis, Alex Marquardt, Natasha Betrand and Zachary Cohen report for CNN.
Leading Senate Republicans yesterday demanded the Biden administration provide more information about its handling of the suspected Chinese surveillance balloon which was shot down on Saturday. In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, the lawmakers asked about Pentagon and White House decision-making in the days after the balloon was detected and why the military and spy agencies weren’t better prepared given previous intrusions. The request for information comes as administration officials prepare to give the Senate a closed-door briefing about the episode. Nancy A. Youssef and Warren P. Strobel report for the Wall Street Journal.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The Biden administration is negotiating an agreement with Mexico that could allow U.S. authorities to deport non-Mexicans back across the border. The deal under discussion would buttress soon-to-be-announced measures penalizing the claims of asylum seekers who cross into the U.S. illegally. Deportations under the deal would be limited to Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans, primarily when U.S. authorities are unable to send deportees to their home country, an administration official said yesterday. Nick Miroff, Maria Sacchetti and Kevin Sieff report for the Washington Post.
Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer to former President Trump, met yesterday with prosecutors investigating Trump’s role in paying hush money to adult actress Stormy Daniels. Cohen is a central figure in the hush money investigation, having pleaded guilty in 2018 to campaign finance violations for negotiating an agreement to buy Daniel’s silence while Trump was running for president. Cohen, who has said Trump directed him to make the payment, indicated yesterday that he thought the probe should lead to an indictment. Corinne Ramey reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The removal of Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) from the Armed Services committee last month reportedly stemmed in part from his involvement in challenging Mitch McConnell’s hold as the chamber’s top Republican. This is according to sources who claim that the move came directly from McConncell’s office. Hawley’s spokesperson denied the claim, saying that the senator had voluntarily stepped down from the committee. Mark Satter reports for Roll Call.
The man who fatally shot 23 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, in 2019, pleaded guilty yesterday to federal hate crimes and weapons charges in relation to the attack. Patrick Crusius said last month that he would change his plea to guilty after federal prosecutors notified the court that they would not seek the death penalty. Crusius still faces trial on state capital murder charges, for which he could receive the death penalty. Emily Schmall reports for the New York Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 102.737 million people and has now killed over 1.13 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 672.343 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.85 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.