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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 – U.S. RESPONSE
President Biden made an unannounced visit to Kyiv yesterday. The visit, a dramatic show of solidarity with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is Biden’s first and the first by any sitting U.S. president since George W. Bush in 2008. While in Kyiv Biden vowed “unwavering support” for Ukraine and announced a further $406 million in military aid to the country. Sabrina Siddiqui reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. has formally concluded that Russia has committed “crimes against humanity” in its invasion of Ukraine, Vice President Kamala Harris said on Saturday. During her comments, made at the Munich Security Conference, Harris also warned China against providing any kind of support to Moscow’s war effort. Michael Crowley and David E. Sanger report for the New York Times.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, against supplying Russia with lethal support. Following a meeting with Wang on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Blinken said that he had expressed U.S. concerns that China was “considering providing lethal support to Russia.” “I was able to share with him, as President Biden had shared with President Xi, the serious consequences that would have for our relationship,” Blinken added. Cassandra Vinograd reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. believes that China may be providing nonlethal military support to Russia, according to four U.S. officials familiar with the matter. While the officials declined to provide specifics about the assistance, they said it could include things like uniforms and even armor. Courtney Kube reports for NBC News.
The Biden administration is planning to impose new export controls and a fresh round of sanctions on Russia, according to people familiar with the matter. The new sanctions will target Russia’s defense and energy sector, financial institutions, as well as several individuals. The U.S. and its allies are also looking into preventing the circumvention of sanctions in order to disrupt the support Russia receives from third countries. Alberto Nardelli and Jennifer Jacobs report for Bloomberg News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
In a national address earlier today Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his claim that Ukraine and its allies “started the war,” insisting that he would not pull back from his invasion. His address comes before President Biden is scheduled to deliver an address in Warsaw later today. The speeches — three days before the anniversary of the Russian invasion — offer a rare moment of almost direct confrontation between the two leaders. Anton Troianovski, Valerie Hopkins and Shashank Bengali report for the New York Times.
China has warned the West against “adding fuel to the fire” in Ukraine and reiterated calls for peace talks. “We will continue to push for talks and provide China’s wisdom for [finding] a political solution to the Ukraine crisis,” foreign minister Qin Gang said during a seminar in Beijing. He also warned “relevant countries” against shifting the blame onto China for the war and suggesting “today Ukraine, tomorrow Taiwan.” Gang’s comments come ahead of an expected visit to Moscow by Beijing’s most senior diplomat Wang Yi. Joe Leahy and Kathrin Hille report for the Financial Times.
Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin generated revenues of more than $250 million from his global natural resources empire in the four years before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite being under Western sanctions. An investigation by the Financial Times has found that years of sanctions have been insufficient to stop hundreds of millions flowing to Prigozhin from oil, gas, diamond, and gold extraction. The revenues made from Prigozhin’s mercenary-backed businesses in countries such as Sudan and Syria since 2018 have helped him emerge as a powerful force in President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Miles Johnson reports for the Financial Times.
Belarus said earlier today that there was a significant grouping of Ukrainian troops massed near its border and warned that this posed a threat to its security. The Belarusian defense ministry said that it would take “measures to adequately respond” but would act in a restrained way. Kyiv has long voiced concerns that Belarus could join the war on Russia’s side. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said last week that Belarus would only enter the war if attacked by Ukraine. Reuters reports.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko yesterday ordered the formation of a new volunteer territorial defense force. The new force will ensure the country is ready to respond to an act of aggression, Lukashenko said. The force will have 100,000-150,000 volunteers or more if needed. Lidia Kelly reports for Reuters.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
The U.S. military and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) captured an Islamic State official during a helicopter raid in eastern Syria early Saturday. This is according to a statement from U.S. Central Command, which said that the captured official was “involved in planning attacks on SDF-guarded detention centers and manufacturing improvised explosive devices.” Gregory Clary and Michael Callahan report for CNN.
The U.S. has no doubt that the balloon shot down off the coast of South Carolina earlier this month was being used by China to surveil the U.S., Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday. “I can’t say dispositively what the original intent was, but that doesn’t matter because what we saw when it was over the United States was clearly an attempt to surveil very sensitive military sites,” Blinken said during an interview. Jasmine Wright and Paul LeBlanc report for CNN.
North Korea fired an intercontinental ballistic missile over the weekend escalating tensions in the region as the U.S. and South Korea prepare for joint military exercises. The missile landed in Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone, according to Japanese and South Korean officials. Following the missile launch the U.S. and South Korea held discussions and reaffirmed their commitment to step up their joint defenses against the North. Jiyoung Sohn and Dasl Yoon report for the Wall Street Journal.
Blinken announced $100 million in disaster relief aid for Turkey and Syria on Sunday. During a visit to Turkey Blinken took a helicopter tour of some of the places worse affected by the recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed at least 46,000. The latest funding brings the total U.S. assistance to $185 million. Andrew Millman, Paul LeBlanc and Mohammed Tawfeeq report for CNN.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has given Fox News’ Tucker Carlson exclusive access to 41,000 hours of Capitol surveillance footage from the Jan. 6 attack. Carlson’s producers were on Capitol Hill last week to begin working through the trove, which includes multiple camera angles from all over Capitol grounds. Excerpts will begin airing in the coming weeks. Mike Allen reports for Axios.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments today and tomorrow in two cases that could significantly reshape online speech and content moderation. The cases, Gonzalez v. Google and Twitter v. Taamneh, could determine whether tech platforms and social media companies can be sued for recommending content to their users or for supporting acts of international terrorism by hosting terrorist content. It marks the Court’s first-ever review of a federal law that largely protects websites from lawsuits over user-generated content. Brian Fung reports for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
International atomic monitors in Iran have detected uranium enriched to levels just below nuclear weapon grade. While the International Atomic Energy Agency has not detected any of the further technical steps required to create a bomb, the discovery reflects a significant expansion of Tehran’s nuclear program. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he had seen the report by the nuclear watchdog and is in close contact with them and European allies about the matter. Jonathan Tirone reports for Bloomberg News.
An Israeli rocket strike hit a building in Damascus, Syria on Sunday, killing five people and damaging several buildings. Syrian foreign minister Faisal Mekdad said the strike, which reportedly damaged several civilian homes, should be considered a “crime against humanity.” While the target of the strike was not immediately clear, two Western intelligence sources said it targeted a logistics center run by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Suleiman Al-Khalidi reports for Reuters.
Tens of thousands of people blocked roads in cities across Israel yesterday to demonstrate against a controversial judicial overhaul bill. The proposed bill, introduced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government, has so far sparked weeks of protests, a plea from Israeli President Isaac Herzog to delay for negotiations, and a rare intervention into Israeli domestic politics by President Biden, who has expressed concerns that the reforms could undermine democracy in the country. Hadas Gold, Richard Allen Greene, Mia Alberti and Amir Tal report for CNN.
An earthquake and its aftershock struck southern Turkey and Syria yesterday, causing buildings to collapse and killing at least six people. The 6.4 magnitude earthquake shook the southern Turkish province of Hatay just after 8 p.m. local time, according to Turkey’s disaster management agency. More than 400 people were treated for injuries across Turkey and Syria, according to officials in both countries. Jared Malsin, Elvan Kivilvim and Chao Deng report for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.N. Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (S.P.T.) has terminated its review of Australian places of detention after authorities in some states refused to grant them access. In a statement, the committee said that despite good cooperation from the Australian Federal Authorities, they had to terminate the remainder of their 12-day tour “as the issue of unrestricted access to all places of deprivation of liberty in two states has not yet been resolved.” Australia joins Rwanda as the only other country where a visit has been terminated. Hilary Whiteman reports for CNN.
COVID-19 has infected over 103.124 million people and has now killed over 1.12 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 674.186 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.86 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.