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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
Secretary of State Antony Blinken yesterday told Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov that Russia must end its “war of aggression” and rejoin the New START nuclear arms control treaty. The 10-minute meeting, a first between the top diplomats since the Russian war in Ukraine began, happened on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in India. Edward Wong reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. is hosting war planning exercises for Ukrainian military officers at its army base in Wiesbaden, Germany, officials said yesterday.. General Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who visited the base yesterday, made clear that the exercises were not designed to tell the Ukrainians what to do. “That is not the job of the international community,” he added. . Phil Stewart reports for Reuters.
The U.S. is adding 37 Chinese and Russian entities to its trade blacklist for activities including contributing to Russia’s army and supporting China’s military, the Commerce Department Assistant Secretary Thea Kendler said yesterday. Reuters reports.
The U.S. will today announce a new military aid package for Ukraine worth roughly $400 million and comprised mainly of ammunition. The package, which will comprise mainly of ammunition, will be funded using the Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows the President to transfer of articles and services from U.S. stocks, bypassing Congress in an emergency. Steve Holland and Mike Stone report for Reuters.
The Departments of Justice, Commerce, and Treasury yesterday issued a Joint Compliance Note on Russia-Related Sanctions Evasion and Export Controls. The note offers guidance to companies on how to maintain an effective sanctions and export compliance program to help “cut off Russia from accessing much-needed equipment to continue their unjust war against Ukraine.” It highlights that the use of third-party intermediaries is one of the most common tactics Russia employs to circumvent sanctions, and provides guidance on how to spot this. A press release is provided by the Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – EUROPEAN RESPONSE
All E.U. members except Denmark have backed a proposal to use €1 billion from the European Peace Facility to deliver ammunition to Ukraine. The plan, initially proposed by the E.U. diplomatic service, will boost European ammunition production capabilities. E.U. defense ministers will refine the plan before a summit of E.U. leaders on March 23-24. Andy Bounds and Henry Foy report for the Financial Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
Russian security agenices ran at least 20 torture chambers in Kherson, Ukraine, international and Ukrainian investigators have found. Ukrainian prosecutors collected statements from more than 1,000 victims of unlawful detention and torture by the Russian security services. Wayne Jordash, a lawyer who leads an advisory unit assisting the prosecutors, said the crimes against humanity are a focal part of Russia’s military strategy. Veronika Melkozerova reports for POLITICO.
Ukrainian authorities exhumed a communal grave near the city of Bucha yesterday. The grave contained the bodies of three men, all of whom appeared to be civilians. Ukraine is attempting to hold Russian leaders and military officials accountable for alleged atrocities against civilians in Ukraine, potentially at the International Criminal Court. However, the slow pace of wartime justice and Russia’s ability to block judicial initiatives at the U.N. has stalled progress. Missy Ryan, Kamila Hrabchuk, and Alice Martins report for the Washington Post.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said a Ukrainian sabotage group entered Russia yesterday, killing two civilians in a “terrorist act.” While the alleged incident has not been independently verified, a video emerged on the social media platform Telegram claiming to show members of the Ukraine-based Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC) inside Russia. Bellingcat Monitoring, the investigative journalism group, describes RVC as “a unit officially formed last year made up primarily of anti-Putin, anti-Kremlin Russian far-right figures active in Ukraine.” Laurence Peter reports for the BBC.
Two Kansas men were arrested yesterday on charges that they broke U.S. export laws by selling aviation-related technology to Russia. The two men owned an operated KanRus Trading Company, which supplied electronics installed in aircrafts to Russian companies and provided repair services for equipment used in Russian-manufactured aircrafts. The scheme was already illegal when it started in 2020, but was uncovered as part of a crackdown on illegal exports to Russia since its invasion of Ukraine. April Rubin reports for the New York Times.
The U.S., Australia, India, and Japan, known as the Quad, today announced the establishment of the Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. A joint statement published by the Quad indicated the working group will have its first meeting in the U.S. later this year. Cait Kelly and Mostafa Rachwani report for the Guardian.
More countries in the Asia-Pacific region are considering purchasing U.S.-built HIMARS rocket launchers. The interest has been driven by the successful use of the systems in Ukraine and the increasing threat posed by China to the region. Future capabilities could also make HIMARS more effective as an anti-ship system, something that is an important consideration for militaries in the Pacific. Mike Cherney reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. has denounced as a “miscarriage of justice” the sentence handed down to a top Cambodian opposition figure convicted of treason. Kem Sokha, head of the outlawed Cambodia National Rescue Party, was sentenced to 27 years of house arrest. His trial was built “on a fabrication conspiracy,” U.S. ambassador to Cambodia, Patrick Murphy said, adding that, “inclusive democracy would further the Cambodian people’s aspirations for a prosperous society that respects all voices and rights.” Teele Rebane reports for CNN.
The State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Wednesday denounced the Israeli finance minister’s call for the elimination of a Palestinian village as “repugnant.” Price called on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to repudiate the comments as tensions in the occupied West Bank rise. The Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog said the finance minister’s comments were not in line with Israeli policy and values. Jared Gans reports for The Hill.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
Former President Trump can be sued in civil lawsuits that seek to hold him accountable for the Jan. 6 attack, the Justice Department argued yesterday. Whilst expressing no view of the truth of the allegations that Trump sparked the violence on Jan. 6, the Justice Department urged a three-judge appeals court panel to reject his claims of “absolute immunity” from lawsuits brought by Capitol police officers and Democratic lawmakers. In making their case, the department argued that the incitement of violence falls outside the scope of a president’s duties. C. Ryan Barber reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Trump and a group of individuals incarcerated for their role in the Jan. 6 attack have collaborated on a song called “Justice for All.” The song was released yesterday on major streaming services. Profits are slated to benefit the families of people imprisoned in relation to the attack. Zach Everson reports for Forbes.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The first three witnesses to testify privately before the new Republican-led House committee investigating the “weaponization” of the federal government offered little evidence of wrongdoing. The trio of aggrieved former FBI officials have also espoused right-wing conspiracy theories, including about the Jan. 6 attack, and received financial support from Kash Patel, a Trump loyalist and former high-ranking official in the former president’s administration. This is according to a 316-page report compiled by Democrats on the panel, which suggests that the panel’s chair Rep. Jim Jordan (OH) has so far relied on people who do not meet the definition of a whistle-blower and who have engaged in partisan conduct that calls into question their credibility. Luke Broadwater and Adam Goldman report for the New York Times.
Biden said yesterday that he would not veto a Republican-led proposal to repeal changes to the criminal code for the District of Columbia. The measure to overturn the criminal-code changes has already passed the House with significant Democratic support, and Senate Republicans plan to force a vote as early as next week to repeal the law. In deciding not to issue a veto Biden has sided with federal lawmakers over local elected officials, despite his purported support for D.C. Statehood and home-rule. Natalie Andrews and Eric Bazail-Eimil report for the Wall Street Journal.
The House Ethics Committee yesterday announced that it had begun a formal investigation into Rep. George Santos (R-NY). The committee, which is split evenly between Republicans and Democrats, said it voted unanimously to investigate a range of allegations, including whether Santos “engaged in unlawful activity” during his 2022 campaign; failed to disclose all required information on House forms; violated conflict of interest laws; and engaged in sexual misconduct. Natalie Andrews reports for the Wall Street Journal.
As part of the government’s effort to prevent terrorists from building nuclear weapons, the Department of Energy will lead a nationwide push to remove highly radioactive materials from civilian sites such as hospitals. Homeland Security adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall said that the policy reaffirms “longstanding wisdom that reducing, eliminating and securing nuclear and radioactive materials continues to be the most effective means to prevent their acquisition and use.” The effort focuses on keeping specific radioisotopes useful for making “dirty bombs” out of terrorists’ hands. John Ismay reports for the New York Times.
The Biden administration yesterday announced its national cybersecurity strategy which outlined the steps it will take to protect the U.S. cybersecurity ecosystem. The strategy rests on 5 pillars including defending critical infrastructure, disrupting and dismantling cybercriminals, including those sponsored by nation-states, and building international partnerships. Ines Kagubare reports for the Hill.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The number of migrants crossing illegally from the U.S. into Canada reached 40,000 last year, according to Canadian Government statistics. This rise in crossings is more than double the number in 2019, and the number arriving monthly spiked recently, reaching nearly 5,000 people in January. Norimitsu Onishi reports for the New York Times.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un earlier this week ordered officials to address one of the worst food crises in decades. The food shortages, which have led to starvation, are the result of North Korea’s international isolation and natural disasters that have damaged crops and reduced yields. Dasl Yoon reports for the Wall Street Journal.
COVID-19 has infected over 103.510 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 675.552 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.87 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.