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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.
Ukraine’s military released drone footage this weekend that appeared to show the city of Bakhmut being attacked by Russian phosphorus munitions, the use of which in civilian areas is considered a war crime. It is unclear when the attack took place, but a post on Twitter by Ukraine’s defense ministry showed high-rise buildings engulfed in flames, and accused Russia of using “incendiary ammunition,” a type of ammunition containing chemicals that, upon impact with obstacles, causes blazes to ignite and rapidly spread. Other videos posted to social media showed the ground on fire and plumes of smoke. BBC analysis located the military’s footage to an area just west of Bakhmut’s city center and close to a children’s hospital. “While the analysis confirmed the attack used some kind of incendiary munitions, it could not verify the use of phosphorus,” BBC reports.
Russia carried out drone, missile, and air strikes on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and other cities through the night. Ukraine said its air defenses destroyed all 35 Iranian-made Shahed drones launched by Russia. Sixteen rockets hit the Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv, and Odessa regions in the last 24 hours, as well as 61 strikes and 52 rocket salvos on Ukrainian positions and populated areas. Reuters reports.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group, has signaled plans to cancel his announced withdrawal from Bakhmut after receiving promises of extra ammunition. On Friday, Prigozhin announced in a post on Telegram that his group was withdrawing from the region after his men had been starved and suffered “useless and unjustified” losses as a result. However, in an audio message posted on Telegram on Sunday, Prigozhin said: “Overnight we received a combat order, for the first time in all this time. We have been promised as much ammunition and weapons as we need to continue further operations. We have been promised that everything needed to prevent the enemy from cutting us off [from supplies] will be deployed on the flank.” Reuters reports.
On Saturday, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi voiced growing concerns about the safety of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, now under control by Russian forces in the occupied city of Enerhodar. Grossi warned the situation was “becoming increasingly unpredictable and potentially dangerous.” Due to the war, none of the plant’s six reactors are active, but the station nonetheless needs a reliable power supply for cooling systems critical to “preventing a potentially catastrophic radiation disaster.” Grossi’s comments came a day before Ukrainian authorities “said that a 72-year-old woman was killed and three others were wounded when Russian forces fired more than 30 shells at the city of Nikopol, which is almost directly opposite the plant,” David Rising reports for AP.
Turkey has rejected a U.S. proposal to send its Russian-made S-400 defense system to Ukraine, Turkish media reported Sunday. Yahoo News reports.
Criminal immunity deals have been accepted by at least eight of the Republican “false electors” in Georgia alleged to have conspired with former President Donald Trump in 2020 to overturn the election result in the state, according to a court filing Friday by Kimberly Debrow, the lawyer representing the eight electors offered deals. Those familiar with the investigation said that at least one additional elector, not represented by Debrow, also has a deal in place. Debrow’s filing also revealed that two of her clients were not offered deals and so now had new representation. Danny Hakim reports for the New York Times.
On Friday, a January 6th Capitol rioter who attacked police officers with a chair and then chemical spray received the longest sentence so far in connection to the insurrection. Peter Schwartz was sentenced to 14 years and two months in prison followed by three years’ supervised release after being convicted in December of assault and other felony charges. The sentence surpassed the 10-year sentence of retired New York Police Department officer Thomas Webster in September for swinging a metal flagpole at an officer at the Capitol, although the Justice Department had sought 24 years and six months in prison for Schwartz. In a separate case on Friday, prosecutors recommended in a sentencing brief 25 years’ imprisonment for Stewart Rhodes, leader of the Oath Keepers, who was convicted in November of seditious conspiracy along with one of his lieutenants. Alan Feuer and Zach Montague report for the New York Times.
Fox News lawyers on Friday asked Dominion Voting Systems officials to conduct an internal investigation into leaked text messages from ousted Fox host Tucker Carlson that formed the basis of evidence in the recent defamation lawsuit between Dominion and Fox. “The requests, which were made in letters released by Fox, came after multiple news outlets published racist and sexist remarks by Carlson contained in leaked internal messages and recordings,” Reuters reports.
Carlson has told those close to him that he wants to return to television somewhere soon, but he must firstly negotiate an early end to his contract expiring in January 2025. Lawyers for Carlson “have been in touch with Fox to negotiate an agreement to set the terms of his departure. And he has been the subject of unofficial courting by right-wing media outlets who’ve let it be known they would hire him if they could. Jeremy W. Peters and Benjamin Mullin report for the New York Times.
Jack Teixeira, the Air National Guardsman recently charged with leaking classified documents, was obsessed with weapons, mass shootings, and debunked conspiracy theories, and set on “proving he was in the right, and in the know,” a review by the New York Times of over 9,500 of his messages reveal, filling in important gaps lefts by court filings. “Even as he relished the respectability and access to intelligence he gained through his military service and top secret clearance, he seethed with contempt about the government, accusing the United States of a host of secret, nefarious activities: making biological and chemical weapons in Ukrainian labs, creating the Islamic State, even orchestrating mass shootings…He seems to have seen himself, in a sense, as the author of an insider newsletter founded to educate his online friends — not a whistle-blower plotting a grand exposé of government secrets,” Aric Toler, Robin Stein, Glenn Thrush, Riley Mellen and Ishaan Jhaveri report for the New York Times.
Mauricio Garcia, the gunman who killed at least eight people at an outlet mall in Dallas, Texas, may have had white supremacist or neo-Nazi beliefs. People familiar with the investigation said a tattoo on his chest said “RWDS,” an acronym thought to stand for Right Wing Death Squad that is popular among right wing extremists, neo-Nazis and white supremacists. “In addition to the weapons found on his body, investigators found another five guns inside his car nearby,” Jack Douglas, Marisa Iati, Brittany Shammas, Devlin Barrett, Justin Wm. Moyer, Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Perry Stein report for the Washington Post.
A preliminary review of Garcia’s social media accounts reveals “hundreds of posts that include racially or ethnically motivated violent extremist rhetoric, including neo-Nazi material and material espousing white supremacy,” Deon J. Hampton, Jonathan Dienst, Ken Dilanian and Corky Siemaszko report for NBC News.
At least eight people were killed after a man drove into a crowd of migrants in Brownsville, Texas, on Sunday. Seven individuals died on the scene and at least 10 others were injured after a Range Rover plowed into a group standing outside a center that serves homeless people. The driver, whose name has not yet been released, was charged with reckless driving. It remains unclear whether the driver’s actions were deliberate or an accident. Edgar Sandoval and Verónica G. Cárdenas report for the New York Times.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill on Friday that would create the Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission, an eight-member commission empowered to discipline and remove district attorneys and solicitors general. The Commission, which would start accepting complaints from October, plans to focus on “willful misconduct in office” or “willful and persistent failure to carry out statutory duties,” according to an Office of Governor press release. Fulton County DA Willis “has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the legislation, suggesting she is among those being targeted by its Republican sponsors,” John Wagner and Matthew Brown report for the Washington Post.
The Foreign Affairs Committee has threatened Sec. of State Antony Blinken with contempt of Congress if he does not comply with a March subpoena to release a classified “dissent channel” cable on the August 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The letter, sent by committee chair Michael McCaul (T-RX), gave the State Department until May 11 to comply or assert a legal basis to withhold the documents. Reuters reporting.
Former President Donald Trump missed a deadline yesterday to inform the judge in the E. Jean Carroll civil battery and defamation lawsuit whether he intended to testify before the case ends. Trump’s attorney Joseph Tacopina said in a statement that the court was told on Thursday that Trump would not testify, with the trial now set to end today after closing arguments. Reuters reports.
Trump’s 48-minute videotaped deposition in the Carroll lawsuit was released Friday. Parts of the edited deposition, recorded in October, were played for jurors earlier last week, and a transcript of the deposition was revealed in December in court filings—but the footage, requested by two journalists, had not been released publicly before Friday. Zach Schonfeld reports for The Hill.
Amid continuing clashes in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, the first face-to-face “pre-negotiation talks” between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces took place on Saturday in Saudi Arabia. “Both sides have said they will discuss a humanitarian truce but not an end to the conflict. There has been no word so far about whether the meeting has taken place or who the representatives from both sides are,” BBC reports.
Turkey will move its embassy from Sudan’s capital to Port Sudan, on the recommendation of the transitional government and Sudan army, after the Turkish ambassador’s car was hit by gunfire, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, told reporters in Antalya on Saturday. “No casualties were reported and the source of the gunfire that hit Ismail Cobanoglu’s vehicle was unclear, said Turkish diplomatic sources quoted by Anadolu Agancy,” Al Jazeera reports.
Iran on Saturday executed Swedish-Iranian dissident Habib Farajollah Chaab the alleged leader of the separatist group, the Arab Struggle Movement for the Liberation of Ahwaz. In the sentencing, Tehran accused Chaab of “numerous bombings and terrorist operations,” including a 2018 attack on a military parade that killed dozens. The execution has been criticized by Sweden and human rights groups. Jon Gambrell reports for AP.
Two oil tankers recently seized by Iran’s paramilitary Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps were spotted on Saturday anchored south of Bandar Abbas near a naval base in the port city in Iran’s Hormozgan province, according to satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by The Associated Press. The first tanker, Marshall Islands-flagged Advantage Sweet, was seized on April 27 as it traveled through the Gulf of Oman carrying Kuwaiti crude oil for American energy firm Chevron Corp. of San Ramon, California. The second ship, Panama-flagged tanker the Niovi, was seized on Wednesday leaving a dry dock in Dubai, UAE, bound for Fujairah on the UAE’s eastern coast. Jon Gambrell reports for AP.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
The United States and China acknowledged the need to stabilize Sino-U.S. relations after a series of “erroneous words and deeds” deepened tensions. China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang Beijing met with U.S. ambassador Nicholas Burns in Beijing, where Qin reportedly “stressed in particular that the United States must correct its handling of the Taiwan issue and stop the hollowing out of the ‘one China’ principle,” Reuters reports.
The leaders of South Korea and Japan on Sunday agreed to deepen efforts to address security challenges from North Korea and China. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met with his South Korean counterpart, President Yoon Suk Yeol, in Seoul. The two leaders emphasized the growing nuclear and missile threat from North Korea and the deepening rivalry between the United States and China. Kishida’s two-day trip follows on the heels of Yoon’s trip to Tokyo in March. The shuttle diplomacy is a welcome sign for Washington after regular exchanges between Tokyo and Seoul ended in 2011 over historical differences. Choe Sang-Hun and Motoko Rich report for the New York Times.
Arab League member states have agreed to reinstate Syria’s membership after over twelve years of suspension. The vote was cast on Sunday in Cairo, Egypt, during an emergency meeting of Arab League foreign ministers in Cairo, Egypt. Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Sunday that Syria President Bashar al-Assad was permitted to attend the Arab League summit in Saudi Arabia on May 19 “if he wishes to.” Al Jazeera reports.
On Sunday, a criminal court in Baghdad sentenced Iraqi police officer, Ahmed Hamdawi al-Kinani to death for his alleged role in the July 2020 killing of prominent Iraqi academic and security analyst Hisham al-Hashimi, according to a statement from Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council. After Sunday’s ruling, the case will be referred to the Court of Cassation, which is a judicial body that considers the ruling. Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Yasmine Mosimann report for the Independent.