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A curated weekday guide to major national security news and developments over the weekend. Here’s today’s news.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – WAGNER ARMED ACTION
U.S. intelligence officials saw signs that Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the paramilitary organization Wagner group, was preparing for armed action within Russia. Prigozhin’s known preparations included massing weapons and ammunition. One source familiar with the intelligence said, “It all happened very quickly,” making it difficult to determine how serious Prigozhin was about threatening the Russian military. Part of the justification that Prigozhin gave for his armed action was bad leadership and corruption among Russia’s top military officials. Prigozhin specifically called for Russia’s military chiefs, Sergei Shoigu, and Valery Gerasimov, to be removed. Natasha Bertrand, Alex Marquardt, Jim Sciutto, and Kylie Atwood report for CNN.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu made his first public appearance inspecting troops in Ukraine today in a bid to project order after Yevgeny Prigozhin led an armed action demanding Shoigu’s removal over the weekend. Neither President Vladimir Putin nor Prigozhin have made any public appearances since the armed action. AP News reports.
While the armed action inside Russia is unlikely to impact the Ukrainian counter-offensive in the short term, the Ukrainian military may be able to capitalize on the chaos and weakened morale. The paramilitary organization’s forces were instrumental in Russia’s advances in Ukraine, and if they are no longer operational, this may benefit Ukraine on the battlefield. However, U.S. officials said it is too soon to determine the long-term implications of the armed action. Julian E. Barnes and Thomas Gibbons-Neff report for the New York Times.
The armed action in Russia presents Kyiv and the West with the prospect that instability in Moscow will make the Ukraine conflict even deadlier as leaders vie for power. The United States and its allies may now have to grapple with a more chaotic Russia. Kremlin infighting could also lead President Vladimir Putin to take more extreme measures to demonstrate his control. Daniel Michaels reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Roskomnadzor, the Russian federal agency responsible for controlling and censoring mass media, has blocked access to Yevgeny Prigozhin’s company page. The notice on the website says the “material was blocked at the request of Roskomnadzor on the basis of the decision of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation dated June 24, 2023 No. 27-31-2023/Treb431-23.” Adam Schrader reports for UPI.
OTHER RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
While Ukraine has reclaimed additional territory from Russian forces along the southern frontline, the situation on the battlefield has mainly remained the same over the past week, Ukraine Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said today. Pavel Polityuk reports for Reuters.
The 36,000 Ukrainian soldiers equipped and trained by the United States and its NATO allies are beginning to enter the fight. The deployment of these troops may be pivotal in a counter-offensive that has lacked significant progress. Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt report for the New York Times.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – TRUMP LEGAL MATTERS
The Justice Department on Friday requested that the federal trial into former President Trump’s handling of classified documents be pushed from August to December. An August start date is unlikely to be sufficient time for both sides to adhere to stringent and time-consuming laws for protecting government secrets. Trump’s attorneys are expected to contest the request. Perry Stein reports for the Washington Post.
At least two Republican fake electors testified to a federal grand jury in Washington in recent weeks after special counsel Jack Smith offered them limited immunity in the criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Sources said that this activity could signal that investigators are ready to make some charging decisions. Katelyn Polantz, Sara Murray, Zachary Cohen, and Casey Gannon report for CNN.
Michael Roman, a top official in former President Trump’s 2020 campaign, is in discussions with the office of special counsel Jack Smith that could soon lead to Roman voluntarily answering questions about the fake electors, according to a person familiar with the matter. This would be the first known instance of cooperation by someone with direct knowledge of the fake elector plan. Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman report for the New York Times.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday denied allegations by Gary Shapley, an IRS criminal supervisory agent, who said U.S. Attorney David Weiss tasked with investigating Hunter Biden, was hindered by the Justice Department from bringing more aggressive criminal tax charges. “David Weiss was appointed by President Trump as the U.S. attorney in Delaware and assigned this matter during the previous administration … He was given complete authority to make all decisions on his own,” Garland said. Sarah N. Lynch reports for Reuters.
In a 7-to-2 decision on Friday, the Supreme Court gave a narrow reading to a law that makes it a crime to “encourage” unauthorized immigrants to come to or stay in the United States, thereby avoiding a difficult First Amendment question. Under the ruling, for it to be a crime to “encourage” or “induce” unauthorized immigrants to come to or stay in the United States requires complicity in criminal conduct. In their dissent, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson and Justice Sotomayor rejected the majority’s approach and said the court should have struck down the law on First Amendment grounds. Adam Liptak reports for the New York Times.
Three San Antonio Police officers have been charged with murder hours after they fatally shot a woman who had swung a hammer toward them during a “mental health crisis” on Friday, officials said. The three officers were suspended without pay and have been on bond since Saturday. Praveena Somasundaram reports for the Washington Post.
The Justice Department on Friday filed criminal charges against four Chinese chemical manufacturing companies and eight individuals over allegations they illegally trafficked the chemicals used to make fentanyl. The indictments mark the first time the United States has sought to prosecute any Chinese companies responsible for manufacturing precursor chemicals used to make the painkiller. Sarah N. Lynch and Luc Cohen report for Reuters.
The United States on Jun. 13-14 convened a meeting of working-level experts from China, France, Russia, and the U.K. to discuss nuclear weapons issues, including strategic risk reduction, the State Department said on Friday. The experts were drawn from the countries’ respective foreign affairs and defense ministries. They held discussions as part of “an ongoing exchange in the context of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.” The U.S. Department of State reports.
Leaders of India’s governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have criticized former President Obama for his recent comments that India may “start pulling apart” if the rights of minorities were not protected. Obama’s interview response to how President Biden should engage with “illiberal democrats” came during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit. Cherylann Mollan and Sharanya Hrishikesh report for BBC News.
The Biden administration notified Israel two weeks ago that it was reimposing a ban on U.S. taxpayer funding being used in any research and development or scientific cooperation projects conducted in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, according to three U.S. and Israeli officials. The move reverses a Trump administration policy from late 2020. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
It is unclear how the paramilitary organization Wagner group’s armed action in Russia will affect its operations in Mali and Central African Republic. “[Wagner’s] presence in Mali is sponsored by the Kremlin, and if Wagner is at odds with the Kremlin … naturally Mali will suffer the consequences on the security front,” said Malian political analyst Bassirou Doumbia. Tiemoko Diallo and Judicael Yongo reports for Reuters.
Sweden must prevent protests by supporters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Stockholm if Turkey is to allow its NATO bid, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s Secretary-General, yesterday. Reuters reports.