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A curated weekday guide to major news and developments over the past 24 hours. Here’s today’s news.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – BLACK SEA GRAIN DEAL
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s summit with African leaders in St. Petersburg today is expected to draw only half the number of African heads of state or government as the last gathering in 2019, indicating that the war is straining relations. Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal caused food prices to spike, including in some states that will be represented at the Russia-Africa summit. The Kenyan foreign ministry called Putin’s withdrawal from the deal a “stab in the back.” Declan Walsh and Paul Sonne report for the New York Times.
Russian attacks on Ukraine’s exporting facilities in the port city of Odesa “signal a calamitous turn” in the war, Mohamed Khaled Khiari, an assistant secretary-general, said yesterday. “I must emphasize that attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure may constitute a violation of international humanitarian law,” Khiari added. “Deliberately targeting infrastructure that facilitates the export of food to the rest of the world could be life-threatening to millions of people who need access to affordable food.” U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Khiari said.
RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS – WAGNER GROUP
The relocation of the paramilitary organization Wagner group to Belarus has prompted fears of a new front along Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus. Ukraine and Poland have increased security measures along their borders with Belarus, which served as a staging ground for Russian forces at the outset of the full-scale invasion. Fredrick Kunkle and Sergii Mukaieliants reports for the Washington Post.
OTHER RUSSIA-UKRAINE DEVELOPMENTS
President Biden has ordered the sharing of evidence of Russian war crimes in Ukraine with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, according to officials familiar with the matter. The move marks a significant shift in U.S. policy following months of resistance by the Pentagon, which feared sharing information with the court could pave the way for it to prosecute U.S. troops. U.S. intelligence agencies are said to have details about decisions by Russian officials to deliberately strike civilian infrastructure in Ukraine and forcibly deport thousands of Ukrainian children from occupied territory. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times.
A “Russia-backed” disinformation campaign is targeting Sweden in a bid to hurt the image of the NATO candidate by suggesting it supported recent burnings of the Quran, Sweden’s Minister for Civil Defence Carl-Oskar Bohlin said yesterday. “The state guarantees the right to freedom of expression but does not thereby stand behind any political messages,” Swedish Premier Ulf Kristersson clarified. Reuters reports.
Ukrainian forces launched a fresh push in their counter-offensive against Russia and made some advances in the Zaporizhzhia region, officials said yesterday. Ukrainian forces aim to reach the Sea of Azov, which lies about 60 miles south, to sever Moscow’s land bridge to occupied Crimea. John Hudson, Robyn Dixon, and David L. Stern report for the Washington Post.
Moldova says it will expel 45 Russian diplomats and other embassy staff because of their “unfriendly actions.” The Moldovan government has accused Moscow of spying and backing opposition groups since the full-scale invasion began. Russia condemned the expulsion and said it would “not go unanswered.” BBC News reports.
Russian internet has seen a thirtyfold increase in censorship since the full-scale invasion began. Over 300 court orders from the government demanding content removal were made against Vkontakte, one of Russia’s largest social media sites. Before the war, Russia’s government issued such orders to Vkontakte only once every 50 days. Jeffrey Knockel, Jakub Dalek, Levi Meletti, and Ksenia Ermoshina report for Citizen Lab.
Israel’s Supreme Court yesterday said it would review the judicial overhaul law in a case beginning in September. This could trigger a constitutional crisis if the judges overturn the legislation. Separately, lawmakers from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party introduced a draft law yesterday that would strip the attorney general of the authority to oversee the prosecution of government ministers — including the prime minister. Netanyahu is embroiled in an ongoing corruption trial. Patrick Kingsley and Aaron Boxerman report for the New York Times.
Soldiers in Niger have announced a coup. They announced on national television that they had dissolved the constitution, suspended all institutions, and closed the borders. Niger President Mohamed Bazoum has been detained since early yesterday. Bazoum was promised “unwavering support” in a call from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and full support from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Laurence Peter reports for BBC News.
Another U.S. drone was damaged by a Russian fighter jet “buzzing” in Syria yesterday, heightening the risk of confrontation. A Russian jet fighter dropped flares that damaged the wing of a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone. This followed an incident on Sunday when another MQ-9 was damaged. U.S. officials believe this is a concerted effort to pressure the U.S. military to withdraw from Syria. Michael R. Gordon and Nancy A. Youssef report for the Wall Street Journal.
The United States and Mexico yesterday agreed to step up oversight of arms trafficking with a system to track firearms seized from criminal organizations electronically. Around 200,000 weapons enter Mexico annually, according to defense ministry data. These weapons often end up in the hands of cartels that traffic drugs such as fentanyl into the United States. Reuters reports.
New Zealand is welcome to engage with the AUKUS weapons development and procurement project between the United States, Britain, and Australia, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today. While New Zealand said it is open to discussions on a second phase of AUKUS focusing on military technology, it was “not prepared to compromise or change [its] nuclear-free position” and that it continued to support a nuclear-free Pacific. Lucy Craymer and Renju Jose report for Reuters.
DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS – HUNTER BIDEN
A plea deal in which Hunter Biden was expected to plead guilty to tax charges and admit a gun offense collapsed after District Court Judge Maryellen Noreika said the agreement contained “non-standard terms” and its proposed resolution for the gun possession offense was “unusual.” The plea deal was likely to spare Hunter Biden prison time. Noreika questioned whether the deal would grant Hunter Biden immunity from crimes he could be found liable for in the future. Both parties have a fortnight to reach a new agreement. Sam Cabral and Sarah Smith report for BBC News.
Read the plea agreement and diversion agreement, as reported by POLITICO.
Chad Barrett Jones, who smashed windows to the House Speaker’s Lobby during the Jan. 6 attack, which led to the shooting of Ashli Babbitt by police, was convicted yesterday. Jones was convicted of two felonies and seven misdemeanors, including obstruction of an official proceeding and destruction of government property. Tom Jackman reports for the Washington Post.
The Republican-controlled House voted 217-206 to open debate yesterday on a military construction and veterans affairs appropriations bill – the first of 12 fiscal 2024 spending bills. House lawmakers may be nearing a showdown with the Democratic-led Senate on the bills. Lawmakers have until the current fiscal year expires on Sept. 30 to fund the government or risk a partial government shutdown. David Morgan and Katharine Jackson report for Reuters.
Rudy Giuliani, former President Trump’s ex-lawyer, has admitted he made statements that were “false” by accusing two Georgia election workers of ballot fraud and conceded his remarks “carry meaning that is defamatory per se,” a two-page concession, filed on Tuesday night reveals. However, in the court filing, Giuliani maintained that his statements were protected by freedom of speech. Chloe Kim reports for BBC News.
President Biden is set to host Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at the White House today. The warm reception comes after the Biden administration’s concerns about Meloni’s far-right ideology eased following her support for Ukraine and her seeming openness to pull back from Italy’s China ties. Aamer Madhani and Frances D’emilio report for AP News.