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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 – FIGHTING
At least 30 people have been killed and 100 injured in a Russian missile strike on a railway station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, where civilians were waiting for evacuation trains to safer regions of the country. Olga Voitovych reports for CNN.
The Kremlin has denied that Russia was involved in the strike on the railway station in Kramatorsk. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the Russian armed forces had no missions scheduled for Kramatorsk on Friday. Russia’s defence ministry has also denied that Russian forces were responsible for the strike, saying that the missile was of a type used only by the Ukrainian military. The Guardian reports.
Russian forces have shelled the city of Kharkiv, the regional military governor has said, amid continued heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine. “Over the last 24 hours, Russian occupation forces have fired 48 times with artillery, mortars, tanks and multiple rocket launchers in Saltivka, Piatyhatky, Oleksiivka, Derhachi and in the city center,” Oleh Syniehubov, the head of the Kharkiv regional military administration, said on Telegram. Olga Voitovych and Nathan Hodge report for CNN.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that the situation in the previously occupied town of Borodyanka was “significantly more dreadful” than in Bucha. He didn’t provide further details but hundreds of people are feared killed in the strikes. BBC News previously reported that 26 bodies have been recovered from the rubble so far. BBC News reports.
Russian troops have now “fully withdrawn” from northern Ukraine, moving back north to Belarus and Russia, according to the U.K. Defense Ministry’s intelligence update. Russian shelling of cities in Ukraine’s east and south continued and Russian troops have advanced south from the strategically important city of Izyum, it added. BBC News reports.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said today that Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine could end in the “foreseeable future” since its aims were being achieved and work was being carried out by both the Russian military and Russian peace negotiators. Reuters reports.
Russia has admitted suffering “significant losses of troops” in Ukraine, with Peskov calling the casualties “a huge tragedy.” BBC News reports.
Yesterday the World Health Organisation announced that it had verified 103 attacks on Ukrainian health care sites and ambulances during the Russian invasion. The organization said in a statement that the attacks had resulted in 73 deaths and 51 injuries. Jesus Jiménez reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution yesterday calling for Russia to be suspended from the Human Rights Council. The resolution received a two-thirds majority of those voting, minus abstentions, in the 193-member Assembly, with 93 nations voting in favour and 24 against. Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Vietnam, were among those who voted against it. Prior to the vote, Ukrainian Ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya urged countries to support the resolution. “Bucha and dozens of other Ukrainian cities and villages, where thousands of peaceful residents have been killed, tortured, raped, abducted and robbed by the Russian Army, serve as an example of how dramatically far the Russian Federation has gone from its initial declarations in the human rights domain,” he said. UN News Centre reports.
President Biden has issued a statement to “applaud” the U.N. vote removing Russia from the Human Right Council. “This is a meaningful step by the international community further demonstrating how Putin’s war has made Russia an international pariah,” said Biden. He added that the U.S. led the charge to remove Russia after discovering that it was “committing gross and systemic violations of human rights”. BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – NATO
NATO member states have agreed to supply new types of advanced weaponry to Ukraine, as Kyiv prepares for an offensive by Russia in the country’s east. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Washington was looking at sending “new systems” to Ukraine. “We are not going to let anything stand in the way of getting Ukrainians what they need,” he said. “We are looking across the board right now, not only at what we have provided . . . [but] whether there are additional systems that would make a difference.” U.K. foreign secretary Liz Truss, also confirmed that member states had backed giving Ukraine more weapons. Henry Foy, Max Seddon and Andres Schipani report for the Financial Times.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has urged for a vast rise in NATO forces to defend Baltic states. Kallas said that the military alliance needed “war-fighting capabilities” and permanent bases in Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, with a division in the region of up to 25,000 troops, well up from battalions of about 1,000 soldiers in each country. She also said Nato fighter jets on patrol in the Baltic states should be allowed to shoot down enemy aircraft if needed. Richard Milne reports for the Financial Times.
Ukraine is asking Western governments to provide it with more modern, NATO-made weapons rather than Soviet-made equipment. The Soviet-era weapons are decades old and often in poor condition, and the ammunition for them is running out, Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov said in a speech addressed to “partnering states” late Thursday. Victoria Kim reports for the New York Times.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. Department of Treasury yesterday blacklisted two Russian state-owned enterprises, United Shipbuilding Corp and the Alrosa diamond mining company. “Through these designations, Treasury is cutting off additional sources of support and revenue for the Government of the Russian Federation to wage its unprovoked war against Ukraine,” the Treasury Department said in a press release.
The U.S. took its first actions yesterday to enforce sweeping restrictions on the export of technology and industrial goods to Russia. Commerce Department officials said they were issuing orders to deny three Russian airlines— Aeroflot, Azur Air, and UTair—the ability to access U.S.-made parts or receive services from anyone anywhere in the world after the airlines violated export controls by flying U.S.-made aircraft or foreign-made aircraft containing U.S. parts. Kate O’Keeffe reports for the Wall Street Journal.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The reported killing of civilians in Bucha and other towns has affected Ukraine’s willingness to continue negotiations with Russia, Ibrahim Kalin, a senior advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said. In Ankara’s strongest condemnation yet, Kalin said: “We are all outraged by the pictures of . . . human rights violations and possible war crimes.” He added that the atrocities risked stalling the resumption of negotiations, “especially on the Ukrainian side,” saying they would “maybe take a pause for a few days and then regroup.” Andrew England and Laura Pitel report for the Financial Times.
The expulsion of Russian diplomats from nearly two dozen European countries could dismantle large parts of Moscow’s spy network and lead to a dramatic reduction in espionage and disinformation operations, former U.S. and European officials have said. Shane Harris, John Hudson and Michael Birnbaum report for the Washington Post.
The E.U. has formally approved a new set of sanctions against Russia, including a ban on coal imports, as well as sanctions against Russian industrialist Oleg Deripaska, and two daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova. Matina Stevis-Gridneff reports for the New York Times.
E.U. countries have so far frozen Russian and Belarusian assets valued at almost €30 billion (about $33 billion), the European Commission said today, including helicopters, real estate, boats and artwork. They have also blocked transactions valued at over €196 billion, it said. Monika Pronczuk reports for the New York Times.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and top E.U. diplomat, Josep Borrell, are en route to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Slovakian Prime Minister Eduard Heger is also joining the trip. Niamh Kennedy reports for CNN.
Australia has sent off the first three of 20 armoured military trucks it’s gifting to Ukraine, following a request from Ukrainian President Zelenskyy last week. The heavily fortified Bushmaster vehicles will be used to transport soldiers and civilians in the war zone – they won’t be used for offensive attacks. Frances Mao reports for BBC News.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – REFUGEES AND HUMANITARIAN CORRIDORS
More than 4,600 people were evacuated yesterday from Ukraine’s embattled cities, with about two-thirds of them departing from the southern part of the country via humanitarian corridors, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said. Roughly 1,200 of them are from the besieged city of Mariupol. Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
The editor of the Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta was attacked on a train yesterday. “They poured oil paint with acetone in the compartment. Eyes burn terribly. Train Moscow-Samara. Oily smell all over the car. Departure has already been delayed by 30 minutes. I’ll try to wash off,” Dmitry Muratov, who is a Nobel Peace Prize winner, told Novaya Gazeta. The publication included photos showing Muratov covered in a red substance while in the bathroom of a train car. Two men are wanted by authorities for their alleged involvement in the incident, Russia’s TASS state news agency reported. Caroline Vakil reports for The Hill.
Microsoft announced yesterday that it had disrupted Russian cyberattacks targeting Ukraine and organizations in the U.S. and E.U.. Microsoft was able to interfere with attacks from Strontium, a hacker group connected to Russia’s military intelligence service, after the company obtained a court order enabling it to take over online domains being used by the group on Wednesday. Chloe Folmar reports for The Hill.
Aluminium producer Rusal has become the first Russian company to publicly call for a thorough and impartial investigation into the alleged war crimes in the Ukrainian town of Bucha. “Reports from the Ukrainian city of Bucha shocked us. We believe that this crime should be thoroughly investigated,” Rusal’s Dutch chair Bernard Zonneveld said in a statement on the company’s website. The company also called for an early end to the conflict. Nastassia Astrasheuskaya and Neil Hume report for the Financial Times.
A private jet linked to Yevgeny Priogozhin, who runs the Wager Group mercenary unity, has been seized at London’s Luton airport. Known as “Putin’s chef” because of his past catering contracts with the Kremlin, Prigozhin’s paramilitary unit is used by Moscow to supply mercenaries in conflict zones around the world. Before the invasion of Ukraine, the mercenaries were heavily involved in fighting in Africa, with a high level of activity in Libya. Sean O’Neill reports for the Times.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
An attack on an artillery base housing U.S. troops in east Syria has injured two members of the U.S. led coalition there. The International Coalition for Operation Inherent Resolve said troops at the base reported receiving two rounds of indirect fire. Two Coalition members were lightly injured in the attack, it added, saying that both were treated and returned to duty yesterday morning. AP reports.
President Biden spoke by phone with humanitarian aid worker Safiullah Rauf and his brother Anees Khalil yesterday, the White House said, days after the Biden administration secured the release of the two men from the Taliban. Morgan Chalfant reports for The Hill.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
Israeli security forces on Friday shot dead a Palestinian gunman who had fled the night before after killing two people and wounding 13 others outside a bar in central Tel Aviv. The gunman’s attack was the latest in the deadliest wave of terrorism in Israel since 2016. Patrick Kingsley reports for the New York Times.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court yesterday overturned Prime Minister Imran Khan’s move to dissolve Parliament, setting the stage for a no-confidence vote widely expected to remove him from office. In its verdict, the court agreed that the move violated the Constitution and ordered the no-confidence vote to take place on Saturday morning. Christina Goldbaum reports for the New York Times.
Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, handed over his powers to a leadership council yesterday in a Saudi-backed move aimed at reviving negotiations with the Houthi rebels to end the country’s seven-year civil war. Rabbo Mansour Hadi also dismissed his vice president before leaving his own position. Both men were seen as obstacles by the Iran-allied Houthis and some of Saudi Arabia’s coalition partners to U.N.-led efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. welcomed the formation of the presidential council and urged it to abide by a U.N.-negotiated truce. Stephen Kalin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Peruvian Prime Minister Aníbal Torres, yesterday cited Adolf Hitler as a model in infrastructure development who turned Germany into a “leading economic power in the world,” a comment that drew outrage as his country continued to descend into political chaos. Torres celebrated the late Nazi leader while speaking in a cabinet session in Peru’s central region of Junín, where protests have erupted for nearly a week in response to the rising cost of fuel and fertilizer. Samantha Schmidt reports for the Washington Post.
Peru has declared a one-month state of emergency to allow the armed forces to supervise its highways, as the government tried to stem nationwide protests over rising fuel and food prices. The decree, published in Peru’s official newspaper yesterday, allows for the army to be deployed to clear the blockades while also suspending certain constitutional rights such as freedom of movement and assembly. Al Jazeera reports.
Sri Lanka’s main opposition party on Friday asked the government to take effective action to resolve an economic crisis or face a no-confidence motion, as business leaders from garments, tea and other industries warned exports could fall 20-30% this year. Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is running his administration with only a handful of ministers after his entire cabinet resigned this week, while opposition and even some coalition partners rejected calls for a unity government to deal with the country’s worst crisis in decades. Uditha Jayasinghe and Devjyot Ghoshal report for Reuters.
JAN. 6, 2021 ATTACK
U.S. District Court Judge Trevor McFadden has restored Texas woman Jenny Cudd’s right to possess firearms just weeks after she was sentenced for illegally entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The judge’s ruling was a rebuke to prosecutors, who opposed the change and was the latest setback dealt by McFadden, who was appointed by former President Trump. In his two-page ruling yesterday, McFadden noted that Cudd wore a “bulletproof sweatshirt” to the Jan. 6 rally, but he credited her explanation that she wore the defensive garment because she feared violence, not because she was seeking it. Josh Gerstein and Kyle Cheney report for POLITICO.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
The Senate has confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, on a 53-to-47 vote. Carl Hulse and Annie Karni report to the New York Times.
The Justice Department has begun taking steps to investigate former President Trump’s removal of presidential records to his Florida home— some of which were labeled “top secret.” The probe remains in the very early stages, and it is not yet clear if Justice Department officials have begun reviewing the boxes of materials or have sought to interview those who might have seen them or been involved in assembling and moving them. Matt Zapotosky and Jacqueline Alemany report for the Washington Post.
New York State Attorney General, Letitia James, yesterday filed a motion asking a judge to hold former President Trump in contempt for failing to turn over documents in her civil investigation into his business activities. The filing also asked the judge to fine Trump $10,000 a day until he turns over the materials. In a statement yesterday evening Trump criticized the investigation as a “witch hunt” being used by James for political gain. He described the investigation and others before it as “an attempt to silence a President who is leading in every single poll.” Jonah E. Bromwich and William K. Rashbaum report for the New York Times.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said yesterday that his office’s criminal investigation into former President Trump, his company and its leadership continues, despite the resignation earlier this year of two senior prosecutors. Corinne Ramey reports for the New York Times.
A federal judge has struck down longstanding Department of Defense (DOD) restrictions that bar HIV-positive military service members from becoming officers and deploying in active duty outside the U.S.. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema of the Eastern District of Virginia ruled in favor of three service members in two separate cases, according to court documents. Brad Dress reports for The Hill.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki yesterday dismissed Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R-TX) vow to bus migrants who illegally cross the southern border to Washington, D.C., as a “publicity stunt.” “I’m not aware of what authority the governor would be doing that under. I think it’s pretty clear this is a publicity stunt,” Psaki said when asked about the threat during a press briefing. Brett Samuels reports for The Hill.
Investigators said yesterday that they had seized a cache of weapons during a search of multiple Washington, D.C., apartments belonging to two men accused of impersonating Department of Homeland Security agents for more than two years. The information was revealed during Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali’s initial appearance before a D.C. federal judge. Neither has entered a formal plea. Hannah Rabinowitz and Holmes Lybrand report for CNN.
U.S. authorities have arrested a leader of a Japanese crime syndicate on charges of plotting to distribute drugs in the U.S. and purchase weapons including U.S.-made surface-to-air missiles. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Takeshi Ebisawa, who they described as a leader in a network of Japanese crime families known as yakuza, and a co-conspirator agreed to buy the missiles for rebel groups in Myanmar during conversations with an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent. The Guardian.
COVID-19 has infected over 80.29 million people and has now killed over 984,571 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 496.42 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.17 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of the vaccine roll out across the U.S. is available at the New York Times.
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.
A state-by-state guide to lockdown measures and reopenings is provided by the New York Times.