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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 three Russian missiles hit electrical substations around the western Ukrainian city of Lviv close to the Polish border yesterday. Parts of the city are without power and water in the wake of what was thought to be an attack on Ukraine’s rail network. These were the first Russian missile strikes in western Ukraine in more than a week. Joe Inwood reports for BBC News.
Russia said today that it had fired two Kalibr cruise missiles at Ukrainian targets from a submarine in the Black Sea, and reiterated a warning that it would seek to hit shipments of NATO weapons to Ukraine. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told a conference of defense ministry officials that Russia would seek to destroy convoys of arms shipments to Ukraine from Western countries, which in recent weeks have stepped up these supplies. “We view any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance arriving on the territory of the country with weapons or materials destined to the Ukrainian army as a target to be destroyed,” he said. Reuters reports.
A Russian attack appeared to target a coke plant in Avdiivk, in the eastern region of Donetsk yesterday killing at least 10 people and injuring 15 others, a local leader has said. Metinvest — the country’s largest steel firm — confirmed the attack and said Russian troops fired on a busload of its workers just after their shift ended. Metinvest also owns the embattled steel plant in Mariupol. Reis Thebault and Rachel Pannett report for the Washington Post.
The bodies of 290 civilians have been recovered in the town of Irpin, outside of Kyiv, since the withdrawal of Russian forces, Irpin Mayor Oleksandr Markushin said yesterday. In a statement on Facebook, Markushin said 185 of the dead have been identified, the majority of whom were men. The cause of death was “shrapnel and gunshot wounds.” Katharina Krebs reports for CNN.
Belarus, a close Russian ally and Ukraine’s neighbour to its north, has started large-scale military drills – a potential cause for alarm in Ukraine. The Belarusian defense ministry said the drills involved testing its army vehicles for combat readiness, but added that the exercise didn’t pose a threat to neighbours. BBC News reports.
Moldova sees no imminent threat of unrest spilling over from the war in Ukraine despite “provocations” by pro-Russian separatists in recent days, President Maia Sandu has said. However, the country has been making contingency plans for “pessimistic scenarios” she added. Peter Graff and Alexander Tanas report for Reuters.
The U.N. said yesterday that it has recorded the deaths of more than 3,000 Ukrainian civilians since the beginning of the Russian invasion, adding that the true figure is believed to be “considerably higher.” The number of deaths has jumped by more than 1,000 in less than a month, as the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights reported the killings of almost 2,000 civilians in the conflict as of mid-April. Lexi Lonas reports for The Hill.
Russian forces have lost more lives in Ukraine than in four years in Chechnya, a Russian soldier said in an audio clip that Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) claims was an intercepted communication between the soldier and his friend. In the audio, the Russian soldier expressed discontent that the elite members of RosGvardia, Putin’s National Guard, and OMON, the Special Police Force, have left Ukraine. Mitchell McCluskey reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – MARIUPOL
101 civilians were evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol yesterday, with many of them reaching Ukraine controlled Zaporizhzhia, according to Osnat Lubrani, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Ukraine. A further 58 people joined the convoy in a town on the outskirts of Mariupol. Some evacuees decided not to proceed towards Zaporizhzhia with the convoy, Lubrani said. Joseph Campell and Alessandra Prentice report for Reuters.
Russian forces began storming the steel mill containing the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol yesterday, Ukrainian defenders have said. “We’ll do everything that’s possible to repel the assault, but we’re calling for urgent measures to evacuate the civilians that remain inside the plant and to bring them out safely,” Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, said in a Telegram post. He added that throughout the night, the plant was hit with naval artillery fire and airstrikes. Two civilian women were killed and 10 civilians wounded, he said. Cara Anna and Yesica Fisch report for AP.
More than 500 wounded people are still inside the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, 200 of which are in critical condition, one of the remaining defendants inside the plant has said. The defender, Mykhailo Vershynin, added that the health of the wounded was worsening due to a lack of medical assistance and unsanitary conditions. BBC News reports.
Russian forces have deported almost 40,000 people from Mariupol to Russia or the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko said during a briefing at the Ukraine-Ukrinform media center yesterday. Russian military “takes the local population to the outskirts of Russia, to the Far East, or to Siberia and there they use them for various jobs,” Boichenko said, adding that Mariupol residents are issued a certificate of resettlement and are involved in “humiliating work.” Katharina Krebs reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – E.U. RESPONSE
The E.U. has proposed a ban on imports of Russian crude oil within six months and on refined oil products from the country by year-end, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said yesterday. The bloc is also set to impose sanctions on high-ranking Russian military officials involved in alleged war crimes and the siege of Mariupol. Further to this, the E.U.’s executive body is proposing to take Russia’s biggest bank, Sberbank, and two other Russian banks off the Swift financial-messaging system. There are also plans to ban three Russian state-owned broadcasters from the E.U..Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Hungary and Slovakia will be able to continue buying Russian crude oil until the end of 2023 under existing contracts, an E.U. source has said, benefitting from exemptions from an oil embargo proposed by the European Commission. In a bid to convince reluctant countries not to veto the proposal, Brussels has proposed a longer period to implement the embargo for Hungary and Slovakia, the source said. Francesco Guarascio reports for Reuters.
Europe will continue buying Russian oil via third countries once E.U. countries introduce an embargo, senior Russian MP Vladimir Dzhabarov has predicted. Dzhabarov told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency Europe’s leaders “have gone a little crazy”. “You will still buy it, only through third countries. Our oil is the same, only more expensive,” he added. BBC News reports.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The CIA has published instructions for how Russians can covertly volunteer information using an encrypted conduit to the agency’s website. The hope is to attract intelligence — and potentially gain more access to official Russian secrets — from disaffected people who have been trying to contact the CIA since the war began, officials said. Shane Harris report for the Washington Post.
President Biden visited the Lockheed Martin Corp. plant in Troy, Ala., yesterday where the defense company is hunting for workers to assemble Javelin antitank missiles for Ukraine. Lockheed’s search for workers highlights a challenge in America’s response to supporting Ukraine and its allies: U.S. defense contractors want to boost weapons production, but finding workers for their arms factories isn’t easy with unemployment levels at a 50-year low. Doug Cameron reports for the Wall Street Journal.
Biden has asked Congress to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to make it easier for highly educated Russians to obtain visas to work in the U.S., according to a section of the administration’s Ukraine supplemental budget requested submitted to lawmakers last week. The request, if enacted, would allow Russians with a masters or doctoral degree in the fields of science, technology, engineering or math to apply for a visa without first obtaining an employer sponsor in the U.S.. Natasha Bertrande reports for CNN.
Pentagon officials have praised Ukraine’s use of weapons supplied by the U.S and its allies as European leaders signaled fresh support for the country amid continued Russian attacks. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a group of U.S. senators that several hundred Ukrainian troops have been pulled out of the country to be trained on how to use new weapons systems sent by Washington. Karoun Demirjian, Cate Cadell, Louisa Loveluck and Hannah Allam report for the Washington Post.
Speaking to lawmakers at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing yesterday Milley said that the world is witnessing “the greatest threat to peace and security of Europe and perhaps the world” in decades due to the invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. is “at a very critical and historic geo-strategic inflection point,” where the U.S. military must “maintain readiness and modernize for the future” at the same time, he added. Ellie Kaufman reports for CNN.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
Russian President Vladimir Putin put the West on notice yesterday that he could terminate exports and deals, the Kremlin’s toughest response yet to the sanctions burden imposed by the U.S. and its allies. Putin signed a broad decree yesterday which forbade the export of products and raw materials to people and entities on a sanctions list that he instructed the government to draw up within 10 days. Such a list would carry the ability to upend supply chains and business dealings as Putin pleases. Guy Faulconbridge reports for Reuters.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged global companies to exit Russia, saying that entities that remain in the country are “directly supporting that war machine, the terrorist Russian Federation war machine.” Speaking via videolink at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit in London, Zelenskyy also said that the role of companies was as important as the role of countries. James Marson and Peter Saidel report for the Wall Street Journal.
Admiral Sir Antony Radakin, chief of the British defense staff, yesterday criticised the Kremlin’s military campaign in Ukraine as characterised by “shocking intelligence failures” and “arrogance.” Addressing the Wall Street Journal CEO Council summit in London, Radakin said “their decision making rarely improves, and their decision making gets worse. We have been surprised at the way Russia has gone about this.” Jon Henley reports for the Guardian.
Pope Francis has asked for a meeting in Moscow with Putin to try and stop the war in Ukraine but has not received a reply. The pope also told Italy’s Corriere Della Sera newspaper that Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, who has given the war his full-throated backing, “cannot become Putin’s altar boy.” Philip Pullella and Francesca Piscioneri report for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
On the day Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, he called a meeting with a group of Russia’s wealthiest businessmen, telling them the invasion was a “necessary measure” and warning of the economic sanctions they would probably face. Yet despite their ties to Putin and standing within Russia, documents show that many of those who attended the meeting had been moving their wealth out of the country for years. Peter Whoriskey reports for the Washington Post.
Four humanitarian corridors for civilians seeking to flee fighting are planned for today, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said in a Telegram post. The routes will link towns in the south and east that are under Russian attack to Zaporizhzhia, a Ukrainian-held city. Andrew Jeong reports for the Washington Post.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
CIA Director William Burns made an unannounced trip to Saudi Arabia last month to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, U.S. and Saudi officials have said. The visit, which took place in mid-April, was part of a push by the Biden administration to repair ties with a key Middle East security partner. Stephen Kalin, Summer Said, and Warren P. Strobel report for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. State Department has now classified WNBA player Brittney Griner as wrongfully detained in Russia and her case is now being handled by the office of the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs (SPEHA). The SPEHA office leads and coordinates the government’s diplomatic efforts aimed at securing the release of Americans wrongfully detained abroad. They played a major role in securing the release of Trevor Reed from Russia last week. Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN.
OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS
North Korea fired a ballistic missile off its east coast today, Tokyo and Seoul officials have said, a weapons launch that comes just days before a more hard-line South Korean president takes office. The missile was fired at 12: 03 p.m. local time from the Sunan area, which is on the outskirts of Pyongyang and near the country’s main international airport, South Korea’s military said. Makoto Oniki, Japan’s vice defense minister, called the behavior absolutely unacceptable, whilst South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the launch was a grave threat that undermines peace. Timothy W. Martin reports for the Wall Street Journal.
State-backed hackers from Russia and China are increasing their efforts to target critical infrastructure in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, according to the latest cyber threat update from Google. The hackers are “using the war (in Ukraine) as a lure in phishing and malware campaigns” as they attempt to target critical sectors including telecommunications, manufacturing and the oil and gas industry, the update said. Rebecca Klar, Chris Mills Rodrigo and Ines Kagubare report for The Hill.
OTHER DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS
Former acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf intervened to delay the release of an intelligence report flagging Russian involvement in the 2020 election, while other DHS officials sought to “blunt” the focus on the country in the report, according to a new report from the DHS’s Office of Inspector General. The report, released yesterday, concluded that DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) wrongly let politics interfere with the dissemination of the report, which documented a Russian disinformation campaign surrounding President Biden’s mental acuity. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
The Supreme Court yesterday confirmed that a leaked draft ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade was authentic but not final, even as the disclosure triggered political upheaval with potentially broad electoral and legal consequences. Protesters gathered outside the court, chanting loudly enough for members of Congress to hear at the Capitol across the street. Democrats led by President Biden vowed to make abortion rights a defining issue of the fall midterm elections. Republicans accused liberals of orchestrating the leak to intimidate the court while Chief Justice John Roberts ordered an investigation. Peter Baker reports for the New York Times.
U.N. secretary-general believes that women’s rights are “fundamental” to pursuing gender equality, according to a spokesperson speaking about the U.N. chief’s response to the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade. Farhan Haq, a spokesperson for U.N. Secretary‑General António Guterres, refused to “speculate what will happen” with regard to the overturning of the landmark Supreme Court case. He did, however, say that the U.N. chief believes that sexual and reproductive health and rights are “foundational” to women’s equality and empowerment. Monique Beals reports for The Hill.
Republican lawmakers in both chambers have introduced legislation to block the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from rolling out its new Disinformation Governance Board. The board was designed to coordinate DHS’s disinformation efforts on topics as varied as migration, natural disasters and plots by foreign actors while offering oversight to ensure civil liberties and free speech are protected. However, since its rollout last week, Republicans have criticised the board as a way to police speech. Rebecca Beitsch reports for The Hill.
COVID-19 has infected over 81.51 million people and has now killed over 994.748 people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 514.949 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.24 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.
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