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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
Russia is rushing to cement its control in southern Ukraine. While fighting continues in eastern Ukraine, Russian forces are moving to strengthen their long-term control over the region through restoring critical infrastructure and water sources. The extension of Russian infrastructure into the occupied south could allow Moscow to fortify a “land bridge” between Russia and Crimea and to expand efforts to introduce Russian currency and appoint proxy officials. Marc Santora, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Anton Troianovski and Michael Levenson report for the New York Times.
More than 1000 Ukrainian soldiers taken prisoner after the battle for Mariupol have been transferred to Russia. These new prisoners give Russia a significant bargaining chip as the fighting continues in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine has an unspecified number of Russian troops in a camp in western Ukraine and the two countries have exchanged troops in the past in smaller numbers. Isabel Coles and Ann M. Simmons report for the Wall Street Journal.
The fight over Severodonetsk will determine the fate of the entire Donbas region, Zelenskyy said. In a video statement released yesterday, Zelenskyy said that the battle for the city is “one of the most difficult throughout this war.” “Sievierodonetsk remains the epicenter of the encounter in Donbas…Largely, that is where the fate of our Donbas is being decided now,” he added. Ukrainian fighters pulled back to the city’s outskirts yesterday but have vowed to fight there as long as possible. Pavel Polityuk and Abdelaziz Boumzar report for Reuters.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE
The ripple effects of the war in Ukraine has increased the suffering of millions of people, according to a new U.N. report. The report said the war has worsened the lives of millions around the world through escalating food and energy prices, as well as a deepening financial crisis that has exacerbated the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.U.N Secretary General António Guterres said yesterday that as a result of the war, food prices are near record highs and fertilizer prices have doubled. “Without fertilizers, shortages will spread from corn and wheat to all staple crops, including rice, with a devastating impact on billions of people in Asia and South America, too,” he said. Edith Lederer reports for AP.
Russian talks in Turkey over grain transportation made little progress as the leaders disagreed on the severity of the crisis. The Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov sought to play down the entire issue, suggesting that a global food catastrophe caused by a Russian blockade was a western exaggeration and that it was Ukraine, in fact, who was responsible for the blockade. The Turkish foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, however, disagreed with Lavrov, saying that there was a global problem for which Russia was partially responsible. Neil MacFarquhar and Safak Timur report for the New York Times.
Former German chancellor Angela Merkel will not apologize for her government’s policy toward Russia. Speaking on stage at the Berliner Ensemble theater on Tuesday, Merkel defended her approach toward Putin, which has come under criticism in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine for being overly conciliatory, particularly given her support for the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline. Erika Solomon and Emma Bubola report for the New York Times.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) issued a grim global economic forecast yesterday as the war in Ukraine continues to drive up food and energy prices. The OECD said the war simultaneously will drag down economic growth while driving up inflation rates. The OECD, a group of largely wealthy nations, expects the global economy to expand by 3% in 2022, down from the 4.5% that it predicted in December. Inflation is forecasted at nearly 9% for the OECD’s 38 member countries, nearly double the previous estimate. Kelvin Chan reports for AP.
RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE
The U.S. lacks a clear image of the Ukrainian strategy to defeat Russia, according to current and former U.S. officials. Despite regular Pentagon briefings and a near constant flow of information from Zelenskyy himself, the intelligence agencies have less information than they would like about Ukraine’s operations and possess a far better picture of Russia’s military, its planned operations and its successes and failures, according to U.S. officials. These gaps could make it more difficult for the Biden administration to decide how to target military aid as it sends billions of dollars in weapons to Ukraine. Julian E. Barnes reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. has developed a plan to train Ukrainian troops in operating the advanced weapons systems they now possess, according to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff yesterday. The plan is contingent on an initial group of Ukrainian soldiers showing proficiency on the systems, said Army Gen. Mark Milley. This announcement comes after Ukraine has received sophisticated weapons systems from the U.S., Germany and the U.K. Dan Lamothe and Cate Cadell report for the Washington Post.
Biden will meet with the leaders of Germany and Spain later this month as he tries to maintain the West’s resolve in the war in Ukraine. Biden will travel to southern Germany on June 25 to attend a Group of Seven summit of leaders of the world’s major industrialized nations, the White House announced yesterday. Biden will then go on to Madrid on June 28 to participate in a gathering of NATO member countries. These meetings come as the administration is attempting to increase support for Ukraine through weapons, continuing sanctions on Russia, and Sweden and Finland’s bid for admission to NATO. Darlene Superville and Zeke Miller report for AP.
The House passed a sweeping gun control bill yesterday after survivors and parents of shooting victims testified to Congress. The legislation bars the sale of semiautomatic weapons to people under the age of 21 and bans the sale of large-capacity magazines. Several hours before the vote, parents of one of the children killed at Uvalde and an 11-year-old who survived addressed a House committee to drive home the stakes of the issue. However, solid opposition remains in the Senate. Annie Karni and Catie Edmondson report for the New York Times.
Former President Donald Trump and two of his children have agreed to testify under oath as part of the New York AG’s investigation into the Trump Organization. The agreement says that Trump, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump have agreed to appear for testimony that will begin in the middle of July. The questioning will come as the state attorney general, Letitia James, concludes the final phase of her investigation into Trump and the business practices of his company, The Trump Organization. Jonah E. Bromwich reports for the New York Times.
JAN. 6 ATTACK
The House Jan. 6 Committee will kick off its public hearings today. The purpose of the public hearings is to show how former President Trump’s false claims of a rigged election spurred some supporters to violence and exposed weaknesses in the Electoral College system. Members of the select committee see their primary goals as setting the historical record about what caused the attack, trying to sway public opinion about the alleged role played by Trump and his associates in inciting it, and making recommendations for legislative fixes to bolster the integrity of presidential elections. Scott Patterson reports for the Wall Street Journal.
The inaugural hearing of the January 6 committee will focus on the Proud Boys. According to a running order obtained by the Guardian, after opening statements from committee chairman Bennie Thompson and Representative Liz Cheney, the focus of the hearing will turn to tracking the activities of the far-right Proud Boys group before and during the insurrection. The select committee is expected to start the questioning with testimony from Nick Quested, a British documentary film-maker who was embedded with the far-right Proud Boys group in the days and weeks leading up to January 6 and caught their activities on camera. Hugh Lowell reports for the Guardian.
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger will testify before the House January 6 committee during one of its public hearings later this month. Former President Trump had called Raffensperger in the days leading up to January 6, asking him to “find” 11,000 votes for him that would flip Georgia and its 16 electoral votes. Raffensperger later told “60 Minutes” that Trump and the other White House officials on the call, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, were “just trying to intimidate me andcajole me into something.” Major Garrett and Caroline Linton report for CBS News.
A senior aide to former Vice President Mike Pence will testify before the House January 6 committee during one of its public hearings later this month. Gregory Jacob will testify on June 16 about his involvement in staving off a campaign by Donald Trump and allies to pressure Pence to subvert the 2020 election. Jacob’s appearance will be under subpoena, according to a person familiar with the panel’s schedule. Kyle Cheney reports for POLITICO.
OTHER U.S. RELATIONS
Israeli officials are pushing for the U.S. to remove the controversial Israeli cyber spying company, NSO Group Technologies, from the Department of Commerce blacklist. NSO was added to the blacklist in November after the Commerce Department said that it was engaging in activities contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States. In particular, NSO supplied spyware to foreign governments who in turn used it “to maliciously target government officials, journalists, businesspeople, activists, academics, and embassy workers.” Removing NSO from the U.S. blacklist would be a dramatic reversal by the Biden administration. Barak Ravid reports for Axios.
At the start of the Summit of Americas, Biden pledged U.S. support for Latin America. On the first day of the three-day event, Biden said yesterday that the United States was committed to helping the region combat crime, corruption, and its economic struggles. Biden has hoped to use the summit to reassert U.S. leadership in the region and make diplomatic progress on a variety of fronts, but his efforts are already facing severe challenges. Most importantly, three countries — Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua — were banned from attending the summit. Michael Shear reports for the New York Times.
The U.S. is considering reducing tariffs on China in order to ease inflation, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said yesterday. Yellen told lawmakers that, while some of the tariffs are important to protect U.S. national security, the cost of certain duties on China ended up being paid by Americans. Leading figures within the Biden Administration are not united on this issue, however. Yellen and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo have pushed for easing the tariffs as a way to combat inflation, while other officials, including U.S. Trade Ambassador Katherine Tai, have sought to maintain them to keep pressure on China. Amara Omeokwe and Richard Rubin report for the Wall Street Journal.
The U.N. nuclear watchdog condemned Iran for its failure to cooperate sufficiently over its undeclared atomic sites. Hours before the resolution was adopted, Iran said it had removed two cameras belonging to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from one of its nuclear facilities. That decision appeared to be a pre-emptive move by Tehran ahead of the vote on the resolution at an IAEA board of governors meeting in Vienna. Iranian officials had warned that a critical resolution would damage diplomatic efforts to save the nuclear accord. The West has accused Tehran of stalling those efforts and failing to provide the IAEA with relevant information on traces of atomic material found at three of Iran’s nuclear sites. Andrew England in London and Najmeh Bozorgmehr report for the Financial Times.
COVID-19 has infected over 84.44 million people and has now killed over 1.01 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 530.742 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.29 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.
A map and analysis of the vaccine rollout 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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