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Early Edition: January 17, 2023

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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.

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS

The White House yesterday said it does not keep visitor logs for President Biden’s personal residence in Delaware, where his lawyers discovered at least six documents marked classified. Over the weekend Rep. James Comer (R-KY), chair of the House Oversight Committee, sent a letter to the White House seeking an account of who may have had access to the property. In response, Ian Sams, spokesperson for the White House Counsel’s Office, said in a statement that, “like every President across decades of modern history, his personal residence is personal.” Sams, however, highlighted that Biden has restored the tradition of keeping White House visitor logs. Yasmeen Abutaleb reports for the Washington Post.

A former Republican candidate for the New Mexico state legislature was arrested yesterday in connection with a string of recent drive-by shootings at the homes of Democratic officials. Solomon Peña, who lost his race for state representative to his Democratic opponent in November, helped orchestrate the shootings and participated in at least one of them, Albuquerque police said. The homes of two county officials and two state legislators, including the New Mexico House speaker, were hit in the drive-by shootings. Dan Frosch reports for the Wall Street Journal.

RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING 

At least 44 people were killed by a Russian strike on an apartment building in Dnipro over the weekend, the city’s mayor has said. The strike, which hit a nine-story apartment building, is one of the single deadliest attacks for civilians since the war began. In his evening address yesterday Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the attack by Moscow a “war crime,” and pledged to bring its perpetrators to justice. Maria Kostenko reports for CNN

Russia and its ally Belarus launched a series of air-force exercises yesterday along the border with Ukraine. The day before the exercises Belarusian Security Council Chair Pavel Muraveyko said the country was ready to respond to any threats from Ukraine and that the situation on the border was tense. The exercises come ahead of what military analysts believe could be a fresh effort by Moscow in the coming months to increase its efficiency on the battlefield. Thomas Grove and Bojan Pancevski report for the Wall Street Journal. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to increase Russia’s armed forces to 1.5 million servicemen, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu said. According to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov, the decision was a response to the “proxy war” that the West is waging against Russia. The details of the military expansion are yet to be finalized, Peskov added. Anna Chernova reports for CNN

RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE 

The Pentagon’s top general yesterday visited two sites in Germany used by the U.S. military to train Ukrainian troops. During his visit to Grafenwoehr, Gen. Mark A. Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered encouragement to those on the training field and directed the American soldiers instructing them to squeeze as much into the newly established training program as possible. Milley also visited another Army headquarters in Wiesbaden where a planning conference with Ukrainian military officials was underway. Dan Lamothe reports for the Washington Post

A high-level U.S. delegation will meet today with top Ukrainian officials in Kyiv, to “reaffirm the U.S.’s strong and steadfast commitment to Ukraine,” the State Department said. The delegation includes Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer, and Undersecretary of Defense Colin Kahl. Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN

RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

A former commander in the Russian paramilitary organization Wagner Group has claimed asylum in Norway after crossing the country’s border last week. Andrey Medvedev is currently being held in the Oslo area where he faces charges of illegal entry to Norway. According to his lawyer, Medvedev left Wagner after witnessing war crimes in Ukraine. Matt Murphy reports for BBC News.

Germany’s Foreign Minister yesterday called for the establishment of a special tribunal to prosecute Russian leadership for their war of aggression against Ukraine. In a keynote speech following a visit to the International Criminal Court (I.C.C.), Baerbock emphasized the need for accountability, but warned that it was “simply not possible” to achieve this through the court because of a “loophole in international law.” Russia does not accept the court’s jurisdiction, nor is it likely that the U.N. Security Council will refer the case to the I.C.C., as Moscow could veto such a move as a permanent member of the council. Hans Von Der Burchard reports for POLITICO

U.S. RELATIONS 

In his first U.S. interview since taking office, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed al-Sudani defended the presence of U.S. troops in his country and set no timetable for their withdrawal. Foreign forces are still needed to fight Islamic State (ISIS) he said, signaling a less confrontational posture toward Washington early in his term than his Iran-backed political allies have taken. David S. Cloud and Michael Amon report for the Wall Street Journal. 

OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS 

E.U. lawmakers have begun lifting the immunity of two of their peers in relation to an investigation into efforts by Qatar and Morocco to influence the decisions of E.U. institutions with bribes. The two were identified yesterday as Marc Tarabella, a Belgian lawmaker whose house was raided by the police last month, and Andrea Cozzolino of Italy, whose aide is one of the key suspects detained by the Belgian authorities. If their immunity is lifted, the lawmakers can be interrogated and detained by the Belgian authorities. Monika Pronczuk reports for the New York Times

Italian Mafia boss, Matteo Messina Denaro was arrested in Sicily on Monday. Denaro, who had been a fugitive for 30 years, was linked to dozens of murders in the 1990s. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who flew to Sicily to congratulate law enforcement, heralded the arrest as proof that even if slow, justice would ultimately catch up with the country’s mobsters. Jason Horowitz and Gaia Pianigiani report for the New York Times

China has named law enforcer Zheng Yanxiong as director of Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong. The promotion of Zheng, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. for spearheading a national security crackdown in the city, signals China’s intention to maintain a tough line on Hong Kong. Zheng is the first director coming into office from a national security job and his promotion means three of the city’s top official posts are now held by law enforcers. Selina Cheng reports for the Wall Street Journal

A female former Afghan lawmaker has been killed at her home in Kabul. Mursal Nabizada, one of the few women parliamentarians who remained in the country after the Taliban seized power, was shot dead early Sunday morning along with her bodyguard, according to police spokesperson Khalid Zadran. It was not immediately clear whether her killing was politically motivated, or a family or interpersonal conflict. Christina Goldbaum and Najim Rahim report for the New York Times

Following months of protests, Iran’s prosecutor general’s office has issued new guidance to police to refrain from arresting women who break the country’s dress code but instead impose penalties on them. These penalties range from fines to community service to an international travel ban. The new financial penalties have been extended to those tolerating dress code violations. Taxis, restaurants, and banks now face fines if they allow women without hijabs to enter. Benoit Faucon and Aresu Eqbali report for the Wall Street Journal. 

The U.N.’s special envoy for Yemen has indicated that a renewed truce may be on the horizon, as regional and international diplomatic activity to end the country’s eight-year conflict intensifies. Addressing the U.N. Security Council yesterday, more than three months after an initial truce expired, Hans Grundberg said there had been “a potential step change,” in the conflict’s trajectory. “The overall military situation in Yemen has remained stable,” Grundberg told the Security Council. “There has been no major escalation nor changes in the disposition on the front lines.” Al Jazeera reports. 

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, released a video yesterday that appears to show Avera Mengistu, an Israeli citizen who has been missing since 2014. If verified as authentic, the footage would provide the first public proof that Mengistu, who disappeared after walking into Gaza and had been held captive by Hamas, is alive. Isabel Kershner reports for the New York Times. 

COVID-19

COVID-19 has infected over 101.654 million people and has now killed over 1.10 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 667.359 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.73 million deaths. Sergio Hernandez, Sean O’Key, Amanda Watts, Byron Manley and Henrik Pettersson report for CNN.

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

The post Early Edition: January 17, 2023 appeared first on Just Security.


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