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Early Edition: December 15, 2022

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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 launched fresh strikes on the city of Kherson this morning. The southern Ukrainian city has been hit 86 times with “artillery, MLRS, tanks, mortars and UAVs,” in the past 24 hours, the regional head of the Kherson military administration said. Olga Voitovych reports for CNN

Ukrainian forces have carried out the biggest attack on the illegally occupied Donetsk region since 2014, according to a Russian-installed official. Donetsk has been held by Russian-backed separatists since 2014 and it is one of four Ukrainian regions that Moscow attempted to annex in October, in violation of international law. CNN reports. 

Ukraine is preparing for a possible Russian invasion from Belarus, Ukraine’s defense minister has said. His comments come after Belarus, a Russian ally, announced military drills on its border with Ukraine. Will Ripley reports for CNN. 

Russia launched another wave of drone attacks on Kyiv yesterday, the second such assault in a few days. The strikes ended a three-week lull in attacks by Iranian-made drones, which Ukrainian officials and military experts said could have been caused by the devices malfunctioning. Andrew E. Kramer and Marc Santora report for the New York Times

RUSSIA, UKRAINE – U.S. RESPONSE

The Pentagon is expanding the training that the U.S. military provides to Ukrainian troops. The expanded training program, which officials said President Biden had approved this week, would enable U.S. instructors to train 600-800 troops each month, beginning early next year. This is more than double the number of troops it currently instructs. Eri Schmitt reports for the New York Times

The U.S. plans to send Ukraine advanced “smart bomb” equipment that would allow it to target Russian military positions with better accuracy, senior U.S. officials said. The Joint Direct Attack Munition, or JDAM, uses global positioning devices for precision and can be bolted to other weapons. Erin Cunningham, Dan Lamothe, Niha Masih, Annabelle Timsit and Emily Rauhala report for the Washington Post

U.S. Patriot missile defense systems would be a legitimate target for Russian strikes should they be sent to Ukraine, the Kremlin said yesterday. Russia’s embassy in Washington said the proposed transfer, which could be announced as soon as this week, was provocative and could lead to unpredictable consequences. Reuters reports. 

RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE 

After months of delay, the E.U. and NATO will soon formally issue a joint call for Russia to stop its war and leave Ukraine. According to diplomats, the declaration, which was held up over tensions between Turkey and Cyprus, could be presented as soon as next week. Jacopo Barigazzi reports for POLITICO

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has in recent weeks instructed his government to forge stronger economic ties with Russia, according to policy advisers to Beijing. China plans to increase imports of Russian oil, gas, and farm goods, pursue more joint energy partnerships in the Arctic, and increase Chinese investment in Russian infrastructure, the advisers say. Lingling Wei and Marcus Walker report for the Wall Street Journal

RUSSIA, UKRAINE – CALLS FOR INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNALS

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy yesterday called on European leaders to set up a special tribunal to hold Russia accountable for its war in Ukraine. “It is necessary to act now – without waiting for the end of the war,” Zelenskyy said, citing what he called Russia’s “crime of aggression.” Zelenskyy made his comments via video link as he accepted the E.U.’s top human rights award on behalf of the Ukrainian people. Anushka Patil reports for the New York Times. 

Ukrainian officials traveled to the U.S. last week to push for support for the creation of a special tribunal to prosecute top-level Russian officials for the crime of aggression. Although there are a number of different bodies working towards accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Ukrainian Ambassador at Large Anton Korynevych argued that these existing mechanisms are insufficient. “We have a loophole, a gap in accountability, when we talk about accountability for the crime of aggression against Ukraine,” Korynevych told reporters, adding that, “legally, currently, there is no international mechanism, which can investigate and prosecute the crime of aggression against Ukraine.” Jennifer Hansler reports for CNN

RUSSIA, UKRAINE – OTHER DEVELOPMENTS 

Ukraine’s Parliament has passed legislation that would expand the government’s regulatory power over the news media. The measure gives Ukraine’s state broadcasting regulator, the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting, authority over the online and print news media, and has drawn criticism from press freedom groups. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy must sign the bill for it to become law. Anushka Patil reports for the New York Times. 

A U.S. Air Force veteran has been freed from Russian-controlled territory in a prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia, National Security spokesperson John Kirby confirmed yesterday. Suedi Murekezi was arrested in June by pro-Russian authorities in the formerly occupied city of Kherson after being accused of participating in pro-Ukrainian protests. Murekezi is from Minnesota but has lived in Ukraine since 2018. Jacob Knutson reports for Axios

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS 

The Peruvian government declared a nationwide state of emergency yesterday, as it sought to control widespread violence following the ouster last week of the country’s elected president. The emergency measure suspends the rights of assembly and freedom of transit, among other civil liberties, for 30 days. It was signed into law yesterday evening by the country’s new president, Dina Boluarte, and will be enforced by the national police with support from the military. Mitra Taj and Julie Turkewitz report for the New York Times. 

A Turkish court yesterday sentenced Istanbul’s mayor and rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to more than two years in prison for “insulting public figures.” The mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, will remain in office while the sentence is appealed, however if confirmed on appeal his conviction would also result in him being barred from seeking public office. The verdict and subsequent sentence have underscored concerns that opposition figures will be prevented from fairly competing in upcoming elections. Kareem Fahim and Zeynep Karatas report for the Washington Post

U.S. RELATIONS

Iran was ousted from a U.N. women’s group yesterday, following the adoption of a U.S.-drafted resolution. The 54-member U.N. Economic Social Council voted to “remove with immediate effect the Islamic Republic of Iran from the Commission on the Status of Women for the remainder of its 2022-2026 term.” There were 29 votes in favor, eight against – including Russia and China – and there were 16 abstentions. Michelle Nichols reports for Reuters

Former Twitter employee, Ahmad Abouammo, was sentenced yesterday to 42 months in prison after being found guilty in August of spying for Saudi Arabia. Abouammo, who managed media partnerships with high-profile users in the Middle East and North Africa between 2013-2015, was convicted of passing on private user information of critics of the country in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was also found guilty of money laundering, falsification of records, and one count of wire fraud. Meghan Bobrowsky reports for the Wall Street Journal

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS

Four individuals have been charged with conspiring to provide cryptocurrency to the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organization. According to a criminal complaint unsealed yesterday in a federal court in Brooklyn, NY, the defendants allegedly collected and transferred approximately $35,000 through cryptocurrency and other electronic means to Bitcoin wallets and accounts they believed to be funding ISIS. The United States Department of Justice reports. 

The Senate unanimously approved legislation yesterday banning the use of TikTok on government devices. The “No TikTok on Government Devices Act,” introduced by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), aims to combat security concerns related to the Chinese-owned media company, particularly among members of the Republican Party. Al Weaver reports for The Hill

The Justice Department is suing Arizona for placing shipping containers at the border as a temporary wall. In August, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, issued an executive order telling the state’s Department of Emergency and Military Affairs to use shipping containers to fill in gaps along the border and did so without official permits or authorization. The suit, which names Ducey and two Department of Emergency and Military Affairs officials, asks the court to compel Arizona to remove all materials placed and to “compensate the U.S. for any actions it needs to take to undo Arizona’s actions.” Taylor Romine reports for CNN

COVID-19

COVID-19 has infected over 99.628 million people and has now killed over 1.09 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 651.314 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.66 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: December 15, 2022 appeared first on Just Security.

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