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Early Edition: November 23, 2022

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RUSSIA, UKRAINE – FIGHTING

Russian missiles have struck a maternity hospital and other civilian infrastructure in Ukraine’s south and east, killing at least three people including an infant. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the strike on the maternity ward in Vilnyansk in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia intentional. Thomas Grove reports for the Wall Street Journal. 

Ukraine targeted the port city of Sevastopol with a drone attack yesterday, according to authorities in Crimea. Mikhail Razvozhaev, the Russian-installed governor of the region, said that the drones appeared to be on course to attack a power plant in the Balaklava district, just east of the city. It was unclear whether any damage was done to the city or to Moscow’s Black Sea fleet, which is headquartered there. Carly Olson reports for the New York Times

Since Russian troops retreated from the city of Kherson two weeks ago, fighting in Ukraine has focused on the Kinburn Spit, on the east bank of the Dnipro River. The peninsula, which Russia has controlled since June, is strategically significant as it allows Russia to project force deeper into the Black Sea, guard routes to the ports in Mykolaiv and Kerson, and protect its forces in Crimea. Russian forces on the spit can also launch missiles at the port city of Odesa, as well as the city of Mykolaiv. If Ukraine manages to seize the spit, it could enable it to outflank Russian forces still establishing defensive positions east of the Dnipro. Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Marc Santora report for the New York Times

Russian strikes on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have caused “colossal” damage, the head of Ukraine’s national electric utility said yesterday. Volodymyr Kurdrytskyi said that most of the nation’s power plants had been crippled, and warned of rolling blackouts and power shortages as the temperatures in Ukraine start to dip below freezing. During an address to French officials yesterday, Zelenskyy also highlighted the attacks on infrastructure, accusing Russia of turning “the cold of winter into a weapon of mass destruction.” Carly Olson reports for the New York Times

RUSSIA, UKRAINE – GLOBAL RESPONSE 

The U.S. and its allies could agree on a level for a price cap on Russian oil as soon as today. Whilst officials are discussing setting it at around $60 a barrel the cap could still be set as high as $70, people familiar with the talks have said. Under the program, the Group of Seven, the E.U., and Australia would ban the provision of maritime services for shipments of Russian oil unless the oil is sold below the price cap. It is hoped that this will crimp Russian energy export revenue while avoiding a surge in oil prices. Laurence Norman and Andrew Duehren report for the Wall Street Journal

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators yesterday urged the Biden Administration to reconsider its decision not to give Ukraine advanced drones. In a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, 16 senators expressed support for providing Ukraine with MQ-1C armed drones, or Gray Eagles. “The long-term upside of providing Ukraine with the MQ-1C is significant and has the potential to drive the strategic course of the war in Ukraine’s favor,” the legislators wrote. Nancy A. Youssef and Gordon Lubold report for the Wall Street Journal.

OTHER GLOBAL DEVELOPMENTS 

Iran has started producing near-weapons-grade enriched uranium at a second nuclear facility, Iranian officials said yesterday. The decision to step up its production came after Tehran was formally rebuked last week for failing to cooperate with an investigation by the U.N.’s atomic energy agency. Laurence Norman reports for the Wall Street Journal

One person was killed and at least 18 others injured in two bomb attacks in Jerusalem. According to initial reports in the Israeli news media, the bombs were placed in bags that were left at the two scenes and were detonated remotely. The attacks were the first on Israeli civilians in more than six years. Patrick Kingsley and Isabel Kershner report for the New York Times

Brazil’s outgoing far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, is contesting his defeat in the October election. His party is asking the electoral court to reject ballots from certain voting machines, which it claims were compromised during the second round. The court has now given the party 24 hours to amend its petition to include the first round of voting. Bolsonaro’s party performed better than expected in the first round. The party has not presented proof for its allegation of machine errors. BBC News

Prosecutors in Taiwan have charged a senior military officer after he allegedly took bribes from a Chinese agent to act as a spy and signed a letter promising to surrender to China in the event of a war. The prosecutors’ office in southern Taiwan’s Kaohsiung city said they were seeking a 12-year sentence for an army colonel who had over the last four years received T$560,000 (about $18,000) in bribes from a Chinese agent who was also a retired Taiwanese officer. The prosecutors identified the colonel as Hsiang Te-en. Reuters reports. 

U.S. RELATIONS 

Hundreds of Chinese-manufactured drones have been detected in restricted airspace over Washington D.C. in recent months. The recreational drones made by Chinese company DJI, which are designed with “geofencing” restrictions to keep them out of sensitive locations, are being manipulated by users to fly over no-go zones around the nation’s capital. Whilst officials do not believe the drones are directed by the Chinese government, national security agencies are concerned that they could provide a new means for foreign espionage. Bryan Bender and Andrew Desiderio report for POLITICO

People “associated with the U.S. military” were likely behind a network of fake Facebook and Instagram accounts that promoted U.S. interests abroad, Facebook parent firm Meta said yesterday. The fraudulent accounts removed by Meta, targeted audiences in Afghanistan and Central Asia, “during periods of strategic importance for the U.S..” It is rare that coordinated online influence operations are tied by a U.S. tech tied to Washington rather than a foreign government. Sean Lyngaas reports for CNN.

DOMESTIC DEVELOPMENTS 

Six people were fatally shot inside a Walmart in Virginia yesterday evening. The suspect in the shooting, whose name has not been released by authorities, was found dead at the scene, a spokesperson for the local police department said in a news conference. Eduardo Medina and Mike Ives report for the New York Times

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) appeared yesterday before a Georgia special grand jury investigating efforts by former President Trump and his allies to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in the state. Graham’s lawyers had fought for months to keep him from having to testify – efforts that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. According to a statement released by Graham’s office, he appeared before the jury for “just over two hours and answered all questions.” Holly Bailey and Matthew Brown report for the Washington Post

A federal court yesterday expressed skepticism over Trump’s arguments for why a special master was required to review the documents seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate. Two of the judges on the three-member panel noted that few criminal defendants are granted the right to scrutinize a government search before charges are brought, suggesting that the arrangement approved by a lower court gave Trump special treatment. “We have to be concerned about the precedent that we would create that would allow any target of a general criminal investigation to go into a district court and to have a district court entertain this kind of petition,” Chief Judge William Pryor, an appointee of former President Bush, told Trump’s lawyer. Jan Wolfe and Byron Tau report for the Wall Street Journal. 

The Supreme Court has refused to block the release of Trump’s tax returns to the Ways and Means Committee. The decision means that the Treasury Department will likely soon turn over six years of Trump’s tax returns to the House, which has been seeking his financial records since 2019. Chair of the Committee, Rep. Richard E. Neal (D – MA) said in a statement that his panel would “now conduct the oversight that we’ve sought for the last three and a half years.” It is not clear whether the committee will choose to publish the returns. Charlie Savage reports for the New York Times

Prosecutors yesterday unsealed a criminal complaint against a Michigan man accused of threatening to kill California congressman John Garamendi (D) and FBI Director Christopher Wray. According to court documents, Neil Matthew Walter made several threatening statements online and in a voice message to lawmakers and law enforcement officials. The charges brought against Walter add to the spate of recent alleged criminal threats against lawmakers. Holmes Lybrand and Hannah Rabinowitz report for CNN.

COVID-19

COVID-19 has infected over 98.388 million people and has now killed over 1.08 million people in the United States, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Globally, there have been over 639.200 million confirmed coronavirus cases and over 6.62 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: November 23, 2022 appeared first on Just Security.

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