Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Katherine Pompilio
Tuesday, March 15, 2022, 2:42 PM

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A convoy carrying humanitarian aid toward the besieged Ukrainian port-city of Mariupol was once again blocked by Russian troops, reports the Washington Post. The caravan of trucks filled with food and medicine for the 400,000 civilians trapped in Mariupol was stalled 50 miles southeast of the city because of fighting perpetuated by Russian military personnel in violation of a cease-fire agreement. Russia has bombed homes and hospitals in the city and residents are reportedly living without water and electricity. In addition to food and medicine, the convoy of trucks can also potentially help to evacuate civilians to a safer location. Mariupol’s city council reported that the convoy will continue to try to reach civilians in need, saying “Tomorrow morning will be a new attempt.” 

A senior U.S. defense official reported that Ukrainian forces have stymied Russian military advances with “creative strikes,” writes the Hill. The official praised the Ukranians’ successful efforts to effectively target and hinder Russia’s logistics and sustainment capabilities. The official told reporters that “They’ve been quite creative here. They’re not simply going after combat capability—tanks and armored vehicles and shooting down aircraft. Although they’re doing all that, they are also deliberately trying to impede and prevent the Russians’ ability to sustain themselves.”

The U.N.’s International Organization for Migrations reported on Tuesday that over 3 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion almost three weeks ago, according to the Washington Post. Russian forces’ violations of ceasefire agreements surrounding humanitarian corridors have made it much more difficult for refugees to flee. Despite these challenges, the number of people evacuating Ukraine continues to increase. U.N. officials said that the Ukrainian refugee crisis is the “fastest growing … in Europe since World War II.” 

A woman ran onto the set of a Russian-state television broadcast to protest the war in Ukraine and Russian disinformation, reports the Wall Street Journal. Marina Ovsyannikova—an employee of the Russian-state-run news agency—appeared on camera behind the channel’s anchor holding a poster that read, “No war. Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They lie to you here. Russians against war.” Ovsyannikova also yelled out “Stop the war, no to war,” just before the cameras cut away. The woman was reportedly detained and taken to a Moscow police station.  Ovsyannikova was fined 30,000 rubles—approximately $280—and did not receive a jail sentence.

The United States announced its plans to add 11 Russian defense officials and arm-industry figureheads to its list of sanctions against Russia, writes the Wall Street Journal. According to the U.S. State Department, the newest Russians facing sanctions include eight deputy defense ministers and the head of Rosoboronexport, a Russian arm-export agency. State Department officials reported that the purpose of the sanctions is to inflict “severe costs on Russian defense leaders” in retaliation for the “widespread human suffering and casualties, including the deaths of innocent civilians, including children” caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

At a time of tense relations with the United States, Saudi Arabia invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit the country, according to Reuters. Saudi officials are allegedly planning to give a warm welcome to Xi Jinping upon his visit, much like they did when former President Trump visited the kingdom in 2017. In a comment about the relationship between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud and Xi Jinping, a Saudi official said that “The crown prince and Xi are close friends and both understand that there is huge potential for stronger ties. It is not just 'They buy oil from us and we buy weapons from them.'” 

The U.K. Supreme Court denied Wikileaks founder Julian Assange’s appeal against extradition to the United States, reports BBC News. Assange is wanted in the U.S. for his unauthorized release and publication of thousands of classified materials from 2010 to 2011. A spokesperson for the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom reported that Assange’s application for appeal did not raise “an arguable point of law.” 

Prosecutors have begun plea talks with lawyers for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and four co-defendants, writes the New York Times. The talks are reportedly intended to negotiate a potential plea agreement with the accused that would result in life sentences rather than executions. While lawyers are not expected to reach a deal anytime soon, guilty pleas that lead to life sentences for the defendants could potentially push the Biden administration to use Guantánamo Bay—where the men are currently held—as a military prison for a few detainees rather than follow through with its current ambitions of ending detention operations entirely. 

A document found by federal prosecutors in the indictment of Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio details a plan to surveil and storm government buildings around the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to the New York Times. The document—entitled “1776 Returns”—does not specifically mention an attack on the Capitol building itself, but it does provide a plan with a timeline to target and attack high-profile government buildings in the surrounding area. Those with access to the document report that the plan outlined is eerily similar to the riot that took place in the U.S. Capitol. Details about who authored the document and how Tarrio got ahold of it are not yet known to prosecutors.  

Due to a lack of funding, the White House will start to gradually close a government-sponsored coronavirus program that pays to test, treat and vaccinate individuals who do not have health insurance, reports NPR. The Biden administration was forced to make cuts to coronavirus aid programs after Congress declined to include an additional $22.5 billion in funding in a spending bill that is expected to be signed into law by President Biden. In addition to aid programs for the uninsured, the Biden administration will also cut 30 percent of shipments of monoclonal antibody treatments to U.S. states. Even with the cuts, the country’s supply of treatments is expected to run out as early as May because of the lack of funding.

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Scott R. Anderson sat down with Célia Belin and Contanze Stelzenmüller to discuss how the Ukraine conflict is reshaping Europe's approach to security affairs, what this means for institutions like the European Union and NATO, and how these changes are likely to impact the fundamental debate over what it means to be a part of Europe.

Mark Nevitt explored insights into climate security learned from the U.S. and international coronavirus response. 

Francine Hirsch explained why Vladimir Putin’s revised foreign agent law could lead to mass repression in Russia. 

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