Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Katherine Pompilio
Friday, April 1, 2022, 1:25 PM

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Russian troops ended their occupation of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine and returned control of the plant to Ukrainian authorities, reports BBC. The Ukrainian-state nuclear company known as Energoatam reported in a statement that “[i]t was confirmed that the occupiers, who seized the Chernobyl nuclear power plant and other facilities in the Exclusion Zone, marched in two columns towards the Ukrainian border with the Republic of Belarus,” writes CNN. Energoatam also confirmed during the time that Russian forces controlled the plant, troops—likely unknowingly—dug trenches in the most contaminated, radioactive area in the Chernobyl exclusion zone which caused them to receive “significant doses” of radiation. In the same statement, Energoatam wrote that Russian troops were experiencing symptoms of radiation sickness which prompted their evacuation. The statement detailed that because of the Russian forces’ decision to dig trenches in the contaminated area of the exclusion zone, “it is not surprising that the occupiers received significant doses of radiation and panicked at the first sign of illness. And it manifested itself very quickly. As a result, almost a riot broke out among the military, and they began to gather from there."

Humanitarian convoys intended to evacuate civilians from the besieged city of Mariupol were stopped and raided by Russian forces, writes CNN. Yesterday, Russian and Ukrainian negotiators agreed to establish a cease-fire so that civilians could receive aid and be evacuated safely and efficiently. Despite the agreement, Russian forces reportedly stopped buses en-route to Mariupol that were carrying aid for 100,000 trapped civilians. Russian forces claim that they will reopen the Mariupol evacuation corridor on Friday. 

Hundreds of Syrian fighters were deployed to Russia to prepare to join Russian forces fighting in Ukraine, according to the New York Times. More than 300 soldiers were deployed to Russia to receive military training before being sent to assist Russian forces in the war against Ukraine. Analysts suspect that over time, more Syrian mercenaries will be deployed to fight in Ukraine because recruiters in Syria have been reportedly creating lists of thousands of potential candidates to be recruited by Syrian security services to help the Russian military. Experts on the Syrian mercenary trade suspect that Syrian fighters are motivated to join Russian forces because they are promised they will be paid and placed in non combat jobs, while others join because they feel a loyalty to Russia because of its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksyy revealed that he dismissed two Ukrainian top security officials from their roles as generals because they were “traitors,” reports the Hill. In a speech, Zelenskyy singled out the ex-chief of the Main Department of Internal Security of the Security Service of Ukraine, Naumov Andriy Olehovych, and the former head of the Office of the Security Service of Ukraine in the Kherson region, Kryvoruchko Serhiy Oleksandrovych, as traitors. Zelenskyy did not provide specific details about why the generals were dismissed, but he did say that any officers in the Ukrainian military who “have not decided where their homeland is, who violate the military oath of allegiance to the Ukrainian people as regards the protection of our state, its freedom and independence” would “inevitably be deprived of senior military ranks.”

President Biden announced that the U.S. will tap a record 180 million barrels of government oil reserves to help curb near-record high energy prices, writes the Wall Street Journal. Biden claimed that the high fuel prices are a wartime issue that requires a strong and swift response from the government. Starting in May, the government plans to release approximately 1 million barrels of oil a day for six months—marking the largest-ever supply taken from the country’s emergency energy stockpile of about 568 million barrels. In his remarks at the White House, Biden also announced that he would invoke the Defense Production Act—a national security mobilization law that he plans to use to bolster domestic output of minerals that are used in batteries for clean-energy technology such as electric vehicles. 

Israel and the United Arab Emirates have finalized negotiations for a $600-$700 million free trade agreement, according to Reuters. In a statement, the two countries announced that the agreement included that 95 percent of traded products would be customs free including food, agriculture and medicine. According to the United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Trade, “This milestone deal will build on the historic Abraham Accords and cement one of the world’s most important and promising emerging trading relationships.”

The Biden administration secured the release of two Afghan refugees held in captivity by the Taliban since December 2021, reports CNN. Safi Rauf, a Naval reservist and Afghan refugee, was doing humanitarian work in Kabul when he and his brother Anees Khalil were captured and taken into custody by the Taliban. After more than 100 days of negotiations between members of the Biden administration and the Taliban, the brothers were freed. A State Department official said of the successful negotiations, “This was an interagency team that conceived, planned out, and executed this important mission to bring home an American citizen and an American lawful permanent resident …. We will never let up anywhere, at any time, in our efforts to bring Americans who are unjustly detained back home.”

An official review found that former President Donald Trump’s call logs on Jan. 6, 2021, are complete despite a seven hour gap in records during which White House staffers claim Trump was making calls, writes CNN. Sources familiar with the White House switchboard and Trump’s phone habits claim that the gap in the call logs during the attack on the U.S. Capitol is likely because Trump used White House landlines, cell phones and personal cell phones that are not facilitated through, and thus recorded on, the White House switchboard. Trump reportedly rarely used the White House switchboard to place calls from the Oval Office and used the switchboard mostly when he made calls while he was in residence. 

ICYMI: Yesterday on Lawfare

Jen Patja Howell shared an episode of the Lawfare Podcast in which Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Ellen Judson about the new U.K. Online Safety Bill. 

Shalini Bhargava Ray analyzed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in a challenge to a policy of expelling asylum-seekers at the border based on an obscure public health law.

David Priess shared an episode of the Chatter Podcast in which Shane Harris spoke with Lucianne Walkowicz about the ethics of space exploration.

Jordan Schneider shared an episode of ChinaTalk which featured a discussion with Brian Hioe about Taiwanese indie music and what it can tell us about Taiwanese politics and culture.

Alvaro Marañon posted an indictment charging a National Security Agency employee for allegedly using his personal email to send highly classified information to an individual.

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