The United States and EU announced Friday a new drive to wean Europe off Russian gas imports and so choke off the billions in revenues that are fuelling Moscow’s ruinous war against Ukraine. Biden and EU commission chief Ursula von der Leyen announced a joint energy task force in Brussels, before he headed to the eastern Polish town of Rzeszow, a mere 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Ukraine. Taken together, Western sanctions are “draining Putin’s resources to finance this atrocious war”, von der Leyen told reporters alongside Biden. On the battlefield, Moscow said it had destroyed Ukraine’s largest remaining military fuel depot, at Kalynivka near the capital Kyiv, using sea-borne cruise missiles.
EU stands alongside Ukraine
“The European Union will continue to ensure financial, political, material and humanitarian aid to Ukraine. So far it has approved massive sanctions against Russia and Belarus, which are having heavy effects, and is ready to close loopholes “. This can be read in the conclusions of the European Council. In the same document, the EU reaffirms its support for Ukraine and its people, and confirms the declaration of Versailles, recognising the aspirations for entry into the EU. The Council renews its request to the Commission to deliver its assessments in line with the entry procedures of the Treaties.”
Biden heads off to Poland
President Joe Biden begins a visit to Poland today as his final stop in Europe this week offers a chance to underscore US commitment to protect a key Nato member on Ukraine’s doorstep, and thank Poles for their generous welcome to refugees fleeing Russia’s invasion. The two-day visit follows a trio of emergency war summits in Brussels. Many Poles will be hoping for a sign from Biden that Washington will continue to urge adherence to democratic values in a country that has accepted the lion’s share of the more than 3.5 million Ukrainians who have fled the month-old war. More than 2.2 million have entered Poland and many propose to stay there. Poland also hosts thousands of additional US troops, beyond the thousands deployed on a rotational basis since Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014. Not only have shelters and schools opened their doors to refugees, with 90,000 children registering to attend classes, but many regular Poles have welcomed Ukrainians into their homes. In some cases they’re taking in friends, in others complete strangers.
300 feared dead in theatre
A clearer scale of the ruin emerged from Ukraine’s besieged port city of Mariupol, which a month into the invasion now resembles scenes of Russian cities razed by the Nazis in World War II. Authorities said some 300 civilians may have died in a Russian air strike on a theatre-turned-bomb shelter last week, in what would be the invasion’s single bloodiest attack. After a trio of summits in Brussels, US President Joe Biden warned that NATO would “respond” if Russia’s Vladimir Putin resorts next to chemical weapons as part of his aggression against a Western-leaning democracy. “The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use,” Biden said. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Biden of seeking to “divert attention”, and also denied Ukrainian claims that Russia had broken international law by dropping incendiary phosphorus bombs on civilians.
Russia gains control of Izyum
The Russian military has claimed to have taken control of the Ukrainian city of Izyum, according to reports from Moscow-controlled media outlet RIA-Novosti. Ukraine, however, has denied this claim as Ukraine Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi’s adviser, Lyudmyla Dolhonovska, told CNN that the battle against Russian invasion and takeover of Izyum is “still going on”. Izyum is a Ukrainian city that lies on a main road between Kharkiv and the Russian separatists areas of Luhansk and Donetsk in the East of Ukraine. The city has had a blockade on communication since intense battles for control of the city began last week.
‘Let courage for dialogue prevail over arrogance’ – Pope
“To Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, we entrust the cry for peace of the populations oppressed by war and violence, so that the courage of dialogue and reconciliation prevail over the temptations of revenge, of arrogance, of corruption.” The Pope says this in a tweet on the day the Church celebrates the Annunciation and a few hours before the celebration in which he will consecrate Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Marching for the climate and against the war
From the Arctic to the Antarctic, from Australia to Japan, from Indonesia to Pakistan passing through Europe, today the Fridays for future (Fff) movement returned to the streets, with a “Global climate strike” that wants to involve the whole world, not only young people inspired by the Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg but people of all ages and professions, including scientists, who three years after the first demonstration continue the fight to defend the Earth from climate change.