Russia steps up attacks on Ukraine during ‘Victory Day’
Ukrainian authorities reported intense fighting in the eastern Donbas region on Monday, along with renewed bombardments of Odessa and another Russian effort to take Mariupol. The offensive actions came as Moscow marked its celebration of “Victory Day” – a traditional show of military force commemorating the end of World War II – with a speech by President Putin blaming Ukraine for the war. He said the invasion was the “only right decision” as “NATO was creating tensions at the borders.” He accused the US and its “junior partners” of arming neo-Nazis for an “inevitable” fight with Russia.
Russians pound Mariupol
Meanwhile, Russian forces pounded away at the Azovstal steel works in the ruined Donbas port city of Mariupol, where some 2,000 Ukrainian fighters are still making their final stand. Russian troops were also attempting to storm the plant, according to Ukrainian authorities. Russian forces destroyed at least one bridge in the city in order to deny the defenders an escape route, according to a Telegram post by an adviser to Mariupol’s mayor. The move came as the Ukrainian Orthodox Church made a plea to Putin for the soldiers’ lives.
EU’s Michel forced to take cover during strike in Odessa
European Council President Charles Michel, who made a surprise visit to Odessa, was forced to break off a meeting and take cover when missiles again struck the southern Ukrainian city, leaving at least one dead and five injured. The strike took place as he held talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. Ukraine later said seven old model rockets were launched which caused a series of fires, including one in a shopping centre.
Russian Ambassador to Poland covered in red paint
Russia’s ambassador to Poland had red paint thrown over him by anti-war protesters in Warsaw as he arrived at the Soviet soldiers’ cemetery to lay flowers on Victory Day. Ambassador Sergey Andreev was met by hundreds of people opposed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as he arrived at the cemetery in the capital to pay tribute to Red Army soldiers who died during the Second World War. Video footage posted on Twitter showed protesters, some with Ukrainian flags, surrounding the Russian delegation and chanting “fascists” before Andreev was doused in the red substance. The protesters first snatched the wreath of flowers he was carrying to lay at the cemetery and trampled on it. Andreev told reporters he and his team were not seriously injured in the incident, but said he would be making a “formal protest”.
Gentiloni towards a cut of EU economic estimates
EU Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni has said the EU’s economic prospects are again clouded by uncertainty. Speaking at a Europe Day event in Lisbon, Gentoiloni said it was clear that the war would have a significant economic impact and that “our previous forecasts of a 4% growth, presented in January, would have to be cut”. We must maintain agile and reactive fiscal policies, just as we did during the pandemic, remarked Gentiloni, recalling that the Commission would provide updated guidelines for national budgetary policies for 2023 at the end of the month.
Putin’s reputed mistress Alina Kabaeva is pregnant again – report
The former Russian gymnast rumoured to be Vladimir Putin’s longtime mistress is pregnant again, according to a report. Alina Kabaeva, the 38-year-old Olympic gold medal-winning rhythmic gymnast-turned-media mogul who has been linked to the 69-year-old Russian strongman since at least 2008, is believed to already have four children with Putin, according to the General SVR Telegram channel. “We have already reported that yesterday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to eyewitnesses, looked depressed and somewhat aloof,” a translation of its post reads. “This is understandable, yesterday Putin learned that his long-term cohabitant and mother of his children, Alina Kabaeva, was pregnant for another time.” The pair have never officially confirmed that they have a family, although sources said they share seven-year-old twin daughters and two sons.
Early voting begins in Australia election
Early voting began in Australia two weeks ahead of election day, with surveys showing the opposition centre-left Labour Party extending its lead and Prime Minister Scott Morrison suffering a fall in his approval rating. Amid a campaign dominated by cost-of-living pressure, national security and climate change, a widely watched survey conducted for The Australian newspaper showed Labour leading 54% to 46% on a two-party preferred basis against the Morrison-led Liberal Party-National Party coalition government. Morrison’s rating as the country’s preferred leader fell a percentage point to 44%, leaving him narrowly in front of Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese whose rating rose three points to 42%. Female voters have turned to Labour as the party they believe would better manage worsening cost-of-living pressure, the survey showed.
Queen to miss opening of parliament
Queen Elisabeth will not be attending the state opening of Parliament today for the first time in nearly 60 years. Buckingham Palace said in a statement the Queen continues to experience “episodic mobility problems”, and in consultation with her doctors “has reluctantly decided that she would not attend”. Prince Charles will read the speech on her behalf.
Pope tells LGBT community: “The Church does not reject you”
Pope Francis has returned to reiterate his openness to the LGBT community. Questioned by the Jesuit Father James Martin, on the subject of homosexual faithful who felt rejected by their parishes, the pontiff specified: “I would like them to recognise it not the rejection of the Church, but rather of people in the Church. A selective Church, of pure blood, is not the Holy Mother Church, but rather a sect,” he continued. The pontiff consoles the gay faithful who felt discriminated againstby saying, “The Church is a mother and calls all her children together.” The pontiff’s new statements were released in writing as a response to three questions from Jesuit Father James Martin, who has been involved in the pastoral care of homosexuals for years, regarding LGBT Catholics about what he would say to one of them “who has been rejected by the Church”.
White House warns against violence after abortion protests
The White House has cautioned against violence and threats after protests surrounding a looming US Supreme Court ruling on abortion, with a spokesperson saying judges “must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety”. Press Secretary Jen Psaki called for restraint after reports of demonstrations outside the homes of two Supreme Court justices, and after a fire at the headquarters of an anti-abortion group in Wisconsin. The protests follow a draft Supreme Court opinion leaked last week suggested that the conservative-dominated judicial body was set to overturn the right to abortion in the United States.
Yoon Suk-yeol sworn in as new S. Korean president
Yoon Suk-yeol was sworn in as the new president of South Korea in a solemn ceremony held in the National Assembly square in the presence of 40,000 people, taking office at a time of strong tensions with the North. The 61-year-old conservative former attorney general promised a no-holds-barred posture towards Pyongyang, greater proximity to the US and Japan, and a conservative agenda, especially on the role of women. He also promised a “bold” aid plan to significantly improve the economy and the lives of North Korea’s people if the hermit country “suspends nuclear development and moves to substantial denuclearization”. In his inauguration speech, Yoon said he wanted to leave “the door open to dialogue” with the North, calling his nuclear programmes a “threat to our security and that of Northeast Asia”.
Escaped Alabama inmate captured
Escaped Alabama inmate Casey White has been captured after a police chase and prison guard Vicky White hospitalised with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The capture of White came after the car he was in overturned during persuit by law enforcement, confirmed US Marshal Marty Keely.