Global Review – 11th May

‘Putin could use nuclear weapon if he felt war being lost’

President Putin could view the prospect of Russian defeat in Ukraine as an existential threat to his regime, potentially triggering his resort to using a nuclear weapon, US intelligence chief Avril Haines has warned. The warning on Tuesday came in an assessment from intelligence chiefs briefing the Senate on worldwide threats. The prediction for Ukraine was a long, gruelling war of attrition, which could lead to increasingly volatile acts of escalation from Putin, including full mobilisation, the imposition of martial law, and – if the Russian leader felt the war was going against him, endangering his position in Moscow – even the use of a nuclear warhead. The grim forecast came on a day of continued fighting in the east and south of Ukraine, and Russian missile attacks on the port of Odesa, with the UN conceding that the civilian death toll from the war will probably be far higher than the current official estimate of 3,381.

US approves new $40bn-aid for Ukraine

The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved the new $40 billion package of aid – military, economic and humanitarian – to Ukraine as proposed by President Joe Biden. The new funding passed with 368 votes to 57 and will likely be approved by the Senate by the end of the week.

Ukraine in counter-offensive near Kharkiv

Ukraine said on Tuesday its forces had recaptured villages from Russian troops north and northeast of Kharkiv, pressing a counter-offensive that, according to military strategists, could signal a shift in the war’s momentum and jeopardise Russia’s main advance. The media officer for the 92nd Separate Mechanised Brigade, the main Ukrainian force in the area, confirmed that Ukrainian troops had in recent days recaptured the settlements of Cherkaski Tyshky, Ruski Tyshki, Borshchova and Slobozhanske, in a pocket north of Kharkiv. By pushing back Russian forces who had occupied the outskirts of Kharkiv since the start of the invasion, the Ukrainians are moving into striking distance of the rear supply lines sustaining the main Russian attack force further south. Ukrainians are getting close to the Russian border. So all the gains that the Russians made in the early days in the northeast of Ukraine are increasingly slipping away.

‘End Odesa blockade to prevent food crisis’ – Zelensky

President Zelensky has urged the international community to take immediate steps to end a Russian blockade of his country’s ports in order to allow wheat shipments and prevent a global food crisis. After the Black Sea port of Odesa was struck by missiles on Monday, Zelensky said: “Without our agricultural exports, dozens of countries in different parts of the world are already on the brink of food shortages. And over time, the situation can become downright terrible.” European Council president Charles Michel said he saw silos full of grain, wheat and corn unable to be exported. “This badly-needed food is stranded because of the Russian war and blockade of Black Sea ports, causing dramatic consequences for vulnerable countries,” he said. “We need a global response.”

In other developments:

  • In the south, Russian forces were again pummelling the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol on Tuesday, trying to capture the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the ruined city where Ukraine says tens of thousands of people have died under two months of Russian siege and bombardment. Scores of civilians have been evacuated from the steelworks in recent days, but an aide to Mariupol’s mayorsaid at least 100 still remained inside.
  • Kyiv Mayor Vitaliy Klitschko said on Tuesday that 390 buildings in the capital had been damaged by Russian attacks, 222 of which were apartment blocks. Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited Ukraine on Tuesday and toured Bucha, the suburb north of Kyiv where Russian forces left behind hundreds of corpses of civilians when they withdrew at the start of April. She said the killers must be punished.
  • The UN human rights council is due to hold a special session on Thursday to address alleged Russian human rights violations during its war in Ukraine. More than 50 countries, including Britain, Germany, Turkey and the US, backed a request by Ukraine and demanded an extraordinary meeting of the UN’s top rights body.
  • The number of Ukrainians who have fled their country since Russia’s invasion on February 24 was approaching six million, according to the United Nations, which says the refugee crisis is the fastest growing since World War II.
  • In another attempt to pile pressure on Russia, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said she had made “progress” on a proposed Russian oil embargo during talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, one of Putin’s closest allies in Europe, who has held up EU attempts to phase out Russian oil.
  • Leonid Kravchuk, a former communist who helped signed the Soviet Union’s death warrant and then served as the first president of independent Ukraine, has died at the age of 88. Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to President Zelenskyy, described him as “a wise patriot of Ukraine, a truly historical figure in gaining our independence”.

China’s zero-COVID strategy unsustainable

China’s zero-COVID strategy to defeat the pandemic is not sustainable, World Health Organisation chief said Tuesday, adding that they had told Beijing so. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a mediaconference, “When we talk about the zero-COVID strategy, we don’t think that it’s sustainable, considering the behaviour of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future.” Draconian measures have trapped most of Shanghai’s 25 million people at home for weeks as China combats the country’s worst outbreak since the pandemic began. Yet the Shanghai lockdown has intensified, causing outrage and rare protest in the last major economy still glued to a zero-COVID policy.

Boris Johnson’s ‘empty’ Queen’s Speech

British prime minister Boris Johnson has set out his plan for the year in the Queen’s Speech, delivered by Prince Charles, but critics are already saying it lacks substance. The government has promised to tackle sharp rises in the cost of living by boosting the economy. But Johnson warned that the government could not “shield everyone” from the effect of global inflation. Labour has called for an emergency budget to address the cost of living and a windfall tax on energy companies to fund more support for households. Priorities included energy security, carbon emissions and post-Brexit economic arrangements – but the opposition parties, and some Tories said it should have contained more on the cost of living.

30-year-jail sentence for abortion

A court in El Salvador has sentenced a woman to 30 years in prison because she suffered an obstetric emergency that ended her pregnancy. Abortions are banned in the Central American country.

Eurovision: Ukraine among first 10 to reach the final

The biggest pop music competition in the world kicked off with the first semifinal competition on Tuesday night, seeing 10 out of 17 countries earn their place in the final – including the Ukrainian entry, widely expected to finish on top of the podium. Lithuania, Switzerland, Armenia, Norway, Moldova, Iceland, Greece, Portugal, and the Netherlands also made the cut. They are to compete with another 10 that will get selected on Thursday and the “big five” who qualify for the final automatically – France, Italy, Britain, Spain, and Germany – for the big prize on Saturday.

UK ticket-holder nets £184m in EuroMillions jackpot

One lucky ticket-holder has won the £184 million EuroMillions jackpot, becoming the UK’s biggest ever National Lottery winner. The winning EuroMillions numbers were 3, 25, 27, 28 and 29 – plus the Lucky Star numbers 4 and 9. One ticket matched all seven numbers to win £184,262,899.10.

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