Cancer, psychiatric hospitals damaged in raids
The Ukrainian authorities accuse Russia of having damaged a hospital for the treatment of cancer patients and some residential buildings in Mykolaiv with raids conducted with heavy artillery. Several hundred patients were in the hospital at the time of the attack, but none were killed. The governor of the Kharkiv region, on the Russian border, said a psychiatric hospital had been hit, and the mayor of the city of Kharkiv said about 50 schools there had been destroyed.
Russian forces regroup near Kiev
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Ukraine had reached a “strategic turning point” in the conflict as Russian troops spread their attacks to new cities across the country and appeared to be regrouping for a possible assault on the capital Kiev. CNN reports powerful bombings in the suburbs of Kiev could be clearly heard early this morning. Some satellite images showed Russian forces approaching the capital thanks to the use of heavy artillery.
Over 1,500 killed in Mariupol
In the besieged southern city of Mariupol, the city council said at least 1,582 civilians had been killed as a result of Russian shelling and a 12-day blockade that has left hundreds of thousands trapped facing freezing temperatures with no food, water, heat or power. Russia’s defence ministry said the Black Sea port was now completely surrounded and Ukrainian officials accused Russia of deliberately preventing civilians getting out and humanitarian convoys getting in. A new effort to evacuate civilians along a humanitarian corridor from Mariupol appeared to have failed, with Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk saying Russian shelling prevented them from leaving. “The situation is critical,” Ukrainian interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko said, adding it was impossible either to evacute civilians or to deliver humanitarian aid, as the Russian army was opening fire on any signs of movement.
‘No evidence of biological warfare in Ukraine’ – UN
The UN’s disarmament chief said Friday that the agency had no evidence of any biological weapons programme in Ukraine, knocking down one of Russia’s claims about US-backed threats. The comments, by Izumi Nakamitsu, came amid an information war between Russia, Ukraine and Western nations. On Friday, Russia’s ambassador accused the US of a plot involving biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine and migratory birds, bats and insects. Nakamitsu said there is no evidence to support the claims, which President Zelensky, the White House, the Pentagon and the State Department have all unequivocally denied. The Council meeting was dominated by Russia, the United States and China trading accusations regarding both biological weapons programmes and attempts to control the public narrative with disinformation campaigns. European members expressed outrage at Russia’s actions. Members such as Kenya, Gabon, India and Brazil said that claims of chemical or biological weapons used in a war should be investigated.
EU unveils fourth set of sanctions against Russia
The European Union will suspend Moscow’s privileged trade and economic treatment, crack down on its use of crypto-assets and ban exports to Russia of EU luxury goods and import of iron and steel goods. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said on Friday this fourth package of measures, coordinated with the United States and other G7 allies, would “further isolate Russia and drain the resources it uses to finance this barbaric war”. The bloc will also revoke Russia’s “most-favoured nation” trade status.
Biden defends decision not to send jets to Ukraine
US President Joe Biden has defended his decision to veto the US-facilitated transfer of fighter jets to Ukraine to repel Russia’s invasion, saying, “that’s called World War III”. Biden faces bipartisan blowback for rejecting Poland’s offer to transfer 28 Soviet-designed MiG-29s. Poland offered to fly the jets to Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where the US would facilitate the transfer. It was unclear whether American or Ukrainian pilots would fly the planes into Ukraine. Biden went on to defend his economic record – blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin for annual inflation hitting a fresh 40-year high of 7.9% in February, up from 7.5% in January.
Ukraine war could trigger 22% rise in food prices
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization report says international food and feed prices could rise by up to 22% due to the conflict in Ukraine, which may lead to a rise in malnourishment in less developed countries. Total global food output has fallen since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February, resulting in a sudden and steep reduction of food from exporting nations. Since the conflict in Eastern Europe began, Ukrainian ports have been unable to export grain, while food traders are avoiding purchases from Russia as a result of the financial sanctions, raising global prices. Russia and Ukraine together provide 19% of the world’s barley supply, 14% of its wheat supply, and 4% of its maize. In addition to grain, Russia is a leading exporter of fertilizer. According to the FAO, 50 countries rely on Russia and Ukraine for 30% of their wheat supply when considered together. Russia supplies most of Africa’s wheat consumption, which imported $4 billion worth of agricultural products from the country in 2020.
‘Risk of food instability on cereals’ – Macron
French President Emmanuel Macron sounded an alarm at the EU summit in Versailles on the urgent need to adapt the “food strategy” of the European Union “on wheat and cereals”. According to Macron “we will be even more destabilised in 12-18 months because of what cannot be sown these days”, adding, “We need to re-evaluate the production strategy also thinking of Africa, which would be hit by famines in 12-18 months”. In the light of the export difficulties caused by the war in Ukraine, G7 agriculture ministers called for agricultural markets to remain open, especially for wheat. It appears that many countries are having difficulties in supplying themselves with agricultural raw materials, said German minister Cem Oezdemir, after an online meeting of the G7 led by Germany, which this year holds the presidency.
Billionaire Candy is still intent on snapping up Chelsea
British billionaire Nick Candy has not given up hope of buying Chelsea. The Blues are in limbo after the UK Government froze Roman Abramovich’s assets yesterday, scuppering his plans to sell the club he has owned since 2003. But applications to purchase the club can still be made in the future, as long as the Russian oligarch does not profit from any potential sale. And property developer Candy, 49, remains keen to snap up the team he supports.