Cardinal among four arrested by Hong Kong police
National security police in Hong Kong have arrested four people including Cardinal Joseph Zen and pop star Denise Ho on suspicion of “collusion with foreign powers” after they acted as trustees for a legal defence fund for democracy protesters. Hui Po-keung, another trustee of the now-disbanded 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helped arrested protesters pay for their legal and medical bills, was arrested at Hong Kong’s international airport on Tuesday. Zen, a 90-year-old retired Catholic bishopwho has long been an outspoken defender of human rights, democracy and civil liberties, was released on bail after several hours of questioning. The Vatican said in a statement it was following the case closely.
China bristles at Biden’s ASEAN summit
President Biden’s White House summit with Southeast Asian leaders begins Thursday, but the gathering has already sparked an aggressive reaction from China, which is warning nations participating in the summit “to reject American attempts to exert influence over the region” that Chinese leaders say could stoke confrontation with Beijing. US officials say Biden will toe a cautious rhetorical line on issues pertaining to China during the ASEAN gathering, which is being held in Washington. “Biden does not want to send Southeast Asia or Asia into a new Cold War,” analysts said as top officials from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam began arriving in Washington.
Israel asks for bullet that killed Al Jazeera journalist
Israel is in talks with the Palestinian Authority to receive the bullet that hit and killed Al Jazeera reporter Shireen Abu Akleh during a military raid in the Jenin area of the West Bank on Wednesday, to enable an in-depth investigation of the incident. “We do not know what was the direct cause for Shireen’s death, but we want to get to the bottom of this incident to uncover what exactly happened,” Defence Minister Benny Gantz told journalists during a briefing Wednesday night. Preliminary results of an autopsy ordered by the Palestinian Authority showed that Abu Akleh died of a bullet wound to the head. Gantz expressed his “deep sorrow and condolences” over her death, adding that it was a “very, very tragic event and a serious loss”.
COVID: Kim orders lockdown after first case
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has ordered the lockdown of all cities in the country after the first case of COVID-19. “A serious situation has arisen due to the introduction of an Omicron stealth mutant virus into our districts,” said the official KCNA news agency. During a meeting of the Workers’ Party in Kim’s presence, the authorities assessed the country’s national quarantine measures at a level of “maximum emergency”.
Abortion rights bill blocked in US Senate
The US Senate has voted 51 to 49 against proceeding with the Women’s Health Protection Act. The Bill would have paved the way for wide ranging protection for legally-terminated pregnancies nationwide. All 50 Republican senators and one Democrat voted against the measure, while 49 Democrats voted in favour. Wednesday’s vote comes after a leaked draft opinion indicated the Supreme Court could be poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling which legalised abortion across the United States. The leak triggered nationwide protests. A ruling on the matter is expected to take place this summer.
UN chief ‘deeply concerned’ about risks of global hunger
As the US State Department said Russia has blocked about 300 merchant ships in the Black Sea which cannot export grain and other food products from Ukraine, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday he was deeply concerned about hunger becoming widespread in different parts of the world due to food shortages in the wake of the war in Ukraine. Speaking in Vienna, Guterres also said talks were ongoing to evacuate more civilians from conflict zones in Ukraine.
Ukraine pushes Russian forces back…
Ukrainian forces reported battlefield gains on Wednesday in a counter-attack that could signal a shift in the momentum of the war. Following days of advances north and east of the second largest city Kharkiv, Ukrainian forces were within kilometres of the Russian border on Wednesday morning. Kyiv has so far confirmed few details about its advance.
‘Corpses of Russian soldiers on the street and in landfills in Kharkiv’
The head of the regional military administration, Oleg Sinegubov, said Ukrainian soldiers found dozens of corpses of Russian soldiers abandoned on the battlefield and in the homes of villages liberated by the Kiev army in the Kharkiv region. “They weren’t even buried, they left them in landfills. When they retreat, they don’t collect the corpses of their soldiers. This testifies to their ethics, principles and beliefs. rules of war.” He added: “Thousands of dead soldiers are piled up in sacks on refrigerator trains. The Russians refuse to take them, so Ukraine may even have to bury them at its own expense.”
Kyiv restricts gas flow to Europe
Meanwhile, Kyiv has shut gas flows on a route through Russian-held territory, raising the spectre of an energy crisis in Europe. Wednesday’s move by Ukraine marked the first time the conflict has directly disrupted shipments to Europe. Shipments from Russia’s export monopoly Gazprom to Europe via Ukraine fell by a quarter after Kyiv said it was forced to halt all flows from one route, through the Sokhranovka transit point in southern Russia. Analysts says should the supply cut persist, it would be the most direct impact so far on European energy markets of what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise a neighbour threatening its security. Ukraine says it poses no threat.
Russia continues to pound Azovstal steelworks
Russian forces have also continued to bombard the Azovstal steelworks in the southern port of Mariupol, last bastion of Ukrainian defenders in a city now almost completely controlled by Russia after more than two months of siege. Ukraine’s Azov Regiment holed up inside it said Russia was bombing and trying to storm it. Ukrainian deputy prime minister said Ukraine was seeking to swap Russian prisoners of war with the wounded soldiers in Azovstal. Mariupol’s Mayor said that unless medical care was restored and water systems repaired, epidemics would break out. “If there is hell on earth, it is there,” wrote Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to the mayor.
Ukraine to hold first war crimes trial of Russian soldier
Ukraine’s top prosecutor disclosed plans Wednesday for the first war crimes trial of a captured Russian soldier. Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said her office charged Sgt. Vadin Shyshimarin, 21, with the killing of an unarmed 62-year-old civilian who was gunned down while riding a bicycle in February. The soldier could get up to 15 years in prison. Venediktova’s office has said it had been investigating more than 10,700 alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces and has identified over 600 suspects.
‘Do not exclude grandparents from the education of grandchildren’
Pope Francis has urged parents not exclude grandparents from the education of their grandchildren. During the general audience in St Peter Square, he said to many elderly, retirement was a “source of concern” as they were often excluded from the “educational spaces” of their grandchildren. The Pope said that in this socio-economic situation grandparents have become more important because from them “the little ones learn irreplaceable lessons”.
40 injured as plane veers off runway
A Tibet Airlines aircraft with 122 people on board veered off runway on take-off in the southwestern city of Chongqing this morning and caught fire. All 113 passengers and nine crew members on the flight were safely evacuated. Over 40 passengers who sufered minor inurties were hospitalised.
Diamond fetches over €20.3 million at auction
A white diamond nearly the size of an egg sold for €20.63 million at a Christie’s auction. The diamond, dubbed “The Rock,” was one of a kind and the price it fetched was on the lower end of the expended auction range.