‘New Stage of Terror’ – Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday Ukraine was entering a “new stage of terror” as the Russian military edged closer to a direct push for control of the nation’s capital, Kiev. His comments came after Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of the southern city of Melitopol, was taken into custody by the Russians. According to a Ukraine’s Interior Ministry advisor, they took him away after putting a plastic bag over his head. In a video, Zelensky said the Russians “were trying to physically eliminate representatives of the legitimate local authorities”. In the meantime, Russian military forces have installed a new mayor for Melitopol: Galina Danilchenko, a former member of the city council. CNN reports more than 2,000 residents staged a rally to support Fedorov as Zelensky demanded his immediate release. But in a televised statement, Danilchenko said she aimed to get the city “back to normal” and warned against those who would “provoke a reaction of bad behaviour”. Satellite imagery showed significant destruction in cities and towns, including Mariupol, with damage and fires in apartment buildings and gas stations. An emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders told CNN that the city is in “the disaster phase now”.
Ukrainians hold off Russian military
Russian troops loom near Kiev. In its latest intelligence assessment, the UK’s Ministry of Defence said Saturday the bulk of Russian ground forces were currently about 25 km from the centre of the Ukrainian capital. Cruise missiles hit an airport south of Kiev and Russian strikes hit suburbs to the east and west of the capital. Furthemore, a drone was shot down and landed in the centre of the capital, with a bank catching fire. Ukrainian forces have been able to hold off Russian military attempting to enter Kiev and have been attacking Russia’s supply lines with weaponry from the United States. Ukraine’s allies have also played a big role in the defence.
US weapons shipment to Ukraine
The United States on Saturday said it would rush up to $200 million (€185m) in additional small arms, anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to Ukraine, as Ukrainian officials pleaded for more equipment to defend against heavy shelling by Russian forces. US President Joe Biden’s decision brings total US security aid provided to Ukraine to $1.2 billion since January 2021, and to $3.2 billion since 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimea region of Ukraine.
‘Arms deliveries to Ukraine are legitimate targets’
Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said Saturday that Moscow considers arms deliveries as legitimate targets and has warned about the “consequences” of the “thoughtless transfer of weapons, such as portable air-defence systems and anti-tank systems, into Ukraine could have”. He further commented on state TV that the United States was the “source of maximum tension”.
Putin cool on reaching ceasefire
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday did not show interest in reaching a settlement for a ceasefire with Ukraine during a call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron. Instead, he claimed Ukrainian soldiers and national groups were committing violations of human rights laws and demanded that they persuade Kiev to stop its “criminal activities”. A French official told CNN that Putin seemed still to be “determined to achieve his objectives in Ukraine” but the fact that he continues to speak to the French and German leaders suggests that “he does not exclude the possibility of a diplomatic solution altogether”.
Russia opens to the idea of negotiations in Jerusalem
Jerusalem Post reports Russia could be available to hold negotiations with Ukraine in Jerusalem, as proposed by President Zelensky. The newspaper says it had learned this from a “diplomatic source” after a telephone conversation between Zelensky himself and Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. Zelensky says he’s open for talks with Putin in Israel, but only if there is a ceasefire in place. Bennett had visited Moscow for a meeting with Putin and spoke repeatedly with Zelensky and the leaders of France and Germany as he sought to help mediate an end to the war.
Russia aims to create ‘people’s republic’ in Kherson
Russia is preparing to hold a “referendum” in the key port city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, the only major city to fall since the invasion, according to reports. The goal is to create a so-called “people’s republic” like those established in 2014 and 2015 in the breakaway eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk that it claimed at the start of the war. Social media posts showed Kherson residents protesting the Russian invasion Saturday morning. Kherson borders Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
Navalny bashes ‘insane tsar’ Putin
Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s loudest foe, has been keeping up a running commentary against the invasion of Ukraine and the man he calls the “insane tsar” – from behind bars in a maximum-security prison. “The war was intended to cover up the robbery of Russian citizens and divert their attention away from the country’s internal problems, from the degradation of its economy,” Navalny posted to his Instagram account.
Anti-war protesters gather around the world
Anti-war protests have taken place in 100 cities throughout Europe. Connected to the demonstration in Florence, Zelensky told the crowd, “This war is not only against the Ukrainians but against the values that unite us, against our way of life”. In a strong appeal, he urged the crowd to “tell politicians to close the skies of Ukraine… from rockets, from Russian planes, from missiles”. Loud and long applause rose from Piazza Santa Croce, full of peace and yellow and blue flags of Ukraine. Zelensky announced that 79 Ukrainian children had been killed since the Russian invasion.
‘Stop! Think of the children!’ – Pope
Pope Francis has again appealed for peace in Ukraine. In a tweet, he said:
“Never war! Think above all of the children, who are deprived of the hope of a worthy life: dead, wounded, orphaned children; children who have remnants of war as toys … In the name of God, stop!” The message was spread not only in the nine official languages of the Pope’s account, but also in Russian and Ukrainian.
Italian police seize Russian oligarch’s superyacht
Italian police have seized a superyacht moored in the port of Trieste, as part of a growing crackdown against the wealth of Russia’s billionaire oligarchs. The triple-mast boat valued at around $578 million is owned by Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko, a Russian industrialist who made his fortune in fossil fuels and fertilizer production. Similar busts from other oligarchs have taken place around the country since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in places like Sardinia, Lake Como and the Ligurian coast.
Businessman pays employees’ energy bills
An Italian company from Lecco, Ita Spa, has decided to give its employees a bonus to compensate for the expensive energy bills. For the first quarter of this year, the company made available €85,000 euros which translates into a bonus of between €250 and €400 per employee”. Ita has 270 employees.