‘Mariupol port freed’ says Moscow…
As the war in Ukraine enters its 49th day, Russia announces that it has taken control of the port of Mariupol, saying: “Mariupol port freed”. Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the commercial seaport had been “completely cleared of Nazi militants from the Azov regiment”, adding that “all hostages aboard ships have been released” and that “the remaining Ukrainian troops and Azov fighters in the city are surrounded”. In recent days, the pro-Russian separatists had already announced the conquest of the port of the coastal city, but Kyiv had denied it.Ukrainian news agency UNIAN reports the missile cruiser ‘Moskva’ of the Russian Black Sea Fleet was hit by Ukrainian Neptune missiles and burned off Odessa. Russia’s defence ministry admitted its cruiser was “seriously damaged” after an explosion.
But Ukraine denies Russian claims
Ukraine has denied Russian claims that more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines had surrendered in the besieged port of Mariupol. The city’s Deputy Mayor, Serhiy Orlov, told the BBC that Ukrainian troops there were still fighting. Fighting appears to be continuing around the giant Azovstal steel works in the port, which is one of two areas not under Russian control. Russian television has broadcast footage which it says shows marines giving themselves up at the steel works. But an adviser to Ukraine’s president insisted that the marines had in fact broken through to connect with Azov battalion forces in another pocket.
US boosts military aid to Ukraine
US President Joe Biden has announced the sending of $800-million worth of weapons to Kiev. The White House reported that in a phone call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Biden said he would send the additional aid in the form of new weapons tailored to combat Russia’s expected “wider assault” in the east. This comes after Zelensky made another impassioned plea for heavy weaponry. However, Fox News quotes a US defence official saying that in an about-face move, the Biden administration on Wednesday decided against providing Ukraine with Mi-17 helicopters despite informing Congress of its intention to do so a day before.
Russian vehicles near border
Russia has shifted the focus of its invasion to eastern Ukraine after withdrawing forces from Kyiv and the north. And in recent days, Ukrainian officials have warned that it was preparing to launch a new offensive in the east targeting the Donbas region. This has led analysts to examine Russian military activity around eastern Ukraine more closely. The satellite images from Maxar show Russian military vehicles assembling just 8km from the border.
Zelensky advises Russia to seek peace
In his nightly address to the nation, President Zelensky argued that if Russians failed to pursue a peace agreement, they must leave the international community forever. Speaking about Russia’s increasing strikes in the east and south, he said: “All this feverish activity of the occupiers testifies first of all to their insecurity. To the fact that even with significant stocks of Soviet military equipment and a significant number of soldiers, the Russian troops doubt their ability to break us, to break Ukraine. And we’ll do everything to justify their doubts.” He also reiterated his call for a total embargo of Russian oil, saying: “The European Union must stop sponsoring Russia’s military machine.” Zelensky expressed gratitude to President Biden for pledging another massive weapons shipment to Ukraine.
‘Crime scene’ call
The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor Karim Khan has said Ukraine is “a crime scene”. He made the comments on a visit to the town of Bucha, where images of streets strewn with bodies shocked the world. “We have reasonable grounds to believe that crimes within the jurisdiction of the court are being committed,” Karim Khan said. Meanwhile, the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia visited President Zelensky in Ukraine, and also toured the formerly-occupied town of Borodyanka. Polish President Andrzej Duda Poland is reported to have said: “This is not a war, this is terrorism.” The 57-state Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, has said there are clear patterns of Russian troops violating international humanitarian law. A panel of OSCE experts said it had found credible evidence of torture and other punishments.
Ceasefire doesn’t seem possible – UN
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres believes that “at the moment there is no possibility of a global cease-fire”. He told reporters the UN was focusing its efforts on supporting evacuees and boosting humanitarian aid. Guterres said the UN had made proposals to Russia to bring the parties together… to manage humanitarian access and the evacuation of civilians, but had not yet received a response from Moscow. “There are lots of things that can be done in order to guarantee evacuation of civilians,” he said.
Protests after US police officer kills Black man on ground
Dozens of protestors have gathered in Grand Rapids, Michigan, after police released videos related to the fatal shooting of a young Black man by a white police officer. One of the videos shows the officer lying on the back of 26-year-old Patrick Lyoya as the two scuffled and then appeared to shoot him in the head. The officer has not been named. TV footage showed some 100 protesters, carrying “Black Lives Matter” placards and chanting “No justice, no peace”.
UK to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing
Most British nationals report that the British Home Secretary Priti Patel is in Rwanda to sign a deal that will see some asylum seekers to be flown there to have their asylum applications processed. Observers said the deal would mean single men arriving in Britain via Channel crossings could be forcibly removed. The Refugee Council criticised the policy as “cruel” and urged a rethink.
New York subway shooting suspect arrested
The man suspected of setting off smoke bombs and spraying gunfire inside a New York City subway car, injuring 23 people, was arrested yesterday on a federal charge of violently attacking a mass transportation system, capping an around-the-clock manhunt. Frank James, 62, was taken into custody in lower Manhattan, after authorities determined his whereabouts with the help of tips from residents, some of whom posted sightings on social media, police said.
Pope at the Civitavecchia prison for the washing of feet
Pope Francis will this afternoon the go to the Civitavecchia prison for the Maundy Thursday celebrations, in which the washing of the feet ritual is repeated. The Pope, from the beginning of his pontificate, celebrated Holy Thursday Mass outside the Vatican, visiting prisons or refugee centres.
Football: Atletico & Man City clash in tunnel
Tensions boiled over in the final minutes in Madrid as Manchester City held on to their slender advantage to make the last four of the Champions League Cup.
The bad blood between Atletico Madrid and the City on Wednesday carried over from the pitch to the tunnel after the visitors squeezed through in the quarter-final decider. City were able to hold on despite a late Atletico onslaught to go through 1-0 on aggregate after a 0-0 draw on the night. But the game was overshadowed in the final minutes by a fight involving several players from both sides, and the end of the game apparently did little to calm tensions, with players reportedly needing to be pulled apart as they headed to the changing rooms.
Liverpoool in ‘spectacular’ 6-4 aggregate
In the other quatter-final, Liverpool made it through to the Champions League semi-finals by virtue of a spectacular 6-4 aggregate victory over a Benfica side which would not lie down and exit the competition quietly. The Reds therefore remain in contention for four trophies this season, and they are just 180 minutes away from another European final – Villarreal await Klopp and company in the final four. While today’s visitors proved a menace on the break, over the course of both legs they were unable to match Liverpool’s attacking might and will now be left to concentrate on domestic matters.