Global Review – 15th May

13 people shot, 10 dead, in ‘mass shooting’ in Buffalo

Police in New York State said on Saturday afternoon that 13 people were shot, and 10 people died as a result of a “mass shooting” at a grocery store in Buffalo in what the police consider as “a hate crime”. An 18-year-old white male, identified as Payton Gendron, 18, of Conklin, New York, was later charged with first-degree murder and pleaded not guilty.

Mariupol evacuation convoy reaches safety

A large convoy of hundreds of cars and vans carrying refugees from the ruins of Mariupol arrived in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhia on Saturday night after waiting days for Russian troops to allow them to leave, Reuters reports. Mariupol, now mostly Russian-controlled, has been flattened during the 80-day-old war. Ukraine has gradually been evacuating civilians from the devastated city for more than two months. Refugees first had to get out of Mariupol and then somehow make their way to Berdyansk – 50 miles further west along the coast – and other settlements before the 125-mile drive northwest to Zaporizhzhia. An aide to Mariupol’s mayor had earlier said the convoy numbered between 500 to 1,000 cars, representing the largest single evacuation from the city since Russia’s 24 February invasion.

G7 demands Russia lift grain blockade

G7 foreign ministers have called on Russia to end a blockade of Ukrainian grain exports, warning of a global food and energy crisis threatening developing countries. “Russia’s war of aggression has generated one of the most severe food and energy crises in recent history which now threatens those most vulnerable across the globe,” a G7 statement said after a three-day meeting in Germany. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who hosted the meeting, said the war had become a “global crisis”.

In other developments…

  • Russian troops have withdrawn from the Kharkiv city area, its mayor, Ihor Terekhov, said. He said that, “due to the efforts of Kharkiv territorial defence and Ukrainian armed forces, the Russians have withdrawn out far from the city area in the direction of the Russian border”.
  • US Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell joined the growing list of US politicians making visits to Kyiv. Zelenskiy welcomed McConnell’s visit as a powerful signal of bipartisan support for Ukraine.
  • Finland’s president, Sauli Niinistö, told Vladimir Putin Helsinki plans to join Nato. Niinistö delivered the news during a phone call with the Russian leader. In response, Putin said abandoning neutrality would be a mistake and that there were no current threats to Finland’s security. Russia has described Helsinki’s bid to join Nato as a hostile move that “definitely” would represent a threat – to which Moscow will respond.
  • Ukraine says Moscow is planning to hold a referendum, perhaps as early as today, on whether Mariupol wants to become part of Russia. It follows news of a similar poll in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia and allegations from western allies that Russia is planning sham referendums to justify military actions.
  • The war will be over by the end of 2022, Ukraine’s head of military intelligence said. Major general Kyrylo Budanov claimed Moscow was suffering heavy casualties and predicted a turning point by mid-August – adding his belief that “most of the active combat actions will have finished by the end of this year”.
  • Moscow is failing to reach its political aims in Ukraine, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said. The fact Russia has only succeeded in imposing a pro-Russia local leadership in the city of Kherson “highlights the failure of Russia’s invasion to make progress towards its political objectives”, the latest intelligence update said.
  • Ukraine, with “Stefania” by the Kalush Orchestra, won the Eurovision Song Contest – a triumph that came on the wave of televoting that overturned the rankings by sending a message that goes beyond music. Second place for Great Britain, with Sam Ryder, who was the most voted by the delegations of the countries, while Spain completes the podium. President Zelensky, in a post on his Facebook page, greeted the victory, saying, “Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe”.

In other news…

27 dead in Indian building fire

The death toll has risen to 27 following a fire that broke out in east Delhi. Dozens of people were taken to hospital with severe burns, and the death toll looks set to rise. The fire, one of the worst of its kind in the recent history of the Indian capital, involved a four-storey building, which housed shops and offices, resulting in no fire escape and lacked any other fire safety requirements. The police said they had arrested the two owners as a dozen fire brigade teams continued to fight against the flames all night.

Thousands flock to abortion-rights rallies across the US

Thousands of women have taken part in protests across the United States to demand protection for abortion rights as the Supreme Court looks poised to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability. Concerns that Roe is in jeopardy surged following the leak of a draft ruling by the 9-member court’s six conservative justices that abrogate constitutional protections for abortion and leave the matter to be decided by the 50 individual states. “Bans Off Our Bodies” was the theme of the more than 430 events in cities and towns the length and breadth of the country.

Another 21 COVID deaths, 174,000 infections in N. Korea

North Korea has reported 21 other deaths from COVID-19 and an additional 174,400 people “in a feverish state” nationwide, signalling a worsening scenario, according to updated data released after leader Kim Jong-un chaired a morning meeting of the Politburo, calling the coronavirus “a great turmoil since the founding of the country”. A total of 524,440 people in North Korea have showed symptoms of fever between late April and May 13, of whom 243,630 recovered and about 280,810 are receiving treatment.

Israel police to investigate conduct at slain journalist’s funeral

Israeli police on Saturday launched an investigation into the conduct of officers at the funeral of slain veteran journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The Palestinian-American correspondent for Al Jazeera was killed on Wednesday while covering an Israeli military operation in the occupied West Bank. Thousands of mourners attended the 51-year-old’s funeral in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday. Television footage showed police charging at and beating a crowd of mourners carrying Abu Akleh’s casket, setting off stun grenades and removing a Palestinian flag.

Lebanon votes in first election since crises

Lebanon headed to the polls Sunday for its first election since multiple crises dragged it to the brink of failed statehood, with the ruling elite expected to comfortably weather public anger. The parliamentary election is a first test for opposition movements spawned by an unprecedented anti-establishment uprising in 2019 that briefly raised hopes of regime change in Lebanon. Yet observers have warned not to expect any seismic shift, with every lever of power firmly in the hands of traditional sectarian parties and an electoral system rigged in their favour.

Britney Spears announces miscarriage

Singer Britney Spears has lost her “miracle baby”. The singer, 40, announced in a joint statement with fiancé Sam Asghari via Instagram on Saturday that she suffered a miscarriage. Spears and Asghari, 28, added that their love for each other is their “strength” right now. “We will continue trying to expand our beautiful family,” the statement continued. “We are grateful for all of your support. We kindly ask for privacy during this difficult moment.”

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