900 civilian bodies found in Kyiv region – police chief
Ukrainian authorities have said they had found the bodies of 900 deceased civilians around Kyiv – more than a week after Russian troops left the area to concentrate on east Ukraine. Region police chief Andriy Nebytov told a media briefing more than 350 of the bodies were retrieved from Bucha, where evidence of atrocities had led to accusations of war crimes against Russian troops, vehemently denied by Moscow. The removal of debris in Borodyanka and Makarov is still ongoing and “there will still be bodies of dead people under the rubble”, the police chief added. He stressed that those killed were civilians and had nothing to do with military formations.
Russia preventing civilian burials in ‘new level of cleansing’
Mariupol’s City Council has warned Russia’s military is carrying out a “new level of cleansing” in the besieged Ukrainian city by not allowing residents to bury deceased civilians. In a Telegram post citing locals still trapped there, the officials also said: “Russian troops have begun the process of exhuming bodies that were previously buried in the yards of residential buildings”, calling it, “a new level of ‘cleansing’ of the occupiers”.
Thousands join Pope for Good Friday service
Thousands of faithful attended the “Way of the Cross” prayer service, presided over by Pope Francis at Rome’s Colosseum last night, a ceremony overtaken by the war in Ukraine. It was the first time the traditional event on Good Friday was held at the Roman monument since 2019, due to the Covid pandemic. The pope, who has repeatedly condemned the conflict in Ukraine, and has called for an Easter ceasefire, prayed that the “adversaries shake hands” and “taste mutual forgiveness”. He prayed God to “Disarm the raised hand of brother against brother”. The Via Crucis followed the celebration of the Passion of the Lord, in St Peter’s, during which the Pontiff did not bow down to the ground, as the liturgy wants. The pain in his knee has already led to changes in some traditions in recent weeks so as not to tire the Pope too much.
Russia warns US, NATO against arming Ukraine
Russia has warned the US State Department that continued shipments of weapons to Ukraine from the US and NATO could cause “unpredictable consequences”. A diplomatic note sent by the Russian embassy in Washington was delivered in the same week that President Biden announced $800 million in additional military aid to Ukraine, including artillery, drones, armoured vehicles and Soviet-made Mi-17 helicopters. In the document, a copy of which was reviewed by the Washington Post, Russia called on the US and its allies “to stop the irresponsible militarisation of Ukraine, which implies unpredictable consequences for regional and international security”.
Key Putin ally in Ukraine ‘beaten’ under interrogation
One of Russian President Putin’s top allies in Ukraine has been beaten while in detention, his wife said. Oksana Marchenko told a news conference in Moscow that one of two photos released by Kyiv this week showed that opposition leader Viktor Medvedchuk had been maltreated. “It shows a big bruise and marks which they have tried to conceal with his hair. There is no doubt that he was beaten in the first hours after his arrest,” she said. Marchenko is the leader of the Opposition ‘Platform – For Life’, Ukraine’s largest opposition party, that has long advocated closer ties to Moscow, and that was banned under the country’s martial law in the wake of Russia’s invasion.
Ukraine war might rage through the year
The US State Department’s top spokesman has acknowledged it is “possible” that Russia’s war on Ukraine will last through the end of this year. Ned Price gave the assessment during an interview with CNN, which previously reported that Secretary of State Antony Blinken had told European officials of Washington’s grim prediction that the war will rage for at least another eight months.
Russia reportedly strikes Kyiv missile factory
Russia has claimed to have destroyed a factory in Kyiv that makes anti-ship missiles after confirming that the flagship vessel of its Black Sea navy has sunk. Moscow said the Moskva cruiser went down after a fire on board caused an explosion, but Ukrainian officials said their forces struck it Thursday with two cruise missiles. The US believes the Moskva was hit by two Ukrainian Neptune missiles and there were Russian casualties when the ship sank. Russia has given no casualty figures but the defence ministry said the crew were rescued by other fleet vessels in the area. No total has been given for the crew on board at the time, estimated to have been 510. Ilya Ponomaryov, a former Russian MP who now lives in Kyiv, alleges that just 58 crew members out of 510 survived. But it is not clear where he got that figure from.
Ukraine accuses Russia of more evacuee killings
Further allegations are emerging of civilian evacuees being killed by Russian troops. Ukraine’s ombudsman for human rights says Russians opened fire on two buses transporting civilians to safety from the country’s east, where fighting is escalating. Several people were killed and injured on the journey from the town of Starobilsk in the Luhansk region to the city of Dnipro, ombudsman Lyudmyla Denisova said. She said full details of what happened were still being established. Earlier, Fox News reported at least seven people were killed and 34 injured when Russians fired on buses evacuating civilians from the town of Borova in the Kharkiv Region. Three of the wounded were children and one of those killed was a seven-month-old baby.
‘Up to 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers have died’ – Zelensky
President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an interview with CNN that Ukrainian officials believed that between 2,500 and 3,000 of their troops have died since Russia launched its invasion on February 24 belying Russian reports that there hyad been between 19,000 and 20,000 Ukrainian fatalities. He added that around 10,000 Ukrainian troops have been injured. Last month, Nato estimated between 7,000 and 13,000 Russian troops had died. Recently, Moscow claimed that only around 1,350 Russian soldiers had perished during the conflict.
Germany to acquire LNG import terminals
Germany has released nearly €3 billion to acquire floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals. A total of €2.94 billion has been made available for the lease of these huge LNG carriers, the finance ministry told AFP. Germany has vowed to cut its dependence on Russian natural gas in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Instead, Berlin is seeking to boost supplies of LNG from key exporters Qatar, the United States and Australia.
152 wounded at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque
At least 152 Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli riot police inside Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa mosque compound on Friday, in a recent upsurge of violence that has raised fears of a slide back to wider conflict. Most Palestinians were injured from rubber bullets, stun grenades and beatings with police batons.
Easter, Passover, Ramadan 2022 fall simultaneously
Yesterday, Christians commemorated the crucifixion of Jesus, and on Sunday celebrate Easter. On Friday, Jewish people also celebrated the eve of Pesach, commonly called Passover, which commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and the end of their slavery. And this weekend as well, Muslims around the world marked another Friday, their weekly holiday, within the month of Ramadan, which began on April 2 and ends on May 2. This coincidence of dates is unusual, especially as far as the proximity of the Islamic Ramadan to the Christian Lent or to the dates of Pesach and Easter is concerned. This rare conjunction of holidays is possible because unlike the Christian calendar, which is determined by the course of the sun and is widely used in the Western world, the Islamic calendar is aligned with the moon and the lunar year. Twelve months in the solar year last 365 days, in the lunar year, on the other hand, only 354 days. Thus the Islamic cycle of holidays moves across the Western calendar over the course of a good three decades.