Global Review – 17th May

260 Ukrainian fighters evacuated to Russia-controlled areas

More than 260 fighters, including some badly wounded, were evacuated from the steelmill in the port city of Mariupol and taken to areas under Russia’s control. President Zelensky said the evacuation to separatist-controlled territory was done to save the lives of the fighters. He said the “heavily wounded” were getting medical help. Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said 53 seriously wounded fighters were taken from the Azovstal plant to a hospital in Novoazovsk, east of Mariupol. An additional 211 fighters were evacuated to Olenivka through a humanitarian corridor. There was no immediate word on whether the wounded would be considered prisoners of war.

Fourth mass grave in Mariupol

A fourth mass grave has emerged in Mariupol, according to Radio Svoboda, which analysed satellite photos following a complaint by the mayor’s adviser. The mass burial appears to consist of two trenches, one of which is over 30 metres long, which would have been dug as early as the beginning of March.

Explosions heard in Lviv

Explosions were heard in Lviv in the early hours of today, according to the mayor of the western Ukrainian city Andriy Sadovy. CNN correspondents reported on their part of a series of explosions heard in central, north and northwest Lviv around 00:45 local time, shortly after air raid sirens sounded in the city. Explosions were also heard by a witness who lives about 30 kilometers away from Lviv, a city about 70 km from the border with Poland. Meanwhile, Russian soldiers are reported to have given up on a “large-scale encirclement” of Ukrainian troops in part of the eastern Donbas region, according to the London ‘Times’. Kremlin troops are instead, looking set to favour seizing the Luhansk region to the north east.

Putin warns Finland, Sweden over NATO

President Putin said yesterday Sweden and Finland joining NATO would be no threat to Russia but warned the Western alliance that moving troops or weapons into the Nordic neighbours would provoke a “response”. Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson confirmed yesterday her country would apply to join NATO, a day after Finland – which shares a 1,300-kilometre border with Russia – said the same. The move is not a done with Turkish President Erdogan  confirming his country’s intention to block the applications, accusing Finland and Sweden of harbouring terror groups, including outlawed Kurdish militants. Sweden and Finland have failed to respond positively to Turkey’s 33 extradition requests over the past five years, justice ministry sources told the official Anadolu news agency yesterday. Any membership bid must be unanimously approved by NATO’s 30 nations.

NATO unveils military drill 40 miles from Russia

A huge military drill by 15,000 troops from 10 different countrties is taking place just a day after Finland and Sweden confirmed their intention to join the alliance. The drill, “planned for a long time”, comes at a time when tensions with Russia are soaring, with this only adding to the strain. NATO’s military operation ‘Hedgehog’ simulates an attack from Russia on Estonia. Finland, Sweden, and Ukraine are among the countries taking part in the exercise that is taking place just 40 miles from Russia’s nearest military base.

Hungary stalls EU Russian oil ban

Ukraine’s foreign minister urged the EU Monday to overcome Hungary’s resistance to an embargo on Russian oil and then look to “kill” all of Moscow’s exports to starve its war machine of funds. Budapest has been holding up a push by Brussels to ban Moscow’s vital oil exports, the cornerstone of a planned sixth package of sanctions, arguing that it would hammer its own economy. “We are unhappy with the fact that the oil embargo is not there,” Ukraine’s top diplomat Dmytro Kuleba said after meeting EU foreign ministers in Brussels. He then called on the 27-nation bloc to move on to a seventh package of sanctions that would “kill Russian exports” and deliver a crushing blow to President Putin’s coffers. Stopping Russian gas could cost 2.5% of growth and 3% of the inflation rate for the EU, according to the Commission’s economic forecasts for the spring which record the persistence of “high uncertainty” due to the war in Ukraine, outlining, with the cut in gas supplies from Moscow, even the worst scenario – a scenario that, in 2023, would cost Europe a growth point and over 1% in terms of inflation

‘Apocalyptic impact of global food prices’ warning

Britain faces “apocalyptic” global food-price rises sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Bank of England’s governor has told MPs. Andrew Bailey warned of a “very big income shock” to households and admitted feeling “helpless” in the face of surging inflation. His comments came as veteran Tory MP Michael Fabricant called on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to raise benefits in line with inflation, and as concerns were raised over plans by the energy regulator to revise the price cap on bills every three months instead of every six. Mr Bailey defended the Bank’s monetary policy and said there could be a further rise in food costs if Ukraine, a major exporter of agricultural products, is unable to ship wheat and cooking oil from its warehouses because of a Russian blockade. He noted wheat prices alone had risen by just under 25 per cent in the past six weeks.

Macron names first French female PM in three decades

President Emmanuel Macron has named Labour Minister Elisabeth Borne as prime minister to lead his ambitious reform plans – the first woman to head the French government in over 30 years. Outgoing Prime Minister Jean Castex earlier handed his resignation as part of a widely expected reshuffle to make way for a new government in the wake of Macron’s reelection in April. Borne, 61, is seen as an able technocrat who can negotiate prudently with unions, as the president embarks on a new package of social reforms that notably include a rise in the retirement age which risks sparking protests. The last woman premier, Edith Cresson, briefly headed the Cabinet from May 1991 to April 1992 under President Francois Mitterrand.

UK plans for post-Brexit trade in N Ireland

Britain will today detail how it plans to overhaul post-Brexit trade rules in Northern Ireland which have sparked a political crisis in the province, amid fears it is risking a UK-EU trade war. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will “set out the rationale for our approach” in a statement to MPs in parliament, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman. The UK government is yet to confirm what that entails, but media reports have said it is planning legislation allowing London to unilaterally override some of the rules around Northern Irish trade. London wants to rewrite the so-called Northern Ireland protocol, which it agreed as part of its 2019 divorce deal with the European Union, amid trading frictions since it came into force last year. The arrangements, which mandate checks on goods arriving into Northern Ireland from England, Scotland and Wales, have angered the province’s unionists who claim they undermine its place within the UK.

‘Israel violated religious freedom’ – Vatican

The Israeli police “violated in a very brutal way” the right “o religious freedom of the Church during the funeral of reporter Shireen Abu Akleh. The charge d’affaires of the Apostolic Delegation to the Holy Land, Father Thomas Grysa, told a media conference in Jerusalem, “We are shocked by the unjustifiable modalities for what happened and we want to denounce and condemn in a clear and unequivocal way”.

Biden revokes Cuba restrictions

President Biden has revoked Donald Trump’s squeeze against Cuba, “making it easier for families to visit relatives” on the Caribbean island and “for authorized American travellers to have relations with the Cuban people, attend meetings and conduct research”. The US State Department has announced a series of measures aimed at supporting the Cuban people, including the re-introduction of the family reunification programme.

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