Mariupol ‘doesn’t exist anymore’
Ukraine’s southern port city of Mariupol has been razed to the ground as Russian forces make “desperate” attempts to finish taking the city “at any cost”, Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Sunday. Kuleba appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” and described how the situation in Mariupol was “dire militarily” and “heartbreaking” after seven weeks under siege at the hands of the Russian army. “The city doesn’t exist anymore,” Kuleba said, adding that Ukrainian forces and a large group of civilians in the port city are encircled by Moscow’s forces. “They continue their struggle, but it seems from the way the Russian army behaves in Mariupol, they decided to raze the city to the ground at any cost.” Echoing comments by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky about possible talks with Russia, Kuleba said the fall of Mariupol could significantly hamper any negotiations. Officials estimate some 21,000 people have been killed by Russian troops in Mariupol, and 120,000 are still in the city. Before the war, the city’s population was 450,000.
Mariupol on the brink of falling to Russians
But Mariupol, a key port city for Ukraine, appeared on the brink of falling to Russian forces Sunday, which would give Moscow a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula. The Russian military estimated roughly 2,500 Ukrainian fighters are still at the Azovstal steel plant, providing a remaining pocket of resistance. Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shymhal says Mariupol “has not fallen” and the remaining Ukrainian forces there will “fight to the end”. Russia had delivered an ultimatum for local fighters to surrender and have their lives spared – which was ignored. A Crimean human rights group has said the Russians forcibly took about 150 children away from Mariupol, 100 of them hospitalised, and transferred them to the occupied Donetsk and Russian Taganrog direction.
Ukraine completes the questionnaire for EU candidate status
The Ukrainian government has completed the questionnaire to obtain the status of candidate country for EU membership. This was announced by Igor Zhovkva, number two of the bureau. “We now expect a positive recommendation from the Commission, and then the ball will pass to the Member States. A European Council meeting will be held in June, where we expect Ukraine to get candidate status,” he said. As for the accession talks, Zhovkva called for “an accelerated procedure. We cannot afford 10-15-20 years of negotiations. Most member states support us”.
Zelensky urges new sanctions on Russia
President Zelensky has called on allies to further increase sanctions against the Russian banking and financial system which, he says, are extending the ‘ruble zone’ in the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions in the south of the country. In a video message, Zelensky also alleged torture centres were built there, local authorities and anyone deemed visible to local communities is kidnapped, teachers are blackmailed, pension money is stolen, humanitarian aid is blocked and stolen, and people are starving. Zelensky returned to ask the West for more weapons, describing “any delay” in supplies as “permission for Russia to kill Ukrainians”.
Mother of a Moskva crew member: 40 died on the ship
On the Russian cruiser Moskva, which sank Thursday in the waters of the Black Sea, 40 Russian sailors were reported to have died. While Russian official sources still do not leak any data on the losses, the mother of a surviving crew member told Novaya Gazeta Europe many more were injured, mostly with mutilated limbs.
Pope calls for peace in Ukraine on ‘Easter of war’
Pope Francis, on what he called an “Easter of war,” pleaded for peace in Ukraine and blasted Russia for pulling the country into a “cruel and senseless” conflict. “May there be peace for war-torn Ukraine, so sorely tried by the violence and destruction of this cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged,” Francis said on the central balcony of St. Peter’s Square. The 85-year-old pope had just finished celebrating Easter Mass in the square packed with people for the first time since the pandemic began in 2020. Applause erupted from the 50,000 people in the square at the mention of Ukraine. He dedicated most of his “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) address to Ukraine.
In other developments:
- Russian forces shelled buildings in central Kharkiv, killing five people and injuring 13, local health officials said. The north-eastern city, near the Russian border, has been heavily damaged by previous Russian attacks.
- According to the BBC, air raid sirens are now “near constant” across eastern Ukraine, from Kharkiv to places like Zolote, a village on the frontlines of the Donbas region.
- The southern city of Mykolaiv and nearby areas came under heavy Russian rocket fire. Its governor, Vitaliy Kim, said Ukrainian forces there have blocked Russian attempts to advance on the port city of Odesa.
- Another Russian general has been killed in combat: deputy commander of the 8th Army Maj Gen Vladimir Frolov. In late March Western officials said Russia had lost seven generals in the war so far. Russia has not confirmed that figure.
- A huge queue of lorries has formed at Poland’s eastern border with Belarus as Russian and Belarusian drivers try to leave the EU. Lorries from the two countries carrying any goods except for medicine, mail or petroleum products have been banned from the bloc as of midnight on Saturday. The move is part of sanctions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
First victims in Shanghai from Omicron wave
Shanghai has reported the first deaths due to COVID-19 since the beginning of the wave of the Omicron variant, which has been affecting the city for over a month: three unvaccinated elderly people with underlying health problems such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
No loss from Tunisia oil tanker wreck
Divers who inspected the hull of the tanker Xelo, which sunk off the coast of Tunisia with 750 tons of diesel on board from Egypt to Malta, did not find any leaks, according to the authorities. The tanker, flying the flag of Equatorial Guinea, landed on its side in the Gulf of Gabes at a depth of nearly 20 metres, the environment ministry said. “No leaks were detected.”
Clashes with Swedish police over Islamophobic actions
Violence has again taken place in the outskirts of Stockholm, Malmo, Linköping and Norrköping over Islamophobic actions. Protesters set fire to a bus and a police car. The country was rocked by three days of unrest during a series of demonstrations and counter-marches, following the anti-Islam actions promoted by a far-right group. Extremists burned a copy of the Koran, threatening to do it again. At least 16 police officers were injured and several police vehicles destroyed in the riots.
Catherine Spaak dies at 77
The death has been announced of actress, singer, TV presenter and dancer Catherine Spaak, She was 77. Born in France to a Belgian family, she had experienced great success in Italy in the sixties and seventies. Two years ago she had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage.
Peru: chemical castration for rapists of minors
Peruvian President Pedro Castillo has declared that his government would impose mandatory chemical castration for those who raped minors. Castillo said he was “indignant” at the rape of a three-year-old girl that shocked the country. He said chemical castration of rapists was already practiced in Russia, Poland, South Korea, Indonesia and Moldova.