Russians continue bombing Lugansk province
As the Russian-Ukrainian conflict reached its twenty-second day, the chief Ukrainian negotiator, Mykhailo Podolyak, has said an agreement could be reached within 10 days. But Russian forces continued bombing the part of the Ukrainian province of Lugansk controlled by Ukrainian troops, in an attempt to advance towards the locality of Rubizhne. Kyiv Independent quotes the governor of the province, Serhiy Haidai, saying fighting was taking place practically throughout the whole region. Earlier, the mayor of Derguatchi, Vyatcheslav Zadorenko, said at least six people were killed by cluster bombs dropped on Kozacha Lopan, a village about fifty kilometers north of the city of Kharkiv. The Ukrainian State Border Guard Service reported more than 320,000 citizens have returned home to help Ukraine fight since Russia began its invasion. Most of them are men.
‘Eight humanitarian corridors functioned’
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian minister responsible for operations, Iryna Vershchuk, told the CNN that eight of the nine humanitarian corridors agreed for Thursday in Ukraine have worked, allowing the evacuation of civilians, including from the city of Mariupol, from which more than 2,000 people have left. Only one of the corridors, the one from Kharkiv to Vovchansk, near the Russian border, could not be opened due to Russian bombing.
‘EU growth scenario has significantly worsened’
The energy price shock due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and anti-Russian sanctions risk causing “a worsening of growth prospects”. Speaking at a European Central Bank conference, the governor of the Bank of Italy, Ignazio Visco, said that as a consequence, “greater downward pressure on medium-term inflation after the strong increases observed so far.” He warned that the growth scenario had“seriously worsened” compared to the latest ECB estimates, which had already reduced growth to 3.7% this year and 2.8% the next. The war, Visco further stated, “has considerably increased the extreme risks – the worrying possibility of a gas shortage that would push energy prices even higher, or force gas and electricity rationing for some time because of stopped production.”
EU not excluding energy sanctions on Moscow
EU commissioner for economic affairs Paolo Gentiloni has told SkyTg24 he did not exclude new Russian sanctions also in the energy field, but they are not imminent. “What we have to do is not free. It will have a cost for our economy and it is already having it.” He stressed sanctions have already had a “devastating” impact on Russia. According to Newsweek, policymakers in the European Union have been cautious about taking an extreme position against Russian oil and gas, because they are far more dependent on Moscow for vital fossil fuel imports. The EU imports about 40% of its natural gas and 27% of its crude oil from Russia, Reuters reported. The European Commission has acknowledged this as an urgent issue. Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that EU leaders would spend the next two months drafting proposals to phase out their reliance on Russian fossil fuel imports by 2027.
‘Ukraine war crimes perpetrators will be held accountable’ – G7
The perpetrators of war crimes during the war in Ukraine will be held accountable, G7 foreign ministers said in a statement. They condemned the “indiscriminate attacks on civilians” by Russian forces since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine. Meanwhile, both the US and EU have strongly condemned the Russian attacks on civilians while the World Health Organization said that it had confirmed 43 attacks on health care workers in Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion last February. Twelve people died and dozens more were injured in those attacks.
Poverty levels in Ukraine a concern
As Russia renounced the UN vote on its draft humanitarian resolution on Ukraine because it lackedallies, the UN political chief has called for an investigation of massive civilian casualties and the destruction of hundreds of residential buildings, schools, hospitals and other civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, and for those responsible to be held accountable. Undersecretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo has told the UN Security Council that “international humanitarian law is crystal clear” in prohibiting direct attacks on civilians in military operations and ensuring their protection. Yet, she said, many of the daily attacks that are battering Ukrainian cities “are reportedly indiscriminate, resulting in civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure”. DiCarlo cited the UN human rights office’s latest statistics: 1,900 civilian casualties from the start of the war on February 24 to March 15, comprising 726 people killed, including 52 children, and 1,174 injured – with the actual number likely much higher. The UN development agency, UNDP, projects that if the war continues, 90% of Ukraine’s population could be facing poverty and extreme economic vulnerability, “setting the country, and the region back decades, and leaving deep social and economic scars,” she said. Meanwhile, according to Ukraine’s Office of the Attorney General, at least 108 children have died and more than 120 were injured since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. Kyiv experienced the greatest loss of life at 52 children. At least 20 children were killed across Kharkiv, Donetskíj, Chernihiv and Mykolaiv.
Putin lays out his demands for a cease-fire
In a Thursday conversation with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly outlined the conditions that would need to be met in order for him to end his invasion of Ukraine. According to a BBC report, a Turkish official who listened to the call between the two leaders said that Putin would end his invasion if several conditions are met including a promise that Ukraine will remain neutral and not join NATO. Erdogan’s leading adviser and spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, says that Russia is also calling for Ukraine to undergo a disarmament process to mitigate threats to Russia in the future as well as legal protections for the Russian language in Ukraine. Additionally, Putin reportedly desires promises related to the “Denazification” of Ukraine.
Russia warns US: ‘We have the might to put you in your place’
Reuters reports Russia has warned the US it had the might to put the world’s pre-eminent superpower in its place and accused the West of stoking a wild Russophobic plot to tear Russia apart. Dmitry Medvedev, who served as president from 2008 to 2012 and is now deputy secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said the United States had stoked “disgusting” Russophobia in an attempt to force Russia to its knees. “It will not work. Russia has the might to put all of our brash enemies in their place,” Medvedev said.
US fears Putin may use nuclear weapons
US intelligence officials believe President Putin may threaten to unleash Russia’s nuclear arsenal as Ukrainian defence forces continue to thwart his invasion of their country. Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, director of the S. Defence Intelligence Agency, revealed the concerns in a new report on global threats dated March 15 and obtained by Fox News Thursday. The DIA also called into question Putin’s credibility on his claims to have “modernised” the Russian military.
Russian anti-war journalist rejects asylum offer from France
The Guardian reports Marina Ovsyannikova, the Russian journalist who protested live on state TV against the war in Ukraine, announced that she is leaving her job, but not Russia, thus refusing the offer of asylum from France. The woman, who called herself a patriot, broke in recent days on live TV with an anti-war sign. She was immediately arrested but was released after being detained for 14 hours and sentenced to pay a fine of 30,000 rubles (€255).
European football competitions draws this noon
The draws for the quarter-finals for the Champions League, Europa League and Europa Conference League will all start at noon today at the House of European Football in Nyon, Switzerland. There are no seedings or country protection so teams could face each other.
The Champions League quarter-finalists are Atletico Madrid (Spain), Bayern Munich (Germany), Benfica (Portugal), Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester City (England), Real Madrid and Villarreal (Spain).
The Europa League quarter-finalists: Atalanta (Italy), Barcelona (Spain), Braga (Portugal), Eintracht Frankfurt (Germany), Lyon (France), Rangers (Scotland), RB Leipzig (Germany), West Ham (England).
The Europa Conference League quarter-finalists: Bodo Glimt (Norway), Feyenoord (Netherlands), Leicester City (England), Marseille (France), PAOK Salonika (Greece), PSV Eindhoven (Netherlands), Roma (Italy), Slavia Prague (Czech Republic).