Battle for the Donbas has began – Zelensky
Russia has launched its long-feared major offensive to seize control of eastern Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky has announced. “Now we can already state that the Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas for which they have been preparing for a long time,” he said in his nightly address. “A significant part of the entire Russian army is now concentrated on this offensive,” he said, but vowed “No matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves. We will do it every day.” The Donbas is Ukraine’s mostly Russian-speaking industrial heartland in the east, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for the past eight years and have declared two independent republics – Donetsk and Luhansk – that have been recognised by Russia. The secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council had earlier said Moscow tried to break through defences in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions. Ukrainian officials say Russian bombardment of several cities across the country has killed at least 17 people. Seven people died when multiple missiles hit the western city of Lviv, which had largely escaped attack until now. There has been no confirmation yet from the Kremlin that it has launched its second phase of what it calls its “special military operation”.
‘Sanctions have deteriorated the Western economy’ – Putin
Western sanctions have led to the deterioration of the Western economy, Russian President Vladimir Putin told a meeting dedicated to socio-economic issues. “Russia has withstood unprecedented pressure from sanctions. The Western attempt to collapse the Russian banking system with sanctions has failed,” he added. According to the head of the Kremlin, inflation and the ruble are stabilizing, unemployment in the country is low and that retail demand is also normalising.
In other developments…
- A Ukraine Marine commander who is trying to defend Mariupol has written a letter to Pope Francis pleading for help, declaring that the besieged city “is what hell on earth looks like”. The desperate message from Maj. Serhiy Volyna of the 36th Separate Marine Brigade was published Monday by the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper.
- Meanwhile, Mariupol continues to resist by slowing down the entire Moscow offensive in Ukraine. The alarm remains high in the East where the first real battles of the new offensive are recorded: in Kharkiv the authorities have asked residents to remain in shelters for the whole day, while the governor of Lugansk warned that “in the whole region there is no there is no longer a safe place”.
- The Moscow Ministry of Defence announced that it had destroyed a large depot of weapons sent to Ukrainians from the US and Europe near Lviv.
- From Sevastopol, Crimea, Governor Mikhail Razvozhayev reported the death of Alexander Chirva, commander of the Russian landing ship ‘Caesar Kunikov’, wounded in the fighting in Ukraine.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin has bestowed an honour on the army brigade member accused of the massacres in the Ukrainian town of Bucha.
- Rockets struck military facilities and a car service centre, part of a wave of attacks which Moscow says hit more than 300 targets across Ukraine, including the capital Kyiv.
- Two more deaths have been reported after Russian forces shelled residential buildings in Kharkiv.
- The UN is reporting that more than 4.9 million Ukrainians have now fled the country as a result of the war.
- Russia has accused Ukraine of changing its stance on issues that it argues have already been agreed at peace talks.
- Russian state television has shown two British fighters captured in Ukraine asking to be exchanged with a pro-Russian politician held in Ukraine – it’s not clear whether they were speaking under duress.
- Elsewhere, Ukraine’s pro-Russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who was arrested last week, has appeared in a video asking the Russian and Ukrainian presidents to use him in a swap with defenders and residents in Mariupol – the clip was posted by Ukraine’s security service.
No more masks on US public transport
The Biden administration will no longer enforce a US mask mandate on public transportation, after a federal judge in Florida ruled that the 14-month-old directive was unlawful, overturning a key White House effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Soon after the announcement, United Airlines and Alaska Airlines relaxed the restrictions effective immediately on all domestic flights. The ruling by US District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle, an appointee of President Donald Trump, came in a lawsuit filed last year in Tampa, Florida, by a group called the Health Freedom Defence Fund.
Second COVID world summit in May
The second world summit on COVID will be virtual and will be held on May 12. The White House saidthe summit aims to intensify “collective efforts to put an end to the acute phase of COVID and to prepare for the next health threat”. The virtual meeting will be chaired jointly by the United States and the countries holding the rotating presidency of the main international entities: the current president of the G7, Germany, that of the G20, Indonesia, by the presidents of the African Union, Senegal and Belize, and from the current presidency of the CARICOM group: the Caribbean. The countries said in a joint statement, “the summit will redouble our collective efforts to end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future health threats.”
Price of paper hits record high
Higher demand has paper production working again at full capacity. On the European market, however, prices for paper are at a record high due to a shortage of available fine and graphic papers. In Finland, which is one of the major fine paper producers in the world, a strike at the beginning of the year at a paper giant exacerbated the paper shortage.
Ronaldo announces death of twin baby boy
Cristiano Ronaldo and his partner Georgina Rodríguez have announced with “deepest sadness” that their twin baby son has passed away. In a statement shared on social media on Monday, the couple said they are “devastated” at the loss of their baby boy and added that Rodríguez gave birth to a girl. “It is the greatest pain that any parents can feel,” the parents said in a joint statement. “Only the birth of our baby girl gives us the strength to live this moment with some hope and happiness,” they said. The couple share three-year-old daughter Alana Martina, while Ronaldo has three other children via a surrogate, son Cristiano Junior, 11, and twins Eva and Mateo, four.
Pakistan sentences six men to death
A Pakistan court has sentenced six men to death and dozens more to jail terms ranging from two years to life for the brutal mob slaying of a Sri Lankan factory manager accused of blasphemy. Prosecutors said 88 of 89 people on trial for the murder had been convicted, with six sentenced to death, nine to life in prison and the rest jail terms ranging from two to five years.
Texas teacher allegedly showed porn in class
A Texas high school teacher has been fired and faces up to a year in jail for allegedly screening porn on a projector during class. Kevin Welchel was watching porn on a laptop in Houston’s Klein Collins High School when it started showing on the classroom projector, seemingly by accident, the Houston Chronicle said. In addition to losing his job, Welchel was criminally charged with “display of harmful material to a minor” – a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.