Russian soldier pleads guilty in Ukraine war crimes trial
A 21-year-old Russian soldier has pleaded guilty to the cold-blooded murder of a Ukrainian civilian. Vadim Shishimarin, a shaven-headed sergeant from Irkutsk in Siberia, faces life imprisonment after his guilty plea in a cramped Kyiv courtroom. Prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova said “every perpetrator, every person who ordered or assisted in the commission of crimes in Ukraine shall not avoid responsibility”.”
Finland, Sweden formally submit NATO application
Ukraine’s first trial for war crimes since Russia invaded on February 24 came as President Putin was forced to reckon with the prospect of NATO vastly expanding its reach on his borders. Abandoning decades of non-alignment, Finland and Sweden formally submitted a joint application to join the military alliance at its headquarters in Brussels. The applications face resistance from Turkey.
Russian gas flow to Finland could stop Friday
The main Finnish gas company, Gasum, declared in a statement that the flow of natural gas from Russia to Finland could be interrupted on Friday or Saturday at the latest. Gasum CEO Mika Wiljanen said the company had been preparing for a possible gas outage for some time.
Russian train with fuel tanks blown up in Melitopol
A Russian armoured train with 10 wagons and 10 fuel tanks was detonated Wednesday in the occupied area of Melitopol, in the south-eastern region of Zaporozhzhia. The powerful explosion was felt in all areas of the city,. The number of victims is not yet known.
‘More than 1,000 Ukrainians remain in Azovstal’
More than 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers including senior commanders remain inside the besieged Azovstal steel plant in Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol, a pro-Russian separatist leader said Wednesday. 959 Ukrainian soldiers had surrendered Monday. Speaking to reporters in Mariupol, the leader of the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, said there had been about 2,000 fighters in the sprawling industrial complex and “a little more than half” remained inside. “Commanders and high-ranking fighters of (the) Azov (regiment) have not yet come out,” he told journalists on a press tour organised by the Russian military.
UN chief warns of famine, urges Russia to free Ukrainian grain
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of years of mass hunger and famine if a growing global food crisis goes unchecked as he urged Russia to release Ukrainian grain. Speaking at a major UN summit in New York, Guterres said the war in Ukraine was compounding global food insecurity already worsened by warming temperatures and the coronavirus pandemic. Guterres said that in just two years, the number of severely food insecure people has doubled – from 135 million pre-pandemic to 276 million today. He added that more than half a million people are living in famine conditions, an increase of more than 500 percent since 2016. Meanwhile, the World Bank has announced it would allocate an additional $12 billion to finance projects capable of tackling the global food crisis. With the new allocation, the total rises to $30 billion.
Oceans are hotter, higher and more acidic
The world’s oceans grew to their warmest and most acidic levels on record last year, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said on Wednesday, as United Nations officials warned that war in Ukraine threatened global climate commitments. Oceans saw the most striking extremes as the WMO detailed a range of turmoil wrought by climate change in its annual “State of the Global Climate” report. It said melting ice sheets had helped push sea levels to new heights in 2021. “Our climate is changing before our eyes. The heat trapped by human-induced greenhouse gases will warm the planet for many generations to come,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas in a statement.
EU rushes out €300 billion roadmap to ditch Russian energy
The European Union’s executive arm moved Wednesday to jump-start plans for the 27-nation bloc to abandon Russian energy amid the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, proposing a nearly €300 billion package that includes more efficient use of fuels and faster rollout of renewable power. The European Commission’s investment initiative is meant to help the 27 EU countries start weaning themselves off Russian fossil fuels this year. An EU ban on coal from Russia is due to start in August, and the bloc has pledged to try to reduce demand for Russian gas by two-thirds by year’s end. The REPowerEU package expects oil-investment funding of around €2 billion for member nations highly dependent on Russian oil.
Solar panels set to be mandatory under EU plan
Solar panels would be mandatory on all new buildings in the European Union under a new proposal aimed at rapidly reducing dependence on Russian fossil fuels and supercharging its transition to green energy. The “solar rooftop initiative” in the European Commission’s REPowerEU plan would introduce a phased-in legal obligation to install solar panels on new public and commercial buildings, as well as new residential buildings. The REPowerEU plan published on Wednesday has three main pillars: energy savings, diversification of energy supplies, and accelerated roll-out of renewable energy. The Commission has said the plan will require an additional investment of €210 billion between now and 2027 from the private and public sector across Europe.
EU Commission to stop Stability Pact for 2023
The European Commission is preparing to suspend the Stability and Growth Pact for another year. European commissioners have reached an agreement in principle to extend the safeguard clause for the whole of 2023. The decision, linked to the new crisis triggered by the war in Ukraine, will be presented to the Eurozone finance ministers on Monday at the Eurogroup. Also on Monday morning, the Commission will present the spring package for the European semester.
‘Possible N. Korean nuclear or missile test during Biden Asia trip’
US intelligence shows there could be a North Korean nuclear test, or missile test, or both, before, during or after President Joe Biden’s trip to South Korea and Japan starting tomorrow, according to US national security adviser Jake Sullivan. He told a White House briefing the United States was coordinating closely with South Korea and Japan on the issue and had also discussed North Korea in a phone call on Wednesday with his Chinese counterpart.
Biden invokes Defence Production Act for baby formula
President Biden agreed Wednesday to invoke the Defence Production Act to ensure that US baby formula producers can acquire the material they need and launched a new US government airlift of formula from abroad. The dramatic actions come after critics slammed Biden for not acting more quickly to avert empty store shelves across the country linked to the closure in February of a factory in Michigan. Biden resisted for about a week mounting pressure from Congress to use the 1950 law that allows federal interventions in private business decisions.
Michelangelo drawing fetches €23 million in Paris auction
A drawing attributed to Michelangelo, put up for auction by Christie’s Paris, was sold for €23 million euros – a record price for a drawing by the Italian Renaissance master. Experts said the drawing, made in his youth, is the first nude attributed to Michelangelo. The work represents a naked man, standing, framed by two other characters in the background. Last July, the artist’s “Risen Christ” was sold in London for €9.5 million.
Eintracht Frankfurt lift Europa League trophy
German team Eintracht Frankfurt lifted the 2022 UEFA Europa League trophy after beating Scottish side Rangers 5-4 on penalties. The match ended in a 1-1 draw an went into penalties. Eintracht Frankfurt clinched their second European victory after lifting the UEFA Cup in 1980. They also automatically qualified for the next season’s Champions League.