US, allies pledge more weapons to Ukraine
The US and its allies vowed to send artillery, anti-tank and air defence aid to Kyiv, during a 90-minute video call on Tuesday. US President Joe Biden confirmed Washington would also be sending Ukraine more artillery – heavy guns deployed in land warfare. In Berlin, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany was providing finance to enable Ukraine to buy anti-tank weapons and ammunition from German arms manufacturers. And the Czech Republic said it would repair Ukrainian tanks and armoured vehicles damaged in combat. The arms pledges follow a renewed call from President Zelensky for allies to increase their weapon supplies to Kyiv. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said sanctions against Russia would be tightened.
Russia accuses US, West of stalling Ukraine war
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has meanwhile accused the United States and other Western countries of trying to “delay” the course of the war in Ukraine by sending shipments of weapons to Kyiv. Meeting with top military brass, he said, “Increasing volumes of foreign arms deliveries clearly demonstrate their intentions to provoke the Kyiv regime to fight to the last Ukrainian.”
Russia launches attacks for Ukraine’s east
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced that Moscow had began the next stage of its invasion of Ukraine as reports are emerging that the Russian military is conducting a full-scale offensive in the country’s east. The ongoing campaign – which President Zelensky is calling the “Battle of the Donbas” – comes after Russian forces shifted away from trying to capture the capital, Kyiv. “Another stage of this operation [in eastern Ukraine] is beginning and I am sure this will be a very important moment of this entire special operation,” Lavrov told the India Today TV Channel.
The Donbas offensive covers 480km
Russia has assaulted cities and towns along a boomerang-shaped front, stretching more than 480km from north-eastern Ukraine to the country’s southeast, pouring more troops into Ukraine in a potentially-pivotal battle for control of the country’s eastern industrial heartland. If successful, the Russian offensive would essentially slice Ukraine in two, givng President Putin a badly-needed victory The cities of Kharkiv and Kramatorsk came under deadly attack, and Russia also said it struck areas around Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro west of the Donbas with missiles. Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said air-launched missiles destroyed 13 Ukrainian troop and weapons locations, while the air force struck 60 other Ukrainian military facilities, including missile warhead storage depots. Russian artillery hit nearly 1300 Ukrainian military facilities and more than 1200 troop concentrations over the past 24 hours, he said. Russia also announced its forces had seized the city of Kreminna in eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian troops had withdrawn from the city. Ukrainian officials say civilians are among the dead. The UK Ministry of Defence says Ukrainian forces have repelled numerous advances by Russian forces in the Donbas.
Easter truce call
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denounced Russia’s fresh offensive in eastern Ukraine and called for a four-day truce to mark Orthodox Holy Week. “Hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance,” the United Nations chief said, adding a truce would allow safe passage for civilians to flee the eastern war zone, and for humanitarian aid to be delivered to the hardest-hit areas.
Russia needs to prepare as NATO reinforces its borders
Russia’s TASS news agency quotes former President Dmitry Medvedev, now deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, saying NATO’s reinforcement of its borders with Russia was no longer a figure of speech and Moscow should be prepared for possible aggressive action. Medvedev, an ally of President Putin, warned Nato last week that if Sweden and Finland joined the US-led military alliance, then Russia would deploy nuclear weapons and hypersonic missiles in a European exclave.
New surrender deadline in Mariupol
Russia has told Ukrainian fighters still holding out in Mariupol to “cease their military operations from 2pm Moscow time (1pm Malta time) on April 20 and lay down arms”. Russian troops were hitting the Azovstal steel plant, the main remaining stronghold in Mariupol, with bunker-buster bombs. After an earlier ultimatum to surrender lapsed and as midnight approached, Russia’s defence ministry said not a single Ukrainian soldier had laid down their weapons and it renewed the proposal. Ukrainian commanders have vowed not to surrender. Meanwhile, Zelensky said “the situation in Mariupol remained as severe as possible”.
Mysterious spike in acute hepatitis in European children
Cases of acute hepatitis have been reported in countries around Europe, following a mysterious spike in cases of severe liver disease in children in the UK. The UK’s public health agencies have been investigating 74 cases of hepatitis – an illness causing liver inflammation – in children since January. Health experts are trying to determine the causes of the cases, as the usual viruses causing the illness were not detected. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said on Wednesday that additional cases of hepatitis of unknown origin have been reported in Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, and Spain. There have also been nine cases in children between the ages of one and six in the state of Alabama in the US, who also tested positive for adenovirus.
20 million risk starvation as drought worsens
Twenty million people are at risk of starvation this year as delayed rains worsen an already-brutal drought in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, the UN warned today. An extreme months-long drought has left the Horn of Africa on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe, destroying crops and livestock and forcing huge numbers of people to leave their homes in search of food and water. “The number of hungry people due to drought could spiral from the currently estimated 14 million to 20 million through 2022,” the UN’s World Food Programme said.
‘Dishonest’ Boris Johnson attacked after apology
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been urged to resign by a senior Tory backbencher as Labour labelled him “a joke” for making a “mealy-mouthed” apology to MPs over breaking his own coronavirus rules. He offered a “wholehearted apology” to the House of Commons as he addressed MPs for the first time since paying his £50 fine, but claimed “it did not occur” to him that the rules were being broken at his 56th birthday celebration in June 2020. But Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer told MPs that Britons “don’t believe a word the prime minister says”, adding that he’s a “man without shame”.
Le Pen, Macron to face off in crunch TV election duel
French leader Emmanuel Macron and the far-right’s Marine Le Pen go head-to-head in a crunch TV debate on Wednesday, seeking to sway undecided voters with four days left until the presidential election’s decisive second round. Some polls are predicting a lead of around 10 points for Macron over Le Pen in the run-off, a repeat of the 2017 election. But undecided voters and abstentions could yet swing the figures. This year’s vote will mark the closest the far right has come to taking the Elysee presidential palace.
Libyan national oil company blocks Brega terminal
The National Oil Company has announced the cessation of activities at the new Brega oil terminal. The suspension of operations at the Brega (east) terminal, which has a daily export capacity of 60,000 barrels, comes the day after the closure of the Zuetina (east) terminal and several oil sites. Unable to comply with contractual commitments, NOC declared “a state of force majeure” which exempts it from liability in the event of non-compliance with oil delivery contracts.