Global Review – 20th March

As the Russian-Ukrainian conflict enters its 25th day, the mayor of Mariupol has accused Russia of forcibly transferring thousands of Ukrainian residents from his city to remote places in Russia. Ukrinform reports the mayor of the war-torn city Vadym Boichenko, posted a statement on Telegram, saying the residents were “deported as the Nazis did during World War II”. The BBC quotes Russia’s Defence Ministry saying nearly 8,000 Ukranians had “expressed their desire to escape to Russia”.

Russians tightening their grip on Mariupol

The situation in the Mariupol has become desperate. Mayor Vadym Boychenko says Ukrainian forces are doing everything possible to prevent besieging troops from entering the city. He said there was a group of nineteen children, most of them orphans, trapped in terrible conditions in Mariupol, besieged for days by Russian troops and now exhausted by the lack of food, water and electricity. They are a group of kids, between the ages of four and 17, who had been sent to a clinic specialising in lung diseases before the invasion began. The group remained isolated due to the fighting raging in the city. Alexei Voloshchuk, a witness who managed to escape, said that the children are in “enormous danger”: they have been reduced to living in frozen basements, with rockets raining in the area, they have not washed for two weeks. “One of the girls, who will not be more than eight years old, showed me a photo of her face: she said it was because of the cold,” said Voloshchuk, who managed to escape to Zaporizhzhia. With them remained a doctor, a cook and two nurses.

Russian stopping civilians to get away from Mariupol

Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said humanitarian corridors out of the Kyiv and Luhansk regions were working on Saturday, but in Mariupol, Russian troops were still stopping buses from getting through. She said 190,000 civilians had been evacuated under such corridors since the Russian invasion. Ten routes had reportedly been agreed for Saturday. Russian forces pushed deeper on Saturday into Mariupol, where a major steel plant was closed down. The fighting has forced some three million Ukrainians to flee their homes, with thousands of people killed or wounded and widespread damage in the wake of shelling and aerial bombardments.

Anti-aircraft sirens in Kyiv

Anti-aircraft sirens are sounding in Kyiv. On its Telegram channel, Ukrinform reports it was inviting people to reach the shelters. Meanwhile, Ukrainian media reports bombings on Kharkiv, with dead and wounded. Ukrainska Prava cites eyewitnesses saying the attacks hit residential buildings and caused fires. The Emergency Medical Centre says a child is among the victims.

Empty shelves in Moscow lead to quarrels over sugar

The surge in demand for sugar in Russian cities continues. Some videos posted on social media show people filing in supermarkets and scuffles breaking out between shoppers to grab the packages.

Shelling kills nine in Zaporizhzhia

Reuters quote deputy mayor Anatoliy Kurtiev saying nine people were killed and 17 wounded in shelling of the suburbs of the city of Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine on Friday. The military has since declared a 38-hour curfew in Zaporizhzhia, which was being attacked by Russian forces with mortars, tanks, helicopters and rocket systems, Kurtiev said in an online post.

Russian bombardments in eastern, southern Ukraine

There have been renewed Russian bombardments in several parts of eastern and southern Ukraine. Several Kyiv suburbs have also been under fire. Russia’s military said on Saturday it had used hypersonic missiles for the first time in combat, claiming to have destroyed an underground arms depot in the western Ivano-Frankivsk region. Ukraine has confirmed the attack. According to Russian officials, the Kinzhal, carried by MiG-31 fighter jets, has a range of up to 2,000 km and flies at 10 times the speed of sound.

Zelensky urges Swiss to target oligarchs

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged Switzerland to do more to crack down on Russian oligarchs who, he said, were helping wage war on his country with their money. Zelenskyy told an anti-war protest in Bern that Swiss banks were where the “money of the people who unleashed this war” lay and their accounts should be frozen. Neutral Switzerland, which is not a member of the European Union, has fully adopted EU sanctions against Russian individuals and entities, including orders to freeze their wealth in Swiss banks.

Johnson criticised after comparing Brexit to Ukraine defence

A speech by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, which compared Brexit to Ukraine’s defence against the Russian invasion in a speech to the Conservative Party Conference on Saturday, sparked outrage and astonishment across the continent. Former president of the European Council and an ex-prime minister of Poland, Donald Tusk, told The Guardian that the Ukrainian people would be upset by Johnson’s remarks, which claimed both decisions reflected an instinct to “choose freedom”. “Brexit was about undoing freedoms and leaving the EU,” Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian prime minister who led the European parliament in Brexit negotiations, told The Guardian. “Ukrainians want more freedom and to join the EU.” He added that Johnson’s comments were “insane.”

American hiding in Poland with 62 Mariupol orphans

A former American Republican deputy and evangelical fundamentalist has been locked up for days in a hotel in a small town in Poland, Kazimierz Dolny, with 62 orphans from Mariupol. No one in the village of nearly 4,000 inhabitants was able to talk to the man, Matt Shea, or to decipher what his plans are. In the United States, Shea is a familiar face to the police: Nicknamed by some media as “the black piper”, in 2018 he was investigated by the FBI for terrorism, attempted insurrection and incitement to violence against minorities. The mayor of the town, Artur Pomianowski, made it known through Facebook that he had gone to visit the children and assured them that “they are fine”. The authorities have opened an investigation.

Pope visits young Ukrainian war refugees

Pope Francis on Saturday made a surprise visit to young Ukrainian war refugees being treated in a paediatric hospital in Rome. Nineteen Ukrainian children are currently being treated at the two branches of the Bambino Gesù Hospital for cancer, neurological conditions or serious war injuries caused by explosions.

Children fleeing Ukraine at risk of human trafficking

UNICEF has warned that children fleeing the war in Ukraine are at a high risk for human trafficking and exploitation. More than 1.5 million children have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began in February as more than 500 unaccompanied children were identified crossing into Romania alone. Data from the UNHCR shows that more than 3.3 million Ukrainians have fled the country. Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, said “Displaced children need governments in the region to step up and put measures in place to keep them safe.”

Women can now head Vatican departments

Pope Francis on Saturday introduced a landmark change allowing any baptised lay Catholic, male or female, to head most departments as part of a new constitution for the Vatican’s central administration. For centuries, the departments have been headed by male clerics, usually cardinals or bishops. Reuters says the new, 54-page constitution, which took more than nine years to complete, will take effect on June 5, and makes no distinction between lay men and lay women, although appointing a lay person depended on the “particular competence, power of government and function” of the department. It allows for departments to have their own internal constitutions. Last year, Francis for the first time named a woman to the number two position in the governorship of Vatican City, making Sister Raffaella Petrini the highest-ranking woman in the world’s smallest state. Also last year, he named Italian nun Sister Alessandra Smerilli to the interim position of secretary of the Vatican’s development office, which deals with justice and peace issues. In addition, the Pope has named Nathalie Becquart, a French member of the Xaviere Missionary Sisters, as co-undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, a department that prepares major meetings of world bishops held every few years.

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