Australia set to elect first Labour government since 2013
As millions of Austrtalian voters head to the polls, Opposition leader Anthony Albanese, on the brink of leading Australia’s first Labour government for almost a decade, has warned his party still had a “mountain to climb”. The latest polls show Labour six points ahead over Scott Morrison’s Liberal-National coalition, but with the result “too close to call”. The rising cost of living and climate change have shaped up as two key issues for voters. Voting is compulsory in Australia, and about 17 million people are expected to cast a ballot this time round. Initial results should be known by this 7pm (Malta time), although the Electoral Commission has warned a clear winner may not immediately emerge if it is a close contest due to the time required to count about three million postal votes.
Russia claims control of steel works in Mariupol
Russia says its forces are in complete control the Azovstal steel works in Mariupol, following the surrender of the last remaining Ukrainian fighters defending it. Russia’s defence ministry said 531 people had surrendered, adding that a total of 2,439 defenders had surrendered in the past few days.The commander of the Azov battalion was taken out of the Azovstal steelworks in a special armoured vehicle, the spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry said. General Igor Konashenkov told Tass the measure was taken “to exclude reprisals by local residents”, to protect him “from the hatred of Mariupol residents and the desire of citizens to punish him for the numerous atrocities committed”. Russian Defence Minister Seghei Shoigu communicated to President Putin “the end of the operation and the complete liberation of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol from Ukrainian militants,” according to Tass. President Zelensky said today that the defenders had been told by Ukraine’s military that they could get out and save their lives. He called them “heroes”, saying their stand helped tie down Russian forces and allow Ukraine to succeed elsewhere on the battlefield. Zelenskiy said Ukraine’s air force had tried to fly in supplies to Mariupol but had been beaten back, taking major losses. “A very large number of our pilots died, sadly,” he told Ukrainian television.
‘Russians remove hundreds of bodies from Mariupol theatre’
The Russians completed the removal of the rubble from the bombed Mariupol theatre last March, taking away the bodies of hundreds of civilians. This was stated by the counciller of the mayor of the city, Petro Andryushchenko, quoted by UNIAN. “Now we will never know how many Mariupol civilians were actually killed by the Russian bombing of the Dramatic Art Theatre. The dead were buried in a mass grave in Mangush,” he said. “It is difficult to imagine a greater war crime and against humanity.”
Russia Ramps Up Assaults In Eastern Ukraine
Meanwhile, Russia has stepped up its assault on eastern Ukraine, using artillery, rocket launchers, and aircraft to pound the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, destroying houses in residential districts and killing a number of civilians, according to Ukrainian civilian and military officials. Twenty civilians were killed following Russian troops’ bombing of 54 settlements. According to reports, air and mortar attacks destroyed or damaged 105 residential buildings and 15 other civilian objects, including a hospital, dormitory, sports centre, shopping mall, bank buildings and a pipeline. President Zelenskyy described the conditions in the Donbas region, which includes Luhansk and Donetsk, as “Hell” and said the region had been “completely destroyed” by Russia’s invasion. He accused Russian forces of attempting to kill as many Ukrainians and do as much damage as possible. Early Saturday morning, Ukraine destroyed a Russian tank in a “catastrophic explosion” after a direct hit from an anti-tank missile shot by Ukraine’s 24th Mechanized Brigade, the oldest continuous outfit within the nation’s ground forces.
Footage shows men being marched to their death in Bucha
New evidence which appears to show a brutal war crime in Bucha has been uncovered. Eight men were marched to their deaths by a Russian firing squad in the Kyiv suburb, according to a ‘New York Times’ investigation. CCTV captured the moment the group were led at gunpoint to the car park where their bodies would later be discovered. Drone footage and evidence from the scene seems to confirm they were murdered in cold blood despite being unarmed. The Kremlin has consistently denied its soldiers have committed atrocities, accusing Ukraine of staging killings in Bucha.
Russia to build western bases in response to NATO expansion
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has said Moscow would build new military bases in the west of the country in response to the expansion of NATO. “By the end of the year, 12 military units and divisions will be established in the Western Military District,” he told reporters. The Russian army will receive more than 2,000 units of military equipment and weapons, Shoigu added as Moscow prepares itself for Sweden and neighbouring Finland to join NATO. Their accession plans have so far been stymied by Turkey which is using its veto to block the pair from joining the military alliance. Fears the war may draw in NATO countries have been exacerbated by Finland and Sweden’s bid for membership of the military alliance. Communists in both countries have expressed opposition to the move with a “No To NATO” demonstration planned in the Swedish capital Stockholm later today.
Russia halts gas supplies to Finland
Russia has halted its supply of natural gas to Finland. Ria news agency said the supply was cut off this morning, as scheduled at 07:00 local time (5am Malta time). Finland has been refusing to pay for its supplies in roubles. But it also follows an announcement that Finland will apply for Nato membership. The Finnish state-owned energy firm Gasum said the Russian move was “regrettable” but there would be no disruption to customers. Despite its invasion, Russia continues to supply gas to many European countries.
UK and allies discuss arming Moldova
British foreign secretary Liz Truss has disclosed that the UK has begun discussions with its international allies about sending modern weaponry to Moldova to protect it from Russia. She said that she wants to see the country, which is to the south-west of Ukraine, “equipped to Nato standards”. Moldova is not currently a Nato member and there are concerns that it could be a future target for President Putin after the Ukraine conflict.
Italian workers strike over spending on war in Ukraine
Italian workers have started a 24-hour general strike in protest against the country’s arming of Ukraine as they demanded “lower your weapons, raise your wages”. Rallies will take place across the country today in most major cities including Rome with the walkout affecting both the public and private sectors. Trade unions are angered over the government’s military spending on Ukraine which they say would be better spent on raising workers’ wages at a time when the economy is predicted to slide into recession. According to the leftist Sinistra Italiana, Italian military expenditure will rise from €68 million to €104m per day, and from €25 to €38 billion every year in order to meet the 2% of GDP decreed by Nato. The looming crisis has led to Prime Minister Mario Draghi considering the re-introduction of a state of emergency with half a million Italian jobs at risk due to the cutting off of Russian gas supplies. Next year’s general election could be postponed if the situation continues to deteriorate.
Naked actvist crashes Cannes red carpet to protest war crimes
A topless woman protesting sexual violence in Ukraine crashed the red carpet premiere of “Three Thousand Years of Longing” at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday. Wearing only panties drenched with blood-red paint, the screaming woman had the Ukrainian flag sprayed across her chest with the words “Stop raping us.” The word “scum” was also written on her lower back. Security personnel covered up the woman and escorted her off the carpet.