Record EU inflation at 7.4% in March
Annual inflation in the eurozone in March was 7.4%, according to Eurostat, the European statistics office, which in the flash data at the beginning of the month had estimated inflation in March at 7.5%. However, this is a record leap, from 5.8% in February and 1.3% a year earlier, and the highest inflation levels ever recorded in the eurozone. The main component remains that of energy (+4.36 percentage points), followed by services (+1.12), food, alcohol and tobacco (+1.07) and industrial goods (+0.9). In the EU, inflation in March was 7.8%, compared to 6.2% in February and 1.7% a year earlier.
‘$60 billion damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure’ – World Bank
The World Bank has said that an early estimate shows physical damage to Ukraine’s buildings and infrastructure from the war had reached roughly $60 billion. The estimate does not include growing economic costs of the war. The amount will continue to rise as the war goes on, World Bank President David Malpass said at a conference on Thursday. In his virtual address to the conference, President Zelensky also said that the country needed an estimated $7 billion a month to make up for its economic losses now and “hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild all this later”. Zelensky asked countries that have imposed sanctions and freezes on Russian assets to use that money to help rebuild Ukraine after the war and to pay for losses suffered by other countries.
Putin claims victory in Mariupol
President Putin claimed victory on Thursday in the biggest battle of the Ukraine war, declaring the port city of Mariupol “liberated” – a claim disputed by both Ukraine and the United States. Hundreds of Ukrainian troops and civilians were still holding out inside a giant steel works. Putin ordered his troops to blockade the steel complex, where Ukrainians were told earlier to either surrender or die. Ukraine said Putin wanted to avoid a final clash with its forces in Mariupol, as he lacked troops to defeat them. But Ukrainian officials also appealed for help to evacuate civilians and wounded soldiers. US President Joe Biden pledged $800 million (€737 million) in military aid for Ukraine, saying it is the ‘frontline of freedom’. He also announced a ban on Russian ships from US ports. Speaking at an event in Oregon. Biden said that, “When he was elected, Putin thought he would easily destroy NATO and instead he got exactly what he didn’t want and that is that Finland and Sweden will join the Atlantic Alliance.”
‘See that not even a fly can get through’
In a televised meeting at the Kremlin, Putin congratulated his defence minister and Russian troops for having “successfully completed the combat effort to liberate Mariupol”. He said it was unnecessary to storm the industrial zone containing the Azovstal steel plant. “Block off this industrial area so that not even a fly can get through,” Putin said.
‘They can only postpone the inevitable’ – Zelensky
In a late-night address, President Zelensky said Russia was doing all it could “to talk about at least some victories”, including mobilising new battalion tactical groups. “They can only postpone the inevitable – the time when the invaders will have to leave our territory, including from Mariupol, a city that continues to resist Russia regardless of what the occupiers say,” Zelensky said. “Unfortunately Russia has rejected the proposal for a truce for Orthodox Easter,” Zelensky wrote on Telegram.
Satellite images show a mass grave being dug
Satellite images suggest hundreds of bodies have been hastily buried in a mass grave close to the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol. The city’s mayor is accusing Russian troops of burying civilians to cover up war crimes. The mass grave site was quickly put together on the north-western edge of Manhush, about 20 kilometres of Mariupol, and adjacent to an existing village cemetery, according to Maxar Technologies. The graves are aligned in four sections of linear rows and transformed the landscape around the cemetery within a week.
Pope thanks Orban for taking Ukrainians
Pope Francis met Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Thursday, expressing appreciation for Budapest taking in Ukrainian refugees, and Orban invited the pope to make a state visit to Hungary. Reuters reports Orban spoke to the pope privately for about 40 minutes. The Vatican said there would be no statement because the visit was a private one.
Five million Ukrainian refugees
The UN refugee agency says the number of people fleeing Ukraine to escape Russia’s invasion has passed five million in Europe’s worst refugee crisis since the end of World War Two. About 625,000 refugees have arrived in Hungary since the start of the war and about 80% of them have moved on, according to the latest figures from the Hungarian government. More than 600,000 additional people were internally displaced in Ukraine in the first 17 days of April, the International Organization for Migration said on Thursday, pushing the total number since the start of the war above 7.7 million, or 17% of the population.
MPs vote to investigate Johnson for ‘lying to Parliament’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be officially investigated by the Commons Privileges Committee over allegations he misled Parliament at least four times over Partygate – and could find him in contempt of Parliament. Labour’s motion passed ‘on the nod’ without a formal vote, as Tory whips decided not to formally oppose it. “I have absolutely nothing to hide,” Johnson told Sky News during a visit to India.
‘Stop Jewish prayers at Al-Aqsa mosque’
The Arab League has called on Israel to end Jewish prayers inside the compound of Islam’s third holiest shrine in East Jerusalem, warning it was a flagrant affront to Muslim feelings that could trigger wider conflict. They said while Israel was restricting the right of worship of Muslims in Jerusalem’s Old City, ultra-nationalist Jews under police protection were being allowed at the height of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan to enter the Al-Aqsa mosque compound. An upsurge of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories in recent weeks has raised fears of a slide back to wider conflict. Since March, Israeli forces have killed at least 29 Palestinians in West Bank raids, and a series of deadly Arab street attacks have killed 14 people in Israel.
German identified as suspect in Madeleine McCann case
Portuguese prosecutors have formally identified German convicted rapist Christian Brueckner as a suspect in the disappearance of British toddler Madeleine McCann 15 years ago. Brueckner, 45, has not been charged with any crime related to the disappearance. He is behind bars in Germany for raping a woman in the same area of the Algarve region where Madeleine went missing in 2007. He has denied being involved in the disappearance of McCann.
Work from home to beat Putin, says EU
The EU is asking its citizens to drive less, turn down air conditioning and work from home three days a week, to reduce reliance on Russian energy. The measures, drawn up with the International Energy Agency, would save a typical household €450 a year. Buying energy from Russia helps to support its economy and finance the war in Ukraine. But Europe has said it cannot find alternative supplies, so it is asking citizens to adjust their lifestyles. The nine-point plan, entitled “Playing My Part”, urges citizens to drive less, by using public transport, or working from home three days a week. It also calls on citizens to: heat their homes less in winter, and turn the air conditioning down in summer; drive more slowly on highways, with the car air conditioning turned down, which uses less fuel; use the train instead of flying; and travel by public transport, walk, or cycle. It also calls on cities to promote car-free Sundays, as some already do. The IEA calculates that if every citizen followed its recommendations, it could save 220 million barrels of oil every year, enough to fill 120 supertankers. It would also save 17billion cubic metres of gas, enough to heat nearly 20 million homes. The report also recommends that citizens consider investing in home insulation, smart digital thermostats, and digital cars, which can all help to reduce fossil fuel use.