Global Review – 22nd February

Russia recognises Ukraine separatist regions

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian troops into two Moscow-backed rebel regions of Ukraine, defying Western threats of sanctions. The move came hours after the Kremlin recognised the independence of two rebel-held areas of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of Ukraine – which are controlled by pro-Russian separatists – paving the way for an operation to deploy part of the potential invasion force he has massed around the country.

‘Risk of major conflict real’ – UN

The UN undersecretary for political affairs, Rosemary Dicarlo, has told the UN Security Council that “the risk of a great conflict is real and must be prevented at all costs”. Speaking during an emergency meeting on Ukraine, Dicarlo said “the next few hours and days will be critical”. The meeting was called by Ukraine, the United States and six other countries. The United States led the wave of international condemnation against Russia following Putin’s decision.

‘We are not afraid of anything or anyone’ – Zelensky

Shortly before the UN meeting, in a TV address to the nation, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia was violating the integrity and sovreignty of his country. In a defiant speech, he said: “We are on our own land. We are not afraid of anything or anyone. We owe nothing to anyone, and will not give anything to anyone. Now is not February 2014, it’s February 2022 – another country, another army, one goal – peace, peace in Ukraine!”

Widespread condemnation of Putin’s announcement

The recognition of the breakaway republics triggered international condemnation and a promise of targeted sanctions from the United States and the European Union – with a broader package of economic punishment to come in the event of invasion. UN Secretary-General António Guterres described it as “a blatant violation of international law”. European Council President Charles Michel said the EU and its partners “will react with unity, firmness and determination”. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also condemned the Russian decision, as did British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, limiting himself to saying: “It is a very dark signal.”

‘Violent attack likely in the next few days or hours’

The White House has said “an extremely violent attack against Ukraine is possible in the next few days or hours”, underlining “the invasion of Ukraine by Russia would brutally crush the Ukrainians”. Meanwhile, Air France is the latest to announce the cancellation of its scheduled flights between Paris and Kiev, as a result of the crisis in Ukraine. The French move follows that by Lufthansa, Swissair, Austrian Airlines and KLM.

Russia is the target of NATO missiles – Putin

In an address to the nation, President Putin insisted on the military threat posed by the West. He said the installation of ballistic missiles in Ukraine “amounts to a threat to European Russia and the Urals. Tomahawk missiles can reach Moscow in 35 minutes, ballistic missiles in seven minutes and hypersonic missiles in four. And this is equivalent to putting a NATO knife in Russia’s throat. We are the target of NATO’s missiles”.

Kremlin pours cold water on Ukraine peace summit plan

The Kremlin has warned there were no concrete plans for a summit between the Russian and US leaders, as diplomats scambled to head off the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. The idea of a meeting between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden has been championed by France and cautiously welcomed by Ukraine as a way to avert a catastrophic war in Europe. But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “It’s premature to talk about any specific plans for organising any kind of summit”, adding that no “concrete plans” had been put in place. But in Washington, a senior US administration official told AFP: “Timing to be determined. Format to be determined. So it’s all completely notional.”

‘Unacceptable behaviour for migrants at EU borders – UNHCR

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi has said the treatment given too often to migrants at European borders “is legally and morally unacceptable and must stop” as soon as possible. These are “deplorable practices that now risk becoming normal”. He launched his alarm in the light of the testimonies collected by thousands of people who denounced “threats, intimidation, violence and humiliation” undergoing at the borders of what increasingly appears to be a ‘fortress Europe’.

Colombia legalises abortion  

Colombia’s constitutional court has ruled, by five votes against four, to decriminalised abortion during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. The decision, celebrated by activitsts who had campaigned hard for change, follows a series of rulings in Mexico and Argentina that lowered barriers to abortion. According to Causa Justa, a Colombian women’s rights coalition, at least 350 women were convicted or sanctioned for abortions between 2006 and mid-2019, including at least 20 girls under the age of 18.

Fetuses, human remains abandoned in Bologna

Il Resto del Carlino reports human remains and fetuses, preserved in dozens of yellow drums labelled as ‘special biological waste’, have been found abandoned in a shed in the industrial area of Granarolo. Bologna’s police acted after being alerted by a boy who collects scrap metal from companies in the area.

1,000 unburied corpses in Palermo

Unburied coffins, stacked in warehouses and makeshift spaces in the Palermo cemetery of the Rotoli, have exceeded the thousand mark. In 2019, corpses awaiting burial were just over 400. The cemetery lacks everything, from a functioning crematorium to the bags for exumulation, which the offices, open in fits and starts due to lack of staff and funds for overtime, have “forgotten” to order.

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