Global Review – 23rd March

Mariupol convoy personnel taken prisoners – Zelensky

A humanitarian convoy of 11 empty buses headed to Mariupol to rescue Ukrainians fleeing the city was kidnapped by Russian forces along with the drivers of the vehicles and various emergency services operators. CNN quotes Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk saying the convoy was stopped at a Russian checkpoint near Mangush, about 15 km west of Mariupol, and was taken to an unknown location. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said this in a speech on Telegram, “Employees of the state emergency service and bus drivers have been taken prisoner” by Russian forces and “We are doing everything to free our people and unblock the movement of humanitarian loads”. In an early morning speech Wednesday, Zelensky said that     “despite all the difficulties, we have saved 7,026 people from Mariupol. Tomorrow we will continue this important work.”

Mariupol residents ‘starving’

Residents of Mariupol are “starving” as Russian attacks continue. Russia’s invasion of Mariupol and other key Ukrainian cities like Kyiv have forced people underground and destroyed signs of civilization, leaving people without food, water, electricity and ways to communicate with their families. Maria Smarovailo, a Mariupol native who has since left the city, told Fox News Digital that there has been “no food for more than three weeks”. When electricity, water and cellphone signals were cut, people began collecting snow and rainwater and looting stores that were still standing “to get at least some food and water for children”. Earlier, President Zelensky said there was “nothing left” of Mariupol.

Russia ‘intentionally targeted’ civilians – US official

A senior US defence official said Tuesday that “we have seen clear evidence that certainly over the last week or so, the Russians have deliberately and intentionally targeted civilian infrastructure, hospitals and places of shelter” in Ukraine. “And we also have indications of behaviour on the ground by Russian forces that would like likewise constitute war crimes,” the official added. Earlier, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby told “Fox & Friends” that the US has seen “clear evidence that the Russian military is conducting war crimes” in Ukraine. The defence official also said that Russia continues to talk about using chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine, but intelligence suggests no imminent threat of such an attack.

2,389 children kidnapped – US embassy

The Guardian quotes the US embassy in Kiev saying Russian forces have “kidnapped” 2,389 children from Donetsk and Lugansk. The Ukraine’s foreign ministry said the children were “illegally removed” from the Russian-controlled territories of Lugansk and Donetsk oblasts and taken to Russia.

10 hospitals completely destroyed

Ten Ukrainian hospitals have been completely destroyed by bombing, Ukrainian health minister Viktor Lyashko said on national television. “The enemy has already bombed 139 hospitals, medical care can no longer be provided there and these facilities must be rebuilt from scratch. This will be a new construction, which I hope will start as soon as possible,” Lyashko said. Other hospitals could not be supplied with medicines and other supplies due to the fighting nearby.

No rule out of Russian use of nuclear weapons if…

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, refused Tuesday to say his nation would not use nuclear weapons if it thought Russia could be destroyed. According to the Russian government-controlled news site TASS, Peskov said the conditions were consistent with the nations national security concept. “If there’s a threat to the very existence of our country, it can be used in accordance with this concept,” he stated in response to the question of whether Russia’s use of nuclear weapons could be completely ruled out.”

Kremlin refusal to rule out nuclear option ‘dangerous’ – US

The Pentagon has condemned the Kremlin spokesman’s refusal earlier on Tuesday to rule out the use of nuclear weapons during the Ukraine conflict. Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby said Moscow’s nuclear remarks were “dangerous” and not the way a responsible nuclear power should act.

Russian combat power drops below 90%

Russia’s invasion into Ukraine has persisted for nearly four weeks but its forces remain stalled, with the Pentagon assessing Tuesday that his combat power is dropping. “We’ve assessed, for the first time, that the Russians may be slightly below a 90% level of assessed available combat power,” a senior defense official told reporters. The drop in power is reflective of the 150,000 soldiers he amassed on Ukraine’s border in the lead-up to the invasion last month. “It is not an assessment of all Russian military power,” the senior defense official added.

US considering sending more troops to Europe

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin is still considering the possibility of deploying additional American troops to NATO’s eastern flank in Europe as the war in Ukraine rages on. A defence official said Russia’s military remains stalled outside of Kyiv and “some of their soldiers are suffering from frostbite” as “they lack the appropriate cold weather gear for the environment that they’re in”. Their sitiation is ecerbhated by lack of food, fuel and personal equipment for some of their troops. The official also spoke about the resilience of Ukraine’s military, saying “we continue to see them defend in a very nimble, agile way” a and “we are starting to see indications that they are are now able and willing to take back territory that the Russians have taken”.

New sanctions on Thursday

The US and its Western allies will announce new sanctions against Russia on Thursday, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. The new sanctions are expected on 300 members of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament. Thursday is the day on which President Joe Biden will be in Brussels to attend the NATO summit, the meeting with the leaders of the G7 and the European Council on Ukraine. Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi had a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron on the war in Ukraine, and the preparation of the summits.

UK thieves steal a van with donations for Ukraine

An International Aid Trust van containing donations for Ukraine (furniture and other items) was stolen from a warehouse in Chorley, Lancashire, England . The organization announced it on Facebook, which asked anyone who had information to communicate with it. Interviewed by the BBC, the founder, Bernard Cocker, said that from the footage of the security cameras it was possible to ascertain that the theft was committed by two people. After the work hundreds of volunteers have done to get donations to the Ukrainian people, it hurts to see two people steal one of our vehicles,” Cocker said. The van alone is worth around €24,000. 

Anti-COVID measures too brutally revoked’ – WHO

The World Health Organization’s regional director for Europe, Hans Kluge, has reproached EU countries – Italy, Germany, France and the United Kingdom – which “hastened the return to normal” by saying an eaarly goodbye to anti-COVID-19 regulations, which have contributed to the current increase in infections”. Speaking from Moldova, Kluge said such countries had revoked their anti-COVID measures too brutally and were now facing a sharp increase in cases. Such countries were united by the belief that the easing of restrictions was a necessary step towards a return, albeit abrupt, to normalcy. In China, on the contrary, the increase in infections is responded to by mass lockdown. Another nine million in the Chinese city of Shenyang will be forced to stay at home. Residents have been banned from any departure and travel without a negative test done within 48 hours.

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