EU leaders congratulate Macron
EU leaders quickly congratulated French President Emmanuel Macron on his election victory over his far-right rival Marine Le Pen. Definitive results of the second round of the presidential elections show President Macron garnering 18.7 million votes, or 58.55% of those cast. For the challenger Marine Le Pen 13.3 million French voted, a percentage of 41.45%. The abstention marked the highest level for a ballot since 1969, with 28.01%.
- “Bravo Emmanuel”, European Council President Charles Michel wrote in a tweet. “In this turbulent period, we need a solid Europe and a France totally committed to a more sovereign and more strategic European Union,” Michel wrote.
- Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Macron’s re-election was “wonderful news for all of Europe”.
- German Finance Minister Christian Lindner also said Europe was the biggest winner from Macron’s victory.
- “I look forward to continuing our extensive and constructive cooperation within the EU and NATO, and to further strengthening the excellent relationship between our countries,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.
- Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted his congratulations to Macron. Sanchez, on Thursday,wrote a joint opinion piece in French daily newspaper ‘Le Monde’, with Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, criticising Le Pen and urging people to vote for Macron.
- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the public face of Brexit for many Europeans, applauded the result, pledging cooperation with Macron and saying: “France is one of our closest and most important allies”.
- The leaders of Sweden, Romania, Lithuania, Finland, the Netherlands and Greece, as well as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, all reacted within half an hour of the result with their congratulations.
However, not everyone shared in the celebrations. Riot police charged and sprayed tear gas on demonstrators in central Paris protesting Macron’s re-election. The crowd of mostly young people had gathered in the central neighbourhood of Chatelet to protest Macron’s victory, according to Reuters.
Austria against EU membership for Ukraine
Austria’s Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg does not believe Ukraine should obtain European Union membership. Speaking at the 14th European media summit this week, he said Ukraine should not receive candidate status in June but highlighted the contributions Austria has made to Ukraine’s defence, adding that EU membership and neutrality are “compatible”. Schallenberg repeated his stance to Austrian publication ‘Heute’, but went further and said Ukraine should not, in principle, become a member even in the future. He called for a “different way” for Ukraine to develop ties with Europe. Ukraine’s foreign ministry expressed disappointment with Austria’s stance, calling the Austrian official’s statement “short-sighted” and “not in the interests of the united Europe”. The Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Ministry said postponing Ukraine’s membership meant “indulging Putin’s aggressive plans”. But around 40% of Austrians consider the government’s position on Ukraine as “on the whole correct,” while 23% believe the government is “too pro-Ukraine” and 17% “too pro-Russia,” according to ‘Heute’.
Blinken, Austin meet with Zelensky
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a trip shrouded in secrecy, made a wartime journey to Kyiv on Sunday, where President Zelensky planned to urge them to provide more aid in his nation’s battle against Russian invaders, a top Ukrainian official said. The US had been at extraordinary pains to keep everything about the trip under wraps until the men were safely out of Ukraine, declining even to confirm that it was taking place. The two met with Zelenskyy Sunday night, according to Ukraine’s presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych.
‘UN should focus on humanitarian aid, not negotiate in Moscow’
Two Ukrainian officials expressed doubts on Sunday about the UN Secretary-General’s planned trip to Moscow this week, saying that António Guterres should visit Ukraine first and focus on humanitarian aid, not peace talks in Moscow. Guterres will meet and have lunch on Tuesday with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and then meet with President Putin, according to a statement from the United Nations. He will then travel to Ukraine and meet with President Zelensky on Thursday.
Russian forces continue to bombard Ukraine
Rejecting calls from Ukrainian and humanitarian organisations for a cease-fire over the Orthodox Easter holiday, Russian forces continued to bombard towns and villages across Ukraine over the weekend. Before dawn on Sunday, attacks were made in the Donetsk region, the city of Pavlograd and the eastern region of Luhansk. Statements from state and local officials offered only a partial accounting of the growing toll as fighting along the 300-mile front line in eastern and southern Ukraine intensifiesd. Russian missile and artillery troops hit 423 targets in Ukraine overnight as part of the special military operation, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said Sunday.
Fighting hinders evacuation efforts – Again!
There were no humanitarian routes established out of the port city of Mariupol on Sunday, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereshchuk, said in a statement. With the city in ruins, the estimated 120,000 people are surviving in what witnesses have described as “barbaric conditions”. At the same time, Ukrainian officials said on Sunday that Russian forces continued to bombard the sprawling steel factory where hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are trapped. Vereshchuk said that the government would try to organise an evacuation again on Monday.
Red Cross ‘deeply alarmed’ by conditions in Mariupol
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Sunday it was “deeply alarmed” by the situation in Mariupol, calling for unimpeded access to help residents, including hundreds of wounded. Russian forces continued on Sunday to drop heavy bombs from the air and direct artillery fire at the sprawling Azovstal steel factory, where a few thousand Ukrainian soldiers and civilians are holed up. There were signs Russian troops were gathering around the plant for a possible assault. “New facts about the crimes of the occupiers against our Mariupol residents are being revealed,” President Zelensky said overnight Sunday. “New graves of people killed by the occupiers are being found. We are talking about tens of thousands of dead Mariupol residents.”
Pope laments barbarity of war
Speaking in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis lamented the “barbarity” of the war. “It is sad that these days, which are the holiest and most solemn for all Christians, we hear the deadly noise of weapons rather than the sound of bells announcing the Resurrection,” the Pope said. “It is sad that arms are taking the place of words.”
Oil below $100, fears for Covid in China
Oil in sharp decline on international markets in the wake of fears about the advance of Covid in China and the strategy implemented by Beijing to counter its spread, which risks having an impact on global growth and on the Chinese giant’s demand for crude oil. The wti, the Texan crude oil, falls below 100 dollars a barrel (-3.3% to $98.8) while the North Sea brent loses 3.2% to $103.28. Over the weekend, Shanghai recorded a record death as Beijing authorities warned that the virus was “silently spreading”and imposed mass testing in a district of the capital.