Lockdown in 46 Chinese cities hitting 343 million people
Forty-six cities in China are currently in a state of total or partial lockdown in efforts to combat the wave of COVID-19 and its highly-contagious Omicron variant. The latest updated estimates of analysts of the Japanese investment bank Nomura also show that the situation has direct consequences on the lives of 343 million people, out of a total population of 1.4 billion. Société Générale, on the other hand, observed that the provinces affected by significant mobility restrictions represent 80% of China’s GDP, constituting a serious risk for Beijing’s growth. A difficult scenario that led UBS to cut its forecasts on Chinese GDP for 2022 from 5% to 4.2% due to the shock on the production fabric generated by the lockdowns, part of the ‘zero tolerance’ strategy, which led to logistical delays, the suspension of production and considerable damage to consumption and service activities. At the beginning of March, Premier Li Keqiang announced a growth target for the current year of “about 5.5%”, the lowest in the last 30 years.
Russian missiles hit Kyiv during Guterres’ visit
A residential building in Kiev was hit by two out of five missiles shot by the Russian while UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was visiting. Guterres admitted the Security Council had “failed” in its efforts to “prevent and end” the war in Ukraine. “And this is a source of great disappointment, frustration and anger,” he said during a joint media conference with President Zelensky. On his part, in a video posted on his channel Telegram, Zelensky said that with the raid on Kiev, Moscow wanted to “humiliate the UN and everything the organisation stands for”. At least 10 people were injured. After talks in Kyiv, Guterres said intense discussions were still continuing to enable the evacuation of a steel plant where fighters and civilians are holed up in Mariupol. Earlier, he visited Borodyanka and Bucha, decrying war as “an absurdity in the 21st century” and urging Russia to cooperate with an international investigation into atrocities.
10 Russian soldiers named in human rights abuses
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s prosecutor general has named 10 Russian soldiers allegedly involved in human rights abuses during the occupation of Bucha. Iryna Venediktova also told German TV that that Ukranian investigators had identified “more than 8,000 cases” of suspected war crimes.
Biden asks Congress for $33 billion to support Ukraine
US President Joe Biden has asked Congress for $33 billion to support Ukraine. In what is seen as “a dramatic escalation” of US funding for the war with Russia, President Biden has also asked for new tools to siphon assets from Russian oligarchs. “The cost of this fight – it’s not cheap – but caving to aggression is going to be more costly,” said Biden at the White House.
In other developments…
- The UK will send 8,000 soldiers to eastern Europe on expanded exercises to combat Russian aggression in one of the largest deployments since the cold war. British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said it would be legitimate for Ukrainian forces to target Russian logistics to cripple their supply of food, fuel and munitions. Tensions between Britain and Russia increased this week when Moscow accused London of provoking Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia.
- Western countries are openly calling on Ukraine to attack Russia and the West should take Moscow seriously when it says strikes on Russian territory will lead to a response, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.
- NATO is ready to maintain support for Ukraine for years in the war against Russia, including help for Kyiv to shift from Soviet-era weapons to modern Western arms and systems, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
- Russia has mounted a push to seize two eastern provinces in a battle the West views as a decisive turning point in the war. “The enemy is increasing the pace of the offensive operation. The Russian occupiers are exerting intense fire in almost all directions,” Ukraine’s military command said.
- Two explosions rocked a central district of Kyiv after Russian forces fired on the Ukrainian capital, mayor Vitali Klitschko said in an online post.
- The bodies of 1,150 civilians have been recovered in Ukraine’s Kyiv region since Russia’s invasion and between 50 and 70% of them have bullet wounds from small arms, Kyiv police said.
- Real disposable income in Russia dropped 27.8% in the first quarter of 2022, the official statistics service said, pointing to a slide in purchasing power since the Ukraine conflict began.
- Ukraine accused Russia of stealing grain in territory it has occupied – an act which it said increased the threat to global food security posed by disruptions from the conflict.
Transparency lawsuit filed against Frontex
The EU’s border police, Frontex, is being sued for refusing to release documents detailing its working relations with the Libyan coast guard. The lawsuit, lodged at the EU General Court in Luxembourg, refers to the case of a push-back, in the Maltese search and rescue area, when a boat in distress carrying around 20 migrants was intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard and returned to Libya. According to Sea-Watch, Frontex violated the duty of transparency by repeatedly refusing to provide it with documents, images and a video on the exchange of communications between Frontex and the Libyan, Italian and Maltese authorities.
Panic as tourists bring unexploded shell to Israeli airport
An American family set off a bomb scare at Israel’s main airport on Thursday when they showed security inspectors an unexploded shell which they found while visiting the Golan Heights and had packed for their return trip, authorities said. Video circulated on social media showed panicked passengers scattering at Ben Gurion Airport’s departure hall. The Israel Airports Authority said a man was hospitalised with injuries sustained as he tried to flee over a baggage carousel. It said the family was allowed to board their flight after an interrogation by security staff, who declared an all-clear.