Global Review – 31st May

EU agrees ban on Russian oil imports

EU leaders on Monday backed a ban on ‘more than two thirds’ of Russian oil imports, after a compromise deal with Hungary to punish Moscow for the war in Ukraine. The 27-nation bloc had spent weeks haggling over a proposed total embargo on Russian oil but came up against fierce resistance from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. EU leaders meeting in Brussels agreed on a compromise deal to exempt pipeline deliveries from the ban, after Budapest warned halting supplies would wreck its economy. European Council president Charles Michel tweeted the agreement puts “maximum pressure on Russia to end the war”. Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the move “will effectively cut around 90 percent of oil imports from Russia to the EU by the end of the year” as Germany and Poland had committed to renounce pipeline deliveries to their territory. The package also involved disconnecting Russia’s biggest bank Sberbank from the global SWIFT system, banning three state broadcasters and blacklisting individuals blamed for war crimes.

EU towards including Patriarch Kirill on black list

The EU is moving towards the inclusion of Patriarch Kirill in the black list of the sixth package of sanctions against Russia. At the moment, explains a senior European official, the Russian Orthodox archbishop is on the list, but the package will be finalised only on Wednesday at the meeting of the representatives of the 27 and only then will it be official.

Zelensky urges EU unity

In a video address to the EU summit, President Zelensky urged EU leaders to unite against Moscow. He asked why Russia still earned more than a billion euros a day selling energy, “even as it destroyed Ukrainian cities”. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President spokesman Sergiy Nikiforov said Zelensky would evaluate the proposal to hold three-way telephone talks with the leaders of Russia and Turkey, if the Russian president was ready to participate.

Moscow hails no medium-range missiles to Kiev

The vice president of the Russian Security Council Dmitri Medvedev considers “reasonable” President Biden’s decision not to supply Ukraine with medium-range missiles capable of reaching Russia. Tass quotes Medvedev saying that in the event of attacks on its cities, Russia would hit the ‘criminal decision-making centres’, some of which are “far from Kiev”. President Biden on Monday said he would not send Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) to Ukraine that could potentially reach into Russia. Moscow had objected loudly to moves by the West to provide Ukraine with weapons. President Putin had spoken to leaders of France and Germany on Saturday and warned against continued transfers of weapons to Ukraine.

French journalist killed in Severodonetsk

A French journalist was killed after a car he was travelling in was hit near Severodonetsk. The regional governor of Lugansk said their armoured evacuation vehicle was going to pick up 10 people from the area and ended up under enemy fire. “Shrapnel from the grenades pierced the armour of the car, and a fatal wound in the neck was received by an accredited French journalist who was making a report on the evacuation.” French president Emmanuel Macron extended his and lauded the task of “those who guarantee the difficult mission of informing on the theatres of operations”.

‘New NATO strategic concept in Madrid’

A “new strategic concept” for NATO will be studied at the next summit in Madrid scheduled for the end of June, which will not only refer to “conventional military issues”, but also to aspects that go “far beyond” such as “hybrid threats”, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said in a speech marking the 40th anniversary of his country’s entry into the alliance. “It will be an opportunity to send a powerful message of unity and complementarity between the EU and NATO”, he added. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said next month’s summit will be a “historic” opportunity to strengthen the alliance in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine on its eastern edge.

Australia: Albanese secures majority government

Australia’s new Labour government has secured a majority in parliament, having obtained the 76 lower house seats needed after victories in tight races. The centre-left party, led by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, defeated Scott Morrison’s conservative coalition in an election 10 days ago. A record vote for independents and minor parties had made it uncertain whether Mr Albanese would govern in his own right. However, it is a different story in the Senate, where the Labour government will need crossbench support to pass laws.

Canada proposes complete freeze on gun ownership

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said his country should introduce a total ban on the buying and selling of all handguns. A Bill, which was presented to Canada’s parliament on Monday, makes it impossible to buy, sell, transfer or import handguns anywhere in the country. “Other than using firearms for sport shooting and hunting, there is no reason anyone in Canada should need guns in their everyday lives,” Trudeau told reporters. “As we see gun violence continue to rise, it is our duty to keep taking action, he said. The Bill marks the most ambitious attempt yet by his government to restrict access to firearms.

No concern monkeypox will cause pandemic

WHO said Monday it was not concerned for now that the spread of monkeypox beyond the African countries, where it is typically found, could spark a global pandemic. Since Britain first reported a confirmed monkeypox case on May 7, nearly 400 suspected and confirmed cases have been reported in nearly two dozen countries far from the states where the virus is endemic. The UN health agency has voiced concern at this “unusual situation”, but reiterated Monday that there was no reason to panic over the virus.

Xi receives new Hong Kong leader

President Xi Jinping has received Hong Kong leader John Lee in Beijing, assuring him that he had “the full confidence of the central government”. Lee, 64, who oversaw the crackdown on the former British colony’s democratic movement after the 2019 protests, has been visiting the Chinese capital since Saturday ahead of his post as Hong Kong’s new governor on July 1. “I believe the new government administration will certainly create a new atmosphere and compose a new chapter in Hong Kong’s development,” said Xi.

Archbishop of Canterbury has COVID, skips Queen’s Jubilee

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has COVID and will not be able to officiate as scheduled on Friday 3 the thanksgiving service for the Platinum Jubilee of the 70 years of record reign of 96-year-old Queen Elizabeth in London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. Welby’s symptoms are described as not serious, albeit accompanied by “mild pneumonia”. The prelate will be replaced in the celebration of the solemn liturgy on June 3 by the archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, who will hold in his place the expected sermon before the sovereign, the rest of the royal family and the guests.

UEFA commissions report into Champions League final

UEFA has commissioned an independent report into the scenes outside the ground that delayed Saturday’s Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid. UEFA said a “comprehensive review” would examine a number of factors which include the decision-making, responsibility and behaviour of all parties involved in the final”. UEFA said: “Evidence will be gathered from all relevant parties and the findings of the independent report will be made public once completed. Upon receipt of the findings, Uefa will evaluate the next steps.” On Monday, French authorities complained of what they called “industrial-scale” ticket fraud. French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera accused Liverpool of letting their supporters “out in the wild”. Liverpool chairman Tom Werner has since written to Oudea-Castera “demanding an apology” for her comments.