Pope ready to go to Kyiv
During his flight to Malta for his 36th apostolic journey, the Pope confirmed that he had considered the invitation to go to Ukraine, and explained that the option “is on the table”. Ukraine was also at the centre of his first speech in Valletta: Francis evoked the specter of an “extended cold war”, speaking in no uncertain terms about “some powerful, sadly locked up in anachronistic claims of nationalist interests, which provokes and foments conflicts”. Observers said that even without directly mentioning Vladimir Putin, the reference seemed to be the Russian president. And while considering the possibility of going to a city wounded by bombs, “the pain in my knee sometimes I forget …”. But precisely that pain, for the first time since his ascent to the throne of Peter, does not allow him to get off the flight stairs: the Pope, due to the pain in his knee, went down with a special platform, which on Sunday morning will allow him also to go down into the deep cave of San Paul, in Rabat, avoiding the steep steps.
In his speech, the Pope invoked “a human measure in the face of infantile and destructive aggression that threatens us, in the face of the risk of an extended cold war that can suffocate the life of entire peoples and generations”. A quote from Giorgio La Pira, who spoke of “humanity’s infantilism”: “That infantilism – he explains – unfortunately has not disappeared.
Bergoglio then called the international community into question: “It is sad to see how the enthusiasm for peace, which arose after the Second World War, has weakened in recent decades, as has the path of the international community, with a few powerful people going on their own precisely, in search of spaces and areas of influence.” Pope Francis therefore asks that “the huge funds that continue to be destined for armaments be converted to development, health and nutrition, to gather in international peace conferences, where the theme of disarmament is central”.
In Malta and Gozo, covered with yellow and white flags, the Pope defines Malta as a land of “rare humanity” where thousands of migrants from the southern hemisphere arrive. And then Francis calls Europe back because “some countries cannot take on the whole problem in the indifference of others! And civilized countries cannot sanction for their own interest murky agreements with criminals who enslave people”.
In his first public speech, Pope Francis said Malta must continue to fight corruption, foster honesty in politics and stop unbridled construction and land speculation. “Honesty, justice, a sense of duty and transparency are the essential pillars of a mature civil society. May your commitment to eliminate illegality and corruption be strong,” he enthused.
Mines after Russian retreat threaten Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that Russian troops were creating a “catastrophic” situation for civilians by leaving mines around homes, abandoned equipment and corpses. “It’s still not possible to return to normal life, as it used to be, even at the territories that we are taking back after the fighting,” the president told his nation in a nightly video message. “We need to wait until our land is demined, wait till we are able to assure you that there won’t be new shelling,” he said.
Ukraine retakes entire Kyiv region
Ukraine and Western allies have reported mounting evidence of Russia withdrawing its forces from around Kyiv and sending troops to eastern Ukraine. Officials said Ukraine’s fighters had reclaimed several areas near its capital city, including the city of Brovary. However, the shift does not mean the country faces a reprieve from the war.
‘300 people in mass graves’
The mayor of Bucha, just outside Kiev, has said that there were almost 300 people buried in ‘mass graves’. The city, north-west of the Ukrainian capital, has just liberated from the Russian occupation. But as Moscow’s forces retreat, evidence of civilian killings is mounting. Reporters say they have found at least 20 bodies strewn in the streets, some with hands tied behind their backs.
The BBC has separately confirmed the killing of at least two civilians on a highway leading to the capital.
Russia cracks down on protesters
The New York Times reports Russian forces moved to crack down on protesters in the southeastern of city Enerhodar, home to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Ukraine’s state nuclear agency, Energoatom, reported about the attacks on its official Telegram channel, posting an accompanying video clip that featured what appeared to be loud blasts and flying debris. “As protesters began to disperse, the invaders arrived in police vehicles, and began to force local residents into them,” the report read. “A few minutes later, the city was rocked by massive explosions and shelling.” The agency said four people were injured. Energoatom also claimed Russian forces jammed phone and internet communications.
Russian helicopter hit by British missile system
Video footage appears to show a British-supplied missile system being used to shoot down a Russian helicopter. The footage, verified by the BBC, appears to show Ukrainian forces using a high-velocity British-supplied Starstreak projectile to shoot down a Russian MI-28 helicopter in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine. UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed in March that the UK had supplied Ukraine with the anti-aircraft missiles. Russian troops have abandoned Hostomel airport near the capital, leaving behind the wreckage of the world’s largest aircraft.
Attacks thwart Red Cross operations
Zelensky said he expected towns to receive airstrikes and shelling from afar and for eastern fighting to be intense. In Mariupol, a southern port city located in the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas region, the International Committee of the Red Cross planned Saturday to get emergency supplies into the besieged city and evacuate residents. City authorities said Russians blocked access to the city and the Red Cross said it was unable to carry out the operation then because it did not receive assurances the route was safe. About 100,000 people are believed to remain in the city and officials said around 2,000 made it out by themselves on Friday. Residents are in dire need of water, food, fuel and medicine.“Europe doesn’t have the right to be silent about what is happening in our Mariupol,” Zelenskyy said. “The whole world should respond to this humanitarian catastrophe.” There was no word Saturday on Friday’s round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators.
Grammy Awards tonight
The Grammy Awards are back this Sunday night, after a three-month delay due to the surge of COVIDcases in the US. The star-studded ceremony is traditionally billed as “music’s biggest night” – which covers both the scale of the event and its mind-numbing length. The first awards will be handed out in Las Vegas at 12:30 on Sunday, eight hours before the album of the year prize is presented at 20:30 local time (5.30am, Monday, in Malta). There are 70 categories in total, with everyone from Lady Gaga to Barack Obama on the nominations list. Unlike last year’s smaller event, which featured a mixture of live and pre-recorded performances, the 2022 ceremony will be a more normal show – with Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Carrie Underwood, Silk Sonic and Olivia Rodrigo all taking to the stage at the MGM Grand Arena. Comedian Trevor Noah will host for the second time.