Zelensky accuses Russia of using nuclear terror
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of resorting to “nuclear terror” by striking the Zaporizhazhia atomic plant. He said this was the first time in history and that Putin “wants to repeat the Chernobyl catastrophe”. In a video released by the Ukrainian presidency, Zelensky said, “We want to alert the world to the fact that no country outside Russia has ever fired at nuclear power plants. It is the first time in our history, the first time in the history of humanity: this terrorist state is now resorting to nuclear terror.” Earlier, the Ukrainian authorities have said that they have finally managed to get firefighters to the plant to put out the fire in one of the units hit by Russian artillery and that the safety of the plant has now been “restored”. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweet concern that “if it explodes, it would be 10 times worse than Chernobyl” and had appealed to the Russians to “immediately cease fire, allow firefighters to intervene and create a safety zone”. Meanwhile, the Ukraine energy regulator told the International Atomic Energy Agency there had been no change in radiation levels at the nuclear power plant site.
Zelensky asks Putin for ‘face-to-face’ talks
President Zelensky has asked Vladimir Putin for one-to-one talks, saying this was the only way to end the war. He also appealed to the West to give Ukraine planes to fight the invasion.
In other developments:
- In Mariupol, a southern port near Ukraine’s border with Russia, civilians are trapped by intense shelling and are facing a humanitarian crisis;
- If Russia captures more southern cities, Ukrainian forces could be cut off from the sea;
- An Estonian cargo ship, flying the Panamanian flag, has been hit by torpedoes, and sank but the crew was rescued;
- Kyiv remains in government control and a large Russian armoured convoy is some distance away;
- The Pentagon suspects Russian forces are moving northwest from Kherson to Mykolaiv to start the land campaign with the support of naval assaults from the Black Sea.
Agreement on the ceasefire for humanitarian corridors
At the end of the eighth day of fighting, Ukraine and Russia have reached an agreement on the temporary ceasefire and the activation of humanitarian corridors. The Kiev delegation at the talks in Brest, Belarus, said the two countries have also agreed on a third round of negotiations. According to Russian chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky, “significant progress” has been made in talks with Ukraine.
Putin: “No one can threaten us”
While the talks were going on, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a striking defence of his country’s military invasion of Ukraine, saying the campiagn was “going to plan” and that they were “achieving our goals and being successful”. He said “Nobody can be a threat to Russia”, adding “The Russian military is fighting for peace, not to have an anti-Russia” created by the West “that threatens us, even with nuclear weapons”. He said he would never give up on his conviction that Russians and Ukrainians were one people. However, “the Ukrainian neo-Nazis prevent this and are treating civilians like human shields”. Putin described Moscow’s soldiers as “real heroes” and announced compensation to the relatives of dead or wounded soldiers. And he adds: “We are proud of our army and will remember our fallen comrades. We are making sure to do everything possible to ensure that there are no civilian casualties, and I am also talking about Ukrainian citizens.”
A warning to ‘mercenaries’
The Russian president denounced what he called the “foreign mercenaries in Ukraine, including some from the Middle East”, underlining at the same time that “the Russian soldiers and officers fighting in Donbass are heroes”. “Russian forces managed to break through the lines of the Ukrainian nationalists, we attacked the enemy and destroyed his means with ease.”
NATO, EU ministers in crisis meetings
Foreign ministers from NATO and the European Union will hold a series of crisis meetings in Brussels as the allies show their support for Ukraine. For the first time since Brexit, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will attend the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, as a special guest along with counterparts from the US, Canada and Ukraine. She will also attend a special meeting of NATO foreign ministers and hold talks with counterparts from the G7 group. Truss said it was “one of the biggest days of diplomacy” with allies prepared to “tighten the vice around Putin’s war machine” by targeting the Russian economy with sanctions. French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to Putin on Thursday but said “he refuses to stop his attacks” and warned “the worst of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is yet to come”.
Draghi to meet von der Leyen on Monday
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has announced he will meet EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday in Brussels to talk about immigration and energy. The government’s energy plan envisages reducing Italy’s dependence on Russia, diversifying supply sources as quickly as possible in compliance with the commitments on decarbonisation. Meanwhile, EU Interior Ministers have agreed that Ukrainian refugees who fled to member-states would be given special temporary protection, including residence permits with rights to access the labour market, healthcare and education. The UN has said a million people had left the country in the first week of Russia’s invation.
‘Stop looting, give food to the most fragile’
The mayor of Kherson, Igor Kolykhaiev, has urged his fellow citizens to stop looting the shops and to entrust the authorities with the distribution of the remaining food. “The city needs food and industrial products, especially the most defenseless sections of the population,” he said, appealing to all owners and managers of supermarkets, department stores, stores, and grocery stores for help. “We assure you that your remaining products will get to where they are expected: hospitals, orphanages, retirement homes, the needy, families with many children, social categories, etc “, Kolykhaiev wrote in a post on Facebook.
‘Give Peace a Chance’ on 150 European radios
About 150 European public radio stations this morning simultaneously broadcast John Lennon’s song “Give Peace a Chance” in support of peace in Ukraine. The European Broadcasting Union said the song could be also heard in Ukraine, and private European radio stations also joined the initiative.
Russian cats excluded from international competitions
The sanctions against Russia have also affected cats. The International Feline Federation has announced that it has banned Russian cats from its competitions around the world at least until the end of May, saying it is “horrified” by the invasion of Ukraine. The agency also reported that it intends to allocate part of its budget to Ukrainian cat breeders suffering from the conflict.