Conservatives suffer early losses in UK local elections
Early UK local election results showed Boris Johnson’s Conservatives suffered early losses in a ballot held against the backdrop of a cost-of-living crisis and fines imposed on the Prime Minister for breaking his own COVID-19 lockdown rules. The Tories lost the flagship Wandsworth Council to Labour having controlled it since 1978. They also lost Southampton, Worcester to no overall control and could lose Tory strongholds West Oxfordshire, Barnet and Westminster. Boris Johnson was said to be pessimistic about his party’s chances of avoiding a drubbing, with the BBC reporting he yesterday told aides ahead of ballot papers being counted: “We are going to get our a*** kicked tonight.” Early results showed the Conservative Party had lost 53 council seats. The main opposition Labour Party had gained one seat and the Liberal Democrats 27. Local Conservatives taking a beating at the ballot box were already turning on the PM in the early hours of this morning, prompting local Conservative leaders calling upon Johnson to “take a good, strong look in the mirror”, with some demanding a change of leadership in Westminster.
UN calls for end to Russian war in Ukraine
The United Nations and several countries have called for an end to Russia’s war in Ukraine, with little mention of reviving the two countries’ apparently stalled peace talks. “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a violation of its territorial integrity and of the Charter of the United Nations,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a Security Council meeting organised by the United States. “It must end for the sake of the people of Ukraine, Russia, and the entire world,” he added. The war on Ukraine “is senseless in its scope, merciless in its scale and unlimited in its potential for global damage. The cycle of death and destruction must stop. The time has come to unite and end this war.” The majority of the Security Council’s members, including China, the United States, Ireland, France and Mexico called for an end to the months-old conflict. Kenyan ambassador to the Martin Kimani called for Guterres’ mediation.
UN sends rescue convoy to Mariupol
The United Nations on Thursday said a new convoy was en route to evacuate civilians from the “hell” of the besieged steel plant in Mariupol, even as Ukraine accused Russia of breaking its promise to pause fire at the site. President Putin said Thursday the Russian army was still ready to allow civilians to leave the sprawling complex, while a Kremlin spokesman said humanitarian corridors were “functioning”. But a commander of Ukraine’s Azov regiment denied any evacuations were happening. Speaking to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Putin said the Kyiv authorities must give the militants remaining at Azovstal “an order to lay down their arms”. The mayor of Mariupol estimates that around 200 civilians, including women and children, are still sheltering in dismal conditions in the complex’s Soviet-era underground tunnels. Despite the uncertainty, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said a rescue convoy was on its way. The UN and the Red Cross have already worked together to evacuate civilians from the plant and some 344 people had already been evacuated and taken to the Ukrainian-controlled Zaporizhzhia. Meanwhile, Ukraine said it was checking unverified information that Russia used chemical weapons in Mariupo.
No ‘quick’ progress
Nearly 10 weeks into a war that has killed thousands, flattened cities and uprooted more than 13 million people, the Kremlin conceded Thursday that Kyiv’s Western partners had prevented a “quick” end to Russia’s military campaign by sharing intelligence and weapons with Ukraine. President Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said outside help, nevertheless, was “incapable of hindering the achievement” of the goals of Russia’s military operation. Peskov was responding to a New York Times article Wednesday that said intelligence provided by the United States had helped the Ukrainian military target “many” of the approximately dozen Russian generals who have been killed so far in the war.
Another report suggests US feeds Ukraine information
As Pentagon spokesman John Kirby, angered by the NYT report, said “the US provides intelligence to Ukraine, but does not decide the targets together with Kyiv”, the CNN quotes sources that say the US had given information which enabled Ukraine to strike the Russian cruiser Moskva, which sank on April 14 after being hit by two missiles. The sources told CNN that after sighting a Russian warship in the Black Sea, Kyiv called its American contacts to confirm it was the Moskva. The United States confirmed that she was the cruiser and provided information on her location. It is unclear whether the US knew Ukraine would attack and was not involved in the decision, the sources said.
Ukraine launches fundraising platform for war aid
President Zelensky announced Thursday that his government had launched a new online fundraising platform that he said would help his country “stop the war that Russia has started and rebuild what Russia has destroyed”. The platform, titled United24, says any donations “will be transferred to the official accounts of the National Bank of Ukraine and allocated by assigned ministries to cover the most pressing needs” which it identified as defence and demining, medical aid and rebuilding Ukraine. In a video message posted on its website, Zelensky appealed for “an international strategic support plan for Ukraine that is a modern analogue of the historic Marshall Plan”, adding that Ukrainian reconstruction “must become the same historical example for the future as was the reconstruction of European countries after the World War Two. European Commission Ursula von der Leyen told the conference, organised by Poland and Sweden in Warsaw, that the EU will donate another €200 million in humanitarian aid for Ukraine. “With this new commitment we say to the Ukrainian people: your struggle is our struggle. We are with you.” More than €6 billion have been collected, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday. Ukraine’s government in April estimated the cost of rebuilding after the war to be at least $600 billion.
Fighting continues in east Ukraine
Fighting continued in parts of Ukraine, especially in the east. The governor of the Donbas region said at least 25 civilians were wounded in an overnight Russian strike on the city of Kramatorsk. Elsewhere, the Ukrainian army said it had retaken control of “several settlements on the border of Mykolaiv and Kherson regions”. Ukraine reports it had launched counter-offensive operations in the areas of Kharkiv and Izium. The commander of the armed forces of Kiev Valery Zaluzhny said in a media briefing the Russians were focusing their offensive in the direction of Lugansk, and there wasfierce fighting in Popasna, Kreminna and Torsky. And he found that the Russians have resumed using cruise missiles to target military supply routes to Ukrainians.
US confirms mass graves at Bucha
US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield wrote on Twitter that the US had “images confirming the presence of mass graves in Bucha”, adding that this was not “just an unverified allegation on social media but a horrible fact that the world has to deal with”. Meanwhile, Caritas director Fr Vitalyi Uminskyi told ANSA there are about 50 villages in Polyssia, a region in Northern Ukraine on the border with Belarus, which “have experienced horrors like in Bucha”. Caritas reported torture, killing of civilians, destruction and looting.
Between 13 and 16.6 million killed by COVID in 2020-21 – WHO
The COVID-19 pandemic killed between 13.3 and 16.6 million people between 2020 and 2021, new estimates by the World Health Organization show – three times the number of deaths previously directly attributed to the disease.
Swine fever case detected in Rome
A case of African swine fever, a viral disease that affects pigs and wild boars, has been detected in Rome. The extraordinary commissioner for the emergency, Angelo Ferrari, confirmed to Ansa they were carrying out the necessary checks.