Russia threatens states with ‘consequences’ over UN vote
Russia has warned countries at the United Nations that a ‘yes’ vote or abstention on a US proposal to suspend Moscow from the Human Rights Council would be viewed as an “unfriendly gesture” with consequences for bilateral ties, according to a note seen by Reuters. The United States said on Monday it would seek Russia’s suspension after Ukraine accused Russian troops of killing hundreds of civilians in the town of Bucha. Russia is in its second year of a three-year term on the council. The 193-member UN General Assembly in New York is due to vote on the measure later today. A two-thirds majority of voting members can suspend a country from the 47-member Geneva-based Human Rights Council for committing gross and systematic violations of human rights. Abstentions do not count.
Zelensky calls on West to agree on Russian oil embargo
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on the West to agree on an embargo of Russian oil as the war in Ukraine enters its sixth week. In his latest video address, the Ukrainian leader said Moscow was making so much money from oil exports that it did not need to take peace talks seriously and called on the “democratic world” to shun Russian crude. He also said he would continue to insist Russian banks be completely blocked from the international finance system. “Some politicians are still unable to decide how to limit the flow of petrodollars and oil euros to Russia so as not to put their own economies at risk,” Mr Zelensky said. “The only question is how many more Ukrainian men, how many more Ukrainian women, the Russian military will have time to kill in order for you, certain politicians – and we know who you are – to find some determination.”
NATO expecting ‘major offensive’ from Putin
NATO has said it was bracing for a “major offensive” by Russian forces in eastern Ukraine just a week after Moscow said it would withdraw forces from around the capital. “We see that Russia is moving forces out of the north to re-enforce them, to re-supply them, to re-arm them, and then to move them into the east where we are expecting a major offensive,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters. “President Putin’s aim is to try to control the whole of Donbas and to establish a landbridge.”
NATO preparing for ‘long haul’ war
The NATO chief said Alliance members needed to be prepared for a long haul, warning the international community that the war in Ukraine could last for months if not years. “Regardless of when the war ends, this has long-term implications for our security,” Stoltenberg said ahead of Wednesday’s meeting with NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. He said NATO would be looking to establish a “new strategic concept” to strengthen it’s force posture in Europe and to increase support for Ukraine. The NATO leader called on all member-states to not only strengthen economic sanctions on Moscow, but to increase the amount of military support being provided to Ukraine.
US pushes Russia to the brink of default
CNN reports Russia is in imminent danger of default after the United States cut off the country’s ability to pay its debt using frozen dollars sitting in American banks. Western countries sanctioned about half of Russia’s foreign reserves (roughly $315 billion). Although the US Treasury had been allowing Russia to use some of its frozen assets to pay back certain investors in dollars, the Biden administration this week blocked the country from accessing its stockpiles.
That could force Russia to offer pay its debts in roubles – or not at all. Either action would constitute a default, Fitch Ratings said last month.
Holding the Bucha flag, Pope condemns ‘atrocities’
Pope Francis yesterday condemned “the massacre of Bucha’ and held up the town’s flag that was sent to him from the place where tied bodies shot at close range, a mass grave and other signs of executions were found. “Recent news from the war in Ukraine, instead of bringing relief and hope, brought new atrocities, such as the massacre of Bucha,” he said at the end of his weekly audience. “Cruelty that is increasingly horrendous, even against civilians, defenceless women and children. They are victims whose innocent blood cries out up to heaven and implores: Stop this war!” he said. The Kremlin said Western allegations Russian forces committed war crimes by executing civilians in Bucha were a “monstrous forgery” aimed at denigrating Russia.
The latest from Ukraine…
- US President Joe Biden said ‘nothing less than major war crimes’ is happening in Ukraine.
- During an address to MEPs on Wednesday, European Council president Charles Michel urged EU member-states to think about ways to offer asylum to Russian soldiers willing to desert the war in Ukraine.
- Kremlin forces have completed their withdrawal from around Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv.
- A total of 4,892 people were evacuated from Ukrainian cities through humanitarian corridors.
- NBC News reports about 1,700 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in Tijuana, Mexico, hoping to be able to enter the United States.
- Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he would appeal for “all necessary weapons” when he meets with his Nato and G7 counterparts.
- Senior Biden administration official said the US was announcing sanctions on Vladimir Putin’s two adult daughters.
- A British man is set to appear in court today charged under the Official Secrets Act after he was alleged to have passed on information to Russia.
- In the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, which is part of the Donbas and has been the scene of some of the worst suffering of the war, British defense officials said 160,000 people remained trapped by Russian airstrikes and heavy fighting. Mariupol mayor said the city had become “the new Auschwitz” and Russians were collecting and burning bodies of residents to cover up evidence.
Ukraine’s dream of a Eurovision win
The Ukrainian group Kalush Orchestra are the bookies’ favourites to win the Eurovision Song Contest when it is held in Turin, Italy, next month. Later today, they will be holding their first international performance since the invasion of Ukraine. The six members of the band were given special permission to go to Israel for a pre-Eurovision concert as men of military age are banned from leaving the country. Russia has been banned from taking part in the annual competition following its invasion of Ukraine.
British Chancellor’s wife tax fury’
The London Times’ front page pictures Chancellor Rishi Sunak with his wife Akshata Murty, who has been revealed to hold non-domiciled tax status, meaning she legally does not have to pay UK tax on income she earns outside Britain. The Daily Mirror says Ms Murty’s non-dom tax status could have saved her “millions” while her husband “raids the nation’s wallets” with a 1.25% National Insurance hike. The newspaper ‘i’ also points out the bad timing of the news of Ms Murty’s tax status, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson quoted on the front page admitting people will have to eat cheaper food, wear old clothes and turn off heating amid Britain’s cost of living crisis.