Global Review – 8th March

Russians hit a nuclear medicine plant in Kharkiv

Ukraine has reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency that a nuclear research plant that produces radioisotopes for medical and industrial purposes has been damaged by Russian bombing in the city of Kharkiv. IAEA director general Rafael Mariano Grossi stressed that the bombings did not cause any increase in radiation levels at the site. “We must act now to avoid a nuclear accident in Ukraine that could have serious consequences for health and the environment. We cannot afford to wait,” he said.

Russia to establish humanitarian corridors

As Russia said it would introduce humanitarian corridors out of several Ukrainian cities under siege as of this morning – Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Sumy and Mariupol – the United Nations has called for civilians stuck in conflict zones in Ukraine to be allowed safe passage in any direction they choose. An earlier offer of humanitarian corridors leading Ukrainians into Russia and Belarus was slammed by Ukraine as “completely immoral”. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said instead of an agreement on humanitarian corridors, what Ukraine got on Monday was “Russian tanks, Russian Grad rockets, Russian mines. They even mined the roads that were the agreed routes for taking food and medicine to the people of Mariupol.” At the UN Security Council, envoys from many countries including the United States, Ireland and France sounded the alarm over the rapidly rising number of civilian casualties, including women and children and displaced people. Russia continued to pound some cities with rockets even after the announcement of corridors. A third round of talks between Russia and Ukraine ended with a top Ukrainian official saying there had been minor, unspecified progress towards establishing safe corridors that would allow civilians to escape the fighting.

Ukraine says it has killed another top Russian general

A senior 45-year-old Russian general was killed during fighting near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense said. Maj. Gen. Vitaly Gerasimov, believed to be the first deputy commander of Russia’s 41st army, was killed in battle Monday, according to Ukrainian officials. Several senior army officers were also wounded. Gerasimov’s death has not been confirmed by Russian officials or media. Last week, Ukrainian forces killed Russian Maj. Gen. Andrei Sukhovetsky – another top officer in the 41st Army – in combat, according to Ukrainian officials and Russian media. Ukrainian officials claimed more than 11,000 Russian troops have been killed so far. They said Russian forces had also lost 290 tanks, 46 aircraft and 68 helicopters. More than 100 artillery pieces, including missile launchers, had also been taken out. They also said two Russian warplanes were shot down over Kyiv late Monday.

Russia boycotts UN court hearing

Russia did not attend a hearing at the UN’s top court where Ukraine asked for an immediate halt to Moscow’s invasion. The no-show was criticised by the head of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and by Ukraine which said the empty Russian seats “speak loudly”. Kyiv filed the case shortly after Putin’s invasion, accusing Russia of illegally justifying its war by falsely alleging genocide in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Lugansk regions. The court set two days for urgent hearings at the Peace Palace in The Hague but Russian ambassador Alexander Shulgin wrote to the court and “indicated that his government did not intend to participate”.

War crisis deepens

The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine deepened Monday as Russian forces intensified their shelling and food, water, heat and medicine grew increasingly scarce, in what the country condemned as a medieval-style siege by Moscow to batter it into submission. Zelensky has appeared in a nine-minute video filmed inside his office in Kyiv – the first time he has been seen there since the start of the invasion. Zelensky assured viewers that he wasn’t hiding, offering strong words for the Russian invaders.

Zelensky to address House of Commons

He will address the British House of Commons today in a video call as he continues to push Western countries to institute a no-fly zone over his nation. Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said in a statement, “Every parliamentarian wants to hear directly from the president, who will be speaking to us live from Ukraine, so this is an important opportunity.”  Zelensky’s address will be the first time the House of Commons hears a remote address from another country’s top leader.

Russia threat to cut off gas supplies to Europe

Russia has made an explicit threat to cut off gas flowing through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany in retaliation to Western sanctions. The move came from the country’s deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak on Monday night, responding to “calls to dump Russian oil and gas” from European leaders. In a statement shared by Russia’s British embassy, Mr Novak said: “Europe consumes about 500 billion cubic metres of gas per year. Russia provides 40 percent of that.” He added: “We are fully entitled to take a ‘mirror’ decision and place an embargo on gas transit via Nord Stream 1 which is presently running at 100 percent capacity.”

EU examines alternatives to gas from Russia

The European Commission is “evaluating” a strategy to be completely independent from Russian gas by seeking alternative suppliers. In a hearing in the Economic Commission of the European Parliament, EU vice president Valdis Dombrovskis said, “It is clear that we will not replace ‘Russian gas’ entirely with renewables in a year or two, so if we want to move quickly to ‘zero import’ from Russia, we have to import the gas from elsewhere.” He reported that there is “100% willingness to fill the gaps” on the part of the largest Norwegian gas company.

Russian gymnast faces disciplinary action

Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak is facing disciplinary action after wearing a “Z” symbol taped to his uniform while standing next to Ukrainian Illia Kovtun on the podium at a gymnastics World Cup event in Doha, Qatar, on Saturday. The letter has become widely regarded as a symbol of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Although Z is not a part of the Cyrillic alphabet, Russian military vehicles participating in the invasion have donned the letter, and its use has spread to supporters of the operation. Some analyst said it referred to Zelensky, but the Russian defence ministry said Z meant Za pobedu (“for victory”).

Sydney hit by torrential rains

Flood warnings stretched across Australia’s east coast today and tens of thousands of Sydney residents fled their homes overnight as torrential rains again pummelled a large swath of the country. Australia’s eastern rivers were already near capacity following record downpours in several parts of Queensland and New South Wales states over recent weeks, cutting off towns, and sweeping away farms, livestock and roads. Nineteen people have been killed, most either in flooded homes or in cars attempting to cross flooded roads, since the deluge began.

COVID, over six million deaths globally

The death toll of the coronavirus pandemic has exceeded 6 million deaths globally. As the pandemic emergency has now entered its third year, 447,660,403 cases and 6,026,057 deaths have been recorded by Johns Hopkins University, which however considers the death figure to be largely underestimated and which warns against considering the threat represented by COVID-19 over. An analysis by The Economist estimates that the number of deaths is between 14.1 and 23.8 million. The last million deaths, in fact, were recorded only in the last four months, a circumstance that highlights how in many countries the contagion and deaths caused by the virus continue to travel at a rapid pace. Mortality rates remain the highest among the unvaccinated worldwide.

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