Ukraine braces for escalation of Russian attacks
Cities across Ukraine are preparing for an expected increase in Russian attacks as Russia prepares to celebrate Victory Day tomorrow. As the day approaches, Ukrainian troops have solidified their positions around the city of Kharkiv, the nation’s second-largest city. Ukraine’s first deputy interior minister Yevhen Yenin said the Russians were preparing “to dance over bones in Mariupol” Russian forces have delivered more attacks on the embattled steelworks in an effort to conquer the southern portin time for the V Day celebrations. Reports say a Ukrainian counter-offensive was advancing around the north-eastern city of Kharkiv, while the Russians made minor gains in Luhansk, an area where Moscow-backed separatists have fought since 2014. Against that backdrop, Ukrainian fighters are making a final stand to prevent a complete takeover of Mariupol.
‘Influential mediators’ to rescue thousands of trapped soldiers
“Influential mediators” are involved in negotiations to rescue thousands of Ukrainian soldiers trapped inside the besieged steel plant in Mariupol, President Zelensky has said. An estimated 2,000 troops remain inside a labyrinth of tunnels and underground bunkers inside the Azovstal steel works in the city. Many of the soldiers are believed to be wounded, with ammunition, food, water and electricity running out. During his nightly address, Zelensky said that he was “working on diplomatic options” to save the military who still remain on Azovstal. “Influential mediators are involved. Influential states,” he said, though did not reveal which.
All civilians evacuated from Mariupol plant
All women, children and elderly people have been evacuated from Mariupol’s besieged steel plant, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister has said. Iryna Vereshchuk wrote on Telegram, “This part of the Mariupol humanitarian operation is over.” Fifty other civilians, including 11 children, were rescued from the steel plant on Friday and were then handed over to the UN and the Red Cross. Those rescued from the plant earlier this week described the conditions there as “hell”.
‘We will never accept the annexation of Crimea to Russia’ – NATO
NATO opposes Zelensky’s opening on the possibility of renouncing Crimea in view of a peace agreement. “The members of NATO will never accept the illegal annexation of Crimea. We have always opposed Russian control over parts of the Donbass in eastern Ukraine”, said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in an interview with the German newspaper ‘Welt’. Speaking on video on Friday at Chatham House, a British think tank based in London, Zelensky said he was willing to accept a peace agreement with Russia if Moscow forces withdraw “to February 23 positions”, suggesting that at least for now Kiev would not expect the return of Crimea, annexed by the Russians in 2014. Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio had described Zelensky’s offer as “a very important opening” on the part of the Ukrainian president. “Now – he stressed – Putin must demonstrate that he wants to come to the table and that he does not want war. We must not get used to the idea that this war must go on indefinitely; we must not forget the goal of peace.”
WHO begins gathering war crimes evidence
The World Health Organization is gathering evidence for a possible war crimes investigation into attacks it says it has documented by Russia on healthcare facilities in Ukraine. WHO Emergencies Director Mike Ryan told a media conference it was the explicit responsibility of warring parties to avoid attacking health facilities. “Yet WHO had already documented 200 attacks on hospitals and clinics in the country,” he said.
UK to provide another £1.3bn of aid to Ukraine
Britain has pledged to provide another £1.3bn in military support and aid to Ukraine, Reuters reports.The news comes a day before G7 leaders are scheduled to participate in a video call with Ukrainian President Zelenskiy. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office said he also plans to meet with executives from leading defence companies later this month to discuss increasing production in response to the war in Ukraine.
Sinn Fein wants united Ireland within 5 years
Sinn Fein’s President and leader said last night her party will push for an Irish re-unification referendum north and south of the border within five years. Mary Lou McDonald told TalkTV’s The News Desk of her plan to hold a crucial referendum. The Republicans topped the first preference votes in Northern Ireland and became the largest party in the territory for the first time. Michelle O’Neill, the party’s leade, hailed the result as a “new era” for Northern Ireland as her nationalist party won 27 seats and received 29% of first preference votes, putting her on course to become the first-ever Irish nationalist First Minister.
US Catholic churches brace for rallies by pro-choice activists
Pro-choice activists are planning protests at Catholic churches in the US today, Mother’s Day, following the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion this week which called for overturning Roe v Wade. ‘Ruth Sent Us’, an activist group named after the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is calling for protesters to “rise up” after the decision indicated the High Court’s conservative majority plans to rescind abortion rights. In a separate post on TikTok, ‘Ruth Sent Us’ encouraged activists to turn out en masse for a week of nationwide protests starting on today.
Taliban order women to wear burqa in public
Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Saturday ordered all Afghan women to wear the all-covering burqa in public, a sharp hard-line pivot that confirmed the worst fears of rights activists and was bound to further complicate Taliban dealings with an already-distrustful international community. “We want our sisters to live with dignity and safety,” said Khalid Hanafi, acting minister for the Taliban’s vice and virtue ministry. The Taliban previously decided against reopening schools to girls above grade 6, a decision that disrupted efforts by the Taliban to win recognition from potential international donors at a time when the country is mired in a worsening humanitarian crisis.
27 dead in Cuba hotel blast
Relatives of the missing in Cuba’s capital desperately searched Saturday for victims of an explosion at one of Havana’s most luxurious hotels that killed at least 27 people and left another 81 injured. They checked the morgue, hospitals and if unsuccessful, they returned to the partially collapsed Hotel Saratoga, where rescuers used dogs to hunt for survivors. A natural gas leak was the apparent cause of Friday’s blast at the 96-room hotel. The 19th-century structure in the Old Havana neighborhood did not have any guests at the time because it was undergoing renovations ahead of a planned Tuesday reopening after being closed for two years during the pandemic.
Hong Kong kicks off leadership poll
A Hong Kong election committee is voting for the city’s only leadership candidate, John Lee, who is widely expected to win and become Hong Kong’s next chief executive. The committee, comprised of nearly 1,500 largely pro-Beijing members, is voting in a secret ballot. Lee needs more than 750 votes to win the election. As the only candidate in the polls, Lee is expected to win easily, especially since he has Beijing’s endorsement and last month obtained 786 nominations from members of the Election Committee in support of his candidacy.
Monkeypox confirmed in England
A rare case of monkeypox has been discovered in England, the UK Heath Security Agency has announced. The patient is believed to have contracted the viral infection in Nigeria, before he travelled to the UK. The person is now receiving care at the expert infectious disease unit at the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, London. Monkeypox, which is similar to smallpox, causes mild illness and most people recover within a few weeks, but it can cause severe illness in some people.