A new round of talks between Ukrainian and Russian officials is taking place today as Russian forces intensify their deadly assault. The discussions could help ease the evacuation of more civilians. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday 125,000 people had been evacuated via humanitarian corridors so far. Some 2.7 million people have fled Ukraine in under three weeks.
Meanwhile, Russia has escalated its attacks, targeting areas close to the Polish border and the capital Kyiv. Earlier this morning, a residential building in Kyiv was shelled, killing at least one person. A young resident described escaping the building with his mother.
Maksim Korovii: “There was smoke and dust everywhere. We hid inside the closet. We thought we were being captured, that the Russians were getting in through the door, but we were wrong. We got out from the apartment and saw that the staircase was not there anymore. Everything was on fire. We didn’t know what to do, so we ran out to the balcony. We managed to put on whatever clothes we had at hand and made our way from balcony to balcony.”
On Sunday, a Russian strike on a military site near Poland killed at least 35 people and injured more than 100. President Zelensky said over the weekend some 1,300 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed since the start of what he called Russia’s “war of annihilation.” Zelensky said some 13,000 Russian soldiers had been killed.
The situation in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol remains dire. The city reported over 2,000 residents have been killed, and humanitarian aid is desperately needed. On Saturday, a mosque sheltering 80 civilians in Mariupol was hit. Istanbul said Turkish nationals were among those seeking refuge in the mosque. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s foreign minister accused Russia of committing more war crimes by abducting two Ukrainian mayors, including Melitopol’s Mayor Ivan Fedorov.
The International Atomic Energy Agency said staff at the Russian-occupied Chernobyl nuclear power plant have stopped doing safety repairs and maintenance work due to “physical and psychological fatigue” from working nonstop for weeks on end.
U.S. officials say the Kremlin has asked Beijing for military aid; China has rejected the claim. National security adviser Jake Sullivan is meeting with his Chinese counterpart in Rome today. The U.S. has warned China it will face repercussions if it helps Moscow to evade sanctions. Australia has joined the U.S., U.K., Canada, the EU and New Zealand in imposing sanctions on Russian oligarchs, including Roman Abramovich, who owns London’s Chelsea Football Club.
On Sunday, U.S. journalist and award-winning filmmaker Brent Renaud was killed while reporting on the war near a checkpoint in the city of Irpin, outside of Kyiv. He was with photographer Juan Arredondo, who described the attack as he was being treated for his own wounds at a hospital — not yet aware Renaud had died.
Juan Arredondo: “We crossed one — the first bridge, in Irpin. We were going to film other refugees leaving. And we got into a car. Somebody offered to take us to the other bridge. And we crossed a checkpoint, and they started shooting at us. So the driver turned around, and they kept shooting. It’s two of us. My friend is Brent Renaud, and he’s been shot and left behind.”
Annalisa Camilli: “And how is he?”
Juan Arredondo: “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
Annalisa Camilli: “You don’t know.”
Russia shut down Instagram today, days after parent company Meta temporarily changed its hate speech policy in Ukraine to allow Facebook and Instagram users to post messages inciting violence against Russian soldiers.
Meanwhile, antiwar protests continued in cities around the world this weekend. Russian police arrested another 850 people Sunday, bringing the total number of detained protesters since the start of the invasion to nearly 15,000.
Iran has claimed responsibility for a missile barrage on the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Sunday morning’s attack on Erbil damaged homes, a local television station and the compound of a prominent Kurdish businessman. Iran said in a statement it targeted Israeli spies operating in Iraq, calling the strike retaliation for Israel’s killing of two Iranian Revolutionary Guard members in an airstrike on Syria last week. Local residents said they feared further violence.
Zaerak Fareeq: “This place is a residential area, not a place for military training or a military area. The people here are poor, and some people come here for tourism. There are seven villages here. We fear there will be more bombings.”
Meanwhile, talks aimed at restoring the landmark Iran nuclear agreement have stalled over Russia’s demand that sanctions imposed on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine won’t apply to Russia’s business dealings in Iran. Iran’s foreign minister is traveling to Moscow on Tuesday for talks with his Russian counterpart.
Saudi Arabia says it has carried out the largest mass execution in its modern history, putting 81 men to death within a span of just 24 hours. The official Saudi Press Agency said in a statement Saturday the men were guilty of crimes ranging from terrorism to “deviant beliefs.” Among those executed were people arrested for participating in human rights demonstrations. Rights groups say many of the defendants were denied access to a lawyer, held incommunicado and tortured.
The United Nations Children’s Fund reports more than 10,200 children in Yemen have been killed or injured since the start of the Saudi-led, U.S.-supported war in 2015. This year alone, UNICEF reports 47 children were killed or maimed across Yemen. Officials said both figures are likely significant undercounts.
In Colombia, voters selected their presidential candidates during Sunday’s primary and congressional elections. Gustavo Petro, the front-runner for May’s presidential election, represents a leftist coalition and will face off against centrist Sergio Fajardo and right-wing candidate Federico Gutiérrez. Gustavo Petro was previously the mayor of Bogotá and a member of the guerrilla group M-19 in the 1980s. He has vowed to end oil exploration and has accused outgoing right-wing President Iván Duque of crimes against humanity for the killing of social leaders and protesters.
Meanwhile, in Chile, 36-year-old progressive Gabriel Boric was sworn in as president Friday.
President Gabriel Boric: “When there is no distribution of wealth, when wealth is concentrated only among a few, peace is very difficult. We need to redistribute the wealth produced by Chilean men and women, produced by those who inhabit our country.”
In pandemic news, China has locked down the southern city of Shenzhen, home to 17.5 million people, as it scrambles to blunt the country’s worst-ever coronavirus outbreak. All Shenzhen residents will have to undergo three rounds of testing and are largely confined to their homes. Hong Kong continues to face its worst surge of the pandemic, with hospitals forced to treat an overflow of patients in parking lots and lobbies.
COVID cases are on the rise across Europe, with France, Germany, the U.K., Italy and the Netherlands reporting upticks in daily cases. Despite the rising case counts, France lifted most of its public health measures today, including the widespread use of masks indoors. Meanwhile, some health experts in Britain are calling on officials to expand and speed up a plan to make a fourth vaccine dose available to vulnerable people.
In Paris, France, thousands of people took to the streets Saturday to demand candidates in April’s presidential election respond to the climate crisis and move away from fossil fuel dependence amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine.
Laurine Camus: “Ecology just counts for 2.7% of candidates’ programs. That figure is too little, and we have to act now, because with what is happening in Europe, we want a climate of peace that is global, both in terms of the climate and politics.”
Europe currently depends on Russia for more than 40% of its natural gas, more than a quarter of its oil imports and nearly half of its coal.
The Biden administration has rolled back a Trump-era border policy allowing it to expel asylum seekers at the U.S. border without first hearing their claims. On Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it would no longer use the public health order known as Title 42 to deny U.S. entry to unaccompanied migrant children. However, the Biden administration still plans to use Title 42 to deny entry to single adults and families traveling with children. Since it was enacted two years ago, Title 42 has been used to justify more than 1.6 million expulsions. In a joint letter, four Senate Democrats, including Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, said they were “deeply disappointed” the Biden administration didn’t scrap Title 42 entirely.
A Texas judge has temporarily blocked Republican Governor Greg Abbott’s new anti-trans directive, which ordered state officials to investigate gender-affirming care of children as “child abuse.” Under the policy, health workers and educators who had knowledge of the lifesaving care and did not report it could also face criminal penalties. District Judge Amy Clark Meachum called the order “unconstitutional.” The injunction will stay in place until the case is heard in court in July.
In other news from Texas, the state’s Supreme Court on Friday effectively ended a federal challenge to the near-total abortion ban that has been in place since September. The ruling leaves Texas’s abortion ban in place for the foreseeable future, but reproductive rights advocates say they’ll continue to fight it. Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said, “The courts have allowed Texas to nullify a constitutional right.”
Meanwhile, in Missouri, a state representative has proposed a bill to ban abortions after 10 weeks, while criminalizing the termination of ectopic pregnancies with a penalty of up to 30 years or life in prison. Ectopic pregnancies are not viable and can threaten the life of the pregnant person. This comes after another Missouri lawmaker proposed allowing citizens to sue anyone who helps a resident obtain an abortion out of state.
In Ohio, a grand jury voted not to bring charges against a white police officer who shot and killed Ma’Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old Black girl, outside her foster home last year. Bryant’s family condemned the decision by the grand jury, saying the officer, Nicholas Reardon, did not need to resort to using his firearm, and also called out Ohio’s child welfare system for its failures in Ma’Khia’s case.
Police are looking for an unidentified gunman who shot at least five unhoused people in New York and Washington, D.C., in recent days, killing two of his victims in Lower Manhattan. A third killing of an unhoused man in New York over the weekend is being investigated. This comes just weeks after Mayor Eric Adams launched a “zero-tolerance policy” for unhoused people sheltering in New York City’s subway system, even as housing advocates warned the move could push more people into the streets.