Ukraine has defied Russia’s ultimatum that it surrender the besieged city of Mariupol by 5 a.m. Moscow time, as attacks and casualties mount on day 26 of Russia’s invasion. Mariupol officials said Russian forces bombed an art school Sunday that was sheltering 400 displaced people. Many residents of Mariupol remain trapped amid heavy Russian bombardment and dwindling supplies.
Irina Chernenko: “We have been in a basement for 11 days. This is the 25th day of war. We have been counting every one of them. We hope for the best, to live as humans. The apartment has been broken. Everything is broken. Where can we go from the basement? We’re cooking at a fire. For now, we have some food and some firewood. In a week, we will have nothing, no food at all. What should we do?”
A powerful blast in the capital Kyiv earlier today destroyed a sprawling shopping mall. The number of victims from that attack is not yet known. Meanwhile, Moscow has said it used hypersonic missiles twice in its attacks on Ukraine over the weekend. Residents in the city of Sumy were told to take shelter after Russian shelling hit a chemical factory, triggering an ammonia leak. Dozens of staff who have been working under Russian orders at the Chernobyl nuclear plant have been relieved and replaced by other Ukrainian personnel after working for around 600 hours.
The U.N. said some 10 million people have been forced from their homes since the start of Russia’s invasion. About a third of those are refugees, while the rest are internally displaced. The World Food Programme warned Ukraine’s food supply chain is “falling apart.” Amid the intensified fighting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged direct talks with Vladimir Putin but warned if those fail, “that would mean that this is a third World War.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “The time has come for a meeting. It is time to talk. The time has come to restore territorial integrity and justice for Ukraine. Otherwise, Russia’s losses will be such that it will take you several generations to recover.”
Over the weekend, Turkey’s foreign minister said Russian and Ukrainian teams made progress on their negotiations to end the war. Zelensky has also suggested Israel could help mediate “peace talks” between the two countries.
President Joe Biden met virtually with Chinese President Xi Jinping Friday for the first time since Russia’s invasion. The White House said Biden warned Xi of “consequences” if China supported Russia’s assault. Xi said Beijing was not planning to back the Kremlin in its war. Germany and Qatar have reached a deal on gas supplies as Berlin seeks to lessen its dependency on Russian energy imports.
This comes as reports out of Washington say the Biden administration transferred a large number of Patriot anti-missile interceptors to Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, as the U.S. pressures Riyadh to pump more oil.
In China, a passenger jet with 132 people aboard crashed near the southern city of Wuzhou in Guangxi province. State media reports rescue crews were dispatched after the plane crashed in a remote mountainous region, producing a massive fireball. Harrowing footage posted to social media appears to show the jet plummeting vertically toward the ground just moments before impact. A flight-tracking website identified the plane as a Boeing 737-800. It’s the model that preceded the troubled 737 MAX, and has an excellent safety record.
China reported two COVID deaths in the northeastern province of Jilin Saturday, the country’s first coronavirus fatalities since January of last year. Jilin City, home to some 4.5 million people, went into lockdown today. Tens of thousands of people across China have been ordered to stay home as the country continues to battle its largest surges of the pandemic.
As cases in many Asian and European nations are on the rise, health experts say the BA.2 Omicron subvariant now accounts for 25% to 30% of new cases in the U.S. This is top White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “We likely will see an uptick in cases as we’ve seen in the European countries, particularly the U.K., where they’ve had the same situation as we’ve had now. They have the BA.2, they have a relaxation of some of the restrictions such as indoor masking, and there’s a waning of immunity. Hopefully we won’t see a surge. I don’t think we will.”
Climate scientists are expressing alarm over record-shattering temperatures set near the Earth’s North and South Poles in recent days. In Antarctica, some regions soared as much as 90 degrees Fahrenheit above normal over the weekend. Meanwhile, temperatures near the North Pole reached more than 50 degrees Fahrenheit above average last week, approaching the freezing mark in areas that were still shrouded in around-the-clock winter darkness.
At least 25 migrants and refugees drowned after their ship wrecked off the coast of Tunisia Friday. Some 35 passengers remained unaccounted for. Most of the victims were believed to be from Syria and Tunisia. The International Organization for Migration says over 18,000 people have died or disappeared while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe since 2014.
The Biden administration has for the first time determined the Burmese military junta committed genocide and crimes against humanity against the Muslim minority Rohingya community. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is announcing the finding today at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. The U.N. reports as many as 10,000 Rohingya were killed by Burmese forces during the 2017 genocide, though some estimates put the death toll at more than twice that number. Another 730,000 Rohingya were forced to flee Burma.
Sri Lanka is seeking a bailout from the International Monetary Fund as it reels from its worst financial crisis since achieving independence in 1948. On Sunday, authorities announced two men collapsed and died while waiting in a line for fuel amid energy shortages and soaring prices, which have driven the economy to record inflation. Millions of school students had their exams canceled due to a shortage of printing paper. Last week, protesters and opposition leaders marched through the city of Colombo to protest the handling of the crisis by the government of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his family. The prime minister and the finance minister are brothers of President Rajapaska. This is one of the protesters.
Srilal Munasinghe: “We didn’t come here asking to develop the country or any such thing. We can’t live anymore. Because of the skyrocketing cost of living, we can’t manage with our salary. We came to remove this government and bring a government that will help us.”
The United States has suffered another weekend marked by gun violence. In Norfolk, Virginia, two people were shot dead and three injured outside a restaurant Saturday. One of those killed was Sierra Jenkins, a journalist for The Virginian-Pilot. In Arkansas, a gunfight at a car show killed one person and wounded 28 others, including six children. At least three people were shot and killed at a North Carolina hotel. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 107 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year.
South Carolina prisoners sentenced to death can now be executed by firing squad. Prison officials said Friday they’re ready to carry out such executions, after Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill last year which forces prisoners to choose between a firing squad or the electric chair, if the drugs needed to perform a lethal injection are unavailable. South Carolina joins three other states which also allow firing squad executions: Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah.
In Washington, D.C., confirmation hearings start today for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, President Biden’s pick for the U.S. Supreme Court. The former public defender would be the first Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court bench. Jackson has received bipartisan support for previous judicial positions, but in recent days Republican senators have attacked Jackson over her record, accusing her of being overly lenient.
In related news, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was hospitalized Friday with flu-like symptoms. The court said Thomas, who is currently the longest-serving justice, was diagnosed with an infection but that it is not COVID-19. He will not be participating in oral arguments today.