The United Nations says more than half of Ukraine’s children have been forced to flee their homes in the month since Russia invaded Ukraine. It’s one of the largest mass displacements of children since the Second World War. This morning, Ukraine’s military said it destroyed a large Russian landing ship docked in the occupied city of Berdyansk on the Black Sea. In northern Ukraine, about 150,000 residents of Chernihiv are without heat and electricity and have been forced to ration drinking water, after Russia bombed a key bridge linking their city to the capital, Kyiv. Ukrainian officials have accused Russian forces of holding Chenihiv hostage amid fears it could suffer the same fate as Mariupol, the besieged Black Sea port city that’s been devastated by weeks of Russian attacks.
On Wednesday, Mariupol residents emerged from bomb shelters to bury their dead, as warmer weather allowed them to dig temporary graves. This is Viktoria, whose stepfather was killed by Russian troops.
Viktoria: “My stepfather, he was in that car, and they blew him up. He was at first coming our way and got wounded. Then a doctor and a young guy who was with them started helping, and they got blown up in the car. It has gotten warmer, and so now we could bury him.”
Russian reporter Oksana Baulina was killed by Russian artillery fire Wednesday alongside another civilian while reporting in the capital Kyiv.
On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department formally declared that Russia’s military has committed war crimes in Ukraine. The U.S. expelled 12 Russian diplomats at the United Nations, accusing them of espionage. Russia said it would expel U.S. diplomats in response.
President Biden is in Brussels for an emergency NATO summit. NATO has announced it is sending more troops to Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia. Over the past month the number of NATO troops in Eastern Europe has reached about 40,000 — double the number from just a month ago. On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov condemned Poland’s proposal to send NATO “peacekeeping forces” into Ukraine, saying that would lead to a direct clash between Russian troops and NATO forces.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has once again rejected calls to boycott Russian oil and gas, saying the cost to Germany’s economy would be too high. Scholz spoke Wednesday at the Bundestag, or German parliament.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz: “Yes, we will end this dependency as quickly as we possibly can, but to do that from one day to the next would mean plunging our country and the whole of Europe into a recession. Hundreds of thousands of jobs would be at risk.”
Germany gets about a third of the oil it consumes from Russia, and about half of its coal and natural gas. On Wednesday, activists with Greenpeace painted the slogans “Oil fuels war” and “Oil is war” on the side of a massive Russian tanker in the Baltic Sea delivering 100,000 tons of crude to a port in Rotterdam.
Manfred Santen: “Since the war started, over 230 tankers have left Russia with oil and oil products, meaning it’s almost business as usual, and it finances Putin’s war against Ukraine.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected new state legislative maps drawn up by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers and accepted by the Wisconsin Supreme Court — a major win for Republicans. The new map added one Black-majority Assembly district in the Milwaukee area. The ruling is the first time the U.S. Supreme Court overturned state-drawn maps this redistricting cycle. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who dissented on the ruling alongside Justice Elena Kagan, called the majority’s decision “unprecedented.”
In more Supreme Court news, Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee ramped up their attacks on nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson during her final day of questioning Wednesday. Jackson, who is the first Black woman nominated to the high court, was accused by Lindsey Graham of judicial “activism” and grilled by Josh Hawley on a child pornography case.
This comes as Justice Clarence Thomas, the longest currently serving member of the court, missed oral arguments again Wednesday after being hospitalized last Friday with an unspecified infection.
Idaho has become the first state to enact a law modeled on Texas’s near-total ban on abortions. Republican Governor Brad Little signed the bill Wednesday, which bans abortions after around six weeks of pregnancy and allows anyone biologically related to the fetus to sue abortion providers if they defy the law. The only exceptions are in cases of medical emergency, rape or incest, but the latter two require the patient to have reported a crime to police. Also on Wednesday, Oklahoma’s House of Representatives passed a total abortion ban that would be enforced by “bounty hunter”-style lawsuits. These latest attacks on reproductive rights come nearly seven months after Texas enacted its near-total ban on abortions. Amy Littlefield, abortion access correspondent for The Nation magazine, says nearly half of all patients who left Texas and traveled out of state for their abortion have gone to Oklahoma.
Amy Littlefield: “Now the Oklahoma House has passed a total ban on abortion. It bans abortion at fertilization, before a pregnancy even implants in the uterus. And if it’s passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, it would take effect immediately. One really noteworthy thing about this law, it defines ‘woman’ as any person whose biological sex is female based on their chromosomes and having a uterus, regardless of gender identity. So, again, we really see the intersection of the anti-abortion and anti-trans agenda rolled into this bill that would decimate abortion access in the region.”
Moderna says it will ask the FDA to approve emergency use of its COVID-19 shot in children between 6 months and 6 years of age. Moderna says a clinical trial showed two lower doses of its vaccine given four weeks apart produced a robust immune response in young children.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban closed schools for girls above sixth grade, just hours after they reopened, ordering students home after they showed up for classes. This is 16-year-old Khadija from Kabul, one of the many students who was told she had to go home after she excitedly arrived for her first day back in class Wednesday.
Khadija: “It was like a day of mourning, a very sad day. It was like losing a loved one. Everyone was crying. The girls were hugging and crying and saying goodbye. … Even if it would be very difficult, I still wanted to be a doctor. I like doctors’ white coats. But now I cannot do anything. My future is ruined.”
In Washington, D.C., Howard University faculty have called off a planned three-day strike after agreeing to a tentative contract with the school’s administration. Faculty members have been demanding fair wages and improved working conditions for nontenure-track and adjunct educators.
Meanwhile, in Sacramento, California, thousands of teachers and school staff went on strike Wednesday over low pay and staffing shortages. In Minneapolis, over 4,500 educators entered their 17th day on strike as negotiations with the school district continue.
Here in New York, over a thousand immigrant workers and their supporters held a protest at the state Capitol in Albany Wednesday calling on lawmakers to include $3 billion in the state budget to support immigrant workers who are excluded from federal pandemic aid. Advocates are also demanding New York create a permanent program that provides unemployment insurance and healthcare benefits to undocumented workers. Democracy Now! spoke to Miguel Angel Flores, a construction worker from Mexico who’s lived in the United States for 16 years. He was on a bus headed back to Brooklyn after he and other immigrant workers marched to Albany last week.
Miguel Angel Flores: “We came to Albany to tell the governor that we are awake, we are united, and we won’t stop fighting until our needs are met. … This movement is an example to other states. Immigrants across the country are rising up. We are demanding that our rights be respected and to be treated just like any other citizen who pays taxes.”