The mayor of Mariupol is warning the besieged southern port city is on the cusp of a humanitarian catastrophe after incessant Russian attacks and amid dire shortages of food, water, power and other essentials. Mariupol’s mayor says 160,000 civilians are trapped and that Russian forces are blocking safe exit routes to evacuate them. Meanwhile, the U.N. says there is mounting evidence of mass graves in Mariupol. On Sunday, lifelong Mariupol resident Valentina assessed the situation in the city, which has largely been left in ruins.
Valentina: “I have lived here since my birth, and my husband, as well. We got married here and had babies. What now? What is left for us? I don’t want to go anywhere from Mariupol, but there’s nowhere to live here.”
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said last week 6,000 Mariupol residents had been “forcibly deported” and taken to Russia as “hostages.” President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of kidnapping over 2,000 Ukrainian children since the start of the war.
Russia continued its assault on other parts of Ukraine over the weekend, including airstrikes on Chernihiv and cruise missile attacks on Lviv in western Ukraine that came as President Joe Biden visited neighboring Poland.
New talks between Ukraine and Russia are set to take place in Istanbul, Turkey, this week. President Zelensky said Sunday he is prepared to negotiate a deal with Russia that includes some of Moscow’s demands.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “Security guarantees and neutrality, non-nuclear status of our state, we are ready to go for it. This is the most important point. It was the main point for the Russian Federation, as far as I can remember. And if I remember correctly, this is why they started the war. … We will not sit down behind the table if we talk about some kind of 'demilitarization,' some kind of 'denazification.'”
In later comments, Zelensky insisted on Ukrainian sovereignty and “territorial integrity,” after suggestions he could concede on the status of the eastern Donbas region and reports Moscow would seek to split the country in two in a “Korean scenario.”
U.S. officials have had to walk back remarks made by President Biden during a Saturday speech from Poland.
President Joe Biden: “We will have a different future, a brighter future rooted in democracy and principles, hope and light, of decency and dignity, of freedom and possibilities. For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”
The White House rushed to do damage control on Biden’s unscripted comment about Putin, saying the U.S. is not seeking regime change in Russia, as analysts warned it could derail attempts to negotiate with Moscow.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the Doha Forum in Qatar, asking oil- and gas-producing countries to up their output to reduce reliance on Russian imports. This comes as new data reveal Western oil giants including BP, Shell and Exxon have poured nearly $100 billion into Russian fossil fuel projects since its 2014 invasion of Crimea. The analysis was released by Global Witness, Greenpeace USA and Oil Change International.
Young activists from around the world took to the streets Friday in dozens of countries and more than 500 cities for the Global Climate Strike. Launched by Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement, the annual event had taken place virtually for the past two years due to the pandemic. This is German activist Luisa Neubauer speaking from Berlin.
Luisa Neubauer: “We see now that we are in a war that is being financed by fossil fuels, that we need to be speaking about fossil fuel. And today, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, Germany is giving Putin millions of euros for his coal, oil and gas. There is no such thing as an isolated crisis. If we want to separate ourselves from the autocrats and live everywhere in peace and freedom and safety, then we need to move away from fossil fuel.”
Scientists have observed the collapse of an ice shelf in eastern Antarctica for the first time since satellite images became widely available in 1979. The breakup of the Conger Ice Shelf on March 15 came as the region experienced an unprecedented heat wave, with temperatures soaring by as much as 70 degrees Fahrenheit above normal in some areas.
Meanwhile, marine biologists warn Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is experiencing another mass bleaching event after ocean temperatures in the area rose 7 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. It’s the fourth major die-off of coral along the world’s largest reef system since 2016.
In Yemen, at least eight people were reported killed following overnight airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition this weekend. The attacks came just hours after Houthi rebels announced a three-day truce and said they would agree to peace talks if Saudi Arabia stopped its strikes and blockade of Yemen and removed foreign forces from the country. On Friday, a Houthi attack on an oil storage facility in Saudi Arabia triggered a massive fire in the port city of Jeddah. This comes as the U.S.-backed war on Yemen is entering its eighth year, with residents facing a worsening humanitarian crisis. Millions have been uprooted and are on the brink of famine. This is a displaced man speaking from the Darwan camp near Sana’a.
Abdullah Hamzeh: “To begin with, we have no livelihood. We are lost. People are lost. It’s as if we are buried underground, like a tree that cannot bloom. My children and I are destitute. We have no income, nothing. We pray to God that this war will stop across all of Yemen.”
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tested positive for COVID-19 one day after he met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is in Israel for a rare summit with four Arab countries that established diplomatic ties with Israel in 2020: Bahrain, Egypt, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates. On Sunday, Blinken addressed the Iran nuclear deal, saying the U.S. believed a renewal of the landmark 2015 agreement was the best path to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons. In other news from Israel, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for an attack that killed two Israeli police officers in the northern city of Hadera on Sunday.
Back in the United States, Immigration and Customs Enforcement has announced plans to stop sending immigrants and asylum seekers to two troubled immigration jails: the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden, Alabama, and the Glades County Detention Center in Moore Haven, Florida. The agency also said Friday it would scale back the use of two other facilities in North Carolina and Louisiana. The move comes after mounting pressure from immigrant justice advocates who have helped expose the squalid and dangerous conditions faced by people imprisoned at these ICE jails.
In more immigration news, Salvadoran journalist Manuel Durán has been granted asylum in the U.S. Durán was first arrested in 2018 while covering an immigration rally in Memphis. He was detained for over 15 months. Durán was released from ICE custody in 2019 but continued to face deportation. He’s the founder of the Spanish-language news site Memphis Noticias. Durán has lived in the U.S. since 2006 after fleeing El Salvador.
The White House is unveiling a new tax plan that would establish a minimum 20% tax rate on all U.S. households worth more than $100 million. If approved by Congress, the Billionaire Minimum Income Tax would apply only to the top one-hundredth of one percent of U.S. tax filers. Experts estimate the tax could raise $215 billion from just the 10 wealthiest billionaires over the next decade. A vast trove of leaked IRS data recently obtained by ProPublica shows many of the richest billionaires — including Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk — paid little or essentially zero income tax in recent years.
Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island, New York, began casting votes Friday in a highly anticipated union election that could result in the company’s first-ever unionized warehouse in the U.S. Voting continues until Wednesday. Meanwhile, the National Labor Relations Board is starting to review ballots from the redo of the Bessemer, Alabama, Amazon union vote, which ended last week.
Several Hollywood stars broke barriers at the 94th Academy Awards ceremony Sunday evening. Ariana DeBose won an Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in “West Side Story.” She becomes the first openly queer woman of color to win an Oscar.
Ariana DeBose: “You see a queer — openly queer — woman of color, an Afro-Latina, who found her strength in life through art. And that’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate. Yeah, yeah. So, to anybody who has ever questioned your identity — ever, ever, ever — or you find yourself living in the gray spaces, I promise you this: There is indeed a place for us.”
Actor Troy Kotsur also made history as the first deaf man to win an Oscar in an acting category for his supporting role in the film ”CODA.” Danny Glover received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his decades of activism fighting against war and for social, economic and racial justice.
And in a shocking moment, actor Will Smith rushed the stage and slapped Oscars presenter Chris Rock in the face, after Rock joked about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, being bald. It’s not clear whether Rock knew Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia. After the slap, Will Smith returned to his seat and shouted at Rock to “keep my wife’s name out of your f***ing mouth.” Rock said he will not press charges against Smith. Later in the evening Will Smith won a best actor award for his performance in “King Richard.”