Russian and Ukrainian delegations are meeting today for a third time since the Russian invasion was launched 12 days ago. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned his people to expect more heavy bombing in cities, as he took the international community to task for not doing more to stop Russia’s deadly assault.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “The audacity of the aggressor is a clear signal to the West that sanctions against Russia are not enough, because they didn’t understand, did not feel, they did not see that the world is really determined — really determined — really determined to stop this war. You will not hide from this reality. You will not hide from new murders in Ukraine.”
On Friday, Zelensky addressed U.S. lawmakers, pleading for the creation of a no-fly zone over Ukraine and harsher sanctions, including a ban on Russian oil, and more military aid. The U.S. and NATO have rejected the idea of a no-fly zone, citing fears of further escalating the conflict with Russia. The U.S. and NATO are not directly involved in combat operations in Ukraine but have delivered over 17,000 anti-tank weapons, including Javelin missiles, into the country through bordering nations.
The civilian death toll in Ukraine has topped 364, according to the U.N., though the true toll could be much higher. Zelensky warned Sunday Russia was preparing to attack the key southwestern port city of Odessa, a city of 1 million. Russian missiles destroyed the international airport in the west-central city of Vinnytsia Sunday. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said Russia used cluster bombs in its assault on Kharkiv last week, which could amount to war crimes. A U.S. official said Sunday Russia had fired 600 missiles since the start of the invasion and has committed 95% of its combat power inside Ukraine. The city of Mariupol is under siege by Russian forces, and attempts to evacuate trapped civilians repeatedly failed over the weekend. Russia said it was creating evacuation corridors for fleeing civilians, but Kyiv slammed the plan for forcing people to leave via Russia or Belarus. Thousands are also fleeing Zaporizhzhia, where Russian forces are now commanding operations at Europe’s largest nuclear plant after seizing it on Friday. The number of Ukrainian refugees has now topped 1.5 million. This is a mother who fled to Poland with her children but had to leave her husband behind in Ukraine.
Svitlana Zinchuk: “Now I feel safe, but I’m very depressed because my family was divided by war in two parts. And I left my heart there in Ukraine.”
Meanwhile, a group of prominent global civil rights lawyers filed a complaint with the U.N. on behalf of African refugees who faced racist discrimination from authorities while trying to flee Ukraine. Click here to see our interview with one of those refugees.
Back in Ukraine, residents of the Russian-occupied city of Kherson took to the streets Saturday to protest against Russian forces.
Antiwar protests continued, as well, around the globe and in Russia. A local monitoring group says over 5,000 people were arrested by police across 69 Russian cities Sunday, bringing the total number of arrests to 13,000 since the start of the invasion. Meanwhile, Russia’s crackdown on the press continues, with Moscow passing a new law criminalizing reporting on the war, and authorities blocking a number of independent online media outlets. Prominent independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, whose editor Dmitry Muratov was a recipient of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, said it was removing its reporting on the invasion because of censorship, but said it will continue to cover the war’s effects on Russian society. Other news outlets, including CNN, ABC, CBS, Bloomberg and BBC, also moved to limit their activity in Russia. Visa and Mastercard are also suspending operations in Russia. Meanwhile, a growing number of Russians are leaving the country, citing a fear of further crackdowns, including possible martial law, and economic instability. In a direct address, Ukrainian President Zelensky urged Russians to resist Putin’s actions in Ukraine and at home.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “We Ukrainians want peace. Citizens of Russia, for you, this is a struggle not only for peace in Ukraine; this is a fight for your country, for the best it had, for the freedom that you have seen, for the wealth that you have felt. If you keep silent now, only your poverty will speak for you later, and only repression will answer. Do not be silent.”
Russian officials have confirmed the arrest last month of WNBA player Brittney Griner, after authorities say they found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. The charges Griner faces can carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Griner, who is African American, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a seven-time WNBA all-star. She’s played for a team in Russia for the past seven years. Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, said on social media they’re fighting for Griner’s release and return to the U.S. Over the weekend, the State Department issued a “do not travel” advisory to Russia and warned U.S. nationals the Embassy in Moscow has limited power to assist citizens in the country.
In Mexico, a crime reporter was killed in the state of Zacatecas Friday, becoming the country’s seventh murdered journalist this year. Juan Carlos Muñiz worked for the outlet Testigo Minero and was a part-time taxi driver in order to make ends meet. Mexican journalists have been demanding the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador offer protection and end impunity for the ongoing spate of reporter killings.
In occupied East Jerusalem, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian teenager Sunday at one of the gates of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. Local press identified the teen as 19-year-old Kareem Jamal al-Qawasmi. He was at least the fourth Palestinian killed by Israeli forces in under a week.
In Pakistan, the death toll from last Friday’s bombing at a mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar has risen to 56, with nearly 200 others wounded. The Islamic State’s ISIS-K affiliate claimed responsibility for the attack on members of Pakistan’s Shia Muslim minority. Hundreds of mourners joined funeral prayers for the victims.
Hayat Ali: “This is an insult to humanity. This is a disgrace to Islam. Those who have been martyred were humans. They were worshiping Allah inside the mosque, and they were killed brutally.”
A top United Nations envoy is warning rival factions in Libya to agree to long-delayed elections, after a parallel government claimed power in the northeastern city of Tobruk on Thursday. Stephanie Williams, the U.N.'s special adviser on Libya, called on the new eastern government to form a joint committee with its rivals in Libya's capital Tripoli dedicated to reaching consensus on a constitutional framework for elections. Libya abandoned plans for presidential and parliamentary elections in December, and Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah has refused to cede power to an elected government.
Aides to President Biden are discussing a possible visit to Saudi Arabia this spring to help repair relations and convince the kingdom to pump more oil. That’s according to Axios, which reports the White House is scrambling to find new energy sources if the U.S. seeks to ban Russian oil imports. Minnesota Congressmember Ilhan Omar reacted on Twitter, writing, “Our response to Putin’s immoral war shouldn’t be to strengthen our relationship with the Saudis who are currently causing the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet in Yemen. Yemenis might not matter to some geopolitically but their humanity should. This is a wildly immoral act.”
Japan and South Korea say North Korea launched its ninth ballistic missile this year. Saturday’s test comes just days ahead of South Korea’s presidential election on Wednesday. North Korea said the recent launches were part of tests to develop new reconnaissance satellite systems.
The U.S. Supreme Court has reinstated the death sentence of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who is serving life in prison for his role in the deadly 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and injured hundreds. The Biden administration is enforcing a moratorium on the federal death penalty, and Tsarnaev’s execution is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
In labor news, journalists at outlets owned by G/O Media, including Gizmodo, The Root and Jezebel, who went on strike last week have reached a tentative deal on a new union contract. The agreement includes higher salary minimums for all positions, a guaranteed annual 3% raise, trans-inclusive healthcare, 15-week parental leave and investment in diversity efforts and transparency in how newsrooms are run.
Vice President Kamala Harris joined civil rights leaders and activists in Selma, Alabama, Sunday to mark the 57th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when state troopers violently attacked Black voting rights activists as they attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
Vice President Kamala Harris: “In a moment of great uncertainty, those marchers pressed forward, and they crossed. We must do the same. We must lock our arms and march forward. We will not let setbacks stop us. We know that honoring the legacy of those who marched then demands that we continue to push Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation.”
Among those who spoke was the Reverend William Barber. Vice President Harris was joined on her trip to Alabama by five Cabinet members. After addressing the crowd, Harris, civil rights icons, lawmakers and others linked arms to march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.