Russia has accused Ukraine of carrying out an airstrike on the city of Belgorod in what appears to be the first Ukrainian air raid on Russian territory since Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to invade Ukraine six weeks ago. A regional governor said two workers were injured in the attack on a fuel depot, which triggered a huge fire that forced evacuations in parts of the Russian city.
In southern Ukraine, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it was traveling to the besieged city of Mariupol to ensure safe passage for civilians who want to leave. It’s not clear if the latest evacuation attempt is succeeding; previously Ukraine has accused Russian troops of firing on civilians attempting to flee Mariupol.
In northeastern Ukraine, a Russian missile struck a gas pipeline in a residential district of Kharkiv on Thursday, scorching nearby businesses and cutting off fuel supplies to tens of thousands of people. This is Vera, a Kharkiv resident who survived a Russian attack on her neighborhood.
Vera: “Our apartment block was hit by three missiles. All apartments in one area were on fire. People were left without entry doors. Where are we supposed to live? We have been here since March 6, I want you to know. Look at us. Look at my clothes. That’s how we live.”
In northern Ukraine, Russian troops have left the decommissioned Chernobyl nuclear power plant, site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 1986. Ukrainian officials say Russia formally agreed to hand back responsibility for protecting the contaminated site to them, and claim Russian troops near the plant suffered acute radiation poisoning after they were ordered to dig trenches in highly radioactive soil in an area of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone known as the Red Forest.
In Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky fired two top security officials, accusing them of being “traitors” to Ukraine.
President Biden has ordered the National Strategic Petroleum Reserve to release 1 million barrels per day for the next six months in order to drive down the cost of fuel. It’s an unprecedented release from the U.S. stockpile — representing about 5% of all U.S. demand. Biden also warned U.S. oil producers they could face fines if they don’t pump on land they’ve leased from the federal government.
President Joe Biden: “Right now oil and gas industry is sitting on nearly 9,000 unused but approved permits for production on federal lands. There are more than a million unused acres they have a right to pump on. Families can’t afford that companies sit on their hands.”
In response, the Center for Biological Diversity said Biden’s moves “will only deepen our dependence on fossil fuels and open the floodgates to more oil and gas extraction when we should be going in the opposite direction.” Biden also accused U.S. oil companies of raking in record profits while gouging consumers at the gas pump. A new report by Oil Change International projects U.S. oil and gas companies could collect as much as $126 billion in windfall profits this year.
Greenpeace activists blocked the transfer of 100,000 tons of Russian oil between two supertankers off Denmark’s northern coast on Thursday. Activists in kayaks joined swimmers in heavy protective gear who braved frigid temperatures to place their bodies in between the two giant ships in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience.
Sune Scheller: “I would like to inform you that we are conducting a peaceful protest, and we have swimmers and kayaks in the water on the starboard side of the Pertamina Prime. You cannot proceed with berthing alongside the Pertamina Prime. There are people in the water.”
The activists painted “Oil fuels war” in English and “No to War” in Russian on the hull of one of the supertankers. Greenpeace says Russian fossil fuels continue to arrive at European ports despite pledges by countries to halt imports. In a statement, the group said, “It is clear that fossil fuels and the money flowing into them is at the root cause of the climate crisis, conflicts, and war, causing immense suffering to people all over the world.”
A United Nations donors’ conference for Afghanistan raised barely half of its $4.4 billion goal on Thursday, as Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the nation’s already dire humanitarian situation is worsening.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “Some 95% of people do not have enough to eat, and 9 million people are at risk of famine. UNICEF estimates that a million severely malnourished children are on the verge of death, without immediate action. And global food prices are skyrocketing as a result of the war in Ukraine.”
It’s the second U.N. donors’ conference to come up short of its goal this month. Aid groups continue to demand the Biden administration and European leaders release frozen reserves from Afghanistan’s central bank, warning that without the funds, Afghanistan faces total collapse.
Amnesty International says it’s concerned about possible human rights violations in El Salvador as the government enforces a brutal 30-day state of emergency that’s temporarily suspended several constitutional protections. Amnesty issued an open letter to Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele, who said this week over 3,000 people have been arrested, accused of being in gangs. Salvadorans continue to denounce police abuse. This is the mother of a person recently detained.
María del Carmen Murcia: “I think the only thing the president wants is to show big arrest numbers so that people applaud him. But there are innocent people in that prison, people who have done nothing wrong. Indeed, they have also locked up gang members, I won’t deny that. But the majority are innocent people.”
Pope Francis has apologized to First Nations communities over the Catholic Church’s involvement in Canadian residential schools. Some 150,000 Indigenous children were ripped from their families and forcibly sent to the schools, where they faced psychological, physical and sexual abuse. The schools were open between the late 1800s and 1990s, funded by the Canadian government and run by the Catholic Church. This is Pope Francis speaking today from the Vatican.
Pope Francis: “I also feel shame, I have told you and I will tell you again. I feel shame, shame and sorrow, for the role that several Catholics, particularly those with educational responsibilities, have played in all that has hurt you, in the abuses and disrespect toward your identity, your culture and even your spiritual values.”
Pope Francis’s remarks come after he met with First Nations leaders who’ve long urged the Catholic Church for a formal apology. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has documented at least 4,100 deaths tied to the schools, as mass graves continue to be discovered.
Former President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner gave several hours of closed-door testimony Thursday to the House committee probing the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. His appearance by video link came as federal prosecutors broadened their investigation to include organizers of pro-Trump rallies that preceded the January 6 attack on Congress. The Justice Department is also looking into how Trump’s allies conspired to promote slates of fake electors in a bid to overturn Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory in the 2020 election.
A federal judge has blocked parts of a voter suppression law authored by Florida Republicans and signed by Governor Ron DeSantis, saying racism was a motivating factor in its passage. In a nearly 300-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Mark Walker cited Florida’s “grotesque history of racial discrimination in voting.” He added, “At some point, when the Florida Legislature passes law after law disproportionately burdening Black voters, this Court can no longer accept that the effect is incidental.” The law makes it harder to vote by mail, limits ballot drop boxes, imposes new voter ID requirements and criminalizes giving food and water to voters waiting in line at polling places.
Meanwhile, Arizona Republican Governor Doug Ducey has signed a law requiring voters to provide proof of citizenship in order to vote in a presidential election. Voting rights advocates have called the bill blatantly unconstitutional and warn that unless courts block the law, some 200,000 Arizona voters could be impacted.
U.S. citizens will soon have the option to select a gender-neutral option on passport applications. State Department spokesperson Ned Price announced the changes Thursday as the world marked International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Ned Price: “Starting on April 11th, U.S. citizens will be able to select an 'X' as their gender marker on their U.S. passport application, and the option will become available for other forms of documentation next year.”
In labor news, Amazon warehouse workers in Staten Island, New York, may be close to forming a union, as early results of the anticipated election Thursday show union efforts ahead by hundreds of votes. Ballot counting at the Staten Island facility continues today.
Meanwhile, a redo of the union election led by Amazon warehouse workers in Bessemer, Alabama, is still too close to call. There are over 400 challenged votes that could impact the outcome of that election in the coming days. The second vote in Alabama comes after the National Labor Relations Board found Amazon unlawfully interfered with the first election last year.
In Georgia, workers who clean the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta have won pay increases after over a decade demanding higher wages. Their victory came as airline workers held demonstrations around the country on Thursday. Sadia Bultum, a janitor who joined protests at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, said she and her co-workers feared for their safety on the frontlines of the pandemic even as the airline industry got a federal bailout.
Sadia Bultum: “We were risking our health and that of our families every day, yet it was the airlines who were given billions during COVID. If it were not for us airport workers, the economy would not be running today.”