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The United Nations says more than 4.5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion began 46 days ago on February 24. On Saturday, residents of government-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine were urged to evacuate immediately, as Russia began a major offensive in the Donbas region. Satellite images show Russia has amassed an eight-mile convoy of military vehicles inside Russia east of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
Over the weekend, Russian President Vladimir Putin tapped Aleksandr Dvornikov to be Russia’s new battlefield leader in Ukraine. The general most recently oversaw Russian troops in Syria, where he was accused of targeting civilians and medical facilities.
In the Ukrainian city of Kramatorsk, the death toll has risen to 57 following a missile attack on Friday on a crowded train station packed with civilians trying to flee the area. Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of carrying out the strike.
On Saturday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise trip to Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson: “And together with our partners, we are going to ratchet up the economic pressure, and we will continue to intensify, week by week, the sanctions on Russia, not just freezing assets in banks and sanctioning oligarchs but moving away from use of Russian hydrocarbons. And we will give you the support that you need, the economic support but also, of course, the defensive military support, in which I am proud to say that the U.K. helped to lead the way.”
As the U.S., U.K. and allies continue to pour arms into Ukraine, Pope Francis has called for an Easter truce.
Pope Francis: “Put the weapon down. Let an Easter truce start, but not to rearm and resume combat, but a truce to reach peace through real negotiations, willing even to make some sacrifices for the good of the people. Which victory will be the one that plants a flag on a pile of rubble?”
Global food prices have hit an all-time high, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The FAO’s food price index jumped 13% in March, and prices are expected to keep rising in part due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The two countries account for about 12% of the world’s calories.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has been ousted from power after losing a no-confidence vote in Parliament. Hundreds of thousands of Khan’s supporters marched on Sunday to protest. In a tweet, Khan described his removal as a form of “U.S.-backed regime change.” Pakistani lawmakers have elected Shahbaz Sharif — the brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif — to serve as the new prime minister. Khan and other members of his PTI party have resigned en masse from Parliament to protest the vote.
French President Emmanuel Macron and far-right candidate Marine Le Pen are headed to an election runoff on April 24. In the first round of voting, Macron won over 27% of the vote. Le Pen placed second with about 23%. Macron urged French voters to reject Le Pen’s xenophobic policies.
President Emmanuel Macron: “I want a France which inscribes itself in a strong Europe, which continues to form alliances with great democracies to defend itself, not a France that, exited from Europe, would have for its only allies the international populists and xenophobes. That’s not us.”
The leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon placed third with about 22% of the vote. He urged his supporters to not give a single vote to Marine Le Pen in the runoff. We will have more on the French elections later in the broadcast.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris hosted Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson at the White House on Friday, one day after she was confirmed by the Senate to become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Judge Jackson spoke at the event on the South Lawn.
Justice-designate Ketanji Brown Jackson: “It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. But we’ve made it.”
A leader of the far-right Proud Boys organization pleaded guilty Friday to criminal conspiracy charges over his role leading the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Charles Donohoe is the first Proud Boys leader to admit to plotting an attack on Congress in order to halt certification of Joe Biden’s election victory. As part of a plea deal with federal investigators, Donohoe will testify against other defendants.
CNN reports Donald Trump Jr. texted then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows shortly after the presidential election in November 2020 with ideas about how to overturn the results in states won by Joe Biden. Trump Jr. wrote, “Republicans control Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina etc. We get Trump electors.” If that plan failed, Trump Jr. wrote, Congress should intervene during its count of the Electoral College votes. “We either have a vote WE control and WE win OR it gets kicked to Congress 6 January 2021,” Donald Trump Jr. wrote.
In other news about the Trump family, The New York Times reports a fund led by the Saudi crown prince has invested $2 billion in Jared Kushner’s new private equity firm. While serving in his father-in-law’s administration, Kushner helped push forward a $110 billion weapons sale to Saudi Arabia. Public Citizen described the relationship between Kushner and the Saudis as “extremely troubling.” The Saudi fund also invested $1 billion in a fund run by Trump’s Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
In Texas, a county prosecutor has announced plans to drop charges against a 26-year-old woman who was arrested for murder Thursday after being accused of causing the “death of an individual through a self-induced abortion.” Lizelle Herrera was detained on a $500,000 bond. Her arrest and detention sparked mass outrage. She was released on Saturday hours after the La Frontera Fund held a protest outside the Starr County Jail. Later in the program, we will speak to Rockie Gonzalez, the founder of La Frontera Fund.
Alabama Republican Governor Kay Ivey has signed a pair of bills targeting trans people and those who assist them. One bill outlaws gender-affirming medicine for transgender youth and makes it a felony to provide such care, while a second bill requires students to use bathrooms and locker rooms based on sex assigned at birth rather than their gender identity. An amendment to the second bill, modeled after Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law, bars classroom discussions of gender identity and sexual orientation for children through the fifth grade. Lawmakers in at least 19 states have recently proposed bills limiting or criminalizing healthcare services for transgender youth.
In China, authorities say they will start easing a two-week lockdown in Shanghai, where over 25 million residents have been confined to their home due to rising COVID infections. Anger is mounting over food and medicine shortages in parts of the city. Despite the lockdown, China recorded 26,000 new infections in Shanghai on Sunday.
Here in the United States, New York Mayor Eric Adams has tested positive for the coronavirus. Last week he attended the Gridiron Club dinner in Washington, D.C. At least 67 attendees of the event have now tested positive, including Attorney General Merrick Garland, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. On Sunday, top White House adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said it is now up to individuals to assess their own COVID risk. He spoke on ABC’s “This Week.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci: “This is not going to be eradicated, and it’s not going to be eliminated. And what’s going to happen is that we’re going to see that each individual is going to have to make their calculation of the amount of risk that they want to take in going to indoor dinners and going to functions.”
In labor news, Amazon is seeking to overturn the recent vote to unionize by workers at an Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, New York. Amazon, which ran a multimillion-dollar union-busting campaign, is now accusing union organizers of trying to intimidate workers. In other labor news, workers have voted to unionize at six more Starbucks stores, bringing the total to 16 in recent months.
In West Virginia, more than a dozen climate activists were arrested on Saturday as they nonviolently blockaded a coal-fired power plant that earned Democratic Senator Joe Manchin a half-million dollars last year. The protests targeted the Grant Town Coal Waste Power Plant, which receives deliveries from Enersystems, a company run by Senator Manchin’s son. Activists wanted to highlight the environmental harm caused by the Manchin family business and are calling on the senator to end his opposition to climate action in the Build Back Better Act.
Federal prosecutors have been dealt a stunning defeat in the trial of four men who were accused of plotting to kidnap and kill Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. A jury acquitted two men on all charges and deadlocked on the verdicts against two others. Defense attorneys argued the plot was manufactured by the FBI and a team of at least 12 informants who helped plan and encourage others to take part.
Two Buffalo police officers have been cleared of wrongdoing for knocking over a 75-year-old racial justice protester in June 2020. Martin Gugino, a longtime peace activist, suffered a brain injury, a fractured skull, and spent a month in the hospital after being shoved to the ground by police. A video of the incident quickly went viral. The officers are expected to be reinstated today following the arbitrator’s ruling.
Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has overwhelmingly won a referendum on whether he should complete his six-year term. AMLO called for the referendum himself to fulfill a campaign promise to give voters a chance to remove him from office after three years. Early results show about 90% of voters supported him, but turnout was about 18%, with many critics of AMLO boycotting the referendum.