The Russian military says it has launched hundreds of strikes across Ukraine over the past 24 hours. Russia claims it has destroyed 16 Ukrainian military facilities in overnight strikes. In western Ukraine, at least seven people died earlier today after Russian missile strikes hit the city of Lviv. One blast shattered windows of a hotel housing evacuees from other parts of Ukraine who had fled to Lviv for safety. On Sunday, five people died in a rocket attack in central Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. The strikes come as Russia is escalating its offensive in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Russian troops have entered the town of Kreminna after weeks of bombardment.
In the besieged city of Mariupol, Ukrainian soldiers rejected a Russian ultimatum Sunday to surrender their arms or be eliminated. Russia has seized most of the strategically located port city, but some Ukrainian fighters have refused to lay down their arms. During an interview with CNN, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said no one knows how many people have died in Mariupol.
President Volodymyr Zelensky: “No one knows how many people died among the civilian population. If anyone gives you a figure, it would be a total lie. Hundreds of thousands were evacuated. Several thousand, tens of thousands were forced to evacuate in the direction of the Russian Federation, and we do not know where they are. They’ve left no document trail. And among them are several thousands of children. We want to know what happened to them, whether they are in good health. Unfortunately, there just isn’t any information on this.”
On Sunday, Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer said Russian President Vladimir Putin believes he is winning the war. Nehammer met Putin in Moscow last week. During the meeting, Putin defended his invasion of Ukraine, saying it was necessary for Russia’s security.
On Sunday, Pope Francis called for peace in Ukraine. He said the world is marking an “Easter of War.”
Pope Francis: “Peace upon tormented Ukraine, sorely tried by the violence and destruction of the cruel and senseless war into which it was dragged. On this terrible night of suffering and death, may a new dawn of hope soon arise. Let there be a decision for peace. May there be an end to the flexing of muscles while people are suffering. Please, please, let us not get used to war. Let us commit ourselves to imploring peace, from our balconies and in our streets. May the leaders of nations hear people’s plea for peace.”
During his Easter address the Pope also warned about nuclear war and called for peace in Jerusalem.
On Sunday Israeli forces raided the Al-Aqsa Mosque in occupied East Jerusalem for the second time in three days, clearing worshipers from the third-holiest site in Islam. Nineteen Palestinians were injured Sunday, some of them hit by rubber-coated steel bullets. Over 150 Palestinians were arrested in another raid on the mosque on Friday. To protest Israel’s violent crackdown, the United Arab List political party has suspended its participation in Israel’s coalition government led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who had already lost his majority last week. We’ll go to Jerusalem after headlines.
U.S. and South Korean officials are expressing concern that North Korea may soon resume nuclear weapons testing. On Saturday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un personally oversaw a test of a new type of guided weapon that could be used to deliver a tactical nuclear warhead. Meanwhile, the United States and South Korea are beginning nine days of joint military drills. North Korea has condemned the drills, saying they are a rehearsal for war.
In South Carolina, nine people were injured early Sunday as gunshots rang out at a nightclub in the town of Furman. It was the second mass shooting in South Carolina over the weekend, following a Saturday shootout at a shopping mall in Columbia that left 14 people injured. Meanwhile, police in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are searching for suspects who opened fire on a party at an Airbnb property early Sunday, killing two 17-year-old boys and injuring at least a dozen other people. Pittsburgh officials say as many as 200 people were attending the party — many of them underage — when multiple assailants fired at least 90 rounds from handguns and at least one rifle. Among the injured were people who leapt from high windows to escape the violence.
In South Africa, the death toll from last week’s devastating floods has risen to 443. Dozens of people are still missing in the KwaZulu-Natal province, where heavy rains triggered massive flooding and mudslides. Tens of thousands of people have been left homeless. Scores of hospitals and more than 500 schools have been destroyed in what’s being described as one of South Africa’s worst natural disasters. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has directly linked the floods to the climate emergency. Devastated areas included Umlazi, a township near Durban.
Mlungeli Mkokelwa: “What makes me angry is that this situation is always happening. It keeps destroying our possessions that we work hard for all the time. There are no jobs as it is, but our possessions keep getting destroyed by continuous floods that should be addressed by authorities. So you end up hopeless, because no one comes back to give a report on plans to resolve such situations, and the floods keep coming back to destroy us.”
The Biden administration said Friday it will resume selling leases for oil and gas drilling on public lands. As part of its plan, the Interior Department will increase the royalty rate for new leases by about 50%. Climate action groups say the move is dangerously out of step with U.S. commitments to curb emissions under the Paris Climate Accord. The Sunrise Movement responded in a statement, “The fact of the matter is that more drilling won’t solve high gas prices right now—so why is Biden breaking his campaign promise to stop drilling on public lands?”
Activists with Extinction Rebellion held civil disobedience actions in cities around the world over the weekend to demand governments follow through on pledges to curb emissions and stop using fossil fuels. Here in New York, over a dozen people were arrested Saturday as they blocked a busy Manhattan intersection near the historic Flatiron Building. In France, Extinction Rebellion activists forced the closure of a main central square in Paris Saturday, chaining themselves together by their necks using bicycle locks. The protesters say neither of the remaining candidates in France’s runoff presidential election will help prevent climate catastrophe.
Extinction Rebellion member: “Of course, we’re rising up against the far right, whose values are violent and are unacceptable for us, and against a candidate who for five years cast the ecology issue aside and lied. The incumbent President Emmanuel Macron promised us to act for the climate. He claimed to be the champion of the climate. He put in place a citizen’s climate convention so that citizens could give suggestions that will allow for greenhouse gas reductions by 40% by 2030. And in the end, nothing was done.”
Salvage crews in the Mediterranean are racing to prevent an environmental disaster after a tanker carrying as much as 1,000 tons of diesel fuel sank off Tunisia’s southeastern coast on Saturday. It’s Tunisia’s largest maritime oil disaster since 2018, when a collision between a Tunisian tanker and a Cyprus-flagged ship spilled hundreds of tons of fuel into the sea.
In China, nearly 400 million are now living under a full or partial lockdown as China attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19. In Shanghai, local authorities have reported the deaths of three people with COVID — the first since the city was locked down in March. In other pandemic news, Philadelphia’s reinstated indoor mask mandate goes into effect today. Over a dozen local businesses and residents have sued the city over the mask mandate.
Tension is escalating along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. On Saturday, Pakistani airstrikes inside Afghanistan killed at least 45 people. This came two days after Pakistan said militants based in Afghanistan killed seven Pakistani soldiers in North Waziristan. Pakistan has accused the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan of allowing armed militants to use the country as a base to carry out attacks against Pakistan.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally helped force Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi to resign earlier this month, handing over power to a new presidential council. One Saudi official told the Journal that the former Yemeni president is now effectively under house arrest in Riyadh and his communications have been restricted. Houthi rebels have refused to recognize the new presidential council. Over the past six years, the U.N. estimates the U.S.-backed Saudi war in Yemen has killed nearly 400,000 people — many from hunger.
At least 35 migrants are presumed dead after a small wooden boat capsized off the coast of Libya. According to the International Organization for Migration, at least 476 migrants have died attempting to reach Europe across the Central Mediterranean since January. The IOM said, “The continued loss of life in the Mediterranean must not be normalized. Human lives are the cost of inaction.”
Here in the United States, authorities arrested about 210,000 migrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border during the month of March. That’s the highest monthly arrest total in two decades. Roughly half of the migrants were expelled under the Trump-era Title 42 pandemic rule which blocks people from seeking asylum at the border. President Biden has vowed to lift Title 42 next month, but the decision has prompted an outcry from Republican and some Democratic lawmakers.
Meanwhile, the Department of Homeland Security has granted temporary protected status to Cameroonians living in the United States for the first time.
The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, is facing a new obstacle in his bid to buy Twitter. On Friday, Twitter’s board of directors adopted what’s known as a “poison pill” to thwart Musk’s $43 billion hostile takeover. The move could allow existing Twitter shareholders to buy additional shares at a discounted price. This would dilute Musk’s stake in Twitter and make it more expensive for him to buy the company.
The pioneering Mexican human rights activist Rosario Ibarra has died at the age of 95. After her son was forcibly disappeared in 1975, she founded the Eureka Committee of the Disappeared. Ibarra would later become the first woman to run for president of Mexico. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission described her as a “pioneer in the defense of human rights, peace and democracy in Mexico.”