The United Nations Refugee Agency says 5 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of Russia’s invasion. Another 7 million people are displaced inside Ukraine. Russia has rejected a call from U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres for a four-day ceasefire. Guterres had called for the fighting to stop as Orthodox Christians in Russia and Ukraine prepare to mark Easter this Sunday.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “Instead of celebration of a new life, this Easter coincides with the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine. The intense concentration of forces and firepower makes this battle inevitably more violent, bloody and destructive. The onslaught and terrible toll on civilians we have seen so far could pale in comparison to the horror that lies ahead. This cannot be allowed to happen.”
This comes as Russian forces escalate shelling in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to capture the entire Donbas region. In the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol, Ukrainian forces and civilians remain holed up in a massive steel plant while Russia controls the rest of the city. Russia had set a deadline for all troops to lay down their arms, but the deadline passed with the Ukrainian forces remaining inside. Meanwhile, an agreement has been reached to allow women, children and elderly people to escape Mariupol though a humanitarian corridor.
In other developments, the Biden administration is expected to announce a new $800 million military package for Ukraine including artillery as well as anti-armor and anti-air equipment. As the West funnels weapons to Ukraine, The New York Times has revealed it has uncovered evidence that Ukrainian forces fired banned cluster munitions in at least one town during its fight with Russian forces. The weapons are banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, though Ukraine, Russia and the United States never signed the treaty.
A prominent Russian banker who was recently sanctioned by the British government has called for an end to what he describes as “this insane war.” Oleg Tinkov, who now lives outside of Russia, claimed that 90% of Russians are against the war. Tinkov made the comments in an Instagram post. He wrote, “Dear 'collective West' please give Mr. Putin a clear exit to save his face and stop this massacre. Please be more rational and humanitarian.”
The World Food Programme is warning 20 million people could go hungry in the Horn of Africa because of a massive drought and rising fuel and food prices due to the war in Ukraine. Last week the U.N. projected 350,000 children in Somalia could die of starvation in the coming months if the world doesn’t act quickly. The U.N. has been trying to raise $1.5 billion for its Somalia Humanitarian Response Plan, but so far it has only been able to raise about 4% of that total.
A British judge has ordered the extradition of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to the United States, where he faces a 175-year sentence. The final decision on Assange’s extradition will now be made by U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel. Amnesty International’s Simon Crowther spoke outside the courthouse prior to today’s ruling.
Simon Crowther: “Julian Assange is being prosecuted for espionage for publishing sensitive material that was classified. And if he is extradited to the U.S. for this, all journalists around the world are going to have to look over their shoulder, because within their own jurisdiction, if they publish something that the U.S. considers to be classified, they will face the risk of being extradited.”
The Justice Department is holding off on appealing a federal judge’s ruling that struck down the Biden administration’s mask mandate for travelers. On Tuesday, the Justice Department said it would appeal only if the CDC decides a mask mandate is still needed. On Tuesday, President Biden declined to urge passengers to continue wearing masks on planes.
Reporter 1: “Should people continue to wear masks on planes?”
President Joe Biden: “That’s up to them.”
Reporter 2: “Would you like to appeal the ruling, or the ruling that the judge made striking down the mandate?”
President Joe Biden: “I haven’t spoken to the CDC yet.”
In Sri Lanka, mass protests are continuing as the nation faces dire shortages of food, fuel and medicine. On Tuesday, one protester died after Sri Lankan police opened fire on protesters in the city of Rambukkana. Twelve protesters were reportedly hospitalized. Protesters are calling for Sri Lanka’s president to resign.
Damikka Harischandra: “We can’t make ends meet. We have no electricity. We don’t have gas. The price of rice has skyrocketed. We can’t make ends meet. So we have no choice but to go on the streets. We took to the streets to throw this government out.”
The Solomon Islands has signed a security deal with China, sparking criticism from the United States, Australia and New Zealand. The text of the deal has not been released, but leaked documents indicate it could allow China to send troops and naval ships to the Pacific Island nation, where a key battle in World War II was fought. Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare spoke on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare: “Let me assure the people of Solomon Islands that we entered into an arrangement with China with our eyes wide open, guided by our national interests. We have full understanding of the fragility of peace. And our duty as a state is to protect all people, their properties and critical national infrastructures of the country.”
The Biden administration has expressed alarm over the deal and is sending two top officials to the Solomon Islands this week. The U.S. is also moving to reopen an embassy in the Solomon Islands. State Department Press Secretary Ned Price addressed the issue on Monday.
Ned Price: “We believe that signing such an agreement could increase destabilization within the Solomon Islands and will set a concerning precedent for the wider Pacific Island region.”
In East Timor (Timor-Leste), the Nobel Peace laureate José Ramos-Horta has taken a commanding lead in Tuesday’s presidential election over incumbent Francisco “Lú-Olo” Guterres. With almost half of the votes counted, Ramos-Horta has about 59% of the vote. Ramos-Horta previously led East Timor from 2007 to 2012.
A Catholic diocese in southern New Jersey has agreed to pay $87.5 million to settle hundreds of sexual abuse claims dating back to the 1950s. The settlement comes three years after the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, acknowledged that 56 of its priests and one deacon had been credibly accused of sexual abuse.
The U.S. Department of Education has announced changes to two student loan programs to fix what the department described as “long-standing failures.” With the changes, about 40,000 people will have their debts forgiven. Another 3.6 million borrowers will receive some credit toward their debts owed. The moves come as the Biden administration faces growing pressure to cancel all federal student debt. Student debt cancellation would give relief to some 45 million people, who owe nearly $1.8 trillion in student loans.
New government data shows the United States has arrested more than 1 million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border since October — the highest total in at least two decades. Meanwhile, disturbing details have emerged about the death of a Mexican mother who died last week as she tried to cross into the United States. Griselda Verduzco Armenta tried to climb over a 30-foot-high border fence near Douglas, Arizona, but she choked to death after getting entangled in a climbing harness. Border authorities found her hanging upside down on the border fence. One relative claimed that Griselda tried to cross the border with the help of coyotes, who then left her hanging once she got entangled.
The U.S. Justice Department is considering taking control of the New York City jail complex at Rikers Island. The U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, has told a federal judge that he was alarmed by the “extraordinary level of violence and disorder at the jails.” In January, prisoners at Rikers staged a hunger strike to protest deplorable conditions inside, citing the rapid spread of COVID, inadequate heating and a growing level of violence. Sixteen people died at the jail last year.
In news from Michigan, more details have emerged about the police killing of Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Congolese refugee who was shot dead after a traffic stop on April 4. An independent autopsy has determined that the Grand Rapids police officer who killed Lyoya first pressed their gun against the back of Lyoya’s head before shooting him. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump spoke at a press conference on Tuesday.
Benjamin Crump: “Well, today, based on scientific evidence, we can confirm that Patrick Lyoya was shot in the back of his head. That is now scientific evidence of this tragic killing and what his family believes was an execution.”
A federal judge in Minnesota has sentenced a St. Paul man to a year in prison for threatening House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shortly after the January 6 insurrection. Meanwhile, a Donald Trump supporter in Florida has pleaded guilty to federal charges that he had threatened to kill Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar three years ago.
In labor news, workers at five Starbucks stores in Richmond, Virginia, have overwhelmingly voted to unionize. Senator Bernie Sanders praised the news, tweeting, “The movement of workers demanding dignity on the job wins again.”