In a major speech in Moscow’s Red Square, Russian President Vladimir Putin has defended his invasion of Ukraine, saying it was needed to preemptively rebuff NATO. But Putin did not declare a broader war in Ukraine as some had predicted. Putin spoke earlier today as part of a Victory Day celebration to mark the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.
President Vladimir Putin: “Preparations were openly underway for another punitive operation in Donbas and an invasion of our historic lands, including Crimea. Kyiv has announced a possible acquisition of nuclear weapons. The NATO bloc began active military development of the territories adjacent to ours. This was an absolutely unacceptable threat, systematically created for us and right on our borders. … Russia has preemptively rebuffed the aggression. It was forced, timely and the only right decision, the decision of a sovereign, strong, independent country.”
Vladimir Putin spoke as some U.S. lawmakers are openly describing the fighting in Ukraine as a proxy war between the United States and Russia. This is Democratic Congressmember Seth Moulton, who serves on the House Armed Forces Committee, speaking on Fox News.
Rep. Seth Moulton: “We’re not just at war to support the Ukrainians; we’re fundamentally at war, although somewhat through a proxy, with Russia, and it’s important that we win.”
In recent days U.S. officials have leaked information alleging U.S. intelligence was used by Ukraine to kill Russian generals and to sink Russia’s Moskva warship. The Pentagon has publicly acknowledged providing Ukraine what it calls “battlefield intelligence,” but it denies providing “specific targeting information.” President Biden has reportedly criticized the leaks, saying they have been counterproductive.
In other developments, up to 60 people are feared to have died after Russia shelled a school in Ukraine’s Luhansk region where scores of people were seeking shelter. In the besieged city of Mariupol, all women, children and elderly people have been evacuated from the steel plant where they were holed up for two months. Fighting at the plant continues. This comes as the G7 has announced new sanctions on Russia, including a ban or phaseout of Russian oil imports.
Meanwhile, first lady Jill Biden made a surprise trip on Mother’s Day to western Ukraine, where she met with Ukraine’s first lady Olena Zelenska. It was the first time Zelenska was seen in public since the war began. Meanwhile, Canadian premier Justin Trudeau made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Sunday.
In Northern Ireland, the nationalist Sinn Féin party has won the most seats in Northern Ireland’s parliament for the first time. Sinn Féin is the former political wing of the IRA — the Irish Republican Army — which for decades fought against British rule of Northern Ireland. Sinn Féin’s Vice President Michelle O’Neill appears poised to become the first Catholic to lead Northern Ireland. O’Neill is a supporter of plans to reunify Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland.
Michelle O’Neill: “Those of us that are for unification will make that case. I encourage those that actually don’t have that perspective at this moment in time to also enter into the conversation. Let’s have a healthy debate about what our future looks like, something that’s better for each and every one of us, where we all have a valued place in our society.”
Voters in the Philippines headed to the polls today for a closely watched presidential election. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late Filipino dictator, is expected to win the 10-way presidential race. His chief rival is Leni Robredo, the country’s current vice president. Under the Philippines Constitution, President Rodrigo Duterte could not seek a second term. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has spent decades defending his father’s brutal rule, which saw 34,000 people tortured and over 3,200 murdered between 1965 and 1986.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban has issued a new dress code for women, ordering them to cover their faces in public. Repeated violations of the new decree could result in a woman’s father or closest male relative being jailed for three days. The United Nations Mission to Afghanistan criticized the decree, saying, “This decision contradicts numerous assurances regarding respect for and protection of all Afghans’ human rights.”
Hong Kong’s former security chief John Lee has been formally picked to head the city after Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s term ends next month. Lee’s election is expected to further solidify China’s control over Hong Kong. On Sunday, Lee received 99% of the vote from Hong Kong’s Election Committee. He was the only candidate in the running. As Hong Kong’s security chief, Lee oversaw the crackdown of protesters who were demanding more autonomy from Beijing.
Sri Lanka’s prime minister has resigned, clearing the way for the formation of a new cabinet as Sri Lanka looks for ways to end a devastating economic crisis. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is the brother of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who has faced charges of nepotism and corruption since he installed three siblings into high-level government posts. Large anti-government protests in recent weeks have demanded the ouster of all members of the Rajapaksa family.
Earlier today, supporters of the ruling party stormed a major protest site in the capital Colombo, attacking protesters and prompting clashes with police, who fired tear gas and water cannons. Dozens were injured, and authorities have ordered a nationwide curfew across Sri Lanka.
A refugee aid group says at least 44 people drowned off the coast of Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara Sunday after their boat capsized as they attempted to reach the Canary Islands to request asylum in Spain. Twelve others were arrested by Moroccan authorities after they survived the ordeal. Spain’s Interior Ministry reports more than 40,000 migrants arrived in Spain by sea in 2021; Morocco says it stopped more than 63,000 crossings last year.
Protests are continuing across the United States to defend reproductive rights following last week’s publication of a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion showing the court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade. Over the weekend, demonstrators gathered outside the homes of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh. This comes as a new CNN poll released Friday shows two-thirds of the country opposes overturning Roe v. Wade.
Meanwhile, authorities in Madison, Wisconsin, are investigating a fire at the headquarters of an anti-choice group called Wisconsin Family Action. No one was injured in the blaze. A message was spray-painted on the building’s exterior reading, “If abortions aren’t safe then you aren’t either.”
President Biden has declared a major disaster in New Mexico, where strong winds and continuing drought conditions have helped the Calf Canyon Fire grow to become the second-largest fire in New Mexico’s recorded history. The fire began burning over a month ago and is still less than 50% contained. It has scorched more than 275 square miles, an area larger than the city of Chicago. It’s one of six major fires currently burning in New Mexico.
In Havana, Cuba, at least 31 people died and 54 people were injured Friday after a massive explosion at a luxury hotel. The blast is believed to have been caused by a gas leak at the Saratoga Hotel, which was closed at the time for renovations. The explosion also damaged nearby buildings including the historic Martí Theater.
On Sunday, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel held talks in Havana with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador — known as AMLO — who was wrapping up a five-country tour. AMLO criticized the Biden administration over reports the U.S. will exclude Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from next month’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador: “I will insist to President Biden that no country in the Americas be excluded from next month’s summit to be held in Los Angeles, California, and that the authorities of each country should freely decide whether or not to attend said meeting, but nobody should exclude anyone.”
Click here to see our interview with Cuba’s deputy foreign minister. During an earlier stop in Guatemala, AMLO criticized the United States for sending tens of billions of dollars to Ukraine instead of fulfilling pledges to help Latin American nations address the root causes of migration.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador: “There are many different things that we should not compare, but more than $30 billion have already been approved to support the war in Ukraine, and we have spent four years since President Donald Trump was proposing support with $4 billion to Central America, and to this day there has been nothing.”