Ukraine’s military says its forces still control parts of Bakhmut and are trying to encircle the decimated eastern city, following claims by Wagner Group mercenaries they fully captured Bakhmut after months of bloody battles. Wagner said its forces will depart the city starting Thursday through June 1, leaving Bakhmut to Russia’s military.
Over the weekend, President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared at the G7 summit in Japan, where he said photos of Hiroshima after the 1945 atomic bombing by the U.S. reminded him of present-day Bakhmut. Zelensky also met with President Biden in Japan Sunday, as Biden announced another $375 million in military aid to Ukraine. In a reversal, Biden said he will now support training Ukrainian pilots on U.S.-made F-16 jets. It’s not clear who would provide the jets, though Moscow already warned of “enormous risks” if Ukraine started using F-16s in combat. Biden said he received assurances the fighter jets would not be used by Ukraine over Russian territory.
Earlier today, Russian shelling again knocked out power to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, forcing it to rely on backup diesel generators to prevent a nuclear disaster. The International Atomic Energy Agency warns the plant remains “extremely vulnerable.”
In Greece, conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis celebrated after his New Democracy party won over 40% of votes in Sunday’s parliamentary elections, though he called for a second round to ensure an outright victory rather than forming a coalition government. The leftist Syriza party, which came to power on an anti-austerity platform in 2015, won just 20% of votes, while a progressive party led by former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis failed to qualify for Parliament. Mitsotakis, who came to power in 2019, ran on an anti-immigrant platform and touted his government’s efforts to slow the arrival of asylum seekers on Greek shores.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli security forces shot dead three Palestinians during a military raid on the Balata refugee camp in the city of Nablus earlier today. A spokesperson for the Palestinian Authority described the raid as a “war crime.” Hundreds of Israeli soldiers stormed the refugee camp, demolishing several homes with bulldozers and firing live ammunition and tear gas at residents. Hundreds of people gathered at the men’s funeral after the raid.
Meanwhile, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir entered the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in occupied East Jerusalem Sunday, declaring Israel “in charge” of the sacred site. The mosque has been repeatedly targeted with escalating Israeli violence.
Itamar Ben-Gvir: “It must be said, police and combat soldiers here are doing a wonderful job and again prove who is the landlord of Jerusalem. All of Hamas’s threats will not help. We are the landlords of Jerusalem and all of the land of Israel.”
Sudan’s army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces have agreed to a seven-day ceasefire starting today, in a deal mediated by the U.S. and Saudi Arabia. The warring parties pledged to stop occupying new areas, to allow aid workers to operate safely, and to ensure the safety of civilians and essential infrastructure. Last week Jordan said its embassy in Khartoum was vandalized, while Kuwait said the residence of an embassy official was also stormed and ransacked. The U.N. said Friday over 1 million people have been displaced since fighting broke out on April 15. Hundreds have been killed.
Bahrain plans to restore diplomatic relations with Lebanon, after severing ties in the fall of 2021 following critical comments made by a Lebanese minister of the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies withdrew their diplomats from Lebanon in response. It’s the latest move by Arab nations to resolve disputes and strengthen regional ties. On Friday, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad was welcomed back to his first Arab League summit after 12 years of suspension, while at the same time protesters gathered in and around northern Syria’s rebel-held Idlib to condemn his reintegration into the regional body.
The U.S. and Papua New Guinea have signed a security pact, giving American forces access to the country’s airfields and ports as the U.S. seeks to counter Chinese influence and extend its own reach in the Pacific. President Biden was originally slated to attend the signing today in Papua New Guinea but flew back to Washington after the G7 summit in Japan to resume debt limit negotiations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken filled in instead, meeting with Prime Minister James Marape.
In Brazil, a prominent Indigenous leader from the northern Pará state was shot in the head by two gunmen on May 14 in an apparent assassination attempt. Lúcio Tembé survived the assault and underwent surgery. Brazil’s federal government said it’s investigating whether the attack was related to conflicts with palm oil companies, which have been blamed for land grabbing, deforestation, water contamination and violence directed at Indigenous communities.
The European Union has fined the parent company of Facebook and Instagram for violating privacy and data protection rules. Meta was ordered to pay $1.3 billion U.S. dollars and told to immediately halt the transfer of data collected from Facebook users in Europe to the United States, unless it can be protected from surveillance. The penalty announced earlier today by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission is the largest fine ever imposed by the Irish privacy watchdog.
Back in the U.S., Nebraska’s Republican-led Legislature passed a bill banning abortion after 12 weeks and gender-affirming treatment for transgender youth. Republican Governor Jim Pillen has backed the bill and said he will sign it.
At least six people were arrested Friday as protesters interrupted legislative debate at Nebraska’s Capitol building in Lincoln. State Senator Megan Hunt, whose son is transgender, has joined state Senator Machaela Cavanaugh in a months-long filibuster to block the measure. She’s delivered blistering rebukes of her Republican colleagues who pushed through the bill. She spoke last Wednesday.
Sen. Megan Hunt: “This person said that they had attempted suicide during this session in Nebraska, a trans person. And I said to them, 'Do not let one of these trash people who I work with be the reason that you're not here. They don’t matter. The potential you have for the rest of your life is so much bigger than the damage any of these trash people can do in their little four-year or eight-year term.’ … Senator Kauth has stood up and said that trans kids are suicidal and depressed because they’re trans. No, it’s because of bullies like her, who are trying to legislate their existence and take away their right to be viewed as fully human in our culture and society.”
Newly published documents have revealed “persistent and widespread” violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by U.S. spy agencies. On Friday, a pair of heavily redacted opinions by the FISA Court were made public, showing that in recent years the FBI misused a foreign intelligence database more than 278,000 times to surveil U.S. citizens. The NSA and CIA also carried out thousands of warrantless queries. Among those targeted were journalists, political commentators, and Black Lives Matter protesters arrested after the killing of George Floyd. The data was gathered under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which permits the mass surveillance of U.S. residents’ digital communications without a warrant, as long as at least one party is a foreign national.
The head of a D.C. police intelligence unit was indicted for warning former Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio he would be arrested in connection with the 2020 burning of a “Black Lives Matter” banner stolen from a Washington church. Lieutenant Shane Lamond was also charged with making false statements to law enforcement. Tarrio was sentenced to five months in prison in the case. Separately, a jury convicted Tarrio and other Proud Boys of seditious conspiracy earlier this month over the January 6 Capitol insurrection.
Here in New York, hundreds of people led a march that shut down the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday, protesting soaring rent prices and demanding elected officials address the city’s worsening housing crisis. Protesters called for new legislation that would protect tenants from sudden evictions and rent hikes, as well as for the city to enact a program for rent assistance.
Hundreds gathered to pay respect to slain street performer Jordan Neely at his funeral Friday at the Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem. Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy.
Rev. Al Sharpton: “Jordan’s mother was killed, and her funeral was right here. And Jordan sat right there and watched his mother funeralized, who had been chopped up, and he’d never been the same. Jordan was not annoying someone on the train; Jordan was screaming for help.”
Neely’s friends and family were joined by a number of prominent New York leaders, including Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Mayor Eric Adams was not in attendance. Adams has been called out for demonizing unhoused and mentally ill New Yorkers, and for his tepid response to Neely’s unprovoked chokehold killing by a fellow subway rider, a white ex-marine who has since been charged with manslaughter. Outside the funeral, protesters continued to demand justice for Jordan Neely.
Protester: “Are we going to let him die in vain?”
Protester: “All right. We are going to stand together, and we’re going to let Eric Adams know that this is unacceptable and a chokehold is not going to happen anymore.”