Live updates: Russia’s “Special Operation” in Ukraine; Today 51

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“Powerful” explosions rock Kyiv

Powerful explosions were heard in Kyiv early Friday, and sirens sounded across Ukraine as residents braced for fresh Russian attacks after Moscow’s flagship warship sank in the Black Sea, the Moskva, following a fire.

Reuters news agency said the explosions appeared to be among the most significant in the Ukrainian capital region since Russian forces withdrew from the area earlier this month in preparation for battles in the south and east.

Ukraine claimed responsibility for sinking the tanker “Moskva”, saying that one of its missiles had hit it. Russia declared that the damage was “the result of an explosion of ammunition caused by a fire.”

Most of the civilians who died in Bucha were shot: Mayor

Posha Mayor Anatoly Fedoruk said in televised comments that 85 percent of the bodies recovered in the city of Poca had bullet holes, indicating premeditated murder.

Fedorok says these bodies were not only taken from mass graves, but also from individual burials in vegetable gardens, parks and squares.

He also said work to exhume the bodies from the second mass grave found in the city, near St Andrew’s Church, would likely end on Friday.

The trapped citizens of Mariupol are ‘starving to death’: Director of the World Food Program

The head of the United Nations World Food Program said people were “starving” in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol and predicted that the country’s humanitarian crisis was likely to worsen as Russia intensified its offensive in the coming weeks.

David Beasley said in an interview with the Associated Press.

About 100,000 civilians remain trapped in the besieged city of Mariupol, desperately in need of food, water and heating.

Beasley noted the inability of aid workers to reach the city and described the situation as “devastating.”

The “absurd” and “suicidal” invasion of Russia: Zelensky

In an address to the nation on the 50th day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky questioned why the world continues to debate the severity of necessary sanctions when “Russian forces are already repeating on our soil what Europe witnessed only during World War II.”

He asked why Russian forces were destroying towns and villages in Donbass, the area that Russia wanted to destroy in the first place… as if they only wanted to leave stones. There are no people at all. “

Zelensky emphasized that these are not rhetorical questions.

That is the question of how absurd this invasion of the Russian Federation was. How suicidal for all that Russia claims to “protect”. For Russian culture … even for the Russian language. Russia is burning all this with its weapons,” he added.

Grain production in Ukraine may be affected for years

The French seed industry group has announced that a decline in crop seed production in Ukraine may affect the country’s grain production for several years.

Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters, is widely expected to see its crop shrink this year as the Russian invasion disrupts farming.

Claude Table, president of the French seed makers association UFS, said the projected decline would also include farms that grow crops to provide seed for the following year, which could leave Ukrainian farmers short of seeds for planting in 2023.

Sinking of a warship deals a “big blow” to Russia: the Pentagon

The Pentagon said the sinking of the warship Moskva was a “big blow” to the Russian navy in the Black Sea.

“This is a major blow to the Black Sea Fleet, and this is … an essential part of their efforts to implement some kind of naval dominance in the Black Sea,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told CNN.

“This will have an impact on their capabilities,” he added.

US prepares to crack down on Russian sanctions evasion

National Security Adviser Joe Biden said the United States is preparing for new efforts to stem Russia’s evasion of sanctions.

“Where our focus over the coming days will be is evasion,” Jake Sullivan said in an interview at the Economic Club of Washington.

“I think we’ll have some announcements in the next week or two outlining targets that try to facilitate this evasion inside and outside Russia,” he added, without giving details of upcoming plans.

A ‘horror story’: the director of the World Food Program says during his visit to Bucha

David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program, tweeted a video clip from the wreckage of what he said was an orphanage that once housed 40 children in the Ukrainian city of Bucha, near Kyiv.

“What happened to this community is a horror story,” he wrote.

Ukrainian army saved cities in Donetsk from Russian takeover

Over the past day, Russian forces have focused their main efforts on capturing the cities of Popasna and Robyzhn in the Donsk region, but “to no avail,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in a Facebook post.

The post was added in Donetsk and Luhansk, Ukraine repelled eight attacks from Russia and destroyed four Russian tanks, six armored personnel carriers, four infantry fighting vehicles and one hostile artillery system.

Report: The European Union is preparing for the Russian oil embargo

The New York Times reported that the European Union is preparing to impose a blanket ban on Russian oil imports. Given that Russia is the largest oil supplier in the bloc, such a decision would have political and economic repercussions.

The newspaper reported that this is the reason why European Union officials are waiting after the next French elections to announce the decision.

Officials told the newspaper that the proposed ban would be brought up for negotiation after the last round of French elections on April 24, acknowledging that the resulting rise in fuel prices would likely hurt incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron and bolster his right-wing rival Marin. Le Pen, whose poll is currently taking place within five percentage points of Macron.

In addition to five rounds of economic sanctions against Moscow, the European Union has already announced a gradual ban on imports of Russian coal and a complete end to purchases of fossil fuels from Russia by 2030. For now, a gas ban is off the table, as the bloc relies on Russia for about 40% of its natural gas.

However, the EU is still heavily dependent on Russian oil, which accounts for about a quarter of its supply. Germany is still more dependent, buying a third of its oil from Russia.

While Berlin voluntarily canceled the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and backed sanctions on Moscow over the conflict in Ukraine, its leaders warned that a bloc-wide ban on Russian energy imports would wreck its economy and destroy its industry.

According to the newspaper, EU officials will propose a phased ban to ensure Berlin’s support.

The United States blames Russia for food shortages in poor countries

The US ambassador to the United Nations accused Russia of making the precarious food situation in Yemen and elsewhere worse by invading Ukraine, calling it “just another grim example of the continuing impact of Russia’s unjustified, unfair and unreasonable war on the world’s most vulnerable groups.” . . .

The World Food Program has identified the Arab world’s poorest country as one of the countries most affected by high wheat prices and a lack of imports from Ukraine, Linda Thomas Greenfield told a UN Security Council meeting on war-torn Yemen on Thursday.

Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, noted that the main factor of instability is sanctions that seek to cut off supplies to Russia.

Members of the UN cultural body refuse to attend a meeting on heritage protection in Russia

A group of UNESCO’s National Committees – bodies created by member governments – have signed a letter stating that they will not travel to the Russian city of Kazan, where the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee (WHC) will take place, deeming the session “not possible”.

The letter states that the WHC session should not be held in Russia while its forces are working to “destroy” the outstanding global value “in Ukraine”.

The letter adds: “The credibility of UNESCO and the 1972 Convention relating to the Protection of the World’s Cultural and Natural Heritage is at stake.”

Recent figures from UNESCO show that 53 Ukrainian cultural buildings, including historical monuments and places of worship, have been destroyed as of March 31 due to the Russian invasion.

The 45th session of the Heritage Committee is scheduled to be held in Kazan from June 19-30.

Signatories to the letter include Australia, Albania, Finland, Denmark, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, New Zealand, South Korea, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General calls for a speedy investigation into war crimes

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General said his country wants to take legal action over alleged war crimes committed by Russian forces.

At a press briefing alongside ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan, Irina Venediktova stated that achieving justice in Ukraine is urgent, even as the war continues.

Venediktova added: “Ukrainians want justice now, but we all understand that the process of criminal proceedings to start collecting all the evidence when we are still at war. In fact, when we have a large number of cases, it is not so fast and it is not so simple.”

Khan said the investigation into the allegations of war crimes would examine all the evidence, and it should be done “urgently”.

“We must do this with the realization that indeed, for whatever reason, by whatever means, people died, buildings were destroyed,” he added.

I will not accept from any NGO or even from the Ukrainian government or authorities, even from the Prosecutor General, any evidence uncritical. We will review everything to make sure we have it properly and any evidence we review is credible and genuine.”

Russia says the flagship ship in the Black Sea, Moskva, has sunk

The Russian Defense Ministry said the missile cruiser Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, sank while being towed to port in stormy weather following an explosion and fire, Russian news agencies reported.

“During its tow… towards the intended port, the ship lost its balance due to damage to its hull when a fire broke out after the ammunition exploded. The ship sank “due to the turbulence of the seas,” the ministry added.

Earlier on Thursday, the Defense Ministry announced that the Soviet-era ship was badly damaged by the fire that Ukraine said was caused by its missile attack.

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