What You Need to Know on Day 26 of the Russian Invasion
Russia has mounted increased attacks on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, but military forces have made little ground in the last week.
Russia Bombs Kyiv Mall
Russia continued what appears to be nothing more than senseless attacks on civilian infrastructure and neighborhoods as its war on Ukraine marked its 26th day Monday.
On Sunday, Russia launched a missile strike on a major shopping center in Kyiv, leaving much of the area in rubble and killing at least eight people in what has been described as one of the strongest bombings of Ukraine’s capital since the beginning of the invasion.
The mayor of Kyiv, Vitali Klitschko, imposed a curfew on the city, requiring all residents of the capital to stay at home or in shelters from 8 p.m. Monday to 7 a.m. Wednesday and mandating that all stores, pharmacies, gas stations, and government offices close on Tuesday.
Klitschko insisted that the shopping center attack is “not a coincidence.”
“Putin wants to starve the civilians to make them pressurize their leaders,” he said in a statement.
With this latest strike, residents in the capital are worried that if Russian forces continue to close in, Kyiv could see attacks like those Kharkiv and Mariupol, where Russia has launched an onslaught on civilian populations to make up for slow progress in the regions. That concern is especially heightened as British defense officials have warned that Kyiv remains Russia’s “primary military objective,” adding that troops are expected to prioritize an attempt to encircle the city in the coming weeks.
Mariupol Refuses to Surrender
Furthering their major military objectives, Russian officials on Sunday offered an ultimatum to the strategic southern port city Mariupol: if the city surrenders, Russia will allow civilians to leave and humanitarian aid to enter.
Ukrainian officials rejected the ultimatum on Monday, though President Volodymyr Zelensky said he would be open to negotiations to end the fighting.
The stability of the situation on the ground, however, remains unclear. According to reports, hundreds of thousands of civilians are still trapped in the city with no electricity and rapidly diminishing supplies of food and water.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian military and city officials have said that the battle has devolved into street-to-street guerrilla fighting, and Russian forces have encircled the city and are currently occupying all civilian neighborhoods. A top E.U. diplomat went as far as to accuse Russia of committing “a massive war crime” in its attack of Mariupol.
The future of Mariupol is highly significant because if Russia seizes the city, it would mark its first real strategic victory in a war that has resulted in stalemates on many other fronts.
While Russia has ramped up shelling in recent days, a U.S. defense official told reporters that Russian forces have shown almost no signs of advancing into Ukraine over the last week. The Russian military remains stalled around many areas and has failed to take control over any major cities.
Potential New Fronts & Ongoing Refugee Crisis
Ukrainian officials are looking out for possible new fronts in the war. Specifically, because Russia has been more successful in the south, where Mariupol is, authorities are closely watching that region. There are also concerns that Russian and possibly Belarussian troops might try to open a new front along Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus.
The worries over new areas of attack come as millions of people are already being displaced and fleeing the country.
The U.N. reported Sunday that more than 10 million — or 1 in 4 people in Ukraine — have been displaced since the beginning of the invasion. On Monday, the agency said that more than 3.4 million refugees have fled Ukraine in the same period and described the situation as the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
As the crisis continues with more refugees anticipated, European cities accepting the fleeing Ukrainians are beginning to hit their capacity. In the Polish capital of Warsaw, the mayor is now warning that the city of 1.8 million is on the brink as over 300,000 refugees have sought safety there.
Ongoing Negotiations & Diplomatic Efforts
Amid the continued fighting and tensions, Zelensky on Sunday renewed his calls for peace talks, though the two sides still appear to be far apart.
Speaking to CNN, the Ukrainian leader said he would reject any peace agreement that requires Ukraine to recognize the independence of the two Russian-backed separatist regions. To end the fighting, he said Ukraine would need “security guarantees, sovereignty, restoration of territorial integrity, real guarantees for our country.”
Zelensky also emphasized the importance of negotiations.
“I think that without negotiations we cannot end this war,” he said. “But if these attempts fail, that would mean … a third world war.”
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is making his biggest diplomatic push so far. On Monday, he traveled today to meet with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, and Britain. He is expected to go to Brussels to meet with NATO and E.U. leaders on Wednesday before heading to Poland on Friday.
One of the most significant topics of discussion at those summits will likely be Poland’s proposal to launch an international peacekeeping mission in Ukraine. Although NATO has undertaken these missions in Europe before, they were done after fighting had ended.
Already, the U.S. has rejected that idea. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N. said Sunday that America has ruled out any military participation.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (NPR)
95-Year-Old Woman Dies After Police Tases Her in Nursing Home
The officer involved was suspended with pay and charged with assault.
A 95-year-old Australian woman whom police tasered in a nursing home last week has reportedly died from her injuries.
Clare Nowland, who had dementia and required a walking frame to stand up and move, was living at the Yallambee Lodge in Cooma in southeastern Australia.
At about 4:15 a.m. on May 17, police and paramedics responded to a report of a woman standing outside her room with a steak knife.
They encountered Nowland, then reportedly tried to negotiate with her for several minutes, but she didn’t drop the knife.
The five-foot-two, 95-pound woman walked toward the two officers “at a slow pace,” police said at a news conference, so one of them tasered her.
She fell to the floor and reportedly suffered a fractured skull and a severe brain bleed, causing her to be hospitalized in critical condition.
Nowland passed away in a hospital surrounded by her family, the New South Wales police confirmed in a statement today.
After a week-long investigation, the police force also said that the senior constable involved would appear in court next week to face charges of recklessly causing grievous bodily harm, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, and common assault.
NSW police procedure states that tasers should not be used against elderly or disabled people absent exceptional circumstances.
Following the incident, community members, activists, and disability rights advocates expressed bewilderment and anger at what they called an unnecessary use of force, and some are now questioning why law enforcement took so long to prosecute the officer involved.
See what others are saying: (Reuters) (The New York Times) (CNN)
U.K. Police Face Backlash After Arresting Anti-Monarchy Protesters
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that some of the arrests “raise questions” and “investigations are ongoing.”
The Public Order Act
A controversial protest crackdown law in the U.K. is facing criticism after dozens of anti-monarchy protesters were arrested during the coronation ceremony in London over the weekend.
The law, dubbed the “Public Order Act” was passed roughly a week ahead of the coronation for King Charles III. It gives police more power to restrict protesters and limits the tactics protesters can use in public spaces. It was condemned by human rights groups upon its passing, and is facing a new round of heat after 52 people were arrested over coronation protests on Saturday.
In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said protesters were arrested for public order offenses, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance. The group said it gave advance warning that its “tolerance for any disruption, whether through protest or otherwise, will be low and that we would deal robustly with anyone intent on undermining the celebration.”
It is currently unclear how many of those arrested were detained specifically for violating the Public Order Act, however, some of those arrested believe the new law was used against them.
“Make no mistake. There is no longer a right to peaceful protest in the UK,” Graham Smith, the CEO of anti-monarchy group Republic tweeted after getting arrested. “I have been told many times the monarch is there to defend our freedoms. Now our freedoms are under attack in his name.”
An Attempt to “Diminish” Protests
During a BBC Radio interview, Smith also said he believes the dozens of arrests were premeditated.
“There was nothing that we did do that could possibly justify even being detained and arrested and held,” Smith claimed.
“The whole thing was a deliberate attempt to disrupt and diminish our protest.”
Yasmine Ahmed, the U.K. Director of Human Rights Watch, also tweeted that the arrests were “disgraceful.”
“These are scenes you’d expect to see in Russia not the UK,” she wrote.
When asked about the controversy, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters officers should do “what they think is best” in an apparent show of support for the Metropolitan Police.
For his part, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said he is looking into the matter.
“Some of the arrests made by police as part of the Coronation event raise questions and whilst investigations are ongoing, I’ve sought urgent clarity from Met leaders on the action taken,” Khan tweeted.
See what others are saying: (The Guardian) (CNN) (The Washington Post)
Foreign Nationals Make Mad Dash out of Sudan as Conflict Rages
The conflict’s death toll has surpassed 420, with nearly 4,000 people wounded.
As the 10-day-long power struggle between rival generals tore Sudan apart, foreign governments with citizens in the country scrambled to evacuate them over the weekend.
On Sunday, U.S. special forces landed in the capital Khartoum and carried out nearly 100 American diplomats along with their families and some foreign nationals on helicopters.
An estimated 16,000 Americans, however, remain in the country and U.S. officials said in a statement that a broader evacuation mission would be too dangerous.
Christopher Maier, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity warfare, said in a statement that the Pentagon may assist U.S. citizens find safe routes out of Sudan.
“[The Defense Department] is at present considering actions that may include use of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to be able to observe routes and detect threats,” he said.
Germany and France also reportedly pulled around 700 people out of the country.
More countries followed with similar efforts, including the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, China, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Indonesia.
Yesterday, a convoy carrying some 700 United Nations, NGO, and embassy staff drove to Port Sudan, a popular extraction point now that the airport in Khartoum has closed due to fighting.
Reports of gunmen prowling the capital streets and robbing people trying to escape, as well as looters breaking into abandoned homes and shops, have persuaded most residents to stay indoors.
Heavy gunfire, airstrikes, and artillery shelling have terrorized the city despite several proposed ceasefires.
Over the weekend, the reported death toll topped 420, with nearly 4,000 people injured, though both numbers are likely to be undercounted.