the European Union increases pressure on Moscow

(CNN) — As Russia’s war in Ukraine approaches the 70th day since it began, the European Union is pushing for new sanctions to ratchet up pressure on Moscow and Vladimir Putin. Now, he wants to remove the largest Russian bank from the SWIFT system and ban state-owned broadcasters.

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, listed this Wednesday all the measures that the bloc is evaluating, in addition to the ban on Russian oil:

  • List individuals who committed war crimes in Bucha, Ukraine
  • Withdraw the largest Russian bank, Sberbank, and two other companies from the SWIFT system, a messaging service that connects financial institutions around the world.
  • Ban three Russian state broadcasters from the European airwaves because they “aggressively amplify Putin’s lies and propaganda.”

Von der Leyen blamed Russia’s president directly: “Putin must pay a price, a high price for his brutal aggression,” he said. “What he counts is international law and not the law of force.”

As for the oil ban, von der Leyen acknowledged the challenges of weaning off Russian fossil fuels.

“Let’s be clear: It won’t be easy. But we just have to work on it. We will make sure we remove Russian oil in an orderly way. To maximize the pressure on Russia, minimizing the impact on our economies.”

He added: “We want Ukraine to win this war. However, many things need to be rebuilt. That is why I propose to start work on an ambitious recovery package for our Ukrainian friends. This package should bring massive investment to meet the needs and necessary reforms.

Expert analyzes the impact of sanctions against Russia 5:14

More than 5.6 million refugees since the start of the war

More than 5.6 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion in late February, according to the latest data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In addition, at least 7.7 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine after being forced to flee their homes, according to the latest report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

8.3 million refugees are expected to flee Ukraine, the UNHCR said last week.

Russian Defense Minister says NATO arms convoys in Ukraine will be destroyed

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu repeated Moscow’s warning that it will consider NATO equipment reaching Ukraine a legitimate target, according to state news agency RIA Novosti.

His latest warning came after Russian cruise missiles struck several towns in western and central Ukraine on Tuesday in what Ukrainian authorities say was an attempt to destroy the country’s transport infrastructure.

According to RIA Novosti, Shoigu said that NATO vehicles with weapons and ammunition for Ukrainian troops that arrived in Ukraine will be destroyed.

Ukrainians saved from bombings in the basement of a theater 1:43

“The United States and its NATO allies continue to pump weapons into Ukraine. I note that any transport of the North Atlantic Alliance that arrives on the territory of the country with weapons or material for the needs of the Ukrainian armed forces is considered by us as a target legitimate destruction,” Shoigu said in a conference call on Wednesday.

A bus convoy leaves Mariupol with the evacuees, according to an official

New evacuations from the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol got underway on Wednesday, according to a local official, who did not provide a figure for the number of people involved.

A bus convoy left Mariupol for Zaporizhia as part of the efforts led by the United Nations and the Red Cross, Pavlo Kyrylenko, head of the Military Administration of the Donetsk region, announced on Telegram. The convoy will stop at Tokmak, Vasylivka and Lunacharske to pick up more civilians on the way, he said.

A convoy carrying people from Mariupol arrives in Kamianske, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on May 3. (Photo: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Private vehicles will be able to join the convoy from Tomak, Kyrylenko added.

He did not specify whether the evacuees had taken refuge at the Azovstal steel plant, where the last defenders of Mariupol are resisting Russian bombardment.

The school year in Ukraine “is nearing a tragic end” with the death of children and the destruction of facilities, according to UNICEF

Hundreds of schools across Ukraine have reportedly been hit by heavy artillery, airstrikes and other explosive weapons in populated areas, “underlining the dramatic impact the conflict is having on children’s lives and futures,” The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The beginning of the academic year in Ukraine was hopeful and promising for children after the interruptions of covid-19,” said Murat Sahin, UNICEF representative in Ukraine. “Instead, hundreds of children have been killed, and the school year ends in the midst of the closure of classrooms due to the war and the decimation of educational facilities.”

Among the schools that have been damaged or destroyed by shelling is “School 36, the only ‘Safe School’ in Mariupol,” Unicef ​​said, adding that in the last week alone two schools have been attacked.

The “Safe Schools” program was established with the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science in response to attacks on kindergartens and schools in the Donbas region, “which has seen a simmering armed conflict since 2014,” UNICEF said.

The agency points out that for children affected by the crisis, the school offers not only a safe space and “a semblance of normality in the most difficult moments”, but also access to information about the risks of deadly explosive devices.

Educational centers also connect them and their parents with health and psychosocial services, the agency added.

“Ensuring access to education can be the difference between a feeling of hope or despair for millions of children,” said Sahin. “This is crucial for their future and that of the whole of Ukraine.”

Children and schools must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law, UNICEF said, calling on parties to the conflict to take measures to prevent the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and the use of educational facilities for military purposes.

According to Unicef, several schools in Ukraine were attacked by Russia

“Despite the horror of war, impressive work has been done to ensure that children can continue to learn,” said Sahin. “Ultimately, the fighting needs to stop so classrooms can be rebuilt and schools can once again be safe and fun places to learn.”

The war in Ukraine is having “a devastating impact” on the country’s 7.5 million children, UNICEF said, as “children continue to be killed, injured and deeply traumatized by the violence around them.”

The agency has also warned that children fleeing violence in Ukraine are at increased risk of being trafficked and exploited.

More than 5.4 million refugees had fled Ukraine as of May 1, about half of them children, according to the latest Unicef ​​data.

Millions more people have been internally displaced, UNICEF said, adding that “such large-scale displacement could have lasting consequences for generations to come.”

Don’t be ‘Putin’s altar boy’: Pope rebukes pro-war Russian patriarch

Pope Francis has warned the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, not to become “Putin’s altar boy.” He said as much during an interview this week.

In his harshest words to date against the pro-war patriarch, Francis also criticized Kirill for endorsing Russia’s stated reasons for invading Ukraine.

“I spoke with him for 40 minutes via Zoom,” the pope told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published Tuesday. “The first 20 minutes he read to me, card in hand, all the justifications for war.”

Pope cancels meeting with Patriarch Kirill

“I listened to him and told him: I don’t understand any of this,” the pope said. “Brother, we are not state clerics, we cannot use the language of politics but that of Jesus.”

“The patriarch cannot become Putin’s altar boy,” the pope said.

Francis said the conference call with Kirill took place on March 16, and that he and the patriarch had agreed to postpone a meeting scheduled for June 14 in Jerusalem.

“It would be our second face-to-face meeting, nothing to do with the war,” the pope said. “But now, he also agrees: let’s leave it, it could be an ambiguous signal.”

In March, Patriarch Kirill said the conflict was an extension of a fundamental culture clash between the wider Russian world and Western liberal values, exemplified by expressions of gay pride.

Experts say Kirill’s comments offer an important spiritual insight for Putin on a return to a Russian Empire, in which the Orthodox religion plays a key role.

But the Russian patriarch’s hard-line stance is costing him followers.

In March, the Russian Orthodox Church in Amsterdam announced it was breaking ties with the leader, joining a growing number of priests and churches leaving Moscow over the war in Ukraine.

The mayor of Mariupol claims that there is heavy fighting in Azovstal and that contact with the defenders has been lost

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko says new fighting has broken out at the Azovstal plant, where hundreds of civilians remain trapped along with the last Ukrainian defenders in that city.

“Today there is heavy fighting on the territory of our fortress, on the territory of Azovstal. Our braves are defending this fortress, but it is very difficult, because heavy artillery and tanks are firing all over the fortress, the aviation is working, the ships have approached and are also firing at the fortress,” Boichenko said.

This was the traumatic escape from hell in Azovstal 2:35

Speaking on Ukrainian television, Boichenko said there are 30 children trapped at the plant who are still waiting to be rescued. “They are waiting for a new negotiation procedure and a new evacuation mission.”

“We must understand that people are still dying. Unfortunately, enemy aviation and artillery are constantly working and firing on the fortress,” he said, recalling that earlier this week two young women were killed in Azovstal.

He also said that contact with the defenders had been lost. “Unfortunately, today there is no connection with the boys, there is no connection to understand what is happening, if they are safe or not. Yesterday there was a connection with them, not today.”

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