Illustration by Ben Beechener

Invasion of Ukraine update

As of the 11th of March, the Kremlin continues to wage its brutal incursion into Ukrainian territory. Fighting this week has been concentrated northwest of Kyiv, where Russian ground troops are amassing in preparation to assault the Ukrainian capital. The port city of Mariupol has also been annexed by Russian forces, and the humanitarian situation seems to be rapidly declining with UN reports claiming instances of “looting and violent confrontation”. Ukrainian president Zelensky has said that an estimated 1,300 Ukrainian troops have been killed so far during the conflict. President Biden remains authoritative about not sending troops to Ukraine, arguing that such an act would trigger the start of World War Three. Early on Sunday morning, it was reported that both the Mayor of Dniprorudne and the Mayor of Melitopol had been kidnapped by Russian troops. There have been several accusations launched against Putin, labelling these actions and the intentional blocking of evacuation corridors to the West as war crimes. 

Yale distances itself from Sackler name

Yale University has begun to remove the Sackler family name from its campus. The family has endowed two professorships at the university and a programme in the sciences, donating over one million dollars. The decision was made as a result of the Sacklers’ role in the US’ opioid endemic, after the family’s pharmaceutical company falsely claimed that their product OxyContin was less addictive than opioids already on the market. Yale’s decision follows similar resolutions made by institutions including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Tufts University in Massachusetts. The University of Oxford retains its ties to the Sackler family in the form of the Sackler Library, one of the Bodleian Libraries’ principal research centres. A motion was passed by the Oxford Student Union to remove the Sackler name from the library in May 2021. 

Saudi Arabia executes 81 people in one day

Saudi Arabia has drawn international criticism from human rights groups after putting 81 people to death on Saturday 12th March in the Kingdom’s largest mass execution in years. Those executed faced charges including “allegiance to foreign terrorist organisations” and holding “deviant beliefs”. The European Saudi Organization for Human Rights has said that some of the charges were related to participation in human rights demonstrations. Saturday saw a greater number of executions in the country than in the whole of 2021 and over double the number reported in 2020. Those executed included seven Yemenis and one Syrian alongside 73 Saudis. 

750 civilians killed in North Ethiopia in the second half of 2021

At least 750 civilians were killed in the North Ethiopia regions of Amhara and Afar in the second half of 2021, according to a report released by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on Thursday. The deaths have come since the Tigrayan rebels, who are fighting against the Ethiopian government, launched an offensive into neighbouring regions last July. The report found that at least 403 civilians died during air raids, drone attacks and heavy artillery fire, and that 346 civilians were killed as part of extrajudicial killings carried out by the warring parties. The human rights commission has also accused Tigrayan rebels of “widespread, cruel, and systematic sexual and gender-based violence including gang-rape against women of different ages” in areas under their control. Federal and local security forces in the regions have been accused of arbitrarily implementing widespread detentions of civilians. 

India-Pakistan flare-up

On Wednesday it was reported that India had ‘accidentally’ fired a missile into Pakistan due to a ‘technical malfunction’ occurring during a routine exercise. There were no casualties. The Indian government has apologised, calling the blip “deeply regrettable”, but it is unsure whether this is full-throated or a black lie. India and Pakistan have had troubled tensions ever since the partition in 1947, and regions such as Kashmir have been a particular hotspot of contestation and flare-ups between the two nuclear powers. This situation seems unlikely to escalate any further but may indeed indicate the strategy of sabre-rattling, used to remind the opposing power that their neighbour is very much at the ready should they be provoked.

Sofia Cotterill

Sofia is Senior Global Affairs Editor at The Oxford Blue.