Illustration by Ben Beechener
Updates on Ukraine
President Zelensky has urged NATO to implement a no-fly zone in Ukraine. NATO and the US continue to decline the request because of fears such a move could lead to “full-fledged war in Europe” after President Putin warned that any such sanctions would be considered a declaration of war. Zelensky has called on Western nations to provide Ukraine with planes to strengthen the country’s defences against Russia if a no-fly zone is not imposed.
This weekend has seen two attempts to evacuate civilians from the city of Mariupol, which collapsed after Russian forces failed to observe a ceasefire agreement that should have allowed civilians to leave. The city council had aimed to evacuate more than 200,000 people, but only a few hundred have managed to escape. Capturing Mariupol would provide Russia with a land corridor to Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.
Currently, Russian troops have entered Ukraine from the North, South and East. In the North, Russian forces are edging closer to Chernihiv, next to Kyiv, but the city continues to remain a Ukrainian stronghold. The city of Sumy is also currently surrounded by Russian troops. In the South, Ukrainians have lost the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, and Russia has also gained control of the major city of Kherson. Mariupol remains under attack as the evacuation continues. In the East, the second-largest city in Ukraine, Kharkov, continues to face bombardment, as does Donetsk.
President Zelensky has also claimed that Russia is planning to bomb the port city of Odesa. As one of the country’s biggest seaports, the seizure of Odesa on top of other southern ports would effectively turn Ukraine into a landlocked country.
This week also saw attacks on the country’s biggest nuclear facility, the Zaporizhzhia power plant, which was taken under Russian control on Friday. Russian troops attacked the plant with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades, leading to fears of a potential disaster “10 times larger than Chernobyl”. Luckily disaster was avoided and the US envoy to the UN has stated that the world “narrowly averted a nuclear catastrophe”.
The number of refugees fleeing Ukraine has continued to grow, exceeding 1.5 million and making the refugee crisis the largest since the Second World War. Currently, over 3% of Ukraine’s population have become refugees, with Poland taking in over 750,000 people, a number expected to surpass one million in the near future. At least 364 civilians are confirmed to have been killed amid the conflict, although the UN states the actual numbers are probably higher.
Shutdown of the press and protests in Russia
This week, Russia has seen a crackdown on independent journalists in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, drastically increasing censorship on the country’s media outlets. This follows a law passed on Friday 4th March making it a criminal offence to intentionally spread “fake” news about the invasion. Global news outlets including the BBC and CNN have temporarily suspended reporting in the country to protect their journalists. Russian media platforms including Echo of Moscow and TV Rain have also shut down. In the final moments of broadcast TV Rain employees stated “no to war” before broadcasting a clip from the ballet Swan Lake, a symbol of political turmoil dating back to the Soviet era. The ballet was shown on a loop by Soviet state television during the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991 that began the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The shutdown of Russia’s independent media comes as anti-war protesters continue to be arrested across the country, with over 559 detained today alone.
UN offers mediation between rival political groups in Libya
The UN has offered to mediate between political rivals in Libya to allow presidential and parliamentary elections to be held “as soon as possible” in the war-torn country. Stephanie Williams, special advisor on Libya to António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, announced on Friday that she has asked Libya’s House of Representatives and the High Council of State (HCS) to nominate six delegates each. The delegates will meet on 15th March to work for two weeks in an attempt to develop a “consensual constitutional basis”, which it is hoped will allow for elections to take place.
Elections were delayed in the country in December 2021 after divided political groups failed to agree on electoral rules and the powers the new president and parliament would have.
Mosque bombed in Pakistan
At least 58 people have been killed and 200 injured in a suicide attack that took place on Friday at a mosque in Pakistan. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack which took place during Friday prayers in Peshwar, a city in the northwest of the country. The explosion marked one of the deadliest attacks on Pakistan’s Shi’ite minority in years. Many are being treated in the nearby Lady Reading Hospital after sustaining serious and critical injuries.
Oil discovery off the coast of Namibia
An estimated one billion barrels of oil have been discovered off the coast of Namibia. The venture is expected to bring in billions of dollars in investment to the country. The discovery was made by TotalEnergies, who, alongside other groups with a working interest, such as Qatar Energy and Impact Oil and Gas, have created a programme to assess the commercial merits of pursuing extraction. Inequality has been rampant in Namibia, although some hope that the discovery could bring change. Others have drawn attention to the potential environmental harms of the extraction and the negative impacts the move could have on local communities.