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crocodile

United Nation Reports Global Wildlife Trafficking Is Causing ‘Untold Harm Upon Nature’

A report from the United Nations has warned that more than 4,000 species of animals around the world are currently being targeted by traffickers, which is causing an unknown level of “harm upon nature.”

Crimes and trafficking involving wildlife are driven by demands for medicine, pets, bushmeat, ornamental plants, and trophies, according to reports. Of all the animals currently being trafficked, 40% are on the “red list” of threatened or near-threatened species. 

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The wildlife trade is active in more than 80% of countries around the world, according to the report which came from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). 

“Despite gaps in knowledge about the full extent of wildlife trafficking and associated crime, there is sufficient evidence to conclude that this remains a significant global problem far from being resolved.”

Researchers for the report looked at more than 140,000 wildlife seizures that took place between 2015 and 2021. They found that Corals, larger reptiles like crocodiles, and elephants had the largest number of individual seizures. 

These crimes are also actively driving extinction rates in species of rare orchids, succulent plants, reptiles, and fish, according to UNODC. 

“About 16,000 tonnes of goods were seized. Actual wildlife trafficking levels are of course far greater than the recorded seizures,” researchers say in the report.

“Wildlife crime inflicts untold harm upon nature, and it also jeopardizes livelihoods, public health, good governance and our planet’s ability to fight climate change,” said Ghada Waly, the executive director of the UNODC.

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Separate research has found that specific populations of spider monkeys and Baird’s tapir have declined up to 99.9% due to the illegal wildlife trade exclusively. Researchers want the world to know that this illegal trading can lead to global extinctions of multiple species, which would also impact the overall environment. 

“Much wildlife crime is linked to large organized crime groups. Corruption plays a critical role in undermining efforts to stop wildlife trafficking, from bribes paid to inspectors, to government officials allowing fake permits,” the report says.

“An absence of seizures of a particular commodity or at a certain location could reflect lack of enforcement, rather than evidence that illegal trade was not taking place,” researchers said

It is estimated that the illegal wildlife trading industry could be worth around $23 billion annually, with over 100 million plants and animals being trafficked every year. While the UNODC has the goal of ending all trafficking of protected species, it seems unlikely that they’ll reach that by 2030 as they initially planned. 

“To address this crime, we must match the adaptability and agility of illegal wildlife trade,” said Waly.

Nations Around The World Trying To Reach Agreement To Reduce Plastic Waste 

According to an official from the United Nations, 170 countries are currently negotiating a deal for a global treaty that would cut plastic waste, while environmentalists are weary of the plastic industry’s ability to change for the health of our planet.

evacuate

Conflict In Sudan Leads To Mass Departure Of Foreigners While Locals Remain Trapped 

A conflict in Sudan between two rival general forces has led to a mass exodus of foreigners from the country while locals are struggling to escape and find themselves in the crossfire. 

Countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy, Japan, Germany, Canada, and France have airlifted and evacuated embassy staff, diplomates, and other residents over the weekend. The US and Canada also announced that their governments would be temporarily suspending their operations within the embassies in Khartoum. 

According to John Kirby, a coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council in the White House, there’s an estimated 16,000 Americans remaining in Sudan; most of which are dual citizens in Sudan as well. 

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“These are people that grew up in Sudan, work in Sudan, families are in Sudan and they want to stay in Sudan, so it’s a number that is difficult to plan specifically,” Kirby said to ABC News.

Kirby also explained that there are several dozen Americans making their way to Sudan’s main seaport through a United Nations convoy, while the US is monitoring them through intelligence surveillance to ensure they’re safe. 

“We still have military forces prepositioned in the region ready to respond if need be. But right now, it’s not very safe to try to run some larger evacuation either out of the nearby air base or even just through rotary lift like we did the other night because the fighting is so intense,” he said. 

“The safest thing for Americans to do — those who have decided to stay in Sudan despite the warnings to leave — is to shelter in place and to not move around too much in the city of Khartoum.”

Many Sudanese citizens are currently attempting to flee and risking their lives trying to get out of the crossfire of this conflict. 

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the “organization is working with aid groups on the ground and is reconfiguring our presence in Sudan to enable us to continue supporting the Sudanese people. In the meantime, [we have] authorized the temporary relocation both inside and outside Sudan of some U.N. personnel and their families.”

“I am in constant contact with the parties to the conflict and have called on them to de-escalate tensions and to return to the negotiating table,” Guterres added. 

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“Let me be clear: the United Nations is not leaving Sudan. Our commitment is to the Sudanese people, in support of their wishes for a peaceful and secure future. We stand with them at this terrible time.”

Tensions between General Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the commander of the Sudanese Armed Forces, and General Mohammed Hamdan Daglo, the head of the Rapid Support Forces, a Sudanese paramilitary group, reached a head on April 15th. 

While the two generals were once allies, they are now battling for control over the North African nation which is saturated in resources. Proposed cease-fires have been consistently failing, with both sides showing no sign of backing down. 

A majority of the fighting and violence is occurring in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum. More than 420 people have been killed and over 3,700 have been injured, according to reports from the World Health Organization. 

The U.S. has been in contact with the rival sides “every single day … trying to get them to put down their arms, to abide by the cease-fires that they themselves say they want and to return to some sort of civilian authority,” according to Kirby.

“We’re doing everything we can to get this fighting stopped,” he told ABC News.

 “This is a centrally located, very important, very large African country. We are concerned that other partners, other nations will be affected by this — not just in the region, but beyond — so that’s why we’re working so hard to get this violence stopped.”

earthquake

Turkey And Syria Facing Years Of Rebuilding Following 7.8 Magnitude Earthquake 

Turkey and Syria are currently enduring the aftermath of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that left both nations in complete devastation. 

“We’ve done a bit of mapping of the size of the affected area, it’s the size of France,” said the director of disasters, climate, and crises at the International Federation of the Red Cross, Caroline Holt, to CNN.

“We haven’t yet seen the full extent of the damage and of the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes,” said Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Security-General. 

The World Health Organization estimated up to 23 million people could be impacted by the disaster. More than 100 aftershocks have been recorded within a day and a half following the initial earthquake, one of which had a magnitude of 7.5.

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As of last Friday more than 22,000 deaths have been reported. While Turkey has experienced earthquakes in the past, citizens are angry that the government doesn’t have a more solid preparation plan in place that could’ve protected more people.

Ajay Chhibber, an economist who was World Bank director for Turkey, told CNN that “it’s like a bad movie [that’s] coming back again. Similar to this week’s event, a past 1999 earthquake tremor struck in the early hours but it occurred in the country’s northwest – a densely populated area closer to Istanbul. It lasted around 45 seconds, leaving more than 17,000 dead and an estimated 500,000 people homeless.”

More than 6,000 buildings have collapsed. Chhibber stated that “Turkey is capable of moving very, very swiftly if they can get their act together on this.”

Ismail Baris, professor of social work at Istanbul’s Uskudar University and former mayor of Golcuk at the time of the quake, told CNN that “in addition to the collapsed private and public buildings, the city’s water transport pipes, water supply network, sewage system [and] storm water system were completely destroyed, as well as 80% of the city’s roads.”

“Across the border in Syria, rebuilding efforts will be even more complicated. Syrians face“nightmares on top of nightmares, and the World Food Program has described the situation in the northwest of the country as a catastrophe on top of catastrophe,” Guterres warned this past weekend.

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“We have the perfect humanitarian storm in Syria,” said Caroline Holt.

Pre-earthquake, the UN has estimated that more than 4 million people were already dependent on humanitarian aid due to the civil war which has been impacting Syria since 2011. “After 12 years of constant pain, suffering and living in a vulnerable context, your ability to withstand – especially in winter – the harsh conditions that you’re facing [is diminished],” Holt told CNN.

“The conflict – or conflicts – are much worse in that area of Syria than in that area of Turkey,” said Ilan Kelman, professor of disasters and health at University College London. 

“While Turkey has political problems of its own, they do have a comparatively strong government and comparatively strong military in comparison to Syria, which is at war. Turkey also has greater pre-earthquake resources. Neither country is especially rich, but Turkey at least has that baseline where they’ve not been in a major conflict dividing the country for 12 years. They have not been isolated through sanctions,” Kelman said.

“While disasters like this wreak havoc, they also create opportunities to prevent such havoc being wrought again. There is a man-made part of every natural disaster,” according to Chhibber.

“We do have examples where people have taken the opportunity to say there has been a disaster, and we want to help people, so let’s try to reconstruct in such a way that we are supporting peace. At the moment, I do not see either government responding in that way, and I do not see the world responding in that way,” Kelman said.

Korea

North Korea Launches 23 Missiles, Crossing Maritime Border with the South

According to the South Korean military, North Korea launched at least 23 missiles to the east and west of the Korean peninsula on Wednesday. It is the highest number of short-range missiles fired by the North in a day, with one missile landing in waters farthest south than ever before.

Many kinds of missiles were fired, including surface-to-air missiles that landed in surrounding waters. A short-range ballistic missile landed near South Korean territorial waters for the first time since the division of Korea in 1948. According to CNN, this is North Korea’s 29th launch this year.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said one missile landed in international waters 104 miles (167 kilometers) northwest of South Korea’s Ulleung island, which is also around 16 miles (26 kilometers) south of the Northern Limit Line. The NLL is a de facto maritime boundary between the two countries, which North Korea does not recognize.

An air raid warning on Ulleung island was sounded, and citizens evacuated to raid shelters. The sirens eventually lifted at 2 p.m. local time on Wednesday. 

The launches came shortly after North Korea’s threats to utilize nuclear weapons and have the U.S. and South Korea “pay the most horrible price in history” if they were to take any action against Pyongyang. The hostile rhetoric is in response to ongoing large-scale South Korean and U. S. military drills.

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said North Korea’s missile test was an “effective territorial encroachment” and ordered that “a stern response be swiftly taken so that North Korea’s provocation pays a clear price.”

As a direct response, South Korea launched three air-to-surface missiles from fighter jets into waters north of the NLL at an equal distance to that which the North Korean missile had earlier landed south of the line, according to JCS.

“Our military’s precise strike showed our will to firmly respond to any North Korean provocations including short-range ballistic missiles, and our capability and readiness to precisely target the enemy.”

Japan’s Defense Ministry shared that North Korea also conducted another launch later on Wednesday, including a ballistic missile that fell into waters outside Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). 

“North Korea has rapidly escalated its provocations, launching more than a dozen missiles today alone and reportedly firing more than 100 artillery shells into the Japan sea since announcing an extremely provocative statement earlier in the day.”

According to CNN, no damage to aircraft or vessels has been confirmed as of right now.

The international response was swift. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that North Korea is launching missiles at an “unprecedentedly high frequency” and called for a National Security Council meeting to be held. 

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Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong tweeted about the rising tensions in the region.

“North Korea’s unprecedented launch of multiple ballistic missiles is recklessly threatening the security of the Republic of Korea. North Korea’s actions continue to undermine Indo-Pacific stability and violate multiple UNSC resolutions. Pyongyang must cease this action.”

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield condemned North Korea’s overnight missile launch.

“It’s unprecedented in the sense that there were so many this day, but they have been continuously launching missiles over the past year. And we have continued to condemn them because they break multiple Security Council resolutions.”

The UN’s nuclear watchdog also warned that North Korea could be gearing up for a nuclear test, breaking its five-year hiatus. Satellite imagery showed heightened activity at North Korea’s underground nuclear test site. 

Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said the agency has acknowledged North Korea’s preparation for a test.

“Everybody is holding its breath about this, because another nuclear test would be yet another confirmation of a program which is moving full steam ahead, in a way that is incredibly, incredibly concerning. Further tests, of course, means that they are refining the preparations and the construction of their arsenal. So we are following this very, very closely. We hope it doesn’t happen, but indications unfortunately go in another direction.”

missile

North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile Over Japan, South Korea And US Respond 

According to the Japanese Ministry of Defense, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan early on Tuesday morning. South Korea and the US responded by conducting a joint strike package flight and precision bombing drill, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told ABC News Tuesday. 

The Japanese government initially issued a “J-Alert” to citizens through its emergency warning system, telling residents to remain indoors in sturdy buildings or underground for safety. 

The government didn’t try to attempt to shoot the missile from North Korea down after determining it didn’t pose a threat, according to a spokesperson from Japan’s government. 

Residents in both Hokkaido and Aomori, and surrounding northern areas, were advised to report any debris sightings to police or fire officials immediately. 

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The last time North Korea flew a missile over Japan was in 2017, but this launch marks the seventh time that the nation has witnessed a missile from North Korea. 

Since January of this year, North Korea has shot 21 ballistic missiles and two cruise missiles, which is considered a record-breaking number of launches in a single year, according to reports from ABC. Tuesday’s launch was North Korea’s fifth missile test in a week. 

Japanese government chief spokesperson Hirokazu Matsuno spoke with the media at a press conference where he warned citizens not to touch or pick up any debris. 

“We ask that people return to life as usual, calmly,” Matsuno emphasized. 

“No damage has been reported so far and a search is underway for debris. Officials are gathering information and will work with South Korea and the U.S.,” another spokesperson said. 

“North Korea’s actions threaten Japan and the international community. Missile launches like this go against the U.N. resolutions. Japan will launch a strong protest against North Korea in light of this. All new information will be shared promptly.”

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“The United States strongly condemns the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) dangerous and reckless decision to launch a long-range ballistic missile over Japan,” The White House said in a statement Tuesday. 

Jake Sullivan, US National Security Adviser, spoke with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea about the launch as well, according to Adrienne Watson, a White House National Security Council spokesperson. 

“In both calls, the National Security Advisors consulted on appropriate and robust joint and international responses, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reinforced the United States’ ironclad commitments to the defense of Japan and the ROK [South Korea],” Watson explained. 

In response, Jaechun Kim, a professor in South Korea, stated that the US, Korea, and Japan need to “mobilize cooperation from like-minded countries in non-UN sanctions to thwart North Korea’s provocations.” 

“A unified front must be established that imposes sanctions on North Korea, as they did on Russia. This is the only way to penalize North Korea for its bad behavior.” 

“North Korea just does what it needs to do these days. So, with or without China’s support, it is quite likely for the North to conduct the 7th nuke test. It will be interesting to see whether Xi Jinping will throw his weight behind Kim Jong Un,” Kim said.

war

Bodies Found in Ukrainian Mass Grave Show Signs of Torture

Ukraine found a mass burial site of 440 graves Thursday in a forest on the outskirts of Izium. Soldiers made the discovery after retaking control of the Kharkiv region five months after its Russian occupation.

Most bodies showed signs of torture, and many had ropes tied around their necks and hands. Wooden crosses were erected atop some graves, each demarcated with only numbers and no names. One grave, marked by a cross, held the bodies of 17 Ukrainian soldiers. Their hands were also bound, and their bodies indicated they were shot at close range.

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Ukrainian President Zelensky said that there is evidence that Russians “shot at the buried for fun.” The graves are the latest discovery in the campaign of violence against Ukrainian civilians during Russia’s occupation of Ukraine. President Zelensky said Saturday that “more than 10 torture chambers” were also found alongside the mass graves. The chambers contained tools for electrical torture.

Forensic workers are trying to determine what happened to the victims before death. One forensics worker,  Andreiy Vladimirovich Sergienko, shared with DW the effects of witnessing the scenes’ horrors.

“We then place the bodies in bags and transport them in a morgue. I feel horrible. This is a horrible moment in my life, and the first such experience in all of my five years of service.”

The United Nations announced Friday that they would send investigators to Izium to inspect the mass graves.

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According to war crimes prosecutors, most of the bodies were those of local residents. Prosecutor Voldymyr Lymar told DW that some of the bodies could be identified while others are in a later stage of decomposition and require further testing. Lymar spoke about the number of war crime cases that have been opened in Kharkiv alone.

“More than 4,000 criminal proceedings have already been opened regarding war crimes committed by servicemen of the Russian Federation. I will not tell you the exact number because it is constantly evolving: It increases by the minute.”

In March, officials found a similar mass grave site containing 116 bodies in Bucha after soldiers liberated the city from Russian control.

Amnesty International, an international nonprofit group that focuses on human rights, has documented several violations of International Law by the Russian forces. Among them are “unlawful attacks on civilians, residential buildings and civilian infrastructure, unlawful killing and other war crimes.”

The General Prosecutor Office of Ukraine opened 32,000 cases of Russia’s war crimes since the beginning of the occupation.

Russia Requesting Military And Economic Aid From China, According To US Officials

According to US officials, Russia has asked China for military and economic assistance, including drones, as a part of their unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The official’s declined to state what exactly China’s response was to the request, but it is known that they did respond.

The news of the request was brought up to White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan during a conversation with his Chinese counterpart, Yang Jiechi. Sullivan explained to the media afterwards that providing Russia with support from China would be a “concern.”  

“We also are watching closely to see the extent to which China actually does provide any form of support, material support or economic support, to Russia. It is a concern of ours. And we have communicated to Beijing that we will not stand by and allow any country to compensate Russia for its losses from the economic sanctions,” Sullivan said.

Russia continued its attack to western Ukraine this weekend, firing off missiles near the city of Lviv, and hitting a large military base close to the Polish border. The blasts reportedly killed dozens of people. 

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China claims that it was not asked by Russia for military aid or any other type of assistance. Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in the US, said in a statement, “I’ve never heard of that. The Ukraine situation is indeed disconcerting, China has and will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.

“The high priority now is to prevent the tense situation from escalating or even getting out of control. … China calls for exercising utmost restraint and preventing a massive humanitarian crisis.”

Beijing is currently trying to strike a neutral tone regarding the international conflict. Chinese domestic media coverage has, however, promoted Russian disinformation campaigns and described the war as a “special military operation. 

White House press secretary Jen Psaki and other US officials have been critical of Beijing’s response overall. 

“Beijing has seemingly endorsed false Russian claims that the US is developing chemical weapons in Ukraine.”

“Our assessment right now is that China is abiding by the requirements that have been put in place, but we would continue to encourage any country to think a lot about what place they want to — what role they want to play — in history as we all look back,” Psaki said Wednesday.

Sullivan said that the “US has made it clear to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale efforts to give the Kremlin a workaround to US sanctions.”

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“We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country anywhere in the world. While the US believes China, in fact, was aware before the invasion took place that Vladimir Putin was planning something, they may not have understood the full extent of it. Because it’s very possible that Putin lied to them the same way that he lied to Europeans and others,” Sullivan explained. 

Sullivan also expressed to the media this weekend that while the “Biden administration is concerned about the possibility of escalation with respect to Putin’s nuclear posture, we have not seen anything that would require us to change our nuclear posture at this time.” 

“We are watching this extremely closely, and obviously, the escalation risk with a nuclear power is severe, and it is a different kind of conflict than other conflicts the American people have seen over the years,” he said, before explaining the administration’s decision to reject Poland’s offer to transfer fighter jets to Ukraine through the US and German air base. 

“The President listened to the assessment of his intelligence community, he listened to the advice of his military commanders, he consulted his NATO allies, and he ultimately determined that the risk-benefit analysis of flying planes from NATO bases into contested airspace over Ukraine did not make sense, was not something that he would authorize.

The US is focused on providing other anti-air systems that could help the Ukrainians make progress in terms of dealing with the threat that is coming from the air from the Russian side,” Sullivan explained.

The national security adviser also reiterated that Russia “would pay a severe price if they chose to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine. Russia’s accusations against Ukraine preparing to deploy chemical weapons is a tell, a tell that they themselves may be preparing to do so and then trying to pin the blame on someone else– that’s a classic page out of the Russian playbook.”

Russia And Ukraine Conflict Update: Ukraine Rejects Moscow’s Offer Of Safe Housing For Citizens

Moscow announced this week that they would provide corridors for residents of Ukraine’s two main cities if they decided to flee to Russia or Belarus; a move that Ukraine called an “immoral stunt to exploit the suffering under Russian bombardment.” 

Russian and Ukrainian delegations assembled for a third round of talks when the announcement was made. The two previous rounds of delegation didn’t offer many solutions for citizens besides a pledge to open up routes for humanitarian access. 

“In a few minutes, we will start talking to representatives of a country that seriously believes large-scale violence against civilians is an argument. Prove that this is not the case,” Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said.

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A spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the move “completely immoral, Russia is trying to use people’s suffering to create a television picture. They are citizens of Ukraine, they should have the right to evacuate to the territory of Ukraine.”

The United Nations refugee agency stated that more than 1.7 million Ukrainians have now fled their home country to seek safe housing in Central Europe. A multitude of international sanctions has also isolated Russia from global commerce. 

Russia is the world’s biggest exporter of oil and gas. Prices of oil spiked above $139 a barrel this Monday, the closest the nation has come in nearly 14 years to reaching the all-time high of $147. Investment banks say that the prices could even approach $200 this year is Russian supply continues to dwindle. 

The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces say that Russian forces “were beginning to accumulate resources for the storming of Kyiv,” which is a city of more than 3 million people. So far 2,000 citizens have been evacuated from Irpin, a suburb in Kyiv that has been enduring heavy attacks. 

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In a speech to the nation late on Sunday, Zelenskiy described one family “cut down as they tried to escape Irpin on Sunday, Russians responsible for such atrocities will never be forgiven. For you there will be no peaceful place on this earth, except for the grave.”

Ukraine also said on Monday its forces had “retaken control of the town of Chuhuiv in the northeast, a site of heavy fighting for days, and of the strategic Mykolayiv airport in the south.”

The United Nations has called for safe passage for all people who are cut off from lifesaving aid across Ukraine. One psychiatric hospital near Kyiv has been running out of water and medicine with 670 patients trapped inside. The WHO said at least 6 people have been confirmed killed within nine attacks on health care facilities since the start of the conflict. 

Moscow has acknowledged that nearly 500 of their soldiers have been killed, but Western countries and Ukraine said that number is actually likely to be in the thousands. Russian authorities, however, have imposed a near total media blackout on non-official information, making it nearly impossible to verify the actual amount of deaths. 

Evacuation efforts have been stalled in multiple areas around Ukraine due to safety concerns, but ideally leaders will be able to continue to provide aid and refuge through the UN.

Ukraine Flags

Ukraine Pushing For Cease-Fire In Talks With Russia As Fighting Continues 

Russian and Ukrainian officials met on Monday as violence continues around the cities involved in the conflict. Ukraine is pushing for an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country ahead of the talks.

Kyiv is currently coming under attack from heavy Russian shelling. The city has been resistant to invasion with the help of military assistance from countries across the world and global sanction efforts. In addition to the violence, the Russian military has also stated that its nuclear deterrent forces have been put on high alert after Putin’s orders. 

Russian forces are now being accused of carrying out massive shelling and attack operations inside of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, after graphic videos were posted to social media showing the assault and its devastating aftermath. 

United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said that 102 civilians, including seven children, were killed across Ukraine since Thursday, noting that those figures were likely an underrepresentation of the national death toll. 

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More than half a million of Ukraine’s 44 million citizens have fled the country according to the head of the U.N. refugee agency. Others are being forced to seek shelter inside metro stations and parking garages while missile strikes and gunfire take over the cities. 

A strict 39-hour curfew was in effect in Kyiv this weekend and was lifted this Monday after Russian troops invaded. Residents were able to go out and replenish essential supplies while dodging the violence. 

There’s been a concentrated effort to make Putin pay for the invasion economically as well. Sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies have greatly impacted Russia’s economy. Russia’s central bank kept the stock market closed and raised its interest rate to 20 percent from 9.5 percent in an attempt to improve the plummeting national currency. 

The United States has also announced that it would be expanding sanctions on Russia’s central bank, making it so Americans will be blocked from doing any business with it, and freeze any assets the banks may hold in the U.S.. 

“Russia’s economic reality has changed due to the heavy sanctions, but they were prepared and able to handle the damage,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated. 

Russia has also closed its airspace to airlines from the European Union and several other countries as a means of retaliation for the current ban on travel from Russian planes over its airspace. 

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated that he doubted the talks with Russia would actually produce results, but Ukraine’s forces have slowed Russia’s advance and they still hold the capital, Kyiv, and Kharkiv. 

“The bulk of Putin’s ground forces remain more than 30 km [18 miles] to the north of Kyiv. Logistical failures and staunch Ukrainian resistance continue to frustrate the Russian advance,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in a post on Twitter Monday morning.

“With the operation moving slower than anticipated, Russia was bringing in more troops, weapons and equipment. They underestimated the resistance they were going to meet and that’s why they’re making less progress,” according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. 

“Armed with government-issued machine guns, homemade Molotov cocktails and shovels to build barricades, civilians have helped to reinforce their army’s desperate but for now effective resistance. They will soon be joined by prisoners with combat experience who will now be released,” Zelenskyy stated. 

Zelenskyy has stated that Putin is intending to remove Ukraine’s pro-Western government to potentially replace it with a Moscow-friendly regime. Putin also recently issued a directive to increase the readiness of Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces. Russia has thousands of nuclear warheads in its arsenal. 

“The move is reckless and dangerous. There’s no reason for that. NATO is no threat to Russia. Although NATO moved to increase its presence in Eastern Europe in the wake of the Ukraine invasion, it had no intention of becoming involved in the conflict itself. We have a responsibility to make sure that this doesn’t spiral out of control. That will be extremely dangerous,” Stolenberg stated.