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Date : May 17, 2022

More than 10K civilians dead in Mariupol, mayor says; European nations temper reliance on Russian gas

More than 10,000 civilians have been killed in the besieged city of Mariupol since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, the mayor said, as Western nations warned a convoy was on the move for a suspected Russian assault in Ukraine’s east.

The city is crucial to Russia’s effort to link Crimea with the Donbas region, where Moscow-backed separatists have established de facto republics that even Russia only recognized days before the war broke out in February.

Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko told The Associated Press that Russian forces have blocked weeks of attempted humanitarian convoys into the city in part to conceal the carnage. Boychenko also said the death toll in Mariupol alone could surpass 20,000.

Boychenko also gave new details of allegations by Ukrainian officials that Russian forces have brought mobile cremation equipment to Mariupol to dispose of the corpses of victims of the siege.

The Pentagon on Monday evening acknowledged social media reports of Russian forces detonating a chemical weapon in Mariupol but could not confirm whether they’re accurate, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement.

“These reports, if true, are deeply concerning and reflective of concerns that we have had about Russia’s potential to use a variety of riot control agents, including tear gas mixed with chemical agents, in Ukraine,” Kirby said.

Latest developments

►Asian stock markets fell again Tuesday as investors waited for U.S. inflation data amid unease about higher interest rates, Chinese efforts to contain coronavirus outbreaks and Russia’s war on Ukraine.

►The United Nations’ children’s agency says nearly two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have fled their homes in the six weeks since Russia’s invasion, and the organization has verified that 142 children have been killed and 229 injured, though the numbers are likely much higher.

►Russia has lost 19,500 troops, 725 tanks,1,923 armored vehicles, 347 artillery systems, 154 aircraft; 137 helicopters and an overwhelming amount of other equipment since the war began, the Ukraine military estimated Monday. Russia has not provided numbers but says its troop losses have been “significant.”

European countries make moves to distance selves from Russian energy

Italy will begin importing more natural gas across a Mediterranean pipeline from Algeria soon, Europe’s latest attempt to distance itself from Russia as Moscow faces building accusations of war crimes.

Italy’s biggest supplier of natural gas is Russia, representing 40% of global imports. Neighboring Germany gets one-third of its oil and gas and more than half its coal from Russia.

Europe’s dependence on Russian oil, natural gas, and coal had left energy sanctions off the table amid fears the entire continent could plunge into recession, although reports of Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians have caused some countries to reconsider. Lithuania became the first European country to entirely cut itself off from Russian gas imports in early April.

Italian Premier Mario Draghi told reporters that the agreements to intensify bilateral energy cooperation and export more gas to Italy “are a significant response to the strategic goal” of quickly replacing Russian energy.

Last week, both the U.S. and European Union escalated punishments on Russia: the U.S. Senate unanimously in favor of banning the importation of oil from Russia and ending normal trade relations with the country, while European Union nations agreed to new sanctions on Russia that include a ban on importing its coal.