Pope Francis concluded his Palm Sunday service in St. Peter’s Square by calling for an Easter truce in Ukraine, saying there was “no victory in planting a flag on a pile of rubble”.
“Let the arms be laid down! Let the Easter truce begin,” the pope told tens of thousands of people gathered for the service, which takes place a week before Easter Sunday. “But not to provide more weapons and resume the fight – No! – a truce that will lead to peace, through real negotiations.”
Thousands of civilians have been killed in the relentless shelling of Ukrainian cities since the Russian invasion more than six weeks ago. More than a quarter of the 44 million Ukrainians have been driven from their homes and more than 4.5 million have fled the country. Large swathes of cities such as Mariupol and even the capital, kyiv, were left in ruins by the onslaught.
The pope pleaded for “the end of a war whose end is not in sight, a war which daily brings before our eyes heinous massacres and atrocious cruelty committed against defenseless civilians”.
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► Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday thanked European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a global fundraising event that raised more than 10 billion euros for Ukrainians who had to flee their homes.
► At least 176 children have been killed and 324 injured since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine announced on Saturday.
►Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said 4,532 Ukrainians were evacuated through humanitarian corridors on Saturday, but said Russian forces would not allow bus passengers from Berdyansk, Tokmak and Energodar to leave despite a previously agreed itinerary.
► In his nightly address to the nation, Zelenskyy thanked European leaders for their support and again called for a total embargo on Russian oil and gas. An oil embargo on Russia as a first step for “the whole civilized world” would be “an argument for them to seek peace, to stop senseless violence”.
► Italy and Austria both announced on Saturday their intention to reopen their respective embassies in kyiv. These measures come a day after the European Union sent its ambassador back to Kyiv.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy received a show of support from European leaders over the weekend as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer visited Kyiv. The European Union has announced that it will re-establish its diplomatic presence in Ukraine now that Russian forces have withdrawn from areas around the capital.
Johnson said Britain and its partners would “increase economic pressure…not only by freezing bank assets and sanctioning oligarchs, but by moving away from the use of Russian hydrocarbons.” Johnson also promised additional military hardware to the Ukrainian military, including 120 armored vehicles and anti-ship missile systems.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Russia had lost more than 19,000 soldiers and thousands of pieces of military equipment in 46 days of war. The Ministry posted his tally on Twitter early Sunday.
Ukraine has listed Russia’s human toll at around 19,300. The ministry calculated Moscow’s loss of military equipment at 1,384 vehicles, 722 tanks, 1,911 armored vehicles and seven watercraft.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told British media on Thursday that Russia had suffered “significant troop losses”. On Friday, he pointed to the official Department of Defense count of 1,351 dead soldiers.
At the end of March, NATO estimated that Russia may have lost up to 15,000 soldiers and up to 40,000 killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
– Katie Wadington
The number of refugees stands at 4.5 million
The number of people who have fled Ukraine since war broke out on February 24 has risen to more than 4.5 million, the UN reported on Sunday.
The UN refugee agency reported on its data site, the highest number, which comes from several sources, but mainly from border crossing points.
Nearly 2.6 million of these refugees arrived in Poland, followed by more than 686,000 in Romania. According to figures, no less than 404,000 people have arrived in Russia since the beginning of the war. The agency notes that many refugees may have moved to other countries, beyond the neighboring country they first crossed into.
– Katie Wadington
Zelenskyy hopes for peace despite ‘war crimes’
In interviews published over the weekend, Volodymyr Zelenskyy simultaneously condemned Russia and its leader for atrocities committed against Ukrainian civilians while seeking a peaceful resolution to the war.
Zelenskyy told The Associated Press in an interview on Saturday that he believed Ukrainians would accept peace despite the horrors they had witnessed.
He said no one wanted to negotiate with people who tortured their nation – “as a man, as a father, I understand that very well”. But he said “we don’t want to lose opportunities, if we have them, for a diplomatic solution”.
He also told CBS’s “60 Minutes” that anyone who made a decision or carried out an order involving attacks on Ukrainian civilians must face the consequences of war crimes. That includes Russian leader Vladimir Putin, he said.
BUCHA, Ukraine – Civilians remaining in Bucha lined up on Saturday to receive food donated by the local church in the scarred suburb of kyiv, where Ukrainian forces and journalists reported evidence of war crimes after the withdrawal Russian soldiers.
With other civilians fleeing following the Russian invasion, most of those who remained in Bucha were elderly, poor, or unable to leave their loved ones. Russian troops withdrew more than a week ago.
Volunteer Petro Denysyuk told The Associated Press that he and other church friends have started providing a wide range of basic groceries and hot meals.
Ukrainian forces and journalists who visited Bucha saw bodies strewn in the streets, evidence of summary executions and the remains of people who could not have threatened soldiers. Russia has denied the war crimes charges and accused kyiv of staging them.
– The Associated Press
ATHENS, Greece — A Ukrainian soccer club opened a series of charity matches on Saturday as part of a government-backed “Global Tour for Peace,” emblazoned with the names of heavily bombed cities on its shirts.
The Shakhtar Donetsk club tour aims to raise funds for the Ukrainian army in the war against Russia, and also to help Ukrainian refugees displaced by war.
His first match on Saturday was a 1-0 loss to Greek league leaders Olympiakos.
Football clubs across Europe have offered to play matches against Ukrainian clubs and welcome young players after football in the country was shut down during the invasion of Russia in February.
Shakhtar was previously moved from their home in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, in 2014.
Playing in the Athens area on Saturday, Shakhtar players replaced their names on the back of their shirts with those of towns bombed by Russian forces, including Mariupol.
– The Associated Press
Contributor: The Associated Press