First Thing: Russian forces ‘have killed more civilians than soldiers’ | US news

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Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has accused Russia of being a “terrorist state” after its tanks prevented a delivery of food, water and medicine to the besieged city of Mariupol, and he said Moscow was capable of chemical weapons attacks.

As Russian forces appeared to be regrouping in order to encircle Kyiv, and the US planned to ratchet up the economic pressure on Vladimir Putin, Zelenskiy tried to rally Ukrainians with another video address late on Thursday condemning the relentless assault on cities.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s defense minister said Russian forces had killed more Ukrainian civilians than soldiers, and Russian forces have been accused of hitting a psychiatric hospital near the eastern Ukrainian town of Izyum.

“This is a war crime against civilians, genocide against the Ukrainian nation,” the regional governor of Kharkiv said. Russia denies targeting civilians.

  • What else is happening? Here’s everything we know on day 16 of the Russian invasion.

  • What happens if Russia cannot pay its debts after western sanctions? While Russia would have had enough foreign currency to cover debt payments, having amassed $630bn in reserves, the US, UK and EU freezing the assets of its central bank have made much of this sum inaccessible. This means it could default.

  • MeanwhileRussia’s past has raised fears of a large-scale cyberwar targeting Ukraine and its allies, including the US.

Likelihood of criminal charges against Trump rising, experts say

donald trump
Some former prosecutors have called on the DoJ to accelerate the investigation after a House panel’s allegations that Trump broke laws to overturn the election.
Photograph: Ben Gray/AP

The likelihood of a criminal investigation and charges against Donald Trump are rising. This is due to allegations by a House panel of a “criminal conspiracy” involving his aggressive drive to overturn the 2020 election results, coupled with a Department of Justice inquiry into a “false electors” scheme that Trump loyalists devised to block Joe Biden from taking office.

Former federal prosecutors say evidence is mounting of criminal conduct by Trump that may yield charges of obstructing an official proceeding of Congress on 6 January or defrauding the US government, stemming from his weeks-long drive with senior allies to thwart Biden’s inauguration by pushing false claims of fraud.

A 2 March court filing by the House January 6 panel implicated Trump in a conspiracy to block Congress from certifying Biden’s win, and Trump faces legal threats from investigations under way into the “false electors” ploy, and seditious conspiracy charges filed against Oath Keepers who attacked the Capitol, say department veterans.

Actor Jussie Smollett sentenced to 150 days in jail for lying to police about fake hate crime

Jussie Smollett
Jussie Smollett is led out of the courtroom after being sentenced. Photograph: Getty Images


The actor Jussie Smollett has been sentenced to 30 months of probation, including 150 days of jail time, and ordered to pay restitution after his conviction for lying to police about a racist and homophobic attack that he orchestrated himself.

Smollett, who is Black and gay, reported to police that two men wearing ski masks beat him and hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him on a dark Chicago street. The 39-year-old was also ordered to pay $120,000 in restitution to the city of Chicago and fined $25,000 by Judge James Linn of Cook county circuit court.

Linn denied a request to suspend Smollett’s sentence and ordered him to be placed in custody immediately. After the sentencing, Smollett removed the face mask he wore throughout the hearing to loudly proclaim his innocence.

  • What did he say? “If I did this, then it means that I stuck my fist in the fears of Black Americans in this country for over 400 years and the fears of the LGBT community,” Smollett said, standing up at the defense table as his lawyers and sheriff’s deputies surrounded him. “Your honor, I respect you and I respect the jury but I did not do this.”

In other news…

The South Korean president-elect, Yoon Suk-yeol, celebrates his victory.
The South Korean president-elect, Yoon Suk-yeol, celebrates his victory. Photograph: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images
  • The election of an avowed “anti-feminist” as the next president of South Korea has been greeted with dismay, amid accusations that Yoon Suk-yeol has fueled the county’s gender divide. A former senior prosecutor, Yoon defeated the liberal ruling party candidate, Lee Jae-myung, by a margin of 263,000 votes.

  • The mysterious discovery of a mummified body in the walls of a historic convention center in Oakland, California, has prompted an urgent search for answersas authorities seek to untangle the person’s identity and how they came to be entombed within the building’s walls.

  • The actor and singer Emilio Delgado, a warm and familiar presence in children’s lives for 45 years as the fix-it shop owner Luis on Sesame Street, has died. His wife, Carol Delgado, said he died from the blood cancer multiple myeloma at their home in New York. He was 81.

  • As many as a third of all child deaths from Covid in the US have occurred during the Omicron surge of the pandemic. Children seem to be facing increasing risks from Covid-19, even as mask mandates drop across the country and vaccination rates among children stall out at alarmingly low rates.

Stat of the day: US inflation jumped to 40-year high of 7.9% last month

A grocery store
The rise was propelled by increased prices for gas, food and housing, in the sharpest spike since 1982. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

US inflation surged again last month to a new 40-year high of 7.9%, propelled by surging costs for gas, food and housing. The February figures, the sharpest increase since 1982, are only a forestaste of higher prices to come as they do not factor in the impacts of the Ukraine war, Biden’s ban on Russian energy imports and tightened oil supplies have sent prices at US gas stations and other energy commodities to record levels.

Don’t miss this: the chefs cooking in solidarity with Ukraine

freedom dumplings
Ms Chi Cafe, a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles, is selling blue and yellow ‘freedom dumplings’ to raise money to support Ukrainian relief efforts. Photograph: Courtesy of Shirley Chung/Ms Chi Cafe

In Culver City, a Chinese restaurant is selling bright blue and yellow “freedom dumplings”, the colors of the Ukrainian flag. In West Hollywood, a popular cocktail bar is offering a special “Pruzhnyy”, or resilience, cocktail, made with Ukrainian Khor vodka. Bakeries across California are making special batches of hamentaschen, a Jewish cookie associated with resistance. It’s all part of a wave of solidarity among California chefs, who are using food to show support for Ukrainians after Russia’s invasion and to fundraise for humanitarian relief efforts.

Climate check: how can the US end its dependency on fossil fuels?

Gas prices
‘There’s a war with a fossil fuel oligarch and we are in a climate war, so we need to attack this on a wartime footing.’ Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

As Biden ratchets up the pressure on Russia by banning imports of its oil, and American drivers grumble about rising gasoline prices, a more fundamental demand has emerged – for the US to decisively cut its umbilical reliance on fossil fuels. Environmental groups and progressive Democrats are aiming to build on the backlash to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by ending the era of fossil fuel dependency and help address the unfolding climate crisis.

Last Thing: The older Ukrainians running daily as war rages

Kyiv runners
A group of older male runners head out in Kyiv every day even as Russian bombs fall around them. Composite: Konstantin Bondarev, Nikolai Plyoko and Vlodimir Shymko

On Monday, as the world watched the war in Ukraine intensify, Nikolai Plyuyko did something extraordinary. He went for an 11km run through the streets of Kyiv. He’s not the only one. In the south of the city, Konstantin Bondarev, 61, has been running long distances since 1983. “Now that there has been war, I’ve been running non-stop; it makes things feel a lot easier during such turbulent times,” he said. “It’s important for people to show that we are alive and strong. This is our expression of the fight.”

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