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Latest in Ukraine: WHO chief slams lack of focus on other crises, Finland and Sweden move closer to NATO, US pledges $1 billion, Trudeau intervenes in allegation of “genocide”

Finland could join NATO “within weeks” as support for the military alliance grows there and in neighboring Sweden following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The United States has pledged more than $1 billion in US military aid to Ukraine, while the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) says he must be ‘outspoken’ about the fact that the world pays more attention to Ukraine than to other crises.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was ‘absolutely right’ for more people to describe Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide after US President Joe Biden said Vladimir Putin wanted to ‘wipe out’ the idea to be Ukrainian.

Here is the latest information on the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

WHO chief slams global attention on Ukraine amid Ethiopia atrocities

The WHO chief criticized the global community for its focus on the war in Ukraine, arguing that crises elsewhere, including in his home country of Ethiopia, were not getting the same attention, perhaps because that those who suffered were not white.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wondered “if the world really pays equal attention to the lives of black and white people”, saying the ongoing emergencies in Ethiopia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Syria had only sparked ‘a fraction’ of the global concern for Ukraine.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says crises elsewhere, including in his home country of Ethiopia, are not getting the same attention.(PA: Johanna Geron, file)

Last month, Dr Tedros said there was “nowhere on earth where the health of millions of people is more at risk” than in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

Since a truce was declared in Tigray three weeks ago, around 2,000 trucks should have been able to bring food, medicine and other essentials to the conflict-torn area, did he declare.

Instead, only about 20 trucks had arrived, said the former Ethiopian health minister and ethnic Tigrayan.

“As we speak, people are starving,” he said.

“This is one of the longest and worst sieges in modern history by Eritrean and Ethiopian forces.”

Dr Tedros acknowledged that the war in Ukraine was of global significance, but asked if other crises were getting enough attention.

“I have to be upfront and honest about the fact that the world doesn’t treat the human race the same way,” he said.

“Some are more equal than others.”

He also criticized the press for its failure to document ongoing atrocities in Ethiopia, noting that people had been burned to death in the region.

Earlier this year, the Ethiopian government sent a letter to the WHO, accusing Dr Tedros of “misconduct” after his scathing criticism of the war and the humanitarian crisis in the country.

Nordic countries turn to NATO

European Union countries Finland and Sweden have taken important steps towards possible NATO membership as the Finnish government released a security report to MPs and the ruling party in Sweden has launched a review of security policy options.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24 sparked a wave of support for NATO membership in the two traditionally militarily non-aligned Nordic countries.

A recent survey showed a majority (54 percent) of respondents in Finland would support NATO membership.

Early March a Demoskop poll commissioned by the newspaper Aftonbladet showed that 51% of Swedes were in favor of NATO membership, up from 42% in January.

Finland, with a population of 5.5 million, shares the EU’s longest border with Russia, a border of 1,340 km. Sweden has no border with Russia.

Russia has warned Sweden and Finland against joining NATO, with officials saying it would not help stability in Europe.

Officials said Russia would react to such a move with retaliatory measures that would have “military and political consequences” for Helsinki and Stockholm.

A woman walks down a road dragging bags behind her past houses reduced to rubble by shelling
Mariupol came under heavy bombardment. (AP: Alexei Alexandrov)

One of the reasons Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine was that the country refused to promise that it would not join NATO.

Speaking on Wednesday local time in Stockholm at a joint press conference with her Swedish counterpart Magdalena Andersson, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Finland was ready to take a decision on NATO “within weeks rather than months after a thorough debate in all 200 seats. Eduskunta legislature.

The United States strengthens its military support

President Biden’s administration has announced an additional $800 million ($1 billion) US military aid to Ukraine, expanding the scope of systems provided ahead of a wider Russian assault expected in eastern Ukraine. .

The latest package, which brings total military aid since Russian forces invaded in February to more than US$2.5 billion ($3.3 billion), includes artillery systems, shells artillery, armored personnel carriers and unmanned coastal defense vessels, Biden said in a statement after a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Joe Biden holds his sunglasses and reporters hold recorders
Mr Biden accused President Vladimir Putin of trying “to erase the very idea of ​​being Ukrainian”. (PA: Carolyn Kaster)

Mr Biden said he had also approved the transfer of additional helicopters, saying the equipment provided to Ukraine “was essential” in the face of the invasion.

The new security assistance program, according to the Ministry of Defense, includes 11 Mi-17 helicopters which had been destined for Afghanistan before the collapse of the US-backed government and 18 155mm howitzers, as well as counter-artillery radars and 200 armored personnel carriers.

It was the first time that howitzers were supplied to Ukraine by the United States.

The new aid will be funded by the Presidential Drawdown Authority, or PDA, in which the president can authorize the transfer of items and services from U.S. stockpiles without congressional approval in response to an emergency.

Mr Zelenskyy pleaded with US and European leaders to provide heavier weapons and equipment as his country faces an invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions.

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to destroy Ukraine’s military capabilities and capture what it sees as dangerous nationalists, but Ukraine and the West say Russia has launched a war of unprovoked aggression.

On Wednesday in Ukraine local time, Russia said it had taken control of the port of Mariupol and more than 1,000 Ukrainian marines had moved into the southeastern Ukrainian city, which is surrounded and shelled by Russian troops for weeks. Read more about this story here.

Trudeau intervenes on Biden’s ‘genocide’ allegation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was “absolutely right” for more people to describe Russia’s actions in Ukraine as genocide, backing an accusation made by the US president the day before.

“I think, as President Biden pointed out, there are formal processes around genocide determinations, but I think it’s only fair that more and more people are talking about and using the word genocide in terms of what Russia is doing, what Vladimir Putin has done,” Trudeau told reporters.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking
Mr Trudeau says more people should talk about “genocide” in relation to Mr Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. (AP: Peter Power, The Canadian Press)

Mr Biden said on Tuesday that the invasion of Ukraine amounted to genocide, a significant escalation in the president’s rhetoric.

But he added that international lawyers should decide whether or not the invasion met the criteria for genocide.

Genocide, considered the ultimate war crime, has a strict legal definition and has rarely been proven in court since it became entrenched in post-Holocaust humanitarian law during World War II.

The Kremlin, which calls its Ukrainian troop movements a “special military operation”, said it categorically disagreed with Mr Biden’s description of his actions as “genocide” and accused Washington of hypocrisy.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to say whether Mr Biden’s comments reflected the overall position of the US government, but said the president was “speaking from the impression he got looking at the horrific images we’ve all seen” from Ukraine.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Biden administration would further assess whether to launch its own formal review.

Mr Price said the United States supported international lawyers trying to determine whether a legal threshold had been met, but did not say whether the United States would launch its own investigation.

Such a State Department determination normally follows a meticulous internal process, but the final decision rests with the secretary of state, who assesses whether it advances U.S. interests, officials said.