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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Morning mail: UN issues warning about Ukraine, more rain in NSW, Shane Warne’s last moments |

Good morning. Ukraine has the fastest-growing refugee crisis since the second world war, the United Nations has said, as war crimes investigators begin collecting evidence. Scott Morrison is expected to warn of a “new arc of autocracy” shaping the world. And weather warnings continue in NSW, with more heavy rainfall in parts.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has triggered the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since the second world war, according to the UN refugee agency. The warning came as eyewitnesses described an incident in which three people trying to escape fighting in Irpin, just outside Kyiv, were killed when they were shelled by Russian forces during an organised evacuation on Sunday. With more than 1.5 million refugees from Ukraine reported to have crossed into neighbouring countries in the space of 10 days, the UN high commissioner for refugees, Filippo Grandi, warned the situation would only get worse. A second attempt to evacuate hundreds of thousands of people from the encircled port city of Mariupol appears close to collapse after Ukraine’s national guard accused Russia of continuing to shell the humanitarian corridors.

Around the world, politicians are scrambling to gain control over the situation. US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, says the US and its allies are engaged in a “very active discussion” about banning the import of Russian oil and natural gas in a new escalation of sanctions. Blinken also pledged on Sunday to increase pressure on Russia through sanctions and provide more aid to Ukraine, but warned Russia held a military advantage that western allies are finding hard to counter and the war was set to last “some time”. Britain’s deputy prime minister has also said it may take years for Putin to be defeated. Meanwhile, more than 4,300 people have been arrested after demonstrators took to the streets in 21 Russian cities to condemn the invasion. Two female journalists, whose identities we are protecting, document a week that saw Russian soldiers enter the port city of Kherson.

Scott Morrison is due to warn that a “new arc of autocracy” is forming to reshape the world, while pledging to build a new base for nuclear-powered submarines on Australia’s east coast. The Australian prime minister will use a key foreign policy speech on Monday to warn against “a transactional world, devoid of principle, accountability and transparency”. Morrison is also set to reveal the government has “provisioned more than $10bn” for the transition from Australia’s existing Collins class submarines to the nuclear-powered submarines to be delivered under the Aukus pact with the UK and the US. A new base, to be built in Brisbane, Newcastle or Port Kembla, will “enable the regular visiting of US and UK nuclear-powered submarines”, he will say in a virtual address to the Lowy Institute.

South-east Queensland has again been lashed with rainfall and thunderstorms, while areas around Sydney and Newcastle faced the renewed risk of flooding as the cleanup continued. Destructive winds and giant hail were possible as a “very dangerous storm” near Beaudesert in Queensland moved east on Sunday afternoon. The loss of thousands of homes means renters will have fewer properties to bid for and will also be competing against flood-hit owner-occupiers. The floods have prompted the Climate Council to issue a pre-election call for all Australian political parties to acknowledge that the climate crisis is driving worsening disasters.


Grace Tame
Grace Tame and a group of prominent Australian women have joined forces for a new campaign. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

Prominent women, including former Australian of the year Grace Tame and former Liberal staffer Brittany Higgins, are launching a fresh call for the Morrison government to implement significant policies to protect women and children from violence, harassment and discrimination.

Shane Warne suffered chest pains before he travelled to Thailand for a holiday, where the cricket great died from a suspected heart attack on Friday, Thai police say. Warne’s body was picked up from Koh Samui hospital on Sunday morning at 10am local time in a motorcade flanked by the Australian ambassador and local police officers.

Defence minister Peter Dutton has stepped back from his earlier prediction that Australia would join a conflict to defend Taiwan, saying the government would decide “at that time as to what was in our country’s best interests”.

AGL Energy has rejected a higher takeover bid from Canadian asset manager Brookfield and tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, potentially seeing off the unsolicited bid. The pair made an offer of $8.25 a share for Australia’s largest electricity generator on Friday night, topping their initial offer of $7.50 made last month, multiple sources told Guardian Australia.

The world

Chinese President Xi Jinping
Chinese president, Xi Jinping, arrives for the opening session of the National People’s Congress. Photograph: Carlos García Rawlins/Reuters

China has set its lowest annual GDP target in decades, as premier, Li Keqiang, warned of a “grave and uncertain” outlook against the backdrop of the coronavirus, a slowing economy and the war in Ukraine.

A decision to restart operations at one of Central America’s largest nickel mines is being questioned by campaigners after an investigation appeared to show the company co-opted indigenous leaders and smeared potential opponents.

The UK Home Office has agreed to pay nearly £6,000 in a settlement to an EU citizen it detained at the border in a post-Brexit crack down on Europeans entering the country last year.

The release of The Batman starring Robert Pattinson is being heralded as the beginning of an anticipated post-pandemic blockbuster boom, with UK box office sales forecast to double this year to top £1bn for the first time since 2019.

Recommended reads

Australian flag
‘History is not so much neglected as chained in a dark shed and threatened with a cricket bat if it dares to speak up.’ Photograph: Darrian Traynor/Getty Images

Why are Australians so nervous of other peoples and of justice? Why are our politicians so unambitious? Why are vulnerable people, especially young women, still routinely preyed upon almost without consequence? Why does the White Australia Policy continue to weigh so heavily on public policy? Writing about Julianne Schultz’s book on Australian identity, Melissa Lucashenko asks how we can change a nation where forgetting is essential.

Sisonke Msimang has been thinking about Grace Tame a lot in the last few weeks. She’s been “wondering how to talk about her with the admiration she deserves, while asking questions about why she in particular has become the face of modern Australian feminism when there are so many other women – Black women in particular – with so much to say and with so many difficult and heart-wrenching stories of their own”.

INXS is a brilliant singles band with one of rock’s sexiest frontmen, so putting together an INXS greatest hits list isn’t easy. But thankfully, Andrew Stafford has ranked them for us.


The world has reacted with revulsion to stark images of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. But televisions in Moscow show a different story entirely, says Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, Andrew Roth.

Full Story

What Russians are being told about the war in Ukraine

Full Story is Guardian Australia’s daily news podcast. Subscribe for free on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or any other podcasting app.


Sarah Perkins
Sarah Perkins of the Suns reacts after missing her set shot in the dying seconds of the match between the St Kilda Saints and the Gold Coast Suns. Photograph: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos/Getty Images

As the final AFLW round nears, the conversation has been dominated by another social media attack on an AFLW player. Last week, when Gold Coast Suns forward Sarah Perkins tweeted an apology to supporters for missing what would have been a match winning goal against the Saints, a series of tweets followed criticising Perkins based on her body shape. Countless AFLW players, fans, and commentators rushed to Perkins’ defence, reinvigorating the debate on the dangers of social media for high-profile sports people, and driving the conversation about the right to criticise an athlete’s body in the context of performance.

Media roundup

Chinese Australians are calling out racism on LGBT dating apps amid Sydney Mardi Gras celebrations, according to the ABC. More than 2,000 homes and businesses in New South Wales’ inundated Northern Rivers have been declared unliveable, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

And if you’ve read this far …

‘I planted seeds’: Timothée Chalamet’s mother on her children’s success.

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