Putin orders blockade of Mariupol steelworks | First Thing


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Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian forces to blockade the Mariupol steelworks rather than storming the area, after his defence minister admitted thousands of Ukrainian troops continued to resist there.

Putin called for Russian troops to blockade the Azovstal steelworks – the Ukrainian army’s last stronghold in the besieged city – “so that a fly can’t get through”. Russian officials had claimed that their troops would seize the plant by Thursday afternoon, while a Ukrainian marine commander said on Wednesday his country’s forces there were “maybe facing our last days, if not hours”.

The change in tactics comes as the US and allies warned of intelligence that Russia is considering cyber-attacks on countries supporting Ukraine as forces struggle to make military inroads. “Evolving intelligence indicates that the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyber-attacks,” the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network said in an official cyber threat alert on Wednesday, noting that “some cybercrime groups have recently publicly pledged support for the Russian government”. Other developments on day 57 of the invasion include:

  • Facebook posts disputing evidence of alleged war crimes in Bucha have been shared hundreds of thousands of times, analysis by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue has found.

  • Russian forces are moving towards Kramatorsk in eastern Ukraine, British intelligence suggests, while Putin likely wants to demonstrate “significant successes” ahead of 9 May Victory Day celebrations.

  • Russia has fined Google 11m roubles ($137,000) for failing to delete what it called “fake” information about the Ukraine war.

Trump campaign ordered to pay Omarosa Manigault Newman more than $1.3m

Donald Trump and Omarosa Manigault Newman in Detroit, Michigan, in 2016. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Donald Trump’s campaign has been ordered to pay former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman more than $1.3m in legal costs.

The ruling closes the case of alleged violation of a non-disclosure agreement by Manigault Newman. The former political aide, who compared herself to David and Trump to Goliath, published an explosive tell-all memoir in 2018 after being fired, leading Trump to sue her.

John M Phillips, an attorney for Manigault Newman, tweeted: “$1.3m attorney fee and cost order against the Trump campaign issued! (Highest known prevailing party attorney fee assessment against a president or presidential campaign). Huge thanks to Omarosa for believing in us during this three-year ordeal of weaponized litigation.”

  • What did the memoir say? Among other allegations, Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House included the claim that the Trump was a “racist” who used the N-word. She also released audio recordings of Trump officials.

  • Is this the first Trump NDA case? No – the former president has lost other cases, including by a former campaign worker who said he forcibly kissed her.

Capitol rioter caught after FBI finds clip of him boasting to Uber driver

Jerry Braun can be seen on a recording taken by an Uber driver saying he’d torn down the barricades at the US Capitol.
Jerry Braun can be seen on a recording taken by an Uber driver saying he’d torn down the barricades at the US Capitol. Photograph: Julio Cortez/AP

A man who participated in the US Capitol riots was caught after he boasted about his involvement to an Uber driver.

Dashboard camera footage shows Jerry Braun telling the driver, who picked him up from Washington DC on 6 January 2021, that he “tore down the barricades” so the rioters “could get to the Capitol”. The driver’s tip to authorities led the FBI on a 15-month investigation resulting in Braun’s arrest on 12 April.

Braun was charged with violent entry or disorderly conduct, obstruction during civil disorder, and entering and remaining on restricted grounds, according to an affidavit by FBI special agent Lucas Bauers.

  • How was he identified? His Uber account used his first name – authorities then searched the booking sheet of the hotel he was dropped off at. They pored over images and compared them to the Uber footage to find a positive match.

  • More than 800 people have been charged for their involvement in the riot, of which more than 250 have so far pleaded guilty.

In other news …

The bill would eliminate Walt Disney World’s ability to govern its own properties
The bill would eliminate Walt Disney World’s ability to govern its own properties Photograph: John Raoux/AP

Stat of the day: One in six species of bees regionally extinct

Researchers believe the number of bumblebees, leafcutters and mason bees will fall as temperatures rise.
Researchers believe the number of bumblebees, leafcutters and mason bees will fall as temperatures rise. Photograph: Imagebroker/Alamy

One in six bee species have suffered regionally extinction somewhere in the world, with researchers warning that declining populations could have “cascading” impacts on ecosystems. Now, research finds that the climate emergency could result in more small-bodied bees but fewer bumblebees, which are more vulnerable to rising temperatures.

Don’t miss this: the mission to clean up dangerous space junk

A European Space Agency artist’s impression of space debris in low Earth orbit (size of debris is exaggerated compared with the Earth).
A European Space Agency artist’s impression of space debris in low Earth orbit (size of debris is exaggerated compared with the Earth). Photograph: ESA/AFP/Getty Images

The amount of space debris and its combined mass has climbed steadily over the past 60 years: more than 8,000 tonnes of debris now orbits Earth. With the risk of collision ever-growing, Ian Sample visits RAF Fylingdales, part of the US Space Surveillance Network, to find out how the base tracks space junk and prevents dangerous crashes.

Last Thing: living off TikTok recipes for a week

Rhik Sammader tries some Korean cheese corn dogs
Rhik Sammader tries some Korean cheese corn dogs Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian

From feta pasta to the tortilla-folding hack, TikTok has long been home to culinary experiments – some more successful than others. Now, Rhik Samadder takes on the challenge of creating and, crucially, eating viral recipes for a week. Not one for the faint-hearted.

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