Russia's Mariupol strategy, Patrick Lyoya's funeral, Earth Day: 5 things to know Friday

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Russia’s end of Mariupol pursuit may be bid to free up troops for other battles

Britain’s defense ministry says Russia’s decision to end its effort to take a steel plant in the besieged port city of Mariupol is an effort to free up troops for deployment in other parts of eastern Ukraine. In an update posted Friday, the ministry says that “a full ground assault by Russia on the plant would likely incur significant Russian casualties, further decreasing their overall combat effectiveness.” Russian President Vladimir Putin asserted victory in the battle for Mariupol Thursday, even as hundreds of Ukrainian troops hold out in and around the Azovstal plant. President Joe Biden pushed back on Putin’s claim, saying there isn’t evidence yet of a Russian win. Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said in order to cover up “military crimes,” Russian troops have buried as many as 9,000 civilians killed in the conflict in a nearby mass grave. “The greatest war crime of the 21st century has been committed in Mariupol,” he said. 

Funeral set for Patrick Lyoya, man killed by police in Michigan

The funeral for Patrick Lyoya, the Congolese immigrant fatally shot by a Michigan police officer April 4, will take place Friday in the city of Grand Rapids. The Rev. Al Sharpton will deliver the eulogy, and Sharpton said his National Action Network is covering burial and funeral costs. Lyoya was fatally shot during a struggle with a Grand Rapids police officer following a traffic stop. Released video footage showed that Lyoya was shot while facedown on the ground, sparking protests. An independent autopsy report stated he was shot in the back of the head, family attorneys said. Police have not revealed the identity of the officer. 

On Earth Day, a call to ‘Invest In Our Planet’

 Friday is Earth Day, with rallies, protests and other events expected through the weekend. Earth Day’s global organizer, EarthDay.org, has given this year’s holiday the theme of “Invest In Our Planet,” and it will present a livestream of the Earth Day Climate Action Summit Friday. The annual observance spotlighting environmental issues comes just weeks after the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report warning that rapid mitigation measures are needed to avoid unsustainable global warming. Although Earth Day is not a federal holiday in the United States, Americans have observed it for 52 years. More than 1 billion people worldwide mark the day by working to instigate climate policy change and shift everyday human behavior. President Joe Biden will spend Earth Day in Seattle, speaking about a need to bolster the nation’s resilience in the face of threats like wildfires, and a need to rapidly deploy clean energy, the White House said. 

Crews brace for strong winds, explosive fire growth in West

More help is on the way to contain one of the biggest blazes near Flagstaff, Arizona, which is expected to keep growing Friday. Spirits were lifted Thursday as helicopters for the first time were able to start dropping water on the flames, but “there is high confidence that a widespread extreme and catastrophic fire weather event will occur on Friday,” Santa Fe National Forest officials said. About 30 structures have been destroyed, but it’s still unclear how many were homes, the county sheriff’s office said. The 32-square-mile blaze is one of a half-dozen major wildfires that have raced across Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado over the past week. Forecasters have warned that warm weather, little to no precipitation and spring winds create a dangerous recipe for wildfires. The elements are “pretty much on steroids in the atmosphere” for Friday said Scott Overpeck with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

After home losses, both Bucks, Suns will be without key players for Game 3

The path to the 2022 NBA Finals is now more rocky for the two teams who matched up in the 2021 NBA Finals. Last season’s Western Conference champs and this season’s No. 1 overall seed, the Phoenix Suns, lost leading scorer Devin Booker to a strained right hamstring against the New Orleans Pelicans Tuesday night. In the Eastern Conference, last season’s NBA champs, the Milwaukee Bucks lost their second-leading scorer Khris Middleton to a left-knee injury Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls. Both players won’t play Friday and they both could be out for weeks. Making matters worse, both teams fell in their respective Game 2s and find themselves tied 1-1 seeking to win back home court advantage Friday night. The Bucks will make the trip to play Game 3 in Chicago against the Bulls (ABC, 8:30 p.m. ET) and the Suns will travel to New Orleans to try to take Game 3 against the Pelicans (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET). Friday’s action begins with the Atlanta Hawks, down 0-2, hosting the Miami Heat (ESPN, 7 p.m. ET).

Contributing: The Associated Press

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