UKRAINE UPDATE: 29 MARCH 2022
Nuclear material at damaged Kharkiv facility is intact; 5,000 dead in Mariupol includes 200 children
Russia’s siege of Mariupol has killed almost 5,000 people, including 200 children, as of Sunday, its mayor said, and roughly a third of the pre-war population remains in the city.
Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency that nuclear material at a facility that came under renewed fire from Russia recently remains intact. Russia’s Novaya Gazeta, whose editor-in-chief, Dmitry Muratov, was co-winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, is suspending operations after receiving a second warning from government censors.
Ukrainian and Russian negotiating teams plan to meet in Turkey on Tuesday with big differences remaining on terms for a potential ceasefire after more than a month of fighting. Credit Suisse Group and Abu Dhabi’s wealth fund will stop investing in Russia, while beer makers Carlsberg and Heineken announced plans to exit the country.
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Nuclear material at damaged Kharkiv facility intact
Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the nuclear material at a damaged facility in Kharkiv remains intact despite the complex coming under renewed fire “a few days ago,” according to an IAEA statement.
“Ukraine said the building, its thermal insulation and the experimental hall were damaged, but the neutron source, that contains nuclear material used to generate neutrons for research and isotope production, was not,” according to the statement.
European development bank to close offices in Belarus and Russia
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will shut its offices in Moscow and Minsk over the invasion of Ukraine.
The move “is the inevitable outcome of the actions taken by the Russian Federation with the help of Belarus”, the London-based development bank said in a statement. The EBRD had already suspended new lending and investment in Russia in 2014 after Russia seized Crimea and stoked fighting in eastern Ukraine
Germany may end Russian oil, coal imports by year-end
Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Germany is working at full speed to reduce its dependence on Russian energy imports and possibly wean itself off Russian oil and coal by the end of the year.
“We now want to create the technical conditions in order to have different sources of imports,” Scholz told a conference in Berlin. “In view of the fact that in the past we always imported a lot by ship, this will be accomplished with coal and oil relatively quickly, perhaps even this year.”
Cutting Russian gas imports to zero will take a bit longer, but Germany is pushing ahead with its efforts to build the needed infrastructure to import liquified natural gas on its northern shore and authorities are not starting from scratch, Scholz said.
US sending Growler electronic warfare planes to Germany
Six US Navy Growler aeroplanes will arrive in Germany on Monday to bolster Nato’s electronic warfare capabilities on its eastern flank, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
The planes built by Boeing will be temporarily based at the Spangdahlem airbase in Germany, Kirby said, and will be accompanied by 240 personnel. The planes, which came from Whidbey Island in Washington state, won’t be used against Russian forces in Ukraine, Kirby said.
Abramovich, Ukraine negotiators ‘suffered poisoning symptoms’
Russian tycoon Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian peace negotiators suffered symptoms of suspected poisoning as they tried to broker a peace deal earlier this month at a meeting in Kyiv, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter who it didn’t name.
Abramovich, along with at least two members of the Ukrainian delegation, who include Crimean Tatar lawmaker Rustem Umerov, suffered symptoms including red eyes, constant tearing and peeling skin on their faces and hands, according to the report. The people familiar blamed the suspected attack on hardliners in Moscow, the Journal said.
Bellingcat, an open-source investigations group that has probed other alleged poisoning cases involving Russia, said in a tweet it also confirmed the negotiators “experienced symptoms consistent with poisoning with chemical weapons” after the 3-4 March meeting. Bellingcat said one of its investigators was asked to help provide an examination by chemical weapons specialists.
Russian and Ukrainian delegations are scheduled to meet on Tuesday in Istanbul for another round of talks.
Ukraine says 5,000 people killed in Mariupol
Russia’s siege of Mariupol has killed almost 5,000 people, including 200 children, as of 27 March, Mayor Vadym Boychenko said.
The Sea of Azov port city has been under attack since 1 March, and 90% of its residential houses and hospitals — including all maternity wards — have been damaged or destroyed by Russian shelling and air and missile strikes, Boychenko said.
Of Mariupol’s pre-war population, about 170,000 people remain. About 140,000 left before the siege and 150,000 during the attacks. Russian troops, which control part of the city, deported 30,000 citizens to unknown destinations, Boychenko said.
Poland estimates 500,000 Ukrainian refugees moved on
Poland, which has accepted around 2.3 million refugees from Ukraine, estimates that about half a million people have moved to other destinations, Polish President Andrzej Duda said. The population of Poland’s capital, Warsaw, has swelled by 300,000, or about 20% — alone, in four weeks, and accommodation is running out.
The European Union nation has set aside 8 billion zloty ($1.9-billion) to help refugees find work, gain access to schools and healthcare and pay those who host them in their homes. Until last month, the country of 38 million people was already home to roughly one million Ukrainians who fled the separatist conflict in the east of their country that started in 2014.
EU members to have €17bn to fund refugee aid
EU member states will have about €17-billion available to finance their help to refugees, of which more than 3.8 million have crossed the bloc’s border, according to an EU diplomat.
Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund pauses investments in Russia
The Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala, one of the world’s largest, is pausing investments in Russia because of the war in Ukraine, its CEO, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, said.
Mubadala is the first Middle Eastern sovereign wealth fund to offer public comments on the month-old war, and its decision is a sign that the war in Ukraine is complicating ties between Moscow and the United Arab Emirates. Previously, Norway’s $1.3-trillion sovereign wealth fund decided to drop Russian assets in response to the invasion.
G7 rejects Putin’s demand for gas payments in roubles
Group of Seven energy ministers unanimously rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demand that natural-gas contracts be paid in roubles.
Putin’s demand represents a “one-sided and clear breach of contracts”, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said on Monday after chairing talks that also included European Union officials.
Romania destroys Black Sea mine
Romania’s Navy destroyed a mine that was spotted drifting by fishermen in the Black Sea about 70km from land on Monday morning, the country’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.
Turkey detected a sea mine off Igneada’s Black Sea coast near the Bulgarian border, the Defence Ministry said in a tweet. Underwater defence units retrieved the mine and deactivated it. Another mine was detected on Saturday around the Bosporus strait, halting ship traffic for five hours.
Carlsberg, Heineken quit Russia
Carlsberg, which owns the biggest brewery in Russia, and Heineken announced they would leave the country.
Carlsberg said in a statement the decision to sell its Russian business “is the right thing to do”. Earlier on Monday, Heineken said it expected impairment and other charges to amount to some €400-million in announcing plans to sell its business and exit Russia.
Polymetal mulls splitting Russian, international business
Precious metals miner Polymetal is considering separating its Russian business to protect its international operations from the effect of war-related sanctions, the Financial Times reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.
Polymetal’s Russian and Kazakh businesses could get their own listing, the people told the FT, adding that discussions are ongoing. The company told the FT a demerger of its international assets was being “evaluated”.
Credit Suisse stops pursuing new business in Russia
Credit Suisse Group has stopped pursuing new business in Russia and is cutting its exposure to the country as a result of the invasion of Ukraine, according to an internal document seen by Bloomberg.
The Swiss bank is also helping its clients unwind their Russia exposure, according to the memo. The bank added that it has moved roles out of the country and is helping employees relocate elsewhere. A spokesperson for Credit Suisse confirmed the content of the document.
Russia signals payments coming for bonds due
Russia signalled its intention to make coupon and principal payments for bonds due next month and in April 2042, according to filings with the National Settlement Depository.
Russia’s Novaya Gazeta to close
Russia’s Novaya Gazeta newspaper announced on Twitter it is suspending publication “until the completion of the ‘special operation’ in Ukraine”.
Novaya Gazeta on Monday received a second warning from Russian censor Roskomnadzor for posting material from a so-called foreign agent without the appropriate labelling.
Russia has increasingly sought to control access to information since it attacked Ukraine, blocking Facebook and Instagram and forcing many independent media outlets to close.
Russian stocks fall on first day all shares trade
Russian stocks retreated on Monday, erasing gains from last week as trading was expanded to all Moscow shares, while government measures to prevent a deeper selloff remain in place.
The MOEX Russia Index fell 2.2% in a shortened four-hour session. Gas giant Gazprom was the top decliner along with the state lender Sberbank PJSC. Energy companies like Lukoil PJSC dropped as oil retreated. PhosAgro PJSC outperformed.
Imports to Russia drop significantly
The Russian government is taking steps to stabilise imports after a significant drop in recent weeks by overhauling customs procedures and building new supply chains, Economy Minister Maxim Reshetnikov said, according to Interfax.
Imports will halve and the Russian economy will shrink by about 10% this year, the Bank of Finland Institute for Emerging Economies said on Monday in its revised 2022-2023 forecasts for Russia.
EU urges end to ‘golden passports’
The European Commission urged member states to immediately repeal any existing “golden passport” schemes. The 27-nation EU’s executive also asked national governments to assess whether citizenship previously granted to Russian or Belarussian nationals on the EU sanction list in connection to the war in Ukraine should be withdrawn.
Kremlin: Biden comments on Putin ‘alarming’
US President Joe Biden’s statements about President Vladimir Putin are “alarming,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a conference call. Russia will continue to monitor the US president’s words, he said.
Biden clarified comments he made in Warsaw at the weekend that the Russian president “cannot remain in power”, saying that he was not advocating regime change.
Talks to begin on Tuesday in Turkey: Interfax
Talks in Turkey will start at 10am on Tuesday, Interfax newswire reported, citing Ukrainian negotiator David Arakhamiya. Both sides will arrive later on Monday as logistics are “difficult,” it said. Arakhamiya had previously suggested the latest round of talks may begin on Monday.
Ukraine calls for more artillery shells
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak called for a “sharp increase” in supplies of artillery shells to keep up its attacks on Russian forces. Russia said on Friday that 1,351 servicemen had been killed and 3,825 wounded since the start of the war on 24 February. Nato estimated Russian combat deaths to be at least 7,000 and as high as 15,000, according to alliance officials last week.
China says sanctions harm its Russia trade
China rejected speculation that it might try to get around international sanctions on Russia, while complaining that the penalties had hurt its trade relations with Moscow. “The current issue is not any country wanting to help Russia circumvent the sanctions, but rather there has been unnecessary damage to the normal trade exchange with Russia, including between China and Russia,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a regular news briefing in Beijing.
China has failed to condemn Russia for its invasion, even as it voices support for Ukraine’s sovereignty. Bloomberg News reported last week that Chinese companies and government officials were rushing to find out how to comply with US sanctions on Russia.
UK public sector told to cut Russia contracts
The UK government told public bodies including government departments and hospitals to identify any contracts with Russian and Belarusian companies and, “if possible to switch suppliers with minimal disruption, pursue legal routes of cancelling them”.
The announcement related to the public sector follows private companies from brewers to carmakers that have pulled out of Russia.
Ukraine halts safe corridors, citing ‘provocations’
No humanitarian corridors will open in Ukraine due to information about planned provocations along the routes, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a video statement.
While Ukraine says that Russia regularly breaches agreements to allow safe passage for civilians, humanitarian corridors have operated on most days since the early days of the war. Ukrainian authorities had expected to continue evacuations from the besieged port city of Mariupol on Monday and to open corridors in the northeastern Sumy region.
Wheat, oil and gas retreat
Wheat futures tumbled the most in more than a week on signs that global supply may not be as constrained as some had feared in the immediate aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Crude oil retreated, with Brent futures down more than 3% as China’s worsening virus resurgence raised demand concerns. Crude is still poised for a fourth monthly gain after Russia’s war roiled markets. Natural gas in Europe declined for a third day.
Russian foreign minister ‘due in India for talks’
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due in New Delhi this week, The Hindu newspaper reported, citing unnamed officials. Russian and Indian officials are expected to discuss the sale of Russian oil to India and to work on a rupee-rouble denominated payment method that could operate outside the Swift messaging system, it said.
India has yet to condemn Russia’s war on Ukraine and is under pressure from fellow members of the Quad group, which includes the US, Australia and Japan, to take a stronger stance against Moscow. Russia is subject to international sanctions that include barring many banks’ access to Swift.
EU meeting over widening refugee crisis
Europe is racing to absorb the more than 3.4 million refugees that have fled Ukraine, with many more on their way. European Union justice and home affairs ministers are in Brussels for a meeting to determine how much more funding is needed and to help facilitate the travel of refugees to other nations in the bloc.
The EU has already expedited €3.4-billion for frontline states, particularly Poland. Another topic is how to handle Ukrainian refugees transiting through Moldova. DM
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