UKRAINE UPDATE: 12 APRIL 2022
More than 10,000 have died in Mariupol, says mayor; Austrian chancellor visits Putin
European Union nations urgently called for more weapons to be shipped to Ukraine as soon as possible, and Poland’s prime minister predicted Europe would soon see its biggest tank battle since World War 2.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer became the first European Union leader to visit President Vladimir Putin in Moscow since the start of the war and asked him to end it. Ukraine expected Russia to widen its offensive in the east this week, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
The head of Russia’s central bank also said her country’s economy could recover from a sanctions-triggered downturn.
- Europe moves to arm Ukraine as sanctions fail to sway Putin
- Ukraine seeks Russia assets, oil fleet seizure as reparations
- Russian current-account surplus surges to record on energy sales
- Russia to halt bond sales, threatens legal action over default
- Le Pen branded Putin ally as Macron’s team fights populist surge
- General who ran Syria operation to lead Russian troops in Ukraine
Mayor says more than 10,000 have died in Mariupol
The mayor of Mariupol told the Associated Press that more than 10,000 civilians have died in the city in Ukraine since the Russian invasion.
Mayor Vadym Boychenko told the AP by telephone that corpses were “carpeted through the streets of our city” and that the death toll could be more than 20,000. Last week, he cited a preliminary estimate that 5,000 people had died.
Boychenko also said Russian forces had brought mobile crematoria to the city to dispose of the bodies. He accused them of refusing to allow humanitarian convoys into the city in an attempt to disguise the carnage.
Russian official endorses revoking citizenship of ‘traitors’
A Putin ally, Vyacheslav Volodin, speaker of the lower house of Parliament, said on Monday it would be “right” to revoke the citizenship of people considered “traitors,” according to a post on his Telegram channel.
Volodin specifically mentioned Marina Ovsyannikova, a journalist who interrupted Russia’s most-watched television news show last month with an anti-war protest and has since been hired by Germany’s Welt.
“Unfortunately, there’s no legal procedure to revoke citizenship,” he acknowledged. “But it would possibly be the right thing to do.” Putin vowed last month to cleanse Russia of the “scum and traitors”.
Biden upbeat after talks with India’s Modi
US President Joe Biden struck an upbeat tone in a virtual meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi amid rising tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying the two nations will keep working together to counter the fallout from the Kremlin’s war.
Biden lauded India’s efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, without mentioning the US pressure for India to take a harder line. Tensions between the US and India have risen in recent weeks over Modi’s reluctance to criticise Putin. That has complicated a budding security partnership between the US and India aimed at countering China’s influence.
Polish premier predicts imminent tank battle
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said EU members must quickly offer more military support for Kyiv as Russia prepares a new assault on Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.
“The most decisive battle is about to begin, and at the same time the largest tank battle in this part of the world since World War 2,” he said.
He also criticised Austria’s chancellor for meeting Putin, saying that instead of talking to a “war criminal,” European leaders should focus on rapidly widening sanctions.
Half a dozen EU members reserved on oil sanctions
About five to seven European Union members require a transition period before imposing sanctions on Russian oil purchases so they can secure energy supplies and avoid domestic unrest, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto said, after meeting with his EU counterparts in Luxembourg.
“My guess is that we will be able to sanction oil, but it will take some time,” Haavisto told reporters, adding that his home nation had no qualms on the issue.
Austrian leader calls on Putin to end war
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer called on Putin to end the war, according to an emailed statement from the chancellery in Vienna following discussions between the two leaders in Moscow.
Nehammer told Putin those responsible for the potential war crimes under investigation in the northern Ukrainian Bucha will be held responsible and said sanctions will remain and be tightened as long as people are dying in Ukraine, according to the statement. Nehammer said he would inform his EU partners about the discussion.
Sanctions will hit growth, but Russia will recover – central bank governor
Russia has enough reserves in gold and yuan after Western sanctions froze its access to dollar and euro holdings, Russia’s central bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina said in an annual report to Parliament.
“The difficult process of adjustment to new conditions will inevitably cause a decline in gross domestic product, but the Russian economy will be able to return to a growth trajectory, develop production, create new jobs, increase domestic investments.”
The Bank of Russia, which Nabiullina runs, said the country reported the largest current-account surplus since at least 1994, as revenues from oil and gas exports surged and imports plunged after the US and its allies imposed sanctions that skirted energy exports. The Bank of Russia also stopped publishing monthly trade data, it said.
Italy seizes €100m villa in Sardinia
Italian police seized a villa worth more than €100-million owned by sanctioned Russian oligarch Dmitry Mazepin and his son, former Formula One driver Nikita, in Sardinia, according to a government official. The operation brings the value of assets seized by Italy from wealthy Russians penalized for their involvement in the war in Ukraine to around €950-million.
War requires EU carbon reform rethink
The deepest overhaul of the European Union’s carbon market should be adapted to the drastically changed energy landscape caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to Jos Delbeke, a key architect of the bloc’s cap-and-trade system.
European governments and the EU Parliament are currently negotiating a set of climate and energy reforms to implement a tougher emissions-reduction goal for 2030. Some elements, such as limiting the supply of pollution rights, need revising because the upheaval to natural gas and coal markets due to the war is likely to stay for longer than thought, Delbeke said in an interview.
German paper hires Russian who interrupted broadcast
Germany’s Die Welt newspaper hired Marina Ovsyannikova, the Russian journalist who interrupted a Channel One prime time news broadcast with an anti-war poster last month.
Ovsyannikova (43) will serve as a freelance correspondent for the paper and its television channel, reporting from Russia and Ukraine, according to a statement from Die Welt’s parent, Axel Springer. Ovsyannikova was detained for 14 hours after interrupting Russia’s most-watched TV news show in a rare display of dissent on the state-run outlet. She was fined 30,000 roubles ($370).
Several EU members urge oil embargo, say officials
Several countries pressed for an embargo on Russian oil imports at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg, according to officials who declined to be named discussing a closed-door session.
EU states which called for an oil ban included Poland and Baltic nations, the officials said. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told ministers that Germany was not against an oil embargo, but the bloc needs to avoid measures that hurt Europeans more than Russia, they said.
“For that to be feasible jointly within the European Union, we need a unified, coordinated plan,” Baerbock said.
Ukraine seeks Russian assets, oil fleet seizure
Ukraine is pushing allied countries to seize and sell Russian assets including oil tankers so that the proceeds can be used to pay for rebuilding destroyed cities and infrastructure.
Ukraine has suffered more than $1-trillion of physical damage since Russia invaded in February and its government was already talking to allies about the possibility of selling off Russian assets, according to Oleg Ustenko, chief economic adviser to Zelensky.
French gendarmes arrive for war crimes probe
A group of French gendarmes arrived in Ukraine to help investigate allegations of war crimes committed by Russian troops near Kyiv, France’s Ambassador to Ukraine Etienne de Poncins said on Monday.
Ukraine says Russian troops killed hundreds of civilians and looted houses while occupying towns and villages near the capital. They retreated at the end of last month with Ukrainian troops and police entering the areas and discovering mass graves. Russia denies its forces have targeted civilians in Ukraine, despite evidence from satellite images, intercepted calls and testimony from eyewitnesses.
The number of casualties from Russia’s April 8 attack on a train station in Kramatorsk, a hub for the evacuation of civilians in the eastern Donbas region, rose to 57 people killed and 114 wounded, Mayor Oleksandr Honcharenko said on Monday. Five children are among the dead, he said.
German ministers want swift weapons deliveries
German Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck said Ukraine urgently needs more weapons to help it resist what he said were imminent attacks by Russia in the east of the country.
Germany made a commitment and has an obligation to continue to support Ukraine with weapons “in both quality and quantity”, Habeck told reporters in Berlin. The comments echo those made earlier on Monday by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who said daily reports of atrocities in Ukraine make it all the more urgent to send additional equipment, including “heavy weapons”.
No pic with Putin as Austrian visit raises eyebrows
The Austrian chancellor did not hold a joint press conference with Putin and they skipped the usual photo opp during a visit that raised eyebrows across Europe. Karl Nehammer said he wanted to speak face-to-face with Putin over human-rights abuses and war crimes, emphasising the need to grasp any chance of brokering concessions.
He cited militarily neutral Austria’s perceived role as a bridge between East and West. Nehammer held a video call with reporters after the meeting with no joint press conference planned in line with a request from Vienna, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. The arrangement was made so that Russia would not be able to exploit the visit, according to Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg.
Swaths of Ukraine threatened by Russian munitions
Nearly 300,000 square kilometres of Ukraine, almost half the size of the country, will have to be checked for land mines and explosives as a result of Russia’s use of cluster bombs and other munitions which scatter over large areas, according to the country’s State Emergency Service.
Ukraine disables 2,000 to 6,000 explosives daily, with the main demining efforts focused west and east of the capital, Kyiv, as well as in Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy.
Credit panel rules Russian Railways in default
Russian Railways has been ruled in default on a bond after missing an interest payment last month, the first such decision since Russia was slapped with harsh Western sanctions that complicated financial transactions.
The Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee said a failure-to-pay credit event occurred after a coupon due on March 14. Contracts insuring the company’s debt against default will be triggered, and holders will now wait to see how much will be paid.
Macron’s team brands Le Pen a Putin ally
French President Emmanuel Macron’s team painted opponent Marine le Pen as “an ally of Vladimir Putin” on Monday as they began a campaign offensive that will run over the next two weeks ahead of a final vote.
Le Pen finished four percentage points behind Macron in the first round of the French election on Sunday and the two will face each other in a runoff vote on April 24. While polls give the 44-year-old president an advantage heading into the final phase of the campaign, Le Pen has been gaining momentum.
Zelensky appeals to South Korea for weapons
Zelensky appealed to South Korea’s Parliament to send weapons to help Ukraine defend itself and prevent the conflict from spreading to other countries.
“We need air defence systems, we need airplanes, tanks, other armoured vehicles, artillery systems, munitions, and you have what can be indispensable for us,” he said in a video address.
Ireland says EU working on oil sanctions
Ireland’s foreign affairs minister, Simon Coveney, said the European Commission is working on new sanctions that will involve oil.
“We need to cut off the financing of the war even though it creates huge challenges and problems for the EU,” Coveney told reporters ahead of the Luxembourg meeting. Member states including Germany, Hungary and Austria have been reticent to target oil and gas to avoid domestic economic fallout. A fifth package of EU sanctions approved last week included coal.
Societe Generale to exit Russia
Societe Generale will sell Rosbank to Interros Capital, making it the first European lender with a large presence in Russia to announce its departure since the war began.
The French lender will take a hit of about €3-billion from the sale of Rosbank and the group’s Russian insurance subsidiaries. Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International and Italy’s UniCredit, which both have sizable exposure to Russia, are also considering severing ties with the country.
EU urges members to send weapons soon
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged member states to quickly provide Kyiv with the weapons it has asked for, as Ukraine braces for Russia to step up its campaign in the country’s east, according to people familiar with weekend discussions.
Borrell told EU diplomats a decision is needed in days and not weeks, and the bloc must do whatever it takes to help Ukraine, the people said.
German air force to evacuate injured Ukrainians
Germany’s air force was preparing a flight to evacuate Ukrainians injured during the war from southeast Poland to Cologne for treatment, news agency DPA reported, without identifying the source of its information.
Germany has already taken in injured Ukrainian soldiers but this would be the first flight of its kind transporting adults and children, DPA said. DM