Ukraine Update: US Warns India Over Russian Energy Imports
US President Joe Biden warned his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi against increasing Russian energy imports, while Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he was pessimistic over peace prospects after becoming the first European Union leader to visit Vladimir Putin in Moscow since the start of the war.
Ukraine’s Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko told the Financial Times that destruction to infrastructure from the war now totalled about $270 billion, while the mayor of Mariupol said more than 10,000 civilians had died in the Ukrainian city since the invasion. Poland’s prime minister predicted Europe would soon see its biggest tank battle since World War II.
Russia’s central bank chief said the economy can recover from a sanctions-triggered downturn, after it posted the biggest current-account surplus in decades, driven by a surge in energy revenues. Ukraine expects Russia to widen its offensive in the east this week, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.
Russia is Significant Military Threat, Say 84% of Finns
Some 84% of Finns believe Russia poses a significant military threat after it invaded Ukraine and began a full-scale war, according to a survey measuring attitudes in the second and third weeks of Russia’s attack, published Tuesday by Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA.
In 2005, fewer than one in three in the Nordic country with a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia considered Moscow a significant military threat.
War Damage is $270B, Minister Tells FT
Ukraine’s infrastructure war damage is an estimated $270 billion, Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko told the Financial Times in an interview. Some 7,000 residential buildings have been damaged or ruined. About 30% of Ukrainian companies have ceased operations and electricity consumption has dropped 35%, the minister said.
Despite that, Ukraine plans to continue servicing its debt and expects to avoid borrowing restructuring, he said. Last month, the country paid $292 million on a dollar-denominated euro bond maturing in September.
“A lot of politicians advise us to talk about restructuring but that is not our policy,” he said, adding Ukraine expects to access financing and continue to issue external debt.
Japan Sanctions Putin’s Daughters
Japan’s government announced asset freezes on 398 individuals, including the two adult daughters of Putin as part of its latest round of sanctions over the war in Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s wife and daughter were also added to list.
Asset freezes were also expanded to 28 entities including the country’s biggest bank Sberbank.
Biden, Modi Discuss Managing Ukraine Fallout
President Joe Biden and India’s Narendra Modi held a candid discussion Monday about how to counter the fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a senior Biden administration official said.
“The president has made clear that he does not believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy and other commodities,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
Modi, via a translator, said he’d been appealing for peace and called the killings in the Ukrainian city of Bucha “very worrying”.
Ireland tells Ports to Bar Russia-Registered Ships, RTE Says
Ireland’s government told all the country’s ports to deny entry to Russian-registered vessels starting next Sunday, RTE reported. The move is implementing an EU decision to sanction Russian vessels and restrict access, the broadcaster said.
Wheat Prices Jump With Ukraine Output at Risk
Wheat prices rose for a second day, with futures rising almost 3%, driven in part by concern over lost output in Ukraine. The country’s grain association said its harvest could shrink to 18.2 million tons, little more than half of last year’s level, with production of other key crops like corn, barley and sunflower seeds also projected to slump.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization has warned that the disruption to grain exports from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could trigger a global hunger crisis.
Austrian Leader Pessimistic After Putin Talks
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he was “rather pessimistic” on the prospects for peace in Ukraine after meeting Putin in Moscow on Monday, citing a spiral of violence emerging in Ukraine’s east.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Nehammer defended his decision to meet the Russian President as a way to confront him with war crimes committed in Ukraine. He called the talks “direct, honest and tough,” and signaled European solidarity. Nehammer is the first European leader to meet Putin in person since the war started.
France Expels Russian Diplomats Accused of Spying
France’s foreign ministry said in a statement that six Russian officials under diplomatic cover must leave the country after an intelligence investigation found out their activities were contrary to “our national interests.”
US Sees ‘More Protracted’ and Bloody Phase in War
The U.S. offered a grim assessment that Russia’s invasion is likely to enter “a more protracted and a very bloody phase” as it focuses on Ukraine’s Donbas region, in the words of Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
“By what we have seen in the past, we’re probably turning another page in the same book of Russian brutality,” Kirby said at a Pentagon news conference.
Meanwhile, Kirby said an initial shipment of 100 Switchblade drones has arrived in the region. He said the total number of the dive-bombing armed drones that the U.S. will send to Ukraine will be in the hundreds.
US Is Ready to Help India Diversify Energy Imports
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Biden conveyed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a candid discussion Monday about Ukraine that the U.S. is ready to help India diversify its energy imports, which would make it less reliant on Russia.
“The president has made clear that he does not believe it’s in India’s interest to accelerate or increase imports of Russian energy and other commodities,” Psaki told reporters.
Italy to Buy More Natural Gas From Algeria
Italy will boost natural gas imports from Algeria to reduce its dependence on Russian gas following the invasion of Ukraine.
Eni SpA and Algeria’s state energy firm Sonatrach signed a deal during Italian prime Minister Mario Draghi’s visit to Algiers on Monday. Sonatrach will increase export volumes to Italy from this year and could eventually replace Russia as Italy’s largest gas supplier.
Germany to Send More Military Support, Scholz Says
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Berlin will send more military support to Ukraine, without giving any details. “With the decision I made, Germany broke with a long tradition of not supplying weapons to a country like Ukraine,” Scholz told reporters Monday at a news conference with Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama.
The chancellor pointed to German weapon deliveries such as anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and ammunition over the past weeks. “And we will continue to support Ukraine,” he said. “We’ll do this in close cooperation with all our friends, with whom we coordinate on this. There will be no going it alone, but only joint and carefully considered actions.”
Mayor Says More Than 10,000 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 have brought mobile crematoria to the city to dispose of the bodies. He accused them of refusing to allow humanitarian convoys into the city to disguise the carnage.
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 II,” 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 Need Time Before 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 has no qualms on the issue.
Sanctions to Hit Growth, Russia Will Recover, Nabiullina Says
Russia has enough reserves in gold and yuan after Western sanctions froze its access to dollar and euro holdings, 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 U.S. and its allies imposed sanctions that excluded energy sales. The Bank of Russia also stopped publishing monthly trade data, it said.
Several EU Members Urge Oil Embargo, Officials Say
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 close-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.
Today, my visit in Ukraine started in Borodyanka.
No words could possibly describe what I saw and felt here. pic.twitter.com/Z1Bz0FBrhT
— Ingrida Šimonytė (@IngridaSimonyte) April 11, 2022
Ukraine Seeks Russia 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 Zelenskiy.
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.
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 44-year-old president an advantage heading into the final phase of the campaign, Le Pen has been gaining momentum. BM