Biden pledges $800m more in military aid; US treasury secretary warns China

Biden pledges $800m more in military aid; US treasury secretary warns China
A handout photo made available by the Polish president's Press Office shows the president of Lithuania Gitanas Nauseda (third, left), the president of Poland Andrzej Duda (second, right), the president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky (right), the president of Latvia Egils Levits (second, left) and the president of Estonia Alar Karis (left) in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 13 April 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / JAKUB SZYMCZUK / KPRP HANDOUT)

US President Joe Biden announced $800-million in additional military aid for Ukraine, a day after accusing Vladimir Putin’s forces of committing genocide in Ukraine. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned China about its alignment with the Russian president’s government.

Russia’s military committed war crimes by targeting civilians, according to a report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, while the siege of Mariupol has killed more than 20,000 people, the city’s mayor said. 

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich had more than $7-billion of assets frozen in the English Channel tax haven of Jersey as the UK added 206 people to its sanctions list. EU member states agreed to financing for additional military aid to Ukraine, while the presidents of Poland and the three Baltic states arrived in Kyiv in a show of support. 

Key developments

 Biden pledges $800m more in weapons for Ukraine 

Biden said he is authorising “an additional $800-million in weapons, ammunition, and other security assistance to Ukraine.

“This new package of assistance will contain many of the highly effective weapons systems we have already provided and new capabilities tailored to the wider assault we expect Russia to launch in eastern Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement after a phone call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. 

“These new capabilities include artillery systems, artillery rounds, and armoured personnel carriers. I have also approved the transfer of additional helicopters.”

France’s Le Pen calls for eventual Nato-Russia alliance 

French presidential hopeful Marine le Pen said she wants Nato to enter an alliance with Russia once the war in Ukraine ends.

The far-right leader told reporters France should exit Nato’s military command but that she would pursue collaboration. She also agrees with sending “defence equipment” to Ukraine but cautioned that she doesn’t want France to deliver weapons directly because that would make the country a co-belligerent.

Zelensky talks of ‘war crimes’ in a call with Biden 

Zelensky said in a tweet that in a call on Wednesday that’s part of their “constant dialogue,” he and Biden “assessed Russian war crimes” and discussed an “additional package of defensive and possible macro-financial aid” as well as agreeing to “enhance sanctions”.

The White House said only that Biden contacted the Ukrainian president “to update him on ongoing US support for Ukraine” in a 58-minute call. The US is preparing a military assistance package of roughly $750-million for Ukraine, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday night. 

Read more: US prepares massive new surge of military aid to Ukraine

Surging food prices due to war risk global unrest, says UN 

Surging prices of food driven by the war in Ukraine risk driving social unrest across the developing world, according to a new report by the United Nations’ Global Crisis Response Group.

Food prices are now 34% higher than at this time last year, the report found, citing disruptions to agricultural production in Russia and Ukraine – both major producers of staples such as wheat, barley, maize and sunflower oil – as well as pandemic-driven supply chain disruptions.

According to the report, 1.7 billion people across 107 economies are “severely exposed” to a combination of rising food prices, increasing energy prices, and tightening financial conditions. Of those at risk, 553 million are already poor, and 215 million are already undernourished, the report said.

Russian forces hobbled by morale problem, says US 

Russian forces continue to face major morale problems even as they prepare helicopters, artillery and troops for a renewed push in the east of Ukraine, a senior US defence official told reporters.

Javelin missiles and other forms of military assistance continue to flow into Ukraine through airlift deliveries and ground movement, the official said. The official added that there are still no indications that China has offered tangible lethal or non-lethal assistance to Russia.

Oil extends advance above $100 on IEA forecast 

Oil edged above $100 as traders assessed a mixed bag of indicators from the International Energy Agency, which lowered its global-growth estimates because of China’s renewed lockdowns but also showed Opec and its members struggled to increase supply. 

Yellen warns China on Russia, hints at consequences 

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned China about its alignment with Russia, suggesting potential economic consequences may follow depending on how it approaches President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

“The world’s attitude towards China and its willingness to embrace further economic integration may well be affected by China’s reaction to our call for resolute action on Russia,” she said. President Xi Jinping’s government has refrained from joining international sanctions, while calling for respect for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Ukrainian wheat exports seen well below forecast 

Ukraine’s wheat exports may fall this season to 18.5 million tons, versus 25.3 million tons forecast before the war, Roman Rusakov, a representative of the Agriculture Ministry, said at a conference in Prague. Corn sales could drop by almost half to 17 million tons he said.

Ukraine doesn’t plan to restrict exports of barley or sunflower seed, and wheat exports will be allowed under licences, Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotski said.

More than 20,000 killed in Mariupol, says mayor 

More than 20,000 have been killed in Russia’s siege of Mariupol, Mayor Vadym Boychenko said on Ukrainian television. About 150,000 of the city’s residents have evacuated, while as many as 120,000 are still waiting to leave along with another 60,000 in surrounding villages, Boychenko said, citing information that he received from the leaders of the city’s different districts.

About 150,000 of the city’s residents have evacuated, while as many as 120,000 are still waiting to leave along with another 60,000 in surrounding villages, Boychenko, who remains in Mariupol, said.




EU to finance more military aid to Ukraine 

The EU signed off on a third tranche of financing for member states to send military equipment to Ukraine. The bloc will add another €500-million to the resources already mobilised under the European Peace Facility to help Ukraine’s defence effort, bringing the total to €1.5-billion, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The next weeks will be decisive,” Borrell said. “As Russia prepares for an offensive on the east of Ukraine, it is crucial that we continue and step up our military support to Ukraine to defend its territory and population and prevent further suffering.”

Abramovich has $7bn of assets frozen in Jersey 

More than $7-billion of assets belonging to Roman Abramovich were frozen by authorities in the English Channel tax haven of Jersey, in the latest crackdown on offshore wealth held by sanctioned Russian billionaires.

The Jersey Royal Court imposed a freezing order on the assets, the local government said in a statement on Wednesday. At the same time, police executed a search warrant on premises “suspected to be connected” to him. Abramovich was sanctioned by the EU and the UK last month.

Baltic and Polish leaders visit Kyiv 

The leaders of Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania visited Ukraine, the Polish president’s office said on Twitter. 

The show of support follows visits of other leaders to the Ukrainian capital, including UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and various EU politicians. 

Gazprom unit says it won’t return to Russian control 

A group of Gazprom companies temporarily under the control of the German government will not return to the ownership of the Russian gas giant, according to its trading unit.

Gazprom views the separation as permanent and has already asked the companies to stop using its branding and trademarks, London-based Gazprom Marketing & Trading said in an email to employees seen by Bloomberg News.

The German energy regulator this month seized control of Gazprom Germania – which owns energy supplier Wingas, a gas storage firm and the UK trading arm – to ensure security of supply. 

OSCE finds human rights violations by Russia 

An OSCE report found “clear patterns” suggesting Russia violated international human rights law and committed war crimes in Ukraine.

The report, which focused on the first five weeks of the war, looked into allegations of targeted killings, abductions, bombings and sieges of cities, as well as Russia and Ukraine’s conduct during the hostilities. The acts probably meet the classification of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population, it said.

The document, presented to the OSCE’s Permanent Council on Wednesday, said violations had been committed mostly in areas under Russian control. Putin on Tuesday denied Russia committed atrocities and called claims of war crimes in the town of Bucha “fake”.




JPMorgan results marred by $524m loss tied to war in Europe 

JPMorgan Chase’s first-quarter results were marred by a $524-million loss tied to market fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Still, fixed-income and trading revenue both exceeded analysts’ forecasts, bringing net income to $8.28-billion, beating estimates.

UK adds billionaires to sanctions list 

The UK government added 206 people, including Russian billionaires Vagit Alekperov and Vladimir Evtushenkov, to its sanctions list as it ratchets up pressure on businesses that it says support the Kremlin in its war against Ukraine. 

The newly announced measures target Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, six business tycoons and family members and associates of businessmen who have already been sanctioned, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said in a statement. 

Alekperov is the chief executive officer of Lukoil, Russia’s biggest non-state oil company, and worth $17.7-billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Evtushenkov heads Sistema, a holding company. His wealth is estimated at $2.2-billion. 

Sweden’s Social Democrats change tack on Nato 

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and other Social Democratic Party leaders will support a bid to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization by June, Svenska Dagbladet reported, citing party sources it didn’t identify.

The party has been a long-time holdout in the debate on whether Sweden should join Nato, officially opposing an entry and arguing that any application should have strong support among lawmakers. Andersson declined to confirm the report when asked at a press conference in Stockholm.

Finland has also seen a tectonic shift in attitudes toward Nato membership following the invasion of Ukraine and is set to kick off a process that is likely to end in joining the military alliance. Russia has repeatedly warned both states will face consequences if they do. 

Bulgaria to evacuate ship’s crew stranded in Mariupol 

Bulgaria is evacuating the crew of a bulk carrier that has been stranded in Mariupol since the beginning of the war, Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said. Fourteen Bulgarian sailors and one Ukrainian are travelling to Donetsk and then on to Bulgaria, while three crew members and the ship’s captain will remain onboard. 

Zelensky asks Estonian officials to join war crimes task force 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited Estonian officials to join an initiative to investigate war crimes in Ukraine and to find EU instruments to bring deported Ukrainians back home.

Netherlands probes 20 yachts related to Russian sanctions  

The Netherlands has put a total of 20 yachts under surveillance due to sanctions against Russia and Belarus, according to a statement by the Dutch government.

Of the total, 14 are under construction, two are in storage and four are under maintenance, according to the statement. Two of the yachts that have been placed under stricter surveillance by the Dutch customs service are linked to a person on the European sanctions list. The shipyard of concern has been ordered to freeze the two vessels.




Finland cuts GDP forecast on sanctions sting  

This year, Finland’s economy looks set to grow at half the pace estimated before its neighbour Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine, according to the finance ministry.

Gross domestic product will probably expand just 1.5%, down from a previous projection of 3%, as sanctions sap exports and manufacturing output, the ministry forecast in a report published on Wednesday. The economy will grow at a similar pace through 2024, it said, assuming sanctions stay in place.

Read more: Finland cuts GDP growth forecast as Russia sanctions sting

China’s exports to Russia slump  

China’s exports to Russia fell in March after the invasion of Ukraine even as shipments to other nations grew quickly, indicating Chinese companies are likely being cautious about trading with Russia. 

Chinese firms sold $3.8-billion worth of goods to Russia in March, official data showed on Wednesday, a 7.7% drop from a year earlier. That was the lowest amount since May 2020, when global trade was badly affected by the outbreak of Covid-19. China has said it will continue normal trade relations with Russia. 

Ukraine captures oligarch ally of Putin, offers him for swap  

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky offered to swap an oligarch and close friend to Putin, Viktor Medvedchuk, who was detained on Tuesday after he escaped house arrest following Russia’s invasion.

“I offer the Russian Federation to swap your guy for our boys and girls, who are currently being held prisoners,” Zelensky said in a video address late on Tuesday.

Medvedchuk, a leader of Ukraine’s pro-Russian opposition, was detained last year over accusations of state treason and was put under house arrest, but he managed to escape at the start of the war. 

Top oil merchant will stop trading Russian crude 

Volumes of Russian oil handled by Vitol “will diminish significantly in the second quarter as current term contractual obligations decline”, a company spokesperson said by email. “We anticipate this will be completed by end of 2022.”

BP, Shell and Exxon Mobi earlier announced plans to abandon their stakes in investments related to Russia as they take steps to halt dealings with the nation. Refiners in India and China have continued to purchase Russian oil cargoes, either directly from Moscow or via traders. 

Separately, Russia is ready to sell crude oil and petroleum products to “friendly countries” within any price range, Izvestia reports, citing an interview with Energy Minister Nikolay Shulginov.  

Biden says Putin has committed ‘genocide’  

Biden for the first time accused Russia of committing genocide in Ukraine. Speaking at an event in Iowa on Tuesday laying out steps to lower fuel costs that have surged during the war, Biden described Russia’s actions in the conflict as a “genocide”. He later stood by his comments but said lawyers would ultimately make the official determination. 

“Yes, I called it genocide because it has become clearer and clearer that Putin is just trying to wipe out the idea of being able to be Ukrainian,” the president told reporters before departing Iowa. “The evidence is mounting.” DM


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