Ukraine Update: US, EU to Send More Arms; Yellen Warns China
President Joe Biden announced $800 million in additional US military aid for Ukraine and the European Union agreed to provide more cash for weapons, as Russia repositions its forces for renewed attacks in eastern and southern parts of its neighbour.
A report by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe said Russia’s military committed war crimes by targeting civilians, while the mayor of Mariupol said the siege of the city has left more than 20,000 people dead.
The EU warned member states that complying with President Vladimir Putin’s demand for Russian gas imports to be paid for in rubles would violate sanctions. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen cautioned China that it risks paying an economic price for its alignment with Russia.
Australia Sanctions 14 Russian Enterprises
The Australian government imposed targeted financial sanctions on 14 Russian state-owned enterprises of strategic and economic importance to Russia, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne said in a statement. The firms include transportation company Kamaz, shipping companies SEVMASH and United Shipbuilding Corporation, as well as Russian Railways.
EU Says Rubles-for-Gas Violates Sanctions
The EU’s executive arm said that complying with Putin’s demand for Russian gas imports to be paid for in rubles would violate sanctions imposed on Moscow. Most EU member states have said they won’t pay rubles for gas. Russia has threatened to halt deliveries if buyers don’t accept the new rules.
Odesa Governor Says Russian Warship Hit by Missiles
Maksym Marchenko said on his Telegram account the warship Moskva was struck with anti-ship missiles and was “seriously damaged”. He did not say where the reported attack occurred in the Black Sea or how many missiles were fired at the Moskva — a flagship cruiser that gained notoriety in the early days of the conflict as one of two warships that confronted a small contingent of Ukrainian guards on Snake Island in the Black Sea.
The Ukrainian armed forces said on Telegram only that “something” had happened to the ship. Interfax, citing Russia’s Defence Ministry, said the Moska had been damaged when ammunition detonated during a fire. The crew was evacuated, according to the Interfax report, which did not say how the fire started.
Russia Sanctions Members of U.S. Congress
Russia is introducing retaliatory sanctions against 398 members of the U.S. House of Representatives, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It had previously sanctioned other members including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The measures come in response to those imposed by the Biden administration on March 24 against delegates of Russia’s Duma. Russia is also imposing counter-measures against senators of Canada’s Parliament.
Biden Pledges $800 Million More in Weapons
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 Zelenskiy. “These new capabilities include artillery systems, artillery rounds, and armored 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.
Surging Food Prices Due to War Risk Global Unrest, UN Says
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, U.S. Says
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 no indications that China has offered tangible lethal or non-lethal assistance to Russia.
Yellen Warns China on Russia, Hints at Consequences
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned China that it may pay an economic price for its alignment with Russia over the war in 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 sanctions on Russia, 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 to 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 almost half to 17 million tons he said.
More Than 20,000 Killed in Mariupol, Mayor Says
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 euros ($541 million) to the resources already mobilised under the European Peace Facility to help Ukraine’s defense effort, bringing the total to 1.5 billion euros, 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 $7 Billion 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 U.K. 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 from U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson and various EU politicians.
Gazprom Unit Says It Won’t Return to Russian Control
A group of Gazprom PJSC 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 GmbH – which owns energy supplier Wingas GmbH, 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 likely 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 denied Russia committed atrocities and called claims of war crimes in the town of Bucha “fake”.
UK Adds Billionaires to Sanctions List
The U.K. 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.
Alekperov is the chief executive officer of Lukoil PJSC, Russia’s biggest non-state oil company, and worth $17.7 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Evtushenkov heads Sistema PJSC, 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. BM