UKRAINE UPDATE: 20 APRIL 2022
Russia attacks across Donbas in new offensive; Biden holds call with key allies
Russian forces attacked all along the line of contact in the Donbas region, according to Ukraine’s army. President Volodymyr Zelensky said Moscow had launched a new campaign focused on conquering the area and asked legislators to extend martial law.
US President Joe Biden held a call with key allies on Tuesday to discuss Ukraine. The meeting comes amid efforts to coordinate supplies of heavy weapons to Kyiv to counter the Russian push, while European governments tentatively begin reopening their diplomatic missions in the country.
Canada sanctioned Russian central bank chief Elvira Nabiullina, the first time a country has added the well-respected governor to a sanctions list. UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for a four-day Holy Week pause in fighting beginning on Thursday to coincide with the Orthodox Christian Easter.
- Russia learns to roll with economic punches as shock wears off
- IMF slashes growth outlook on Russia invasion
- Europe expects to pay bulk of Ukraine’s reconstruction costs
- Russian crude shipments shrink with Asia-bound cargoes dwindling
- Oil may hit $185 if EU speedily bans Russian oil, JPMorgan says
UN chief seeks four-day pause for holy week
The UN’s Guterres called for the four-day pause in fighting beginning on Thursday to coincide with Orthodox Christian Easter, which is celebrated in Russia and Ukraine. He said the UN is submitting detailed plans to both sides about potential aid deliveries.
The pause would provide the necessary conditions for the safe passage of civilians who want to leave the war zone and to allow for “the safe delivery of life-saving humanitarian aid to people in the hardest-hit areas such as Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk,” Guterres said.
Russia’s central bank governor sanctioned by Canada
Canada sanctioned Russian central bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina and 13 other “close associates of the Russian regime” in a fresh round of punishments.
It marks the first time that the highly regarded Nabiullina has shown up on a country’s sanctions list related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Bloomberg reported last month that Nabiullina had sought to resign after Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion, only to be told by the president to stay.
Putin’s daughters Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova are also on the list of new sanctions, as is billionaire Igor Makarov, the largest shareholder in Calgary-based natural gas producer Spartan Delta.
Czechs to repair Ukrainian heavy weapons
The Czech Defence Ministry says the country’s arms manufacturers will repair Ukrainian heavy weaponry damaged in the war. Under the first contract, privately-held Czechoslovak Group will mend T-64 tanks. The Czech Republic has been among the most active providers of weapons to Ukraine.
Germany ‘wants to meet Ukraine’s weapons demands’
Germany wants to satisfy Ukraine’s demands for heavy weapons to help fend off Russia’s attack and is considering supplying equipment including artillery, air-defence systems and armoured personnel carriers, Tobias Lindner, a deputy foreign minister, said during a virtual George Washington University event.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz has come under intense pressure, including from members of his own ruling coalition, to deliver heavy weapons such as tanks to Ukraine, on top of equipment like anti-tank rockets and protective gear. Scholz’s caution is undermining Germany’s image abroad as a reliable ally, according to Anton Hofreiter, who chairs the lower House of Parliament’s Europe committee and, like Lindner, is a member of the Greens party.
Zelensky asks legislators to extend martial law
Zelensky submitted a draft bill to extend martial law in Ukraine by 30 days, citing the ongoing invasion. The current state of martial law was expected to conclude on 25 April.
SAP shutting down Russian operations
Software maker SAP is taking steps towards an “orderly exit” of its operations in Russia with plans to stop offering support for on-premise products and wind down cloud operations. The Germany-based company has operated for more than 30 years in Russia, but is now joining other technology firms in departing.
Ukraine raises $123m in war bond sale
Ukraine has raised 3.6 billion hryvnia ($123-million) in its eighth auction of domestic bonds to support the defence against Russia’s invasion, the Ministry of Finance said.
Ukraine says Russia attacking all along Donbas contact line
Russia has launched attacks all along the contact line in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which together make up the Donbas, Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said.
Russian troops are trying to break through defences to encircle Ukrainian troops and establish full control of Mariupol, he said, adding the surge will attempt to take over both regions and secure a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula.
Netherlands to send armoured vehicles to Ukraine
The Netherlands will send heavier military equipment, including armoured vehicles, to Ukraine in collaboration with other countries, Dutch Defence Minister Kajsa Ollongren said on Twitter. Ollongren said the war is entering a new phase with the Russian offensive in Donbas.
Russia expels Belgian, Dutch diplomats in tit-for-tat response
Russia expelled 21 Belgian diplomats and 15 from the Netherlands, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said in two statements, in retaliation for previously announced measures against Russian envoys.
The Foreign Ministry also summoned Luxembourg’s ambassador to warn that Russia may respond in kind to the expulsion of its envoy.
Russia rolls with economic punches as shock wears off
Russia’s economic crisis has lost some of its sting, buying more time for President Vladimir Putin at home as his military presses the new offensive.
Even with a recession looming and inflation approaching 20%, the economy has for the moment defied the most dire forecasts. JPMorgan Chase’s economists have seen enough upbeat signs to halve their forecast for a first-quarter contraction in gross domestic product to 5%.
The bleakest scenario hasn’t materialised in large part because Russia contained the spread of financial contagion with stiff capital controls while plentiful petrodollars helped the rouble recoup losses and put a leash on inflation.
EU eyes June for preliminary opinion on Ukraine’s candidacy
The European Union is seeking to provide its opinion in June on Ukraine’s bid to become a candidate to join the bloc, paving the way for a possible decision by leaders at a 23-24 June summit, according to people familiar with the matter.
The move could complicate efforts to reach a diplomatic solution since Russia has frequently cited Kyiv’s decision to forge closer ties with the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation as a rationale for its invasion of Ukraine.
Polish prime minister visits Lviv
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visited Lviv on Tuesday, the first foreign leader to go to the city in western Ukraine after it was hit by a deadly missile strike.
Morawiecki opened a facility for internally displaced people, he wrote on his Twitter account.
UK Cabinet briefed on Russian troop deployment
The UK Cabinet was briefed on Tuesday that Russia’s fresh deployment of troops is being conducted in a “piecemeal fashion”, suggesting Putin’s commanders have not learnt the lessons so far of the conflict in northern Ukraine, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said.
Spokesman Max Blain told reporters a senior security official said Russia would exploit its “troop number advantage” but that is unlikely to be “decisive” in the Donbas region. The official also reported “poor Russian morale” with “claims of some soldiers and even units refusing to fight”.
G20 finance chiefs to single out Russia for growth fallout
The meeting of the Group of 20 finance chiefs this week will include Russian representatives and is intended to send a clear message that the Kremlin is fully responsible for the global economic consequences of its war on Ukraine, a German government official said.
An agreement has emerged that Russia shouldn’t be able to dictate the G20 format or the agenda of the upcoming meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors, the German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Halliburton writes off all Ukrainian assets amid war
Halliburton wrote off all of its Ukrainian assets seven weeks into Russia’s invasion in a year when the world’s biggest fracker is forecast to reap the largest profit increase in more than half a decade.
The company took a pre-tax charge of $22-million for its Ukrainian exposure, which included $16-million in receivables, according to a statement on Tuesday. Halliburton was the first major oilfield-services contractor to announce plans to halt work in Russia in response to Putin’s invasion.
Russian equities fall for second day
The benchmark MOEX Index declined for a second day, as Russia’s military pressed on with its offensive in southern and eastern Ukraine.
The index fell by as much as 3.2%, led by Lukoil, Sberbank and Gazprom, adding to declines of 3.4% on Monday.
Henkel to exit Russia
German chemicals maker Henkel will exit its business activities in Russia. Its 2,500 employees in the country will continue to be employed and paid, Henkel said in a statement.
Spanish premier to visit Zelensky in Kyiv
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will meet Zelensky in Kyiv “in the coming days”, El Pais newspaper and public broadcaster TVE reported, citing unidentified sources in Sanchez’s office. Sanchez announced on Monday that Spain would reopen its embassy in the Ukrainian capital.
US provided most Ukraine support
The US has provided the equivalent of $8.2-billion to Ukraine since the Russian invasion, making it the country’s biggest supporter, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy’s Ukraine Support Tracker.
Greece seizes Russian tanker
Greece has seized a Russian tanker off the island of Evia as it seeks to enforce European sanctions against Russia, a shipping ministry official said, requesting anonymity as the situation is ongoing. The tanker’s name is Pegas and it carries a Russian flag.
Bank of Russia to sue over reserves
The Bank of Russia will challenge in court US and European sanctions freezing its reserves, Governor Elvira Nabiullina said on Tuesday, according to Interfax. The measures have cut off access to about half of Russia’s $600-billion in foreign exchange and gold holdings.
Stellantis suspends production in Russia
Netherlands-based carmaker Stellantis has suspended manufacturing operations at its factory in Kaluga, near Moscow.
Stellantis had said the factory, which makes 11,000 commercial vans a year, was operating at a low level and may have to shut because of logistical and supply problems. The maker of brands including Jeep, Peugeot and Fiat had already halted exports and imports to and from Russia last month.
Putin to meet big business leaders
Putin will meet executives and owners of Russian big business on Wednesday, according to people familiar with the plans. No agenda has been announced, they said.
Putin told top officials on Monday that the West’s “economic blitzkrieg” didn’t work, while over the weekend he signed off on legal amendments that require Russian companies to delist their overseas shares.
The change could force tycoons including Russia’s richest man, Vladimir Potanin, as well as steel billionaires Vladimir Lisin and Alexey Mordashov, to reconfigure the ownership structure of businesses they hold in part via overseas shares paying foreign-currency dividends.
European gas falls to lowest since invasion
European natural gas extended its decline to the lowest level since the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine, amid warmer weather and signs from the Kremlin that payment for the fuel in roubles isn’t expected until next month.
Benchmark Dutch gas futures fell as much as 12% to €84 per megawatt-hour, the lowest level since 23 February — the day before Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.
Donbas shelling halts evacuations for third day
No humanitarian corridors will open for the third consecutive day on Tuesday because of intensive shelling in Donbas, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.
France’s finance minister urges Russia oil embargo
France is pushing for a European embargo on Russian oil imports despite hesitation from some countries, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said, adding that Russia’s assault on Donbas could convince some governments that the move was more necessary now “than ever”.
“If we haven’t got there today it isn’t because France doesn’t want to, it’s because certain European partners are still hesitating,” he said, adding that it may take a “few weeks” to achieve consensus.
Russian navy moves back from Ukraine
Russia’s navy has moved almost 200km from Ukraine’s shores, according to the Ukrainian military. That’s after the recent sinking of its flagship Black Fleet missile cruiser Moskva. Russian ships are still impeding Ukrainian navigation, it said.
At the same time, Russian troops are enforcing air defences near Kharkiv in the northeast, while local officials said there were explosions overnight in the Dnipro region in central Ukraine and Mykolayiv in the south. DM