UKRAINE UPDATE: 21 APRIL 2022
US’s Yellen leads G20 walkout on Russian officials; Putin says ‘military operation’ will continue
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned again that his country wouldn’t cede territory in negotiations with Russia, even as Moscow’s forces step up their offensive in the east.
Ukrainian defenders are still holed up at a sprawling steel plant on the outskirts of the port city of Mariupol, warning they are in the final stages of their defence.
Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his “military operation” would continue, saying the goal was to protect the population of Donbas in Ukraine’s east. Ukraine and other nations have accused Russian forces of committing war crimes by executing unarmed civilians during the conflict.
The Biden administration is preparing to announce another $800-million in weapons and support for Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen led a walkout of officials from a Group of 20 meeting in Washington when Russia’s representative began speaking.
- Kremlin insiders are alarmed over growing cost of Putin’s war
- Germany to support Ukraine with artillery ammunition, training
- Finnish lawmakers begin Nato debate as Russia risk weighed
- Aeroflot may buy Airbus jets, tapping EU sanctions workaround
- Ukrainian troops risk being encircled in new Russian offensive
Zelensky calls Russian attacks on Mariupol ‘terrorism’
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called Russia’s actions toward Mariupol “terrorism”. In an interview with French TV, he said that 95% of the coastal city had been destroyed.
He said Ukrainians aren’t able to leave the city to safety via proposed humanitarian corridors. An evacuation effort failed on Wednesday amid continued Russian shelling.
Lavrov discusses Mariupol with Turkish counterpart
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the situation in Mariupol by phone with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, according to a statement on the website of Russia’s Foreign Ministry.
Russia repeated that its negotiations with Ukraine “depend entirely on Kyiv’s readiness to take into account our legitimate demands”, the statement said.
Poland asks US to speed up delivery of weapons
Poland asked the US to accelerate the delivery of military hardware including Abrams tanks and Patriot missile systems, Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said after meeting at the Pentagon with his US counterpart, Lloyd Austin. Poland seeks to purchase more equipment such as helicopters and drones and plans to file a letter of request to US producers in a “short time”, Blaszczak said.
UN’s Guterres seeks meetings with Putin, Zelensky
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres delivered a letter to Russia’s mission on Tuesday requesting a meeting with Putin, according to the UN chief’s office. Separately, he delivered a similar letter to the Ukrainian mission asking for a meeting with Zelensky, as he seeks to mediate between the warring sides.
Guterres, who has mostly tried not to alienate any of the world’s top powers, took an unusually strong stance against Russia’s invasion at the start of the war. His position was praised by Western leaders, but may have alienated Putin, depriving him of a mediator’s role in the conflict.
Yellen leads G20 walkout as Russian officials speak
Multiple finance chiefs and central bank governors including US Treasury Secretary Yellen and Ukrainian Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko walked out of a Group of 20 meeting in Washington when Russia’s representative started speaking, people familiar with the situation said.
Some officials who were virtual participants also turned their cameras off when Russia’s representative spoke, the people said, declining to be identified.
Russia tests ballistic missile amid Putin praise
Russia’s Defence Ministry released video of a Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile being test-fired from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the northern Arkhangelsk region, Tass said. The ministry previously showed videos of the missile in 2018.
“This unique weapon will strengthen the military potential of our armed forces, will reliably guarantee Russia’s security against outside threats and force those who in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric try to menace our country to think again,” Putin said on state TV.
IMF urges nations to help with Ukraine financing
The International Monetary Fund called on nations to provide grants and donations to fill a $5-billion monthly financing need for Ukraine, while signalling that more of the institution’s own lending will need to wait for when there is more stability.
The IMF last month approved a $1.4-billion emergency loan for Ukraine — the maximum it can provide with few conditions based on the fund’s rules. Ukraine cancelled an existing loan that had $2.2-billion left to disburse but was subject to reforms such as tackling corruption.
Derivatives panel rules on Russian debt default
The Credit Derivatives Determinations Committee said a “potential failure-to-pay event” occurred for credit-default swaps when Russia made two dollar-bond payments in roubles after foreign banks declined to process US currency transfers. The nation could still avert a default if it pays bondholders in dollars before a 30-day grace period ends.
UK plans further Russia defence sanctions
The fresh penalties will come this week, a person familiar with the matter said. The UK will also target more Russian tycoons and their associates, the person said. The measures will add to sanctions that already target more than 1,300 Russian individuals, companies and banks.
Opinion on Ukraine EU membership ‘due by end-June’
“We will have this opinion of the commission by the end of June and it will be my responsibility to assess when I can put this point on the agenda of the European Council,” Charles Michel, who chairs meetings of EU leaders, said at a news conference in Kyiv with President Volodymyr Zelensky. EU leaders next meet on June 23 and 24.
Michel said he was personally convinced that “sooner or later we will target oil and gas”, as the EU prepares a sixth package of sanctions against Russia.
Biden expected to send Ukraine $800m more in arms
The money will come from the president’s draw-down authority to send stockpiles of weapons to a US ally in an emergency, according to people familiar with the matter. Its contents are expected to be similar to the last package of aid, according to the people. That package included artillery systems, armoured personnel carriers and the transfer of additional helicopters.
Ukraine won’t give up territory, says foreign minister
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Bulgaria’s BNT TV that Ukraine would not cede on territory in any negotiations with Russia. “We won’t allow the Russian army to stay in the territories that have been occupied since 24 February; these are absolute red lines,” Kuleba said via a translator.
Kuleba met government officials and lawmakers in Sofia, seeking military aid. Bulgaria has so far refused to provide arms to Ukraine as the pro-Russian Socialists in the ruling coalition have threatened to leave the government if that happened.
Germany rejects rouble payments for gas
Companies buying Russian natural gas should not have to set up rouble accounts to pay for it, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said, pushing back against a demand made last month by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Contracts are contracts,” Lindner said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in Washington. “Contracts are based on dollars and euros and so private-sector companies should pay in dollars or euros.” EU lawyers drafted a preliminary finding that the mechanism Putin wants would violate EU sanctions, raising the prospect of a de facto embargo on Russian gas.
Russian finance minister to participate in G20
Anton Siluanov will take part in the meetings in Washington this week via video link, according to two people familiar with the matter. The meetings will include sessions on the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Ukraine’s finance minister will attend the opening session of the event, according to a senior Treasury official. Secretary Janet Yellen plans to skip some meetings due to Russia’s involvement, the official said.
US, China defence officials hold rare phone call
US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Chinese Defence Minister Wei Fenghe about the conflict in Ukraine and, more broadly, defence ties and regional security issues, according to a US statement. It was the first time they’d chatted since the Biden administration took office, AP reported.
A Chinese statement confirmed the Ukraine discussion, without providing details. In the statement, China said it also urged the US to stop military provocations at sea and refrain from using Ukraine to “smear” China.
Austin will host Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Błaszczak at the Pentagon on Wednesday.
Ukrainian army is counterattacking in Kharkiv region
Ukraine’s military is mounting a counterattack in the northeastern Kharkiv region, liberating some towns even as Russian forces attempt to advance in the area, Presidential spokesman Oleksiy Arestovych said in a televised briefing.
Russian troops were storming the towns of Popasna and Rubizhen in the Luhansk region and “attempted to launch a quiet offensive” in the Zaporizhzhia region, he said. The battle continues at the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol, Arestovych said.
Ukraine studies Russia’s latest proposal in talks
Ukraine is studying Russia’s latest proposal in peace talks, a senior official said, without indicating whether or when progress might be expected.
The documents submitted by Russia came in response to drafts that Ukraine offered at the last round of in-person talks on March 29 in Istanbul, according to presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. Since then, with talks continuing via video link, top officials from both sides have said the negotiations were at a dead end.
Earlier on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow had submitted a draft document, but he declined to provide details. “The ball is in their court,” he said. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, told Bulgarian public BNT TV channel the country would not cede ground on territory. “
Zelensky touts Macron ties, sees potential with Le Pen
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he has a relationship that he wouldn’t want to lose with French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, who is seeking re-election in Sunday’s runoff ballot against the right-wing candidate and Putin ally Marine le Pen.
But, speaking in a video address ahead of the last debate between Macron and Le Pen, the Ukrainian leader left the door open to building bonds with Le Pen. “As long as she was to understand that she was wrong” to speak to Putin, “our relationship could change,” Zelensky said.
Wartsila books just under $220m writeoff on Russia
Finland’s Wartsila, a maker of ship engines and power plants, will make the write off on its assets and business operations in Russia in the first quarter.
Maintaining activities in Russia is not viable, the company said. It has therefore decided to further downscale operations there, having already suspended all deliveries, sales, orders, and bidding to Russia. Russia-related activities accounted for about 5% of its net sales in 2021.
UN says five million Ukrainians have fled abroad due to war
More than five million people have fled Ukraine, the United Nations refugee agency said. Among its neighbours, Poland has accepted more than 2.8 million people, Romania 757,047, Hungary 471,080, Moldova 426,964 and Slovakia 342,813. Russia took in 549,805 people and Belarus 23,759, the UNHCR said.
Russia offers oil in a rush, hinting at trade impact
Russia’s state oil-producing giant Rosneft surprised traders in Europe and Asia with offers to sell large amounts of crude quickly, as well as setting out significant changes to the payment process for some cargoes.
The move is another sign of disruption to some of the firm’s operations following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. There has been a growing pressure in Europe to ban Russian oil imports, creating a potential impetus to get purchases finalised before any such step is taken.
Kazakhstan sees main oil export route fully restored this week
Kazakhstan expects to resume full operations on its main oil export route via Russia in the coming days after storms curtailed shipments. The central Asian country was forced to reduce deliveries through the Caspian Pipeline Consortium pipeline late last month following damage to moorings at the Black Sea port where it terminates.
The route is expected to be fully up and running again later this week, Energy Minister Bolat Akchulakov said, according to his press office.
Nato-linked centre to hold ‘live-fire’ cyber drills
The world’s largest “live-fire” security exercise will involve 2,000 people from 32 countries, according to Jaak Tarien, director of the Nato Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia. Some 8,000 real attacks will be carried out this week on computers simulating military, civilian and financial IT networks.
The exercise is intended to boost the skills of cybersecurity experts defending national IT systems and critical infrastructure under real-time attacks amid Russia’s war against Ukraine. Tarien added that “Ukraine is surprising Russia” with its cyberdefence capabilities.
Turkey nears LNG loan in shift from Russian natural gas
Turkey and Deutsche Bank are in the final stages of talks for a pioneering €1-billion to finance liquefied natural gas purchases that will reduce the country’s reliance on Russian imports.
State-owned pipeline operator Botas will use the money to buy LNG from US producers and from traders in Europe, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. The transaction marks the company’s first loan for LNG imports and paves the way for similar deals that will allow Botas to diversify supplies currently dominated by Russia and Iran.
Germany to provide rockets, artillery training
Germany will provide Ukraine with ammunition and training for heavy artillery to help fend off Russian forces, according to a senior government official.
The training and ammunition are for the PzH 2000, a self-propelled, rapid-fire artillery system, which the Netherlands is sending to Ukraine, said the official. The training could be provided in Poland or Germany, but not in Ukraine because of ongoing attacks from Russia, the official said.
Finnish legislators to debate Nato bid
Finland’s Parliament is gearing up for a security policy debate that’s expected to pave the way to an application to join Nato, with lawmakers weighing how neighbouring Russia’s attack on Ukraine will reflect on the Nordic country.
“Finns lost all the remaining trust, the little bit of trust we had in the Russian regime,” Atte Harjanne, a lawmaker for the Greens, said on Bloomberg TV.
European stocks gain, crude rebounds
Stocks in Europe rose, while futures on the Nasdaq 100 and S&P 500 gauges fell after US shares rallied the most in a month on Tuesday.
Shares of Credit Suisse declined after the Swiss lender signalled a first-quarter loss due to a revenue hit from Russia’s invasion. Treasuries and bonds in Europe gained. Gold extended losses, while crude oil rebounded as industrial activity in virus-hit China picked up.
Ukraine says allies haven’t delivered new planes
Ukraine’s air force pushed back against reports that it had received new deliveries of aircraft from allies, saying instead that the US has sent equipment to help get more planes into service.
European firms cite war’s impact on business
Joining Credit Suisse, German turbine maker Siemens Energy said the war was having an impact on its business, while car sales in Europe fell for a ninth consecutive month in part due to the conflict’s impact on supply chains.
New-car registrations in Europe slumped 19% in March to 1.13 million vehicles as a lack of semiconductors and other components roils production, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association. DM