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UKRAINE UPDATE: 29 April 2022

Biden seeks $33bn in additional aid to counter Russian offensive; Nato pledges more military assistance

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (right) and UN Secretary-General António Guterres shake hands during their joint press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 28 April 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / SERGEY DOLZHENKO)
By Bloomberg
28 Apr 2022 0

President Joe Biden is seeking $33bn in additional aid to Ukraine and new authority from Congress to seize and sell property linked to wealthy allies of President Vladimir Putin, as the Russian military intensifies its offensive.

Biden delivered the request on Thursday for military, economic and humanitarian assistance, adding that the aid should be designated as emergency spending that doesn’t have to be offset by cuts elsewhere. 

“We’re going to seize their yachts” and other “ill-begotten gains”, Biden said of the rich Russians in remarks at the White House. 

Meanwhile, Nato allies have pledged and provided more than $8-billion in military assistance to Ukraine so far, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. United Nations chief António Guterres visited sites near Kyiv where Russian forces are accused of committing atrocities and was scheduled to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky after holding talks earlier in the week with Putin. 

Key developments

Mayor says Kyiv hit by two missile strikes 

Kyiv was hit by two missile strikes on Thursday evening, according to Mayor Vitali Klitschko. He didn’t provide details except to say the missiles hit a central district of Ukraine’s capital city.

The reported strikes came on a day when Guterres, the UN chief, visited Kyiv and as Russian forces – and world attention – have turned from the unsuccessful attack on the city to the eastern Donbas region. There also were reports of strikes elsewhere, including Odesa.

Ukrainian negotiator cites ‘red lines’ in war with Russia 

Direct Russian-Ukrainian talks to end the war are “somewhat on pause” as the Kremlin presses ahead with its attack – and potential additional war crimes, the destruction of Mariupol and organising fake referendums on Ukrainian territory are “red lines” that could bring a halt to negotiations, a top Zelensky adviser said in an interview.

“There isn’t even a subject for discussion because everything is going to be decided in terms of direct combat in the east of Ukraine,” Mykhaylo Podolyak, one of Ukraine’s main negotiators, told Bloomberg Television in an interview.

Kremlin’s gas cuts show it’s not dependable, says Biden 

Biden said Russia’s cutoff of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria shows that Moscow isn’t a dependable energy supplier. The US is working with allies including Japan to divert shipments of US-produced gas to Europe. 

“These actions prove that energy is not just a commodity that Russia sells to help meet other countries’ needs, but a weapon,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. 

Ukraine asks Bulgaria to repair heavy weapons  

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said his coalition and Parliament will discuss a Ukrainian request to help with repairs for heavy weaponry at its plants. The premier said Bulgaria can also help transit gas to Ukraine from liquid natural gas terminals in Greece and Turkey – and may use its port at Varna to help with grain transport.

Bulgaria, which has a past of deep ties with Moscow, has held back weapons deliveries to Ukraine because of divisions within the ruling coalition. 

One British national killed, another missing in Ukraine 

A British national has been killed in Ukraine and another is missing, the UK Foreign Office said in a statement. The government did not provide details of what the two people were doing in Ukraine and said it was urgently seeking further information.

Old-fashioned artillery proves a big plus for Ukraine’s forces 

Basic artillery has played a central role in Ukraine’s resistance against Russia’s invading forces. Its function explains why the US and other nations that collectively make up Ukraine’s arsenal are now putting so much emphasis on providing 155mm howitzers — in the case of the US, at least 90 of them, worth as much as $750,000 apiece, plus 184,000 rounds of ammunition. 

Traditional firepower, supported by drones that allow for pinpoint targeting, is set to remain dominant in the next phase of the war, along a 482km front in the eastern Donbas region. Even before the arrival of the more sophisticated, often longer-range cannon now being fed into the Ukrainian war effort, artillery was key.  

 

 

 

Russia may need half its planes for spare parts 

Russia may be forced to ground between half and two-thirds of its commercial aircraft by 2025 in order to cannibalise them for spare parts, Kommersant newspaper reported, citing an unidentified official at the Transport Ministry.

In the ministry’s base case, at least 70% of the country’s foreign-made planes will still be flying by the end of 2025, Kommersant said. In a worst-case scenario, Russia could begin to face severe shortages starting in the second half of this year as sanctions prevent the airline industry from importing components, the report said. 

Kyiv remains unsafe as Russia pushes forward, says mayor 

Authorities in the Ukrainian capital still can’t guarantee safety to residents willing to return even after Russian forces pulled back from the city’s surroundings, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told Bloomberg Television.

“We don’t know how long the war will be and how much it will cost in the next weeks – maybe months, maybe years”, Klitschko said in the interview. With more than 200 buildings in the city damaged by Russian shelling, it may take around $100-million to rebuild them, in Klitschko’s estimate. 

Germany prepares for potential Russian gas halt 

Germany has started preparations for a potential halt in Russian gas deliveries, with steps started even before the Ukraine invasion, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Tokyo on Thursday.

Germany has said gas buyers should stick to paying in euros or dollars and leave it up to Gazprombank to do the conversion, but it’s unclear whether that would be accepted by Moscow.

“Whatever the Russian government decides on this, we can only speculate,” said Scholz. “You have to prepare for it, and we already started this before the war broke out. We know what we have to do.”

Top Polish retailer explores sale of Russian operation 

Poland’s biggest fashion retailer, LPP, began talks about selling its fast-growing Russian business, it said in a statement, citing ongoing uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine. The company has 553 Russian stores, which it suspended last month. LPP competitor Inditex seeks to return to Russia when possible, while H&M says it only paused operations.

German inflation hits record on war fallout  

Surging energy costs and disruption to supply chains caused by the war helped push German inflation to the quickest pace since records began in the early 1990s.

Consumer prices soared by 7.8% in April from a year earlier – higher than the 7.6% median estimate in a Bloomberg survey for the European Union harmonised reading. The European Central Bank – which aims for 2% inflation over the medium term – is expected to raise interest rates in the coming months in what would mark the first hike in more than a decade.

German inflation quickens to record on fallout from war

EU firms opening rouble accounts breach sanctions, say officials  

Companies in the EU that open an account in roubles to pay for Russian gas would violate sanctions imposed by the bloc, according to EU officials. The new Russian demand is problematic because it involves the country’s central bank, which is under sanctions, the officials added.

The warning was issued on Thursday as governments and companies are seeking clarity on the impact of a demand by Putin that gas must now be bought in local currency.

 

 

 

German Parliament urges heavy weapons to Ukraine 

Germany’s Parliament urged the government to quickly supply Ukraine with heavy weapons and other equipment to help its defence.

The three parties in Chancellor Scholz’s coalition and the largest opposition group – which combined hold over 80% of the seats in the lower house of Parliament – teamed up to support a motion in a show of broad-based solidarity. 

UN preparing for possible Mariupol evacuations 

The United Nations resident coordinator in Ukraine tweeted that she was going to Zaporizhzhia to prepare for possible evacuations of civilians from the besieged Black Sea port city of Mariupol. 

UN officials are seeking to translate Russia’s agreement “in principle” for a UN role, reached during talks between Secretary-General Guterres and Russian leaders in Moscow on Tuesday, into an agreement in detail and action on the ground.  

Russia condemns ‘terrorist’ acts in Transnistria 

Russia warned that it considers as “acts of terrorism” recent violent incidents in the breakaway Transnistria region of Moldova, Tass reported.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Moscow will respond harshly to any Ukrainian attacks on targets within Russia after a series of fires at Russian oil and weapons depots.

Moldovan authorities have blamed the violence in Transnistria on separatist factions and vowed to resist attempts to drag the country into conflict. Transnistria leaders said they had traced the attacks to Ukraine.

Scholz says pressure on Russia must be maintained 

The German chancellor said the EU and its allies must keep up the pressure on Russia with further sanctions and weapons deliveries to Ukraine to force Putin to end the war. 

Scholz told a business conference in Tokyo that any peace deal must be acceptable to Ukraine, and ruled out an agreement “dictated” by Moscow.  

Germany closer to backing EU sanctions on Sberbank  

Germany is ready to consider including Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, in the European Union’s next sanctions package that’s currently being finalised, said people familiar with the matter. 

Germany had been one of the more reluctant member states in the push to exclude Sberbank from the Swift international payments messaging system, since Berlin was worried it could disrupt energy transactions. 

In recent weeks, Germany has moved quickly to tap alternative suppliers for energy and is now preparing to back a phased-in ban on Russian oil.   

Crossings to Poland from Ukraine reach three million 

The number of people crossing into Poland from Ukraine since February 24 has hit three million, Polish border authorities said.  

Another 25,000 people crossed the border on Wednesday, while 18,400 entered Ukraine from Poland.  

Nato members’ military aid offers $8bn – Stoltenberg   

Nato members have “pledged and provided” at least $8-billion in military aid to Ukraine, said alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg. “We see the importance of further stepping up our support,” he said in a statement ahead of a meeting at the European Parliament. 

Nato allies met earlier this week at an event hosted by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to coordinate new support for Kyiv. Just prior, the US announced additional aid, saying it wants to see Russian forces ground down to the point where they can’t attempt a repeat of the invasion.  

 

 

 

UN’s Guterres visits Borodianka 

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres was in Ukraine on Thursday, two days after meeting in Moscow with Russian leaders. 

He visited Borodianka, near Kyiv, one of the towns where Russian troops have been accused of killing civilians. He was expected to visit Bucha before meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky.  

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and Defence Minister Dragomir Zakov were also in Kyiv and were to meet with Zelensky. Their visit came a day after Russia cut off gas deliveries to Bulgaria and Poland in a major escalation between Moscow and Europe.

European gas prices tumble 

Natural gas prices in Europe declined as buyers considered options to keep receiving supply from Russia without violating sanctions. Benchmark futures fell as much as 6.9% following two days of gains. 

Russia says 600,000 jobs at risk 

About 600,000 people working in Russia for companies from “unfriendly” nations could lose their jobs, Tass news service reported, citing Andrey Turchak, a top official at the country’s ruling party.

The war on Ukraine has spurred an exodus of international companies from the Russian market, with brands ranging from McDonald’s to Adidas to BMW suspending operations in the country.

Unilever warns on raw material inflation 

The food and consumer goods company Unilever warned that raw material inflation will worsen in the second half because of the war in Ukraine.

Underlying operating margins will probably be in the bottom end of its forecast range of 16% to 17% this year, the company said. Even so, sales growth was above analysts’ estimates.

In contrast, the metals and agricultural trading company Glencore is anticipating bumper profits from soaring metals and energy prices and market volatility created by the war.  

Russia intensifying its offensive, says Ukraine  

Russia’s offensive operation in eastern Ukraine is picking up pace and there’s intensive fire along the entire line of contact, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Facebook. 

Russian troops were assembling in large numbers around Izyum, near Kharkiv. Additional airborne troops and as many as 500 military vehicles had been moved by Russia to Izyum, Ukraine said. 

From there, continued attacks were happening on three lines of advance: to the southeast, the southwest, and directly west. 

Japan to transport aid via Dubai after India baulks 

Japan’s Self-Defence Forces are set to transport United Nations humanitarian aid for Ukraine via Dubai, after the Asahi newspaper and others reported that India refused permission for its military planes to land. India, the top buyer of Russian weapons, has been reluctant to join the US and its allies in condemning Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. 

House passes bill to help fund rebuilding 

US House of Representatives legislators passed a bill urging the US to seize assets valued at more than $2-million that belong to Russian individuals and entities who benefit from ties to Putin’s regime. The funds would be used to help rebuild Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian people should see the boats, planes, and villas of Putin’s enablers being seized and sold, and they should know that the proceeds will help their country and cause,” bill sponsor Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat, said when the measure was first introduced.

EU energy firms ‘prepare to meet Putin’s terms’ 

Some European companies are making preparations to comply with a new payment system sought by Russia to pay for its gas in roubles, the Financial Times reported, citing unidentified people familiar with plans. Energy companies in Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia are preparing to open rouble accounts at Gazprombank in Switzerland, it said. DM

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