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Ukraine update: European leaders back EU candidate stat...

World

UKRAINE UPDATE: 17 JUNE 2022

European leaders back EU candidate status after talks with Zelensky; Moscow tightens gas flows

From left: Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, French President Emmanuel Macron and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis meet for a working session at Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 16 June 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ludovic Marin / Pool)
By Bloomberg
16 Jun 2022 0

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy pledged support for Ukraine to become a candidate to join the European Union after talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky during a visit to Kyiv intended to show unity in the face of Russia’s invasion.

The leaders of Germany, France and Italy travelled overnight by train to Kyiv and were accompanied by Romania’s president in a show of solidarity ahead of an expected recommendation on Friday from the European Commission that Ukraine be granted candidate status. The discussions sought to soothe strained ties after their governments faced criticism for engaging too closely with Russian President Vladimir Putin and being slow to deliver the heavy weapons that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says are needed to defeat the invasion.

European natural gas prices spiked as Moscow tightened its flows to the continent in a move that Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi called politically motivated. Nato defence ministers also met in Brussels to discuss support for Ukraine’s defence and strengthening the military alliance’s eastern flank. 

Key developments

Draghi decries Russian gas cuts as political 

Italian Prime Minister Draghi joined Germany in rejecting Russian statements that gas cuts to Europe were “not deliberate”, saying, “We think this is a lie.” 

“There is a political use of gas, as there is a political use of wheat,” Draghi said at a news conference in Kyiv following the meetings with Zelensky and other European leaders. He added that Italian gas stockpiles were at 52%  and that “we are feeling safe now and for the winter” with those levels. 

Ukraine, Romania seek to double Danube grain shipments 

Transit of Ukrainian grain via Danube ports increased fourfold in the past month and the goal now is to further boost transit and to double it, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said at a joint press conference in Kyiv. 

Ukraine has started a pilot project with Poland on joint custom areas and has proposed the same thing to its Romanian partners, Zelensky added.

US commits to technical aid for Ukraine agriculture  

US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a three-year agreement with Ukraine to share information and expertise to improve the nation’s farm productivity and supply-chain strength.

“Russia is using food as a weapon and a tool of war to threaten the livelihoods of those around the world, and that is something the agriculture community cannot and will not stand for,” Vilsack said in a statement on the agreement, announced after a series of meetings on Ukraine he held at the United Nations.

Germany, France, Italy offer support to Ukraine’s EU candidacy 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi backed Ukraine’s efforts to join the European Union, adding momentum and a show of support for the country’s efforts to fend off Russia’s invasion.

The leaders of the EU’s three biggest economies condemned Moscow’s attacks and called for investigations into alleged war crimes. They were joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, as a representative of the bloc’s east, in the highest-profile delegation to visit Kyiv since Russia invaded. 

“All four of us support the status of immediate candidate for membership,” Macron said. He added that France will deliver six additional Caesar cannons in addition to the 12 already transferred to Ukraine’s military. 

Ukrainian diplomat calls on US for more sanctions 

Ukrainian Ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova said the US should increase sanctions on Russia, including full blocking penalties on all of the country’s banks, increased restrictions against individuals close to Putin and others responsible for the conduct of the war and called for the country to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.

“There is no such thing as private banking in Russia,” Markarova said, adding that the Kremlin can order financial institutions to step in and support those that have been sanctioned. 

“We still believe that the more Russian banks are put – and preferably all – on the full blocking sanctions list, the faster they will significantly drop in their possibility to finance the war.”  

 

 

 

Dutch foil Russian plot to infiltrate war crimes court 

The Dutch secret service said it foiled an attempt by a Russian intelligence officer to infiltrate the International Criminal Court in The Hague posing as a Brazilian intern.

The alleged spy tried to enter the Netherlands in April and was sent back to Brazil after being recognised as a danger to national security, the service said. Covert access to the court’s building and systems would have been highly valuable to Russia because of the court’s investigations into the nation’s invasion of Ukraine, it said.

Putin’s forum preaches self-reliance as foreigners stay away 

Top Russian officials told the Kremlin’s annual economic showcase that the country is bearing up better under sanctions than they initially feared, touting a new model focused on domestic production as the country faces unprecedented international isolation over its invasion of Ukraine.

Fewer foreigners turned up at this year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, an event that in the past drew major global leaders and top executives from the world’s biggest companies. They were replaced by local businesspeople and visitors from the Middle East, Asia and Russian-backed separatist-held areas of Ukraine who attended sessions on Russia’s need to become self-reliant, according to attendees.

Germany floats proposal to beef up Nato’s eastern defences 

Germany is proposing a new model to boost Nato’s defences on the alliance’s eastern frontier with Russia by identifying units that can be deployed to Lithuania at short notice and link up with allied troops already on the ground, according to people familiar with the issue.

The approach would be an alternative to basing new troops more permanently in the most vulnerable member states. While some countries are looking at the plan for cues, it falls short of previous demands by Nato’s Baltic members, which have sought a permanent presence of a significant number of soldiers that could immediately counter any attack.

European gas surges by 24% as Russian cuts escalate  

Europe’s energy crisis deepened after Moscow reduced gas flows through the Nord Stream pipeline in a move that coincided with the visit to Kyiv of the EU leaders.

Germany’s top energy regulator urged consumers and industry to scale back natural-gas consumption to help fill storage sites ahead of the next heating season after Russia curtailed deliveries.

Benchmark gas futures increased by as much as 24%, adding to a 46% rise already this week. Germany has called the reductions “politically motivated” and aimed at unsettling markets, challenging Gazprom’s statement that the halt was due to technical issues.

UK sanctions Russian linked to forced transfers and adoptions  

The UK sanctioned Russian Children’s Rights Commissioner Maria Lvova-Belova for her alleged involvement in the forced deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia and their subsequent adoption by Russians.

The British government also levelled penalties against Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill for his support of the war, a number of other allies of Putin, as well as military commanders and Russian and Myanmar arms dealers.

Leaders visit heavily damaged Kyiv suburb 

During their visit, Scholz, Draghi, Macron and Iohannis were escorted through the heavily shelled Kyiv suburb of Irpin to get a direct impression  

Television footage showed the four leaders standing with grim faces in the streets of Irpin – which was under Russian occupation for a month and the site of alleged war crimes – as they were briefed by local officials.  

Scholz said in a tweet that the “brutal destruction” in Irpin has “long since become a symbol for the unimaginable cruelty of the Russian war and for senseless violence”.

 

 

 

Differing accounts given of Xi-Putin phone call  

Russia and China gave alternative accounts of President Xi Jinping’s birthday call with Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, as both sides seek to manage perceptions of their relationship following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Read more: China, Russia give differing accounts of Xi-Putin phone call

The Kremlin readout said the two men discussed increasing economic cooperation, trade and military-technical ties and implied the Chinese leader endorsed Putin’s justification for the war. Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, by contrast, said Xi “actively promoted world peace and the stability of the global economic order”.

Sanctions ‘having smaller impact than feared’  

Top officials told the Kremlin’s annual economic showcase that Russia is bearing up better under sanctions than initially feared, touting a new model focused on domestic production as the country faces unprecedented international isolation.

Read more: Putin’s economic team puts on a brave face at shrunken forum

Turnout at this year’s St Petersburg International Economic Forum was down sharply from previous ones, which drew major global leaders and top global companies. Visitors this year include officials from the Middle East and Asia, as well as representatives from the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Engie says Russia reduced gas supply 

France’s Engie said Russia has reduced gas shipments, echoing similar reports from German and Italian utilities as tensions escalate between Moscow and Europe.

Natural gas prices on the continent have jumped after Russia cut supplies through the largest link to Europe to less than half the usual volumes. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck accused the Kremlin of trying to unsettle markets and prop up prices but said that security of supply was guaranteed for now.

Kyiv mayor welcomes leaders’ visit  

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said the visit by the three EU leaders “is a sign of great support at a time when it is still a risk” to travel to the capital and that it “above all has great symbolic importance”. 

“There can only be stability in Europe if Putin finally ends this cruel war against our country,” Klitschko was quoted as saying by Germany’s Bild newspaper.

UK, Denmark to hold Ukraine donor conference  

Britain and Denmark plan to organise a donor conference in August at which 14 countries will discuss how to expand military aid for Ukraine, Zelensky said. “We have another signal that defence support for Ukraine will be continued,” he said in a statement published by his office.

Germany ‘lagging on weapons deliveries’

The volume of weapons promised to Ukraine has increased significantly in recent weeks, though Germany, in particular, is lagging behind on actual deliveries, according to the latest data collected by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. 

Poland and the UK have pledged and delivered considerably more than Germany, while Canada and Norway have made slightly smaller pledges but also sent much more, the institute said, citing data through June 7. In absolute terms, the US has already provided weapons worth around 10 times more than Germany, it added. 

“This helps to explain the Ukrainian government’s urgent appeals to the German government,” according to Christoph Trebesch, a Kiel Institute research director and head of the team compiling the Ukraine Support Tracker.

US sails seized Russian megayacht towards Hawaii  

US authorities are sailing the $325-million yacht they seized last week that’s linked to Russian billionaire Suleiman Kerimov toward Hawaii – a big win for the Biden administration as it looks to confiscate Russian assets and punish oligarchs for their country’s invasion of Ukraine.

The 348-foot Amadea, now sailing under a US flag and manned by a new crew, is headed for the Hawaiian Islands, according to vessel data compiled by Bloomberg and space-based analytics firm Spire Global. Follow the Amadea’s journey here. DM

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