Zelensky and BlackRock CEO discuss postwar rebuilding; Russian tycoon asks Africa to lobby EU on fertiliser impasse

Zelensky and BlackRock CEO discuss postwar rebuilding; Russian tycoon asks Africa to lobby EU on fertiliser impasse
Podkarpackie Voivode Ewa Leniart, Polish Health Minister Adam Niedzielski, Ukrainian Health Minister Viktor Liashko and Ukrainian Ambassador to Poland Vasyl Zvarych attend a press conference on the medical aid to Ukraine at the Medevac Hub of the airport in Jasionka near Rzeszow, southeastern Poland, 28 December 2022. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Darek Delmanowicz)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had discussed the postwar rebuilding effort with BlackRock chief executive officer Larry Fink, as his government prepares to participate in the World Economic Forum in Davos next month.

“Specialists of this company are already helping Ukraine to structure the fund for the reconstruction of our state,” Zelensky, who had a video call with Fink in September, said in his evening address to the nation. He didn’t say whether he would attend the 16-20 January 2023 World Economic Forum in person or participate virtually.

Ukrainian investigators said that Kostyantin Zhevago, the billionaire chief of iron ore miner Ferrexpo, had been detained in France on suspicion of money laundering and embezzling funds linked to his banking business.

Key developments

On the ground

Ukrainian air defence forces have downed 420 Russian rockets and 430 drones since September, spokesman Yuriy Ihnat said on television, adding that the military was ready for more potential strikes. 

Zelensky and other officials have warned that Russia may stage a new attack during the New Year holidays. Russian forces continued offensive operations around Bakhmut and Avdiyivka in the eastern Donetsk region, while trying to improve their tactical position on the Lyman axis to the north, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Facebook. 

According to the statement, Russian troops carried out a missile strike and launched 33 barrages with multiple-rocket systems over the past day, including targeting civilian facilities in the southern city of Kherson. 

Russia flagship crude exports drop 16% from November

Russia cut shipments of Urals oil from its three main western ports sharply this month, signalling the nation has had difficulty in replacing European buyers bound by sanctions. 

Urals exports dropped to 6.7 million tons, or 1.58 million barrels a day, in December, according to loading programmes compiled by port agents. 

Russia expels Lithuanian diplomat 

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it’s expelling a Lithuanian diplomat in retaliation for a similar step by the government in Vilnius.

Lithuania ordered out a Russian diplomat for “activities inconsistent with diplomatic status” on 1 December. Russia and the US and its European allies have each expelled scores of diplomats in tit-for-tat moves since the Kremlin invaded Ukraine in February.

Ukraine says Ferrexpo owner Zhevago detained in France

Zhevago was detained at a hotel in the French ski resort of Courchevel on Tuesday by French police, the Ukrainian State Bureau of Investigation said in a statement. The necessary documents for his extradition are being prepared, the bureau said. Ukraine put him on the international wanted list in 2019.

Read more: Ferrexpo owner Zhevago detained in French Alps

Ports damage seen at almost $400-million

Russian shelling has caused damage to port facilities in Greater Odesa and Mykolaiv worth at least $380-million, Ukrainian Sea Ports Administration chief Oleksii Vostrikov said in an interview published on the agency’s Facebook page.

Read more: Ukraine grain-export deal extended for another 120 days

Cargo volumes at Ukrainian ports slumped to 50.8 million tons in 2022, three times less than the previous year, according to Vostrikov. The total volume of grain shipped through Ukrainian ports will amount to some 15-16 million tons by the end of the year, Vostrikov predicted.




Russian billionaire warns on fertiliser snarl

Russian fertiliser billionaire Andrey Melnichenko is lobbying politicians in Africa to pressure the European Union into finding a solution to the self-sanctioning he says is choking flows of food and vital crop nutrients.

Read more: Russian billionaire urges Africa to press EU on fertiliser snarl

While EU sanctions on Russia don’t target agricultural products or fertilisers, restrictions on tycoons such as himself have led to insurers, banks and logistics companies backing away. That’s curbed fertiliser shipments by about nine million tons so far this year, said Melnichenko, the founder of EuroChem Group AG.

Russia shells gas pipeline – Ukrenergo 

Ukraine’s power deficit widened Wednesday due to Russian shelling of a gas pipeline in the country’s east, national grid operator Ukrenergo said on Telegram, without providing further details. At the same time, warmer weather continued for a fourth day, enabling the company to avoid imposing limits on power at night, according to the statement.

Read more: German allegedly spying for Moscow used NSA material, Focus says

“What everyone needs to take on board is that there are still intense intelligence activities going on like during the Cold War, and at a time when Russia is conducting an illegal war against Ukraine, we have to keep a very sharp eye on this,” Konstantin von Notz, a Bundestag lawmaker for the ruling Greens party, said in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio. 

“I would be very pleased if this unfortunate case would prompt us to take a critical look so that we are in better shape for the future.”




Kyiv power supply stable, restrictions persist 

Kyiv’s electricity supply is limited but stable and is being evenly distributed through temporary grid reconnection measures, Serhiy Kovalenko, the head of power company Yasno, said on Facebook

It’s “difficult to predict” how reliably the equipment will cope with lower temperatures and higher consumption, he added, also pointing to the threat of Russian missile and drone attacks.

Emergency cutoffs will continue in the Ukrainian capital through the winter, the deputy head of Kyiv’s city administration, Petro Panteleev, said earlier on television. 

More than 300,000 Kyiv residents remained without power as of Wednesday morning, news website quoted a deputy head of the city council as saying.

OHCHR records almost 18,000 civilian casualties

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded 17,831 civilian casualties in Ukraine between the end of February when Russia launched its full-scale invasion and 26 December, including 6,884 killed and 10,947 injured.

“Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects, including shelling from heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, missiles and air strikes,” the OHCHR said in a statement

The actual figures are likely considerably higher, as information from some locations where hostilities are especially intense has been delayed and many reports are still awaiting corroboration, it added.

Deputy minister details infrastructure damage 

About 700 critical infrastructure facilities in Ukraine, including gas pipelines, power substations and bridges, have been damaged since Russia invaded, according to Yevhen Yenin, a deputy interior minister.

In total, more than 35,000 facilities across the country have been destroyed as a result of Russian attacks, Yenin said on television late Tuesday. DM


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