Blinken, Lavrov have unexpected talk at G20; Poland sees growing spy activity at Kaliningrad border

Blinken, Lavrov have unexpected talk at G20; Poland sees growing spy activity at Kaliningrad border
Spent Russian munitions lie collected in a field at an undisclosed location on 27 February 2023 in Kharkiv, Ukraine. The stewards of the site claim to have collected more than 1,000 munitions fired by Russian artillery on Kharkiv since the beginning of Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. (Photo: Alex McBride / Getty Images)

President Vladimir Putin ditched a planned visit to southern Russia as the Kremlin cited an ‘attack’ on the border with Ukraine. The Russian leader called the incident ‘a terrorist act’.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken unexpectedly spoke briefly to his Russian counterpart while in India for the G20 foreign ministers meeting. The circumstances of the meeting are still unclear.

G20 officials couldn’t reach agreement on the language to describe Russia’s war in Ukraine, similar to the outcome of the finance ministers last weekend.

Key developments

Circumstances of Blinken-Lavrov meeting unclear  

The circumstances of the meeting in New Delhi between Antony Blinken and Sergey Lavrov are unclear.

During a stop in Tashkent on Wednesday, Blinken said he had “no plans” to meet Lavrov or China’s foreign minister at the G20 gathering. Yet Russia’s foreign ministry said it was Blinken who sought out Thursday’s conversation, which it said didn’t qualify as “talks or a meeting”, according to Interfax.

Blinken didn’t respond to a question during his news conference about why he sought the meeting with Lavrov, and State Department spokespeople declined to comment on the matter.

More Russian diesel being stranded at sea

The volume of Russian diesel stranded at sea keeps swelling to new records as sanctions leave the fuel exporter searching for buyers.

As many as 3.2 million barrels of Russian diesel-type fuel have been idling offshore for seven days or more, according to Kpler data compiled by Bloomberg. The surge in so-called floating storage comes as diesel exports from Russia’s Primorsk port hit the highest since at least 2016.




Top security officials from Nato’s eastern flank meet

Top security officials from Turkey (Türkiye), Romania and Poland — the biggest military powers in Nato’s eastern flank — were meeting in Warsaw to discuss the war in Ukraine and the strengthening of domestic defence industries, Poland’s National Security Bureau said.

Turkey’s National Security Council General Secretary Seyfullah Hacımüftüoğlu, Romania’s Ion Oprisor and Poland’s Jacek Siewiera were in the talks, which also include planning for the next Nato summit in Vilnius in July.

Poland sees growing spy activity at Kaliningrad border 

Russia was ramping up spying against Poland in the neighbouring Kaliningrad exclave in an attempt to escalate tensions at the border, Stanislaw Zaryn, a spokesman for Poland’s security services, said on Thursday.

Moscow had recently intensified its efforts to collect intelligence about Poland, targeting individuals and questioning Polish citizens in Kaliningrad about army movements and access to sensitive security information, Zaryn told reporters in Warsaw.

Poland in recent months has detained nine people suspected of working for Russian and Belarusian secret services, he said.

China tells Russia — again — that it supports peace talks

China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang held a meeting with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on the sideline of the G20 foreign minister’s meeting in India and exchanged views on Ukraine, according to a readout from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

McDonald’s to reopen in Odesa, Dnipro  

The US fast-food giant said it plans to reopen stores in Odesa at the end of March and Dnipro at the end of April. Dnipro “needs a little more time to secure supply chains and logistics process”, McDonald’s Ukraine said on Twitter.

The chain has in recent months reopened dozens of restaurants in Kyiv and the surrounding area, including in Bucha, and in western Ukraine.

Russian tank exhibit spurs tension in the Baltics

A display of Russian tanks captured by Ukrainian forces and shipped to the Baltics backfired after supporters of Russian troops began laying flowers on the vehicles.

A fight broke out between two men after one laid a flower at one of the heavily damaged T-72 tanks and another tried to remove it.

G20 top diplomats fail to agree on language on Russia’s war  

The foreign ministers of the G20 could not reach agreement on the language to describe Russia’s war in Ukraine, India’s Jaishankar told reporters after a meeting of the grouping. The two-day gathering will issue an outcome document instead of a formal joint statement, Jaishankar added.

A similar meeting of G20 finance ministers and central bank heads over the weekend failed to reach a consensus on the language to describe Russia’s aggressions in Ukraine, forcing host India to issue a chair’s summary instead of a traditional joint communiqué. Russia and China had deviated from the Bali formula, objecting to the use of the word “war”.

Putin’s domestic trip cancelled amid reports of border attack 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the president was receiving regular reports on the events from top security officials. Russian state news agencies offered conflicting accounts of the events in the border area near Ukraine on Thursday, with some reporting casualties among civilians blamed on unidentified attackers, who numbered in the dozens.

Ukraine dismissed the claims as a Russian “provocation” aimed at building public support for the invasion. Ukraine’s Northern Military Command warned on 23 February that intelligence reports showed sightings of troops without insignia and wearing uniforms similar to Ukrainian ones in Russia’s Bryansk region close to the border.

Poland’s Orlen won’t end Russian oil contract, says CEO 

PKN Orlen, Poland’s largest oil company, won’t terminate a supply contract with a Russian exporter after shipments via the Druzhba pipeline were halted last week, Chief Executive Officer Daniel Obajtek told PAP newswire.

State-controlled Orlen has argued that it needed the European Union sanctions to be able to terminate the Russian contract, which accounts for 10% of the country’s oil usage, without being exposed to contractual penalties. The company is yet to comment on whether it expects the oil flows to resume. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said earlier this week that Orlen wouldn’t get any Russian oil in February and March.

Russia may run out of money in 2024, warns billionaire

Billionaire Oleg Deripaska said Russia could already find its coffers empty next year and needs investment from “friendly” countries to break the hold of sanctions on the economy. “There will be no money already next year,” Deripaska said at the Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum in Siberia. “We will need foreign investors.”

Funds are now running low and “that’s why they’ve already begun to shake us down,” said Deripaska, founder of United Co, Rusal International, the biggest aluminium producer outside China. His comments are among the most outspoken by a prominent business leader as the government looks to turn the screws on large companies after ending last year with a record fiscal deficit and the budget still deep in the red to start 2023.

Zelensky aide says Ukraine under no pressure to compromise 

Ukraine’s partners understand that Russia will remain a threat unless it loses the war and all those responsible for it are prosecuted, Zelensky aide Mykhaylo Podolyak told news website There is “wide international consensus” behind Zelensky’s point of view. “We know that if we don’t win the war then Ukraine will cease to exist,” Podolyak said.

Moldova’s new premier sees no risk of military escalation from Russia

Moldova’s new prime minister, Dorin Recean, said Russia doesn’t have the necessary resources to escalate its military conflict and invade the tiny nation, because of the distances involved and Ukrainian forces separating it from Moscow’s armed units.

The nation bordering Ukraine has enough capacity to handle a potential escalation from the breakaway region of Transnistria, which hosts Russian military units, but which is now “very much aligned with” the Moldovan government’s peace and security goals, Recean told Romanian state television late on Wednesday.

Moldova has come under rising pressure from Russia over the past year, with missiles aimed at Ukraine crossing its airspace, domestic protests, and accusations that Moscow seeks to overthrow its pro-European government.




Scholz cautions China against giving arms to Russia

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told the lower house of Parliament in Berlin he was frustrated that China had dropped what he called “a clear condemnation of the Russian attack” agreed by leaders at a Group of 20 summit in Bali last year.

“My message to Beijing is clear: Use your influence in Moscow to press for the withdrawal of Russian troops,” Scholz said. “And,” he added, “do not supply weapons to the aggressor Russia.”

The US has warned China not to help arm Russia and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said last week that any weapons support to Moscow would come with “real costs.”

Russia hits Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia with missiles

Russia launched missiles at the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia, hitting a residential four-storey building in the city centre at night, police said. Four people were killed and six wounded by a Russian S-300 missile, the prosecutor general’s office said, citing preliminary information. Five people, including a child, were still missing.

More than 10 apartments were destroyed, the police said. “The terrorist state wants to turn every day for our people into a day of terror,” Zelensky said in a statement on Telegram addressing the attack. DM


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