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UKRAINE UPDATE: 21 MARCH 2023

US offers $350m in military ammunition; Xi begins three-day visit to Moscow

US offers $350m in military ammunition; Xi begins three-day visit to Moscow
Prosecutor of the ICC Karim Khan, Ukraine’s Minister of Justice Denys Maliuska, Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, Netherland’s Minister of Justice Dilan Yesilgöz-Zegerius and Ukraine ’s Prosecutor-General Andriy Kostin with other delegates during the Justice Ministers’ Conference at Lancaster House in London, Britain, 20 March 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Neil Hall)

The US announced $350m in ammunition, riverboats and other equipment for Ukraine’s military, while the European Union agreed on plans to jointly procure 1 million rounds to support Kyiv.

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in Moscow that he and Vladimir Putin would forge a “blueprint for China-Russia strategic coordination”, and the Russian leader praised Beijing’s peace proposals, which have been rejected by Ukraine’s allies.

Xi’s trip to Moscow marks his most ambitious effort yet to weigh in on Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War 2 and will be followed by his first conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky since Russia invaded more than a year ago. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the “world should not be fooled” by a potential Chinese-Russian peace plan that would “freeze” in place territory seized by Russian forces.

Key Developments

Blinken warns of Xi-Putin gambit to ‘freeze’ Russian gains 

“The fundamental element of any plan for ending the war in Ukraine and producing a just and durable peace must be upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Blinken, the top US diplomat, said, as Putin welcomed Xi for a three-day visit to Moscow that underscores Beijing’s support.

Putin expressed his willingness to discuss China’s blueprint for ending the war in Ukraine, but Blinken said any plan that doesn’t restore territory seized by Russia is “a stalling tactic at best”.

Ukraine prosecutor, EU official discuss Putin arrest warrant  

Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Andriy Kostin met with EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders in London to discuss the next steps after the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Russian President Putin and Russian Commissioner for Children’s Rights Maria Lvova-Belova.

Kostin and Reynders called the move a historic decision for Ukraine and for the EU, according to the website of the prosecutor-general’s Office.

US announces $350m in ammunition and supplies for Ukraine

The US announced $350-million in ammunition, riverboats and other equipment for Ukraine’s military as part of a broader effort by the country’s allies to keep it from running out of artillery shells and missiles in the face of Russia’s invasion.

Among the supplies announced Monday was ammunition for Himars systems and howitzers, as well as for Bradley infantry vehicles, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. Anti-tank weapons are also being sent.

Putin tells Xi he’ll discuss China’s peace outline for Ukraine  

Putin said that Russia was ready to discuss China’s peace proposals for Ukraine as he welcomed Xi.

“We’ve carefully studied your proposals to resolve the acute crisis in Ukraine,” Putin told Xi in televised comments at the start of their one-on-one talks in the Kremlin. He added that Russia viewed the Chinese initiative “with respect”.

Kyiv has been cool to Beijing’s vague peace outline, while the US and its allies have rejected it outright.

 

 

 

EU backs ammunition plan  

The EU’s top envoys agreed to a plan to back spending €1-billion from its European Peace Facility for the bloc’s countries to jointly buy ammunition. They also backed spending another €1-billion from the same fund to reimburse what member states send from their own existing stockpiles of both modern and Soviet-era ammunition to Ukraine. 

Nato prioritises Swedish membership 

It’s a “top priority” for Nato to see Sweden join the alliance in the near future, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, after the biggest Nordic country was left behind by the decision of Turkey and Hungary to soon ratify Finland’s entry into the bloc.

Finland’s membership is “not complete” without Sweden, Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters alongside Stoltenberg in Brussels, and Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen pledged to work hard to get Sweden admitted.

G7 set to hold off revising Russian oil price cap 

Group of Seven nations are unlikely to revise a price cap on Russian oil this week, despite initial evidence that crude is selling well below the current $60 threshold.

European Union member states were informed over the weekend by the bloc’s executive branch that there is little interest among the G7 — in charge of setting and changing the price cap — to modify price levels at this stage, according to people familiar with the matter. 

Talks between the European Commission and the G7 are likely to continue beyond a summit of EU leaders taking place in Brussels this week, two of the people added. 

Putin confirms Black Sea grain export deal extension 

Russia agreed to extend the Black Sea grain deal in order to meet the needs of African countries, Putin said at a forum of African legislators in Moscow. 

“We insist on the package nature of this deal, primarily in the interests of African and other developing countries, bearing in mind that they need large amounts of food,” the Russian leader said. “And we insist on full compliance with key Russian requirements.”

 

 

 

Ukraine’s Energoatom reaches deal with Cameco on uranium  

Ukrainian nuclear regulator Energoatom and Canada’s Cameco reached an agreement on the supply of natural uranium hexafluoride, or UF6, to meet Ukraine’s nuclear fuel needs through 2035, the country’s Energy Ministry said. 

“The nuclear industry is of strategic importance for Ukraine, and we are ready to develop and support our cooperation with Canada in this area,” Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko said.

Lithuania calls for faster delivery of ammo to Kyiv 

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told reporters he hoped European industry could meet the target of producing one million shells over the next 12 months to send to Ukraine, adding that “speed is of the essence”.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said he hoped the ministers would finish the agreement on Monday, adding: “otherwise we’ll be in difficulties to continue supplying arms to Ukraine”. 

He said that 15 member states had already joined a European Defence Agency project to procure ammunition for Ukraine.  

Russia’s Medvedev, known for wild threats, issues one to ICC  

Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy chairman of the Kremlin’s Security Council known for his angry social-media posts and often-empty threats, warned that Russia may strike the International Criminal Court with a missile after it issued a warrant for Putin on charges of war crimes.

“It’s quite possible to imagine a targeted use of a hypersonic ‘Onyx’ from a Russian ship in the North Sea on the court building in the Hague,” Medvedev wrote on Telegram, referring to a naval anti-ship missile. “The court is just a wretched international organisation, not the population of a Nato country, so they wouldn’t start a war.”

Officially, Russia has rejected the warrant against Putin as illegitimate and void. Medvedev, who was president from 2008 to 2012, has become one of the most outspokenly hawkish officials on the war on his Telegram channel, often ruminating about striking directly against the US and its allies, something the Kremlin so far has avoided.

Putin makes surprise visit to occupied Ukrainian city  

Putin travelled by helicopter into Mariupol on the Sea of Azov in southern Donetsk province over the weekend, the Kremlin said. The Russian leader’s unannounced visit — his first since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago and later claimed to have annexed four provinces — followed an appearance in Crimea. 

The Kremlin released a 40-minute video of Putin driving around Mariupol in an SUV at night in a highly classified trip. Putin was shown visiting a new apartment block, where he stood in a playground surrounded by bodyguards while an official showed him photographs of reconstruction works. DM

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