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UKRAINE UPDATE: 29 MARCH 2023

Kyiv wants sanctions on Russian nuclear sector; Zelensky visits liberated towns in Sumy region

Kyiv wants sanctions on Russian nuclear sector; Zelensky visits liberated towns in Sumy region
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (centre) and International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi (left) attend a meeting at the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, on 27 March 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service Handout)

Ukraine wants Russia’s nuclear energy sector and liquefied natural gas to be part of future sanctions packages, Ukraine’s energy minister told Bloomberg Television.

Ukrainian forces downed 14 out of 15 Shahed-type drones launched by Russian troops overnight, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Facebook. Twelve of the unmanned aircraft were shot down over Kyiv, the city’s military administration said.

President Volodymyr Zelensky visited two towns in Ukraine’s northern Sumy region near the Russian border, where Kremlin troops were forced out a year ago. Reconstruction of the devastated communities “will definitely happen”, he said.

Key developments

Blinken backs Ukraine’s peace proposal, warns against China’s

The US supports Ukraine’s peace framework, which demands the withdrawal of all Russian forces from Ukrainian territory, and opposes alternate proposals that would benefit Moscow, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

The top US diplomat endorsed Kyiv’s proposal during a virtual session of the Summit for Democracy, where Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba detailed its 10 points.

Xi’s actions undermine China’s credibility on Ukraine – Sunak 

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned that China’s actions “undermine their credibility” as a neutral party on Ukraine, and urged President Xi Jinping to “use his influence with Putin to end this war”.

Speaking at a parliamentary committee hearing in London on Tuesday, Sunak said that it was “clear that Russia is dependent on China” after Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Moscow.

Ukraine ready to resume electricity export to EU 

Ukraine has sufficient electricity in its system to consider restarting exports to the European Union in the near future, according to Energy Minister German Galushchenko.

Exports were halted in October after Russia targeted Ukrainian energy infrastructure with missile strikes and drone attacks, causing power cuts in most regions. The system has since resumed functioning following repairs and support from international partners.

 

 

 

Zelensky visits towns near Russian border

Zelenskiy visited the town of Okhtyrka, 61km from the Russian border, to survey the devastation on the anniversary of its liberation by Ukrainian forces. He also visited Trostyanets, 35km from the border, which was heavily damaged and plundered, according to the presidential website.

“Ukrainians will live here, on their land, in their cities and villages, which we have to rebuild after the war,” Zelensky said on the visit, during which he inspected reconstruction projects and border guard positions.

Rentals plunge in Kyiv, soar in west  

Russia’s invasion has drastically changed Ukraine’s rental market, cutting prices in the capital, Kyiv, which was the most expensive place to live before the war, while pushing them up in two western regions far from the battlefield, according to official statistics.

The average rental cost of a one-room apartment in Kyiv, which was at risk of occupation in early 2022 and is still targeted by Russian missile barrages, dropped by 13% from the previous year to 7,300 hryvnia ($200) this month, according to the statistics office. The plunge was deeper in regions closer to the front line.

In contrast, average prices for a one-room apartment in Zakarpattya and Lviv in western Ukraine soared as many Ukrainians fled fighting. Prices almost tripled in Zakarpattya, while climbing by  65% in Lviv.

Ukraine seeks long-range air defence to hold back Russian attacks  

Ukraine needs long-range air-defence equipment and modern aircraft to fend off Russian tactical aviation from Ukraine’s borders, Air Defence spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said. Russian tactical aircraft were beginning to carry difficult-to-intercept modernised guided bombs in addition to missiles, he said.

“These are new threats that we have to take into account,” Ihnat said. “The most effective method is to drive Russian aviation away from the borders.”

Ukrainian minister urges sanctions on Russian nuclear sector 

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant under Russian control in southeastern Ukraine is being operated incorrectly, said Energy Minister Galushchenko. Ukraine was more worried about the deteriorating situation at Zaporizhzhia than about Russian plans to place nuclear weapons in neighbouring Belarus, he added.

Romania and Poland to ask EU for help to track Ukraine grain exports 

Romania and Poland will ask the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, to work on mechanisms to help set up the tracing of grain exports from Ukraine and avoid price dumping that would harm local farmers, Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca said on Tuesday at a joint press conference with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Bucharest.

In the past year, the two nations that border Ukraine jointly facilitated the largest exports of grains from the war-hit nation. The additional supply has put pressure on farmers as it affected prices and storage capacity, prompting local protests against both governments and increased demands for support ahead of elections later this year in Poland and next year in Romania.

Russia fires cruise missiles in Far East drills 

Two Russian naval ships fired cruise missiles during a combat exercise in the Sea of Japan, the Defence Ministry in Moscow said in a statement. The missiles struck a target 100km away during the mock attack on an enemy warship, it said.

Russia’s Pacific Fleet regularly carries out naval drills off the country’s Far East coast. Japan, which has an unresolved territorial dispute with Moscow over four islands seized by the Soviet Union at the end of World War 2, is closely monitoring the exercise, Russia’s state-run Tass news service cited Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi as telling reporters in Tokyo.

Slovakia eyes fivefold increase in 155mm shells production 

Slovakia may boost the production of artillery shells from 30,000 to 150,000 per year, Defence Minister Jaroslav Nad told a Foreign and European Policy conference in Bratislava.

Slovakia has already invested in expansion that should increase the annual output to 100,000 shells. The 150,000 figure could be achieved with the additional support of the EU, which was discussed during last week’s visit of European commissioner Thierry Breton to Slovak armament facilities.

 

 

 

War and secretive spending eat away at Russia’s budget 

Russia is keeping an unprecedented one-third of its budget spending out of the public eye, a stark measure of how a year of war against Ukraine has redrawn government finances and economic priorities.

Classified or unspecified expenditure up to 24 March has surged to 2.4 trillion roubles ($31-billion), Finance Ministry data show, more than double the level in the same period a year ago, according to Bloomberg Economics’ estimates. Plans set out for 2023 envisaged the budget’s secret share at almost a quarter, Bloomberg calculations show.

Ukraine downs almost all Shahed-type drones overnight 

Falling fragments of unmanned flying vehicles caused a fire in a non-residential building in the capital, but it was extinguished and there were no casualties. A private company in Dnipro was also hit in a drone attack overnight, with no casualties, the Dnipropetrovsk region authorities said on Telegram.

Over the past day, Russia carried out 24 air attacks and 12 missile strikes, and fired 55 times from multiple rocket launchers, according to Ukraine’s General Staff. The last time Ukraine was under a significant drone and missile attack was 9 March.

‘Fiercest’ fighting in Bakhmut, Avdiivka, says Ukraine’s military

Russian troops were concentrating their offensive on the Bakhmut axis and continuing attempts to surround and capture the city, Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander in charge of Ukraine’s ground forces, said on Telegram. Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Maryinka, all in the Donetsk region, were the sites of the “fiercest fighting”, Ukraine’s General Staff said in Tuesday morning’s update.

Russia “likely committed limited higher quality Wagner Group elements to the offensive on Avdiivka, potentially to reinforce recent limited tactical successes in the area”, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest report. DM

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