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UKRAINE UPDATE: 14 APRIL 2023

Alexei Navalny suffering from mystery ailment; Russia may swap jailed WSJ reporter ‘after a conviction’

Alexei Navalny suffering from mystery ailment; Russia may swap jailed WSJ reporter ‘after a conviction’
Participants hold signs during a protest in support of Russian opposition leader and blogger Alexei Navalny in Prague, Czech Republic, on 23 January 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Martin Divisek)

The leaked trove of classified US documents on Ukraine is a mixture of true, false and outdated information, said the country’s defence minister, Oleksii Reznikov. The leak would clearly appear to benefit Russia and its supporters, he said. The Washington Post reported that the alleged leaker worked on a military base and first shared the documents within an online platform popular with gamers.

Moscow would consider swapping a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter jailed for spying last month for a Russian prisoner held by the US, but only after the American is convicted, said a senior official.

“The question of swapping anyone can be discussed after the court properly issues its verdict on the charges,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to Tass.  

Key developments

Raimondo calls for private investment in reconstruction 

President Biden’s administration was “utterly committed” to supporting Ukraine, but this effort “has to be a public-private partnership”, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said at a US-Ukraine forum Thursday morning.

In order for that investment to be possible, Ukraine first needed assistance to win the war, said US Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves on a panel at the summit — including, for example, strict export controls that curtail Russia’s military might. 

But private investment cannot wait for the war to end, said US International Development Finance Corporation CEO Scott Nathan. Rather, the international community needed to leverage tools like political risk insurance that can jumpstart private investment. 

Representatives from Citibank and Blackrock said they were already looking at opportunities to rebuild the country as a modernised, technologically focused version of its prewar self. 

“There is desire to put private capital,” said Julie Monaco, global head of the public sector group at Citi.

Putin opponent Navalny suffering from mystery ailment 

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is suffering from a mystery stomach ailment that could be an attempt to poison him slowly, said his spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh.

After losing 8kg in weight over 15 days of solitary confinement, an ambulance was called for him because of acute stomach pain, she said. Three days after being released from the punishment cell, Navalny on April 10 was put into isolation for another 15 days and was being held there “with acute pain without medical help”, Yarmysh said on Twitter.

Navalny (46), who’s serving two sentences totalling 11½ years, survived a nerve agent poisoning in August 2020 that he and Western governments blamed on the Kremlin. Russian officials denied any role in the incident.

 

 

 

Germany will give Poland approval to ship fighter jets  

Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s ruling coalition will quickly approve a Polish request for permission to re-export MiG-29 fighter jets from former East German military stocks to Ukraine, according to a person familiar with the issue.

Poland has been among the most vocal supporters of providing military equipment to Ukraine and recently began shipping fighter jets. President Andrzej Duda said earlier this month that Poland may eventually transfer its entire fleet of about 29 Soviet-era jets to its eastern neighbour.

Russia says jailed US reporter may be swapped only after conviction 

The Kremlin would consider swapping a Wall Street Journal reporter jailed for spying last month for a Russian prisoner held by the US only after the American is convicted, a senior official said.

“The question of swapping anyone can be discussed after the court properly issues its verdict on the charges,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said, according to Tass. He reiterated that the US and Russia have a special diplomatic channel for such negotiations.

The US has categorised journalist Evan Gershkovich as wrongfully detained, easing government participation in potential talks on his release. Russia hasn’t yet allowed US diplomats to visit him in jail. No trial date has yet been set. He faces a prison term of up to 20 years if convicted. The Journal denies the spying allegations.

Norway to expel 15 Russian intelligence officers 

Norway will expel 15 Russians suspected of gathering intelligence while working under diplomatic cover at the country’s embassy in Oslo, Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt announced. 

The officers, who had been engaged in activities “not compatible with their diplomatic status”, must leave Norway shortly, Huitfeldt said in a statement. The move follows the expulsion of three Russian intelligence officers in April 2022. 

“Russia currently poses the greatest intelligence threat to Norway. We take this very seriously, and are now implementing measures to counter Russian intelligence activities in our country,” Huitfeldt said. She added that Norway “is seeking to maintain normal diplomatic relations with Russia”. 

Ukraine’s Naftogaz says it won $5bn case against Russia 

Ukraine’s state-run energy firm Naftogaz Ukrainy says it won an arbitration case against Russia, in a decision that would oblige Moscow to pay $5-billion to Kyiv.

Russia must pay the sum for losses caused by the seizure of Naftogaz’s assets in the Crimean peninsula, annexed by Russia in 2014, Naftogaz said on its website, citing a ruling by a court at The Hague on Wednesday. Naftogaz lost its gas pipelines, infrastructure and all financial assets in Crimea after Russia annexed the peninsula in 2014, the company said.  

 

 

 

Fractured US-Saudi oil pact hands advantage to Putin 

Just three years ago, when Opec+ oil giants fell out, the US found itself playing the role of peacemaker. Now it looks more like their target.

The Saudi-Russia oil alliance has the potential to cause all kinds of trouble for the US economy — and even for President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign. This month’s Opec+ decision to cut crude output, for the second time since Biden flew to Saudi Arabia last summer seeking an increase, may be just the start. 

Leaker of US documents ‘worked on military base’

The man behind a massive leak of US government secrets, including an assessment of the grim prospects for Ukraine’s war with Russia, was a young gun enthusiast who worked on a military base and shared the documents with “a group of far-flung acquaintances” via Discord, an online platform popular with gamers, The Washington Post reported. 

Separately, The New York Times reported that additional leaked, classified documents showed that “the depth of the infighting inside the Russian government appears broader and deeper than previously understood”.  

As an example, Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, accused the nation’s defence ministry of “obfuscating Russian casualties in Ukraine” as part of its bid to not convey bad news up the chain of command.  

Ukraine has shipped over 15 million tonnes of grain through Romanian ports 

Ukraine’s grain exports through the Romanian Black Sea port of Constanta had exceeded 15 million tonnes since the Russian invasion, Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu said during a conference about regional security. More than three million tonnes were shipped just in the first quarter of this year, according to data from the Constanta port authority.   

Ukraine’s shipments through European land routes recently sparked protests from farmers in EU member states, including Poland and Romania, who say they’re angry because the grains have flooded the local markets, pushing down prices and filling up storage spaces.  

Senators to get briefing on leak 

The Biden administration will give a closed-door briefing next week to US senators on the unauthorised disclosure of highly classified documents regarding the war in Ukraine, a Democratic Senate aide said on Wednesday evening.

The briefing will be held on April 19, according to the aide, who was granted anonymity to discuss a confidential proceeding. 

The leak of Pentagon documents, perhaps the most serious the US has faced in a decade, exposed details of US spying operations as well as assessments of the war. The US Justice Department has begun a criminal investigation into the disclosure.

Zelensky tells world bankers his country needs funds now 

Saying his country has $14.1-billion in immediate reconstruction needs, the Ukrainian president urged a gathering of global finance leaders in Washington to use frozen Russian assets to help pay the cost.

“For people to return and the aggressor to lose not only on the battlefield but truly in everything, we need approval for this support programme,” Zelensky, speaking via videoconference, told a gathering that included US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and chiefs of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

The IMF board signed off on a $15.6-billion, four-year aid package for Kyiv last month, changing the fund’s rules for the first time to allow lending to a country at war. It disbursed $2.7-billion immediately. DM

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