UKRAINE UPDATE: 3 MAY 2023
Russia’s oil exports show no sign of threat to cut output; Senate Republican leader slams Biden for ‘dithering’
In Ukraine’s east, forces under Kyiv’s command have pushed back Russian troops from positions in the embattled city of Bakhmut, according to the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces. Ukrainian officials have signalled that a much-anticipated counteroffensive is imminent.
Russia’s oil exports jumped above 4 million barrels a day last week, offering no sign that Moscow has delivered on its threat to cut output, according to tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.
President Vladimir Putin’s government, meanwhile, is likely to resume purchases of foreign currency for its reserves as soon as this month as rising oil earnings stabilise public finances despite US and European efforts to squeeze Kremlin income.
- Russia seen buying yuan soon as sanctions, oil-cap hit eases
- Russia’s seaborne crude flows climb with no sign of output cut
- McCarthy says he supports aid to Ukraine, urges Russia to leave
- Russian gold is in hands of obscure firms as JPMorgan, HSBC exit
Senate’s McConnell slams Biden for ‘dithering’
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said “the Biden administration has dithered” with “slow and halting” decisions to provide Ukraine what it needs, including long-range weapons and now fighter jets.
He praised House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for voicing his support for arms to Ukraine during a visit to Israel. Although some hard-line members of McCarthy’s Republican caucus have opposed more aid to Ukraine, McConnell described the GOP as “the party of American strength at home and abroad.”
Tinder owner Match to exit Russia by June
Match Group said all of its dating services, including Tinder, would complete their exit from Russia next month, citing the country’s human rights record.
“Our brands are taking steps to restrict access to their services in Russia and will complete their withdrawal from the Russian market by June 30,” the company said in its annual Impact Report.
More than 1,000 companies have curtailed operations in Russia since the invasion began last year, according to a tally maintained by the Yale School of Management.
Denmark to send up to 1,200 soldiers to Latvia
Denmark pledged to deploy as many as 1,200 troops in Latvia under a Nato mission. The battalion will be sent from the middle of 2024 and the soldiers will spend four to six months of the year in the Baltic country and the rest in Denmark, but ready to relocate at a short notice, the Danish defence ministry said.
Russia has enough ammunition, says minister
Russia’s defence minister said the military had enough ammunition to fight Ukraine’s army, just days after a top mercenary commander warned of a shortage of munitions at the front.
“Sufficient ammunition has already been delivered to the armed forces this year to inflict effective fire damage on the enemy,” Sergei Shoigu told commanders, according to a ministry statement. He also said the production of high-precision weapons must be doubled.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, threatened recently to pull his forces from Bakhmut, blaming an acute shortage of shells and rising casualties.
Russia’s seaborne crude flows climb; no sign of output cut
Two months into Moscow’s threatened oil output cut, there is no sign of a sustained drop in crude flows out of the country.
Russia’s exports jumped back above four million barrels a day in the week to April 28, a level it has surpassed only once before since its troops invaded Ukraine in February 2022, according to tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. Flows were virtually unchanged on a four-week average basis.
EU’s Breton to visit Ukraine in integration push
The European Union’s internal market chief, Thierry Breton, will visit Ukraine next week to gauge the progress on streamlining trade between the EU and Kyiv.
At a meeting with Sweden’s trade minister, Johan Forssell, Breton discussed the reorganisation of Ukraine’s industrial ecosystem, aligning regulation and matchmaking events hosted for EU companies and counterparts from Ukraine.
“I will be in Ukraine next week to make sure that we advance on these topics,” Breton told reporters. “We are working extremely hard to make sure that Ukraine will be fully prepared to join the EU.”
Russia seen buying yuan soon as sanctions ease
Russia is likely to resume purchases of foreign currencies as oil earnings help offset the effect of US and European Union sanctions.
With energy revenues now close to exceeding their target level, purchases are possible in May, according to Bloomberg Economics, which estimates initial volumes could amount to the equivalent of around $200-million in yuan per month.
The Chinese currency is the main asset Russia can still use to conduct transactions for its $154-billion wealth fund because of sanctions.
Successful ‘counteroffensive could be game-changer for support’
House Foreign Affairs Committee chairperson Michael McCaul said a widely expected Ukrainian counteroffensive, if successful, would be “a game-changer for continued support”.
McCaul, a Texas Republican, told Bloomberg Television’s Balance of Power on Monday: “You’re going to see a counteroffensive very soon now that’s going to take place. And I think there’s going to be a lot riding on the line with this counteroffensive.”
Referring to strong support for Ukraine by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy earlier in the day, McCaul said, “I think that does impact the rest of our conference and the House and the Senate.” He added that he was “not familiar” with a remark by former President Donald Trump that Russia would eventually “take over all of Ukraine”.
US says 20,000 Russians killed, 80,000 wounded since December
Russia has suffered more than 100,000 casualties, including 20,000 killed in action, since December in Ukraine, US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.
He said about half of those killed belonged to the Wagner mercenary force, “the majority of whom were Russian convicts that were thrown into combat in Bakhmut without sufficient combat training, combat leadership, or any sense of organisational command and control”.
Kirby attributed the estimate to “information and intelligence that we were able to corroborate over a period of some time”, while continuing the US policy of refusing to estimate Ukraine’s casualties in the war. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov later denied the claim, saying the US had no reliable data on Russian losses. DM