UKRAINE UPDATE: 27 JUNE 2023
Prigozhin says he didn’t plan to overthrow Putin; Sweden and Turkey agree to meeting on Nato bid
Wagner mercenary group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin didn’t plan to overthrow the Russian government, but his march on Moscow revealed serious problems with Russia’s security, he said in an audio recording.
A criminal investigation into Prigozhin’s mutiny remains open, Russian news wires reported. He abandoned his advance toward Moscow late on Saturday, defusing the biggest threat to President Vladimir Putin’s almost quarter-century grip on power. What remains, though, are questions about the future of both men.
- Putin faces historic threat to absolute grip on power in Russia
- Wagner chief says he had no plan to overthrow Putin’s government
- Russia shows Putin ally on TV with army after Wagner revolt
- What is Russia’s Wagner group and why was it accused of mutiny?
Prigozhin says he didn’t plan a coup
Prigozhin, speaking for the first time since pulling back his troops, said he marched on the Russian capital because he didn’t want his Wagner mercenaries to come under the command of the Defence Ministry.
The advance showed serious security problems in Russia, he said in a recording released on Telegram in which he didn’t specify from where he was speaking. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko helped find a negotiated solution to the weekend’s events, he said.
Criminal case against Prigozhin still open
A criminal investigation into Prigozhin’s rebellion remains open, state news agencies reported, citing sources they did not identify.
On Saturday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that as part of the deal that de-escalated the situation, the case would be closed. He didn’t specify when. Two Russian lawyers told Bloomberg that technical procedures mean it may take time to close down criminal cases once formally opened.
Ukraine’s bonds lead gains in emerging markets
Several of Ukraine’s international bonds rose to wartime highs on Monday, albeit from deeply distressed levels. The $3.2-billion of 2041 notes, whose payouts are linked to future economic growth, hit their highest levels since Russia started its invasion in February last year – trading at nearly 40 cents on the dollar.
Bonds have been buoyed in past weeks by hopes for more Western financing for Kyiv, as well as a push to use frozen Russian assets to pay for reconstruction.
In Moscow, the rouble was trading 0.2% stronger against the dollar as of 3.30pm after falling by as much as 3% at the opening of trading. Russian stocks declined, partially erasing the gain of recent months.
Sweden and Turkey agree to meeting on Nato bid
Sweden and Turkey agreed to hold a meeting to discuss Stockholm’s bid to join Nato. It will be held before the alliance’s leaders’ summit in Vilnius next month and Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg said it would include foreign ministers, heads of intelligence and national security advisers.
Putin speaks to leaders of Iran and Qatar
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi expressed full support to the Russian leadership during a call with Putin, the Kremlin said. Putin also spoke to Qatari Emir Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani.
Ukraine calls for more weapons after Russian mutiny
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urged European Union states to provide Ukraine with more weapons and ammunition to confront Russia, saying the mutiny by Wagner mercenaries underscored the weakness of Putin and his government.
He also called for his EU counterparts to tighten sanctions against Russia’s nuclear sector, digital technology, diamond sales, maritime logistics and finances.
Permanent German brigade ready for Lithuania
Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said Germany was prepared to station a permanent brigade of about 4,000 troops in Lithuania to help shore up Nato’s eastern flank against potential Russian aggression.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s government previously said the German military contingent would operate on a rotational basis. Saying the situation in Russia “seems to be very unstable” after Prigozhin’s mutiny, Pistorius also reinforced Germany’s commitment to the security of the Baltic states.
Nato calls Russian events an internal matter
Nato was monitoring the situation in Russia closely, Stoltenberg said. “The events over the weekend are an internal Russia matter, and yet another demonstration of the big strategic mistake that President Putin made,” he told reporters in Vilnius.
The alliance was also monitoring the situation in Belarus, while condemning Russia’s announcement that it would deploy nuclear weapons there, Stoltenberg said. Nato doesn’t see any indication that Russia is preparing to use such arms, he added.
Prigozhin may threaten Belarus, says opposition
Prigozhin’s relocation to Belarus has created a new threat to the country’s independence as well as the safety of its Nato neighbours, said exiled Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.
“If Prigozhin comes to Belarus with his thugs, it will threaten our neighbours too – Poland, Lithuania, Latvia,” Tsikhanouskaya said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.
Wheat climbs to four-month high while traders assess Russia risks
Wheat climbed to a fresh four-month high after the armed uprising in top exporter Russia added uncertainty over the outlook for grain shipments from the Black Sea breadbasket.
Russia is expected to be the world’s biggest wheat exporter this season and next, and any shift in its shipments would have a significant impact on global flows. There does not appear to be immediate disruption to its wheat trade, although the shipping industry will be assessing the safety of operations in the region, said Carlos Mera, head of agricultural commodities market research at Rabobank.
Chicago wheat futures climbed 1.3% to $7.56 a bushel as of 10.38am in New York trading on Monday, after earlier rallying by as much as 3.2% as traders weighed the implications of the weekend events. The advance puts prices on track for a 29% monthly gain, the biggest since 2015, which has also been driven by dry weather parching US corn and soy crops.
China exports more cars than Japan on sales surge to Russia
China sold more cars abroad than any other nation in the first quarter in part because of a sales jump to customers in Russia.
The Asian country exported 1.07 million vehicles in the three months through March, overtaking long-time leader Japan, consultancy AlixPartners said on Monday.
China delivered 112,000 vehicles to Russia – roughly the same amount it sold there during all of last year. Western automakers have largely abandoned shipments to Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.
The success of Chinese brands elsewhere in Europe and the US remains limited – they sold just 900,000 vehicles there last year. Still, the consultancy expects China’s shipments to those markets to jump 67% by 2026 as companies including BYD and Xpeng bolster their efforts to expand abroad.
“We believe now is the time Chinese brands begin their disruptive influence on Western markets,” Stephen Dyer, managing director of AlixPartners in Shanghai and a former Ford Motor executive, told reporters.
Austria sees need to curb Russian gas reliance as supply risks exposed
Austria must move faster to curb its reliance on Russian natural gas, Energy Minister Leonore Gewessler said, after a weekend rebellion against the regime in Moscow raised the risk of sudden supply disruptions.
“It’s clear that we’re not far or fast enough down the path to eliminate Russian gas,” she said on Monday at a press briefing in Vienna after meeting with utility executives. “Russia supplies are insecure and will remain insecure.”
Her comments follow weeks of market jitters over the medium-term outlook for gas flows into central Europe, where Russia provides more than half of Austria’s supply. That fuel still flows through pipelines located in Ukraine and could be cut off any day, Kyiv’s top energy official has warned.
Benchmark European gas prices rose as much as 14% on Monday amid increased geopolitical risk following the Wagner mercenary group’s short-lived mutiny in Russia.
Austria has made it clear the companies in the country shouldn’t enter into any new agreements to purchase Russian gas, Gewessler said. For more than half a century, state-controlled OMV has been the principal conduit for Russian gas flows into Austria, and the company still has a long-term supply contract until 2040. DM