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UKRAINE UPDATE: 7 AUGUST 2023

Peace plan talks end in Saudi Arabia without concrete steps; Russia launches waves of missiles

Peace plan talks end in Saudi Arabia without concrete steps; Russia launches waves of missiles
Ukrainian rescuers put out a fire at a maize waste warehouse after shelling near Starokostiantyniv, Khmelnytskyi region, western Ukraine, on 6 August 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Khmelnytskyi Regional Military Administration Handout)

A peace plan pitched by Ukraine and its allies to more than 40 countries this weekend in Saudi Arabia brought little in the way of firm steps to stop the war or reverse Russia’s territorial gains.

Ukraine struck the Chongar bridge on the border with Crimea, said Sergey Aksyonov, the governor of the annexed region. Russian air defences destroyed a drone on Sunday morning as it approached Moscow, according to the mayor of the capital.

Russia launched waves of missiles at Ukraine overnight in response to an attack on an oil tanker on Saturday in the Black Sea. Deaths and injuries were reported late on Saturday after a missile hit a blood transfusion centre in Kupiansk in the northern Kharkiv region of Ukraine.

Latest developments

 

 

 

Ukraine peace plan talks end in Saudi with few concrete steps

A peace plan pitched by Ukraine and its allies to more than 40 countries this weekend in Saudi Arabia brought little in the way of concrete steps to stop the war or reverse Russia’s territorial gains.

The most tangible outcome from the Jeddah meetings was a plan to form working groups under various points of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s 10-point “peace formula” — on areas including food supply and nuclear security — according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they’re not authorised to discuss the matter publicly.

While Zelensky’s Chief of Staff, Andriy Yermak, praised the consultations, representatives for China stuck to calls for a ceasefire as a precursor to peace talks — an approach that French delegates said was unacceptable because it would effectively freeze Russia’s gains in place.

“We have had very productive consultations about key principles on which just and strong peace has to be built,” Yermak said in comments posted on the website of the presidential office. “There were different points of view, but all the attendees declared allegiance to UN principles, international law and respect to sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Moscow wasn’t invited and denounced the gathering as a “hoax”.

Upstart traders of Russian oil had representatives in common

Two of the companies that emerged as key dealers of Russian oil following the invasion of Ukraine have had representatives in common, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg News, offering a fresh glimpse into the little-known and opaque businesses.

As the fallout from the war upended global energy markets, one of the biggest mysteries across the industry has surrounded the pack of upstart traders that stepped in to handle Russian oil as Western commodity houses pulled back. Despite the huge volumes these companies have traded, there is hardly any publicly available information about them or their backers.

Coral Energy is one of the firms that traded large volumes in the aftermath of the invasion, handling millions of barrels of Russian petroleum. However, it said in February that it no longer handles any Russian supply.

This year, Nord Axis, a Hong Kong-registered company that was incorporated just after Russia’s invasion, has emerged as one of the biggest traders of Russian oil. Nord Axis was unknown in the oil market until Trafigura Group named it as the buyer of its 10% stake in Vostok Oil, a flagship mega project of Russian oil giant Rosneft.

Now, documents and company filings reviewed by Bloomberg show that a Coral representative, as well as a lawyer who handled work for the trader, have both been directors of Nord Axis — offering new details about the people involved at the companies which played key roles in ensuring Russian oil continued to flow to international markets.

Company filings for Nord Axis show that Adalat Kazimli, a citizen of Azerbaijan, became the owner of all the ordinary shares in May last year before transferring them to a Dubai holding company later in June. He was listed as a director of Nord Axis for a month in May to June 2022. Since Kazimli’s resignation, Istanbul-based lawyer Murat Sayin has been listed as a director of the company.

Documents seen by Bloomberg News, dated March and August 2022, show Kazimli held a power of attorney to act on behalf of Coral in Turkey, and signed documents as the company’s representative. They also show Sayin as a lawyer working on behalf of Coral on Turkish business.

Buying and trading Russian oil remains legal, despite a series of international sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine, as Western governments have sought to ensure that the trade continues.

Nord-Axis has become one of the leading traders of Russian oil, moving $3.66 billion of crude, around 586,000 barrels per day in the first four months of this year, according to detailed data on Russian trade and shipping compiled by KSE Institute, a part of the Kyiv School of Economics. That’s almost as much as the total production of Azerbaijan. The company traded $2.19-billion of refined products in January to April, according to the data.

The data shows Coral Energy’s handling of barrels declined sharply from December, down to just an average of 6,100 barrels per day of crude across the four-month period. The company has previously said that it stopped dealing in Russian oil from 1 January, but that some vessels carrying oil purchased in the fourth quarter were loaded and shipped only in January.

 

 

 

Ukraine attacks Russian oil tanker, says Black Sea ports at risk

Ukraine attacked an oil tanker it said was supplying Russian forces and warned that ports, including commodity hubs, may be at risk in the latest escalation in the area around the Black Sea.

The hull of the tanker was pierced after an attack by a sea drone in the Kerch Strait, Russia’s Federal River and Marine Transportation Agency said on Telegram. There were no casualties and the vessel was still afloat and scheduled for repair on Sunday, the agency said. Ukraine’s state security service was responsible for the drone strike, according to a Ukrainian official familiar with the matter.

The attack — the first case of a vessel carrying commodities in the Black Sea being targeted by Kyiv’s forces — highlights a new phase in the conflict since Russia exited a grain deal last month and sought to cripple Ukraine’s ability to export the commodity. Kyiv has threatened commensurate action against Russia and the flow of raw materials through the key shipping route is increasingly at risk.

The latest incident “will very likely slow down traffic to and from Russian Black Sea ports”, said Vasilis Mouyis, the joint managing director of Greece-based Doric Shipbrokers.

Ukraine’s state sea and river transport service announced that six Russian ports — including commodity hubs Novorossiysk, Tuapse and Taman — would be part of the “war risk area” until further notice. That followed the closure for several hours of the Novorossiysk port in the Black Sea on Friday, after a Ukrainian drone attack on a naval vessel.

Another sea drone was destroyed near Sevastopol on the Russia-occupied Crimean Peninsula on Saturday, which temporarily disrupted navigation in the area, according to the Tass news service. Last month, explosions damaged the Kerch Strait bridge which links Russia-annexed Crimea to Russia’s Krasnodar region.

Ukraine is trying to counter Russia’s efforts to control the flow of traffic in the Black Sea, said Mykola Bielieskov, a research fellow at the National Institute for Strategic Studies. DM

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