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UKRAINE UPDATE: 11 AUGUST 2023

Navy designates temporary Black Sea routes amid threat; Russia shoots down drones bound for Moscow

Navy designates temporary Black Sea routes amid threat; Russia shoots down drones bound for Moscow
The aftermath of shelling by shock drones on an oil depot in the Rivne region, western Ukraine, on 10 August 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Rivne Region Prosecutor’s Office Handout)

Ukraine’s navy designated temporary Black Sea routes for trade vessels willing to navigate waters endangered by Russia’s military.

Russia’s state-owned atomic energy company, Rosatom, said it plans a cold shutdown of the fourth reactor at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant because of a leaking pipe, but may use the sixth unit in so-called hot shutdown to meet the plant’s own needs. The International Atomic Energy Agency has been urging Russia to bring all six of the reactors at the occupied plant into a state of cold shutdown for safety reasons.

Russia’s Defence Ministry said earlier that air defence shot down two Ukrainian drones bound for Moscow, leading authorities to briefly close two international airports near the capital. The aircraft were shot down around Sevastopol in occupied Crimea, while nine more were jammed by electronic warfare equipment and crashed into the Black Sea, the ministry said. Officials in the western Ukrainian region of Rivne reported a drone attack overnight that damaged an oil depot.

Latest developments

 

 

 

Ukraine neighbour Romania readies $6.5bn F-35 jet purchase

Romania is poised to sign a $6.5-billion contract to upgrade its air force with US-made F-35 aircraft, the Black Sea nation’s biggest such deal to date as Russia’s war with Ukraine rages on the other side of the border.

Defence Minister Angel Tilvar said the government was awaiting parliamentary approval for the acquisition of 32 Lockheed Martin-made fighter jets along with logistics equipment, training and ammunition. The fleet should be in operation from 2030, he said.

“The war has literally moved to our doorstep for these last few weeks,” Tilvar said in an e-mailed response to Bloomberg, citing fresh Russian attacks on Danube river ports near Romania’s eastern border. “We are not ignoring these risks by any means.”

A North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member since 2004, Romania has bolstered its air-defence capabilities with a High Launch Multiple Rocket System, Himars, which is expected to become fully operational next year — as well as three Bayraktar unmanned aerial systems, to be delivered in 2024, Tilvar said.

The nation is also awaiting the delivery of 32 F-16 fighters from Norway, to be completed in 2025. Four Patriot missile batteries for air defence have been delivered, while a contract for a further three is likely to be signed by the end of 2023, the minister said.

Anxiety among people living close to the border has been growing after recent Russian attacks on Ukraine’s Reni and Izmail ports on the Danube, as they fear drones and missiles going off course could hit Romanian territory.

In rare, controversial trade, Russian oil tanker heads to Ghana

A second cargo of Russian crude was heading to the port of Tema, Ghana, after offloading the first was held up earlier this year because of national security considerations.

The Suezmax tanker Nissos Tinos left the Arctic port of Murmansk on Wednesday with a cargo of about one million barrels of Russian crude and is due to arrive at the West African port later this month, according to tanker tracking data compiled by Bloomberg. The ship is owned by Kyklades Maritime Corp, based in Piraeus, Greece.

European-owned tankers are permitted to carry Russian crude as long as it was purchased at a price below $60 a barrel under a price cap mechanism introduced by the Group of Seven nations in December. Ship owners and insurers are covered as long as they have an attestation from the buyer of the cargo that the price paid was below the cap.

The pool of buyers for Russian crude has shrunk dramatically since Moscow’s troops invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Import bans were imposed by the US, UK, Canada, Australia and members of the European Union. That’s left Russia hugely reliant on just two buyers — more than 80% of its seaborne crude shipments now end up in India or China.

Exporters are hunting for new markets. It’s unclear where the cargo of the Nissos Tinos will end up once it arrives in Ghana.

In February, while the tanker Theseus was hauling the first Russian barrels to Tema, the chief executive officer of Ghana’s National Petroleum Authority said the shipment would be blocked if it was bound for the country.

The cargo was held up for six weeks before eventually being offloaded into storage tanks at the Tema Oil Refinery. The plant, Ghana’s only major crude processor, has been shut for about two years, although the government had been given assurances it would resume operations this year.

The Accra-based Institute for Energy Security called on Ghana’s government to explain how a cargo of Russian oil came to be in the nation’s territorial waters, and it identified Platon Gas Oil Ghana as the purchaser of the first cargo.

Russia police chief decries staff exodus as war draws labour away

Russia’s interior minister said thousands of police personnel have quit their posts, as the Kremlin’s military recruitment for the war in Ukraine intensifies labour pressures in the economy.

“The personnel shortage is very great. I would say that it’s already critical,” Vladimir Kolokoltsev said at a meeting with officials, according to a statement on the ministry’s website Thursday. “Over the past month, 5,000 employees have left the internal affairs structures” and there’s a shortage of investigators, he said.

Read more: Russia seeks 400,000 more recruits as latest Ukraine push stalls

President Vladimir Putin’s drive to expand Russia’s armed forces is adding to labour shortages after hundreds of thousands of workers were drafted or volunteered to join the military from other sectors of the economy. The central bank said last month that, with unemployment at a record low in Russia, a deficit of labour was hindering economic growth.

Ukraine navy seeks to reopen Black Sea ports shut for month

Ukraine laid out temporary Black Sea routes for ships that are willing to navigate waters threatened by Russia, as it seeks to reclaim control over its maritime trade.

The initiative will focus on allowing ships to exit three deep-sea Ukrainian ports, the navy said in a statement on Facebook. Chornomorsk, Odesa and Pivdennyi have been effectively blockaded since Russia last month exited the grain deal allowing safe passage and threatened any ships sailing to Ukraine.

Kyiv has repeatedly said that it wants to reopen the trade routes despite the Kremlin’s threats, but it’s challenging. Shipowners are wary of sending vessels and crews into danger, while insurers view Ukraine’s sea ports as unsafe. Russia’s Defence Ministry said last month that all ships headed to Ukraine’s ports would be considered as potentially carrying military cargo.

“Vessels whose owners and captains officially confirm that they are ready to sail in the current conditions will be allowed to pass through the routes,” the Ukraine navy statement said.

 

 

 

Yandex founder condemns Russian war as deal to split firm stalls

Sanctioned Russian billionaire Arkady Volozh denounced the invasion of Ukraine, taking a public stance on the war for the first time as the prospect fades of a deal to sell the search engine he founded.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is barbaric, and I am categorically against it,” Volozh said in a statement on Thursday, adding that he had kept silent until now as he attempted to help Russian engineers at Yandex leave the country.

Yandex, which is Russia’s leading search engine and is domiciled in the Netherlands, has come under intense pressure both in Russia and abroad since President Vladimir Putin ordered the February 2022 invasion. Last month, the US sanctioned former Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who’s been advising the company on how to split its Russian and international assets.

As the war has dragged on and the Kremlin took a more aggressive stance against international businesses, the prospects for a deal became more remote. In July, Russia took control of the local units of French yoghurt maker Danone SA and Danish brewer Carlsberg under a decree aimed at companies from “unfriendly” countries.

Volozh, who lives in Israel, resigned as Yandex’s chief executive officer last year after he was sanctioned by the European Union. DM

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