UKRAINE UPDATE: 20 SEPTEMBER 2023
Biden urges world leaders to back Kyiv for long haul; US military chief says winter won’t stop counteroffensive
At the United Nations, US President Joe Biden urged world leaders to back Ukraine for the long haul. 'If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?' Biden asked.
Ukrainian forces have “plenty of fighting weather left” as colder temperatures approach, with muddy terrain giving way to frozen ground that will allow Kyiv’s counteroffensive to press on during the winter months, the top US military officer said.
“There’s no intention whatsoever by the Ukrainians to stop fighting during the winter,” General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said after a meeting of defence officials at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
A drone strike on a warehouse in Ukraine’s western city of Lviv containing 300 tonnes of relief supplies was condemned by UN humanitarian coordinator Denise Brown as a violation. ‘International humanitarian law is not an option, it is an obligation and must be upheld,’ she said.
- Biden urges UN to stand by Ukraine as allies see long war ahead
- Ukraine braces for ‘severe winter’ of attacks, says deputy PM
- Lula has a date with Zelensky in NYC despite past acrimony
- Erdoğan stays defiant on delay to Sweden’s bid to join Nato
- Ukraine to license exports of key crops to European neighbours
US and G7 allies expect war in Ukraine to drag on for years
The US and its allies in the Group of Seven now expect the war in Ukraine may drag on for years and are building that possibility into their military and financial planning.
A senior official from one European G7 country said the war may last for as many as six or seven more years and that allies need to plan financially to continue support for Kyiv for such a long conflict.
That’s much longer than many officials had expected earlier this year, but slow progress in Ukraine’s counteroffensive in recent months has tempered expectations.
Leaders from the group, including President Joe Biden, brought that message to the UN General Assembly this week in New York, using the venue and citing its founding principles as a reason for other nations to throw their support behind Ukraine.
G7 officials discussed the darker outlook at a dinner on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Monday night and agreed that the conflict was likely to last for the medium or long term, a senior US State Department official told reporters on Tuesday. The officials requested anonymity to discuss matters that weren’t public.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Tuesday called Russia’s invasion a violation of the UN charter and international law. “Ignoring global treaties and conventions makes us all less safe,” he said. “And the poisoning of global diplomacy obstructs progress across the board.”
France’s far-right party pays €6.1m to close Russian loan
France’s far-right National Rally party said it has paid back some €6.1-million to close out a loan originally taken from a Russian bank as it aims to distance itself from accusations of foreign influence.
The party said in a statement on Tuesday that it made the payment to the Moscow-based firm Aviazapchast, which took over the loan in 2016.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen earlier this year rejected claims that she was influenced by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a parliamentary hearing on foreign political interference.
The investigating committee that led the hearing was set up by the National Rally party in an effort to confront long-standing criticism over alleged ties to Russia that resurfaced after the invasion of Ukraine last year.
The loan was taken out in 2014 from First Czech Russian Bank and was later taken over by Aviazapchast.
The National Rally said that it had borrowed the money after French and other European banks turned down the party’s request for a loan.
First grain ship since July leaves Ukrainian Black Sea port
The first grain ship in more than two months left one of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, as Kyiv seeks to defy Russia’s effective maritime blockade following the collapse of a safe-passage deal. Wheat prices fell.
The Resilient Africa left Chornomorsk with 3,000 tonnes of wheat and was heading toward the Bosphorus, Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov posted on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. Another vessel was at the port loaded with wheat for Egypt, he added. They arrived on Saturday.
It’s too early to know if Kyiv’s efforts to reopen a corridor will significantly lift exports. The market is watching for a response from Moscow, which has said it would treat any ships headed to Ukraine’s ports as potentially carrying weapons. In August, the Russian navy fired on a vessel to force it to stop for checks.
Biden urges UN to stand by Ukraine as allies forsee long war
Biden urged world leaders to back Ukraine in its war against Russia, even as the country and its allies brace for the prospect of a long-term conflict, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
“If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?” Biden said on Tuesday. “The answer is no. We have to stand up to this naked aggression today to deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow.”
“No nation wants this war to end more than Ukraine,” Biden said as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky watched him deliver his address. “Russia alone bears responsibility for this war. Russia alone has the power to end this war immediately. And it’s Russia alone that stands in the way of peace, because Russia’s price for peace is Ukraine’s capitulation, Ukraine’s territory and Ukraine’s children.”
Biden is seeking $24-billion for Ukraine, but conservatives in the House have threatened to shut down the US government if a budget deal includes what they call a “blank cheque” for Kyiv. House conservatives have bristled at Biden’s support for Ukraine and called for imposing more conditions on it or halting aid. Congress faces a 30 September deadline to pass additional government funding.
Lula has a date with Zelensky in NYC despite past acrimony
After a disappointing video call and an awkward snub at the Group of Seven, Brazil’s Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Zelensky finally have a date.
The pair’s meeting, set for Wednesday, is one of the most anticipated encounters during this week’s UN General Assembly gathering in New York, with the Ukrainian president looking to rally support from a prominent leader who has so far refused to pick sides in the war.
It’s a do-over after Zelensky and Lula couldn’t find time for a handshake amid acrimony in May, when they were both invited to a G7 summit of rich countries in Japan. On that occasion, Zelensky’s surprise appearance unnerved the Brazilian delegation, which feared a trap had been set for Lula. Brazil argued that Zelensky shared some blame for the war. A March video conference between them yielded no results.
But now both seem to have something to gain despite their past animosity.
Zelensky (45) is rallying support for the 18-month-old effort to repel Russia’s invasion, and gaining even tacit support from Lula would be a major success given the Brazilian leader’s place as one of the most high-profile leaders of the Global South.
He’s also looking to persuade allies and sceptics alike that his army’s counteroffensive will succeed in the end despite only incremental progress so far. After New York, he’ll head to Washington to make his case to Biden’s White House and Congress, where some Republicans have begun to waver.
Lula (77) is eager to assert Brazil as a powerful force on the world stage. Adding a meeting with Zelensky to an agenda that already includes a one-on-one with President Joe Biden positions the Brazilian as the developing world’s most outspoken champion in New York, especially with India’s Narendra Modi and China’s Xi Jinping both staying home.
Russia’s crude shipments hit a three-month high as cuts tapered
Moscow is pushing more crude on to the market even as it says it will extend supply curbs to the end of the year along with Opec+ partner Saudi Arabia. That’s boosted Russia’s seaborne flows to a three-month high.
Average nationwide shipments in the four weeks to September 17 rose to 3.34 million barrels a day, tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show. That’s a jump of about 465,000 barrels a day from the period to August 20, with the increases concentrated at the Baltic ports of Primorsk, Ust-Luga and Novorossiysk on the Black Sea.
Some increase in Russia’s crude exports was to be expected. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said early last month that Russia would extend its export cut, while tapering it to 300,000 barrels a day from September, compared with 500,000 barrels a day in August. But shipments have risen by more than twice as much as implied by Novak’s statement.
More volatile weekly shipments edged lower in the seven days to 17 September, driven down by a brief midweek halt to flows from the Pacific port of Kozmino, which appears to have been related to maintenance work at the terminal.
The export boost comes as crude prices are being driven higher by a combination of robust demand and output cuts by key producers — most notably Saudi Arabia. The kingdom has pledged to keep its production below nine million barrels a day until the end of the year, the lowest its target has been since 2011, excluding the response to the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Saudi Arabia’s early September announcement was mirrored by Russia, which committed to maintaining its export reduction to year-end.
Brent crude was trading around $95 a barrel, while Russia’s key Urals export grade has been above a Group of Seven price cap of $60 a barrel since mid-July.
The combination of rising exports and soaring prices has boosted the Kremlin’s revenues from oil export duties, which surged to the highest since January on a four-week average basis.
Ukraine braces for ‘severe winter’ of attacks, says deputy PM
Ukraine’s leadership is bracing for an escalation of Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure as cold weather approaches and the Kremlin continues to throttle the nation’s grain exports, the country’s deputy premier said.
“People are preparing for a severe winter,” Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Tuesday. The blockade of Ukrainian ports is a “situation of survival” for the embattled nation’s economy, while Russia’s conditions for restarting a deal to secure Black Sea commerce are “impossible,” she said.
With the Black Sea export channel disrupted, Ukraine has had to shift to costlier river, rail and road routes through the European Union. The government in Kyiv moved this week to challenge unilateral grain-import bans imposed by three of the EU neighbours — Poland, Hungary and Slovakia.
Ukraine reached a preliminary agreement with Romania, while Bulgaria joined the EU in lifting the restrictions.
“We are operating in times of war, understanding that these five countries are the only available area of exporting and releasing the grain products to the whole world,” Stefanishyna said, adding that Ukrainian grain doesn’t threaten Poland’s domestic market.
The deputy premier, who’s in charge of Ukraine’s European integration, said Poland is continuing its political support for Ukraine’s European aspirations and defence.
China, Russia vow deeper coordination ahead of Putin’s visit
China’s top diplomat pledged to strengthen his country’s “strategic coordination” with Russia, as the two nations lay the groundwork for a meeting of their leaders in Beijing next month.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi is making a three-day trip to Moscow for security and foreign policy talks with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, as the two sides continue to deepen ties.
China and Russia should “demonstrate their responsibilities as major powers, fulfil their due international obligations, and continue to strengthen strategic coordination,” Wang said on Monday, according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry. He added that neither side should be influenced by “third parties”, in a veiled reference to the US.
Putin will visit China next month for the Belt and Road Initiative forum and meet with President Xi Jinping, Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev confirmed on Tuesday, according to state-run Tass news service. That will be the Russian leader’s first foreign trip since the warrant for his arrest on alleged war crimes was issued by the International Criminal Court.
Poland signals it will stop aid for Ukrainian refugees next year
Poland is likely to cut financial support to the million Ukrainian refugees it is hosting, the government said, in a move that may further undermine ties with its neighbour that have been strained in a clash over grain imports.
While the government in Warsaw has been one of Ukraine’s most ardent supporters to help it defend itself against Russia’s invasion, offering financial and military aid and serving as a gateway for Western supplies, ties between the two nations are deteriorating in the run-up to Poland’s October election.
The support for refugees — which includes waiving residency requirements and the granting of work permits, free access to schools, medical treatment and family benefits — will not be extended next year, government spokesperson Piotr Muller told Polsat television.
“These regulations will simply expire next year,” Muller said on Monday. “I think the regulations will not be extended to a large extent.”
Poland spent about 2.4 billion zloty ($550-million) in child support for Ukrainian families who have fled to Poland to avoid the war through May, according to Anna Schmidt, the deputy family and social policy minister.
That will probably add to tensions after Poland’s ruling Law & Justice party extended a ban on grain imports from Ukraine, defying a European Union decision to end the embargo, as it seeks to secure support among Polish farmers before the 15 October vote. DM