UKRAINE UPDATE: 27 SEPTEMBER 2023
EU faults Musk’s X for Russian disinformation; Kyiv closes Romania ferry checkpoint after drone attack
Elon Musk’s X was cited as the biggest outlet for Russian disinformation as European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova warned of Slovakia being targeted by pro-Kremlin narratives ahead of an election on Saturday.
The European Union’s chief trade negotiator, Valdis Dombrovskis, also issued some of the bloc’s strongest criticism yet on China’s failure to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine, saying it was damaging Beijing’s investment opportunities.
In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky discussed increasing the production of drones during a meeting with military commanders and officials. The authorities had earlier suspended operations at a Danube River border checkpoint with Romania after a Russian drone strike damaged port facilities in the region overnight.
- Musk’s X is biggest outlet of Russia disinformation, says EU
- EU trade chief warns China’s Ukraine stance is hurting trade
- Russia relies on Europe to ship its oil despite price cap breach
- Egypt is in talks to buy one million tonnes of wheat from Russia
- Bulgarians accused of spying for Russia appear in London court
New York steps up as unlikely diesel supplier during Russia ban
New York is rising to the fore as an unlikely diesel supplier, shipping out three cargoes in one week as Russia’s fuel export ban sends buyers searching for new supplies.
Three ships — the Mantaro I, the Nord Master and the Sti Queens — loaded more than a combined one million barrels of diesel or gas oil in the past week from the International-Matex terminal in New York Harbour, according to Kpler data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s an average of 41,000 barrels a day so far this month, the highest monthly rate since June 2020.
New York is typically short on diesel and relies on imports from Europe and Canada. But it has been a net exporter each month since July, Kpler data show. That has contributed to the region’s inventories of distillates, which include diesel and heating oil, dwindling to the second lowest level recorded for this time of year.
Egypt in talks to buy 1 million tonnes of wheat from Russia
Egypt is in talks to buy one million tonnes of Russian wheat through a government-to-government deal, people familiar with the matter said.
The talks have taken place for delivery this season, said the people, who asked not to be identified as the information isn’t public. It’s not clear how close the two countries are to a deal.
Egypt is one of the world’s top wheat importers and its purchases are closely tracked as a global benchmark. Its state buyer began booking some wheat last year in private talks — marking a shift from its traditional process of securing grain through tenders — and since the beginning of the year has been allowed to import grain and vegetable oils via government-to-government deals.
Russia’s seaborne crude flows slip on Primorsk port maintenance
Russia’s seaborne crude exports were curtailed by maintenance work at export terminals, though shipments look set for a rebound in the coming week.
A four-day halt at the Primorsk oil terminal on the Baltic offset a recovery in Pacific flows in the seven days to 24 September. The works saw the country’s shipments fall by about 100,000 barrels a day to three million last week, with the less volatile four-week average flow dropping by a similar amount, tanker-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg show. Loading operations resumed at Primorsk from Friday.
The impact of port closures masks a boost to shipments from Moscow’s easing of earlier export restrictions. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said early last month that the Kremlin would extend export cuts, while tapering them to 300,000 barrels a day from September, compared with 500,000 in August. The baseline for the reduction was average exports in May and June — when seaborne volumes hit new highs. Before the works at Primorsk, which followed a similar halt the previous week at Kozmino in Russia’s Far East, shipments had risen by more than twice as much as implied by Novak’s comments.
While crude exports are expected to rebound, Russia has temporarily halted overseas shipments of gasoline and diesel. The move appears to be related to a shortage of supplies in the domestic market, rather than the weaponisation of exports. Shipments are expected to resume as soon as the government and oil companies come up with a mechanism to ensure adequate supplies to local buyers, with analysts suggesting the disruption is unlikely to last more than a few weeks.
Russian attack forces Kyiv to halt Romania ferry checkpoint
Ukraine suspended operations at a Danube River border checkpoint with Romania after a Russian drone strike damaged port facilities in the region overnight.
Measures were being taken to stabilise the situation after authorities closed the ferry checkpoint at Orlivka, the Ukrainian State Border Service said on Telegram on Tuesday. Governor Oleh Kiper of Ukraine’s southern Odesa region said port infrastructure was hit in the area close to the Romanian border.
Russia has been stepping up attacks on Ukrainian ports and infrastructure near the Danube to prevent Kyiv’s attempt to use alternative river, rail and road routes to ship its crops after Moscow exited a Black Sea commerce deal in July.
The strikes in the border region are ratcheting up tension, with incidents of spillover into Romania, a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member state. Romanian authorities have reported several incidents of Russian drone parts landing on its soil.
Musk’s X is biggest outlet for Russia disinformation, says EU
Elon Musk’s X was cited as the biggest outlet for peddlers of disinformation as the European Union urged Silicon Valley platforms to step up their vigilance to combat Russia’s “war of ideas”.
European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova said platforms needed to act ahead of national and European elections over the next year.
“This is a multimillion-euro weapon of mass manipulation aimed both internally at the Russians as well as Europeans and the rest of the world,” Jourova told reporters on Tuesday. “The very large platforms must address this risk. Especially that we have to expect that the Kremlin and others will be active before our European elections.”
The EU released reports on how each of the major tech companies, including Meta Platforms’ Facebook, Alphabet’s Google and ByteDance’s TikTok, are faring in the battle against disinformation.
Most of the major platforms agreed to work with the EU on a voluntary code of conduct, which aims to set industry standards for fact-checking and other measures. The bloc also performed a pilot project to gauge the extent of the problem.
“X, former Twitter, who is not under the code any more, is the platform with the largest ratio of mis- or disinformation posts,” Jourova said. “The pilot also showed that disinformation actors were found to have significantly more followers than their non-disinformation counterparts and tend to have joined the platform more recently than non-disinformation users.”
EU trade chief says China’s Ukraine stance hurting its image
The European Union’s top trade negotiator blasted Beijing’s failure to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine, making it clear the bloc won’t separate economics from key political issues.
Valdis Dombrovskis, an executive vice-president at the European Commission, issued some of the group’s strongest criticisms yet on Tuesday about President Xi Jinping’s stance on the war, telling reporters at a press briefing in Beijing the conflict was a “blatant breach” of Chinese principles on territorial integrity.
As he wrapped up a four-day visit to China designed to stabilise bilateral relations, Dombrovskis also warned that Beijing’s position — it claims to be neutral on the conflict while providing Moscow with diplomatic and economic support — carried reputational risks. Russia’s “sabotage” of grain exports should concern the Chinese government, he added.
“China’s position is affecting its image, not only with European consumers but also with businesses,” he said. “The war is making it a less attractive investment destination.” DM