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UKRAINE UPDATE: 3 APRIL 2024

Nato moots $100bn fund for Kyiv; Russia shakes up navy command after Black Sea losses

Nato moots $100bn fund for Kyiv; Russia shakes up navy command after Black Sea losses
Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. (Photo: Omar Havana / Getty Images)

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is proposing to establish a fund of allied contributions worth $100bn over five years for Ukraine as part of a package for alliance leaders to sign off when they gather in Washington in July.

Russia’s Defence Ministry announced a shakeup of top naval posts after a series of ships in the Black Sea Fleet were lost in attacks by Ukraine.

Senior Alternative for Germany (AfD) officials plan to quiz two legislators from the far-right party over their alleged links to a Europe-wide, pro-Russia disinformation network.

Ukrainian drones struck Russia’s Tatarstan region early on Tuesday for the first time since the start of the invasion, hitting targets that included a refinery nearly 1,500km from the border between the two countries. 

Nato proposes $100bn, five-year fund to support Ukraine

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is proposing to establish a fund of allied contributions worth $100-billion over five years for Ukraine as part of a package for alliance leaders to sign off when they gather in Washington in July.

Allies were still discussing Stoltenberg’s proposal and any mechanics of the accounting, including whether to factor in bilateral aid to Ukraine into the overall sum, according to people familiar with the discussions. 

The proposal, which needs approval from the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation’s 32 allies, was likely to change before allies agree, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.  

As part of the package, Nato could also take over the operational duties of the US-led Ukraine Contact Defense Group, which coordinates weapons deliveries by about 50 countries to Ukraine, said the people. With Nato’s supreme allied commander General Chris Cavoli in charge, such a step could protect the structure from any political change that may result after the November elections. 

The prospect of Donald Trump’s return has triggered increased talk among allies about what Europe should do to ensure the US is invested in transatlantic security. It’s also raised concerns among European officials that Trump could withdraw US aid to Ukraine in light of comments that he’d seek to end the war in a day.

If allies back Stoltenberg’s proposal, a move by Nato to take a more active role in aid for Ukraine would mark a paradigm shift for the military alliance, which has previously distanced itself from those efforts to avoid being potentially drawn into a wider war with Russia.

Russia shakes up navy command after Black Sea losses to Ukraine

Russia’s Defence Ministry announced a shakeup of top naval posts after a series of ships in the Black Sea Fleet were lost in attacks by Ukraine.

President Vladimir Putin appointed Admiral Alexander Moiseyev as the new head of the Russian navy, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a statement on Telegram published on Tuesday. Vice-Admiral Sergei Pinchuk was named the new Black Sea Fleet commander, while Vice-Admiral Konstantin Kabantsov replaced Moiseyev as head of Russia’s Northern Fleet.

The appointments were disclosed following the reported dismissal last month of the former head of the navy, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov. That took place after vessels in the Black Sea Fleet were lost to strikes by Ukrainian marine drones, including the Sergei Kotov patrol ship in March.

Read more: Putin risks losing vital naval hub as Ukraine strikes in Crimea

The attacks prompted Russia to move most of the fleet away from its home base in Crimea and have helped Ukraine to secure safe passage for ships carrying commodities like grain and metals from ports near Odesa. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Crimea’s Sevastopol was hit by a Ukrainian missile in September

German far-right AfD Party looks into alleged Russia links

Senior Alternative for Germany (AfD) officials plan to quiz two legislators from the far-right party over their alleged links to a Europe-wide, pro-Russia disinformation network.

The AfD leadership will speak after the Easter break with Maximilian Krah, the party’s lead candidate for June’s EU Parliament elections, and Petr Bystron, a legislator in the lower house of parliament in Berlin, about the allegations in a report in Der Spiegel magazine, AfD spokesperson Daniel Tapp told Bloomberg.

Both Krah and Bystron deny wrongdoing, Tapp said. The two legislators did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Czech government said last week that its counterintelligence service had uncovered a Russian network trying to influence politics and public opinion across Europe, including making payments to European politicians.

The government in Prague didn’t give names of the alleged recipients or further details about the flow of the money, but it imposed sanctions on a local company that runs the Voice of Europe website and on two individuals linked to it.

It said one of the people was Viktor Medvedchuk, a politician close to Putin who was arrested by Ukraine and charged with treason in 2021. He was handed over to Russia as part of a prisoner swap in 2022.

Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said the work of the nation’s counterintelligence agency led to “other countries in Europe investigating the activities of pro-Russian spy networks and gradually coming to more serious conclusions”.

Germany’s domestic intelligence service played a key role in the Czech investigation, according to a German official who asked not to be identified discussing confidential information.

Ukrainian drones strike Tatarstan region, deep in Russia

Ukrainian drones struck Russia’s Tatarstan region early on Tuesday for the first time since the start of the invasion, hitting targets that included a refinery nearly 1,500km from the border between the two countries.

The drones hit targets in the cities of Yelabuga and Nizhnekamsk and didn’t cause serious damage or disrupt business operations, the head of the region, Rustam Minnikhanov, said on his Telegram channel. Twelve people were injured in the attack on Yelabuga, the state-run Tass news service reported, citing regional authorities.

Long-range drones also hit a refinery in the region, part of a joint operation conducted by Ukraine’s state security service and military intelligence aimed at reducing Russia’s ability to finance its war, according to a Ukrainian official.

Part of the Taneco facility, one of two large refineries in Nizhnekamsk, caught fire after the drone attack, though it was put out within 20 minutes, according to the state-run RIA Novosti news service. Production at the refinery was not disrupted, RIA reported.

Ukrainian military intelligence also targeted a drone assembly plant in Tatarstan, RBC Ukraine reported, citing a person in the special services. The plant manufactures Shahed drones, which are Iranian-designed, long-range unmanned aircraft branded as Heran-2 in Russia, according to RBC.

Ukraine’s national electricity grid said that Russia hit a substation and damaged a high-voltage line overnight, limiting the electricity supply in Kharkiv and Kryvyi Rih, an industrial hub where steelmaker ArcelorMittal has its plant.

Russia’s Sokol crude back on move to India despite US sanctions

Three tankers hauling Russian Sokol cargoes were anchored near Indian ports, indicating trade of the crude grade is returning despite complications caused by tougher US sanctions.

Indian refiners have become major buyers of discounted Russian oil since the invasion of Ukraine, but have faced difficulties receiving the far-eastern variety amid tighter sanctions enforcement since late last year.

Some of those challenges are showing early signs of easing. Supertanker Nireta was anchored near Visakhapatnam on India’s east coast, while two other tankers — Vostochny Prospect and Erecter — were close to Jamnagar in the west, both signalling Sikka as their destination, according to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

Clyde Noble, another vessel filled with Sokol, was also en route to Sikka, Bloomberg ship-tracking data show. 

By contrast, in the month to mid-January, 10 shipments of Sokol crude that were meant to arrive in India failed to discharge, with at least five vessels heading back through the Strait of Malacca, according to ship-tracking data. Further cargoes added to the backlog, which reached as much as 18 million barrels.

All of the Sokol cargoes loaded in March and most of those shipped in February have been delivered to China, but some of those earlier consignments are now finding their way back to India.

What’s changed is that Sokol is now being supplied by traders, rather than the producer, and the cargoes are offered at attractive discounts, resulting in a resumption of some flows to India, said refinery executives who asked not to be identified as the information is private.

Russian crude processing picks up after drone strikes cut output

Russia’s weekly crude processing picked up in late March after sinking to a 10-month low earlier in the month. 

The nation’s refineries churned through an average of 5.13 million barrels a day from March 21-27, according to a person with knowledge of industry data. That’s almost 106,000 barrels a day more than they processed the previous seven days, according to Bloomberg calculations based on historical data.

But the month as a whole saw rates dip. In the first 27 days of March, refinery runs averaged 5.25 million barrels a day, 1.3% below the level through most of February and the lowest monthly rate since May, the data show.

With the invasion of Ukraine in its third year, Kyiv has been using drones to target Russia’s most important industry. The government has defended the strategy, saying it’s seeking to curb fuel supplies to the front line and cut the flow of petrodollars to Kremlin coffers, but US officials have reportedly warned that the attacks risk driving up global oil prices.

Ukrainian drones have damaged 12 major Russian refineries and two smaller plants so far this year. The total capacity of those sites accounted for more than 30% of Russia’s runs before the assaults started, according to Bloomberg calculations based on industry data.

The actual reduction in crude processing is visibly smaller because most of the affected sites have been able to repair damaged equipment, partly or completely restoring capacity by the end of March. Some other plants have also increased throughput to ensure fuel demand is met. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s insistence that strikes will continue means the recovery in refinery runs may prove short-lived. Processing is also likely to decline once the spring maintenance season gets under way. DM

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  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    Jens must be commended for the work he is doing for Ukraine against all avoidable odds.
    Ukraine is fighting for it’s land with what ever is at their disposal.
    International laws are so undermined leading to Ukraine and Palestine to be in the situation they find themselves in.
    These are both invaded and occupied nations against international laws.

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