World

UKRAINE UPDATE: 2 MAY 2024

US sanctions Chinese, UAE firms for aiding Moscow’s war; US bans import of Russian enriched uranium

US sanctions Chinese, UAE firms for aiding Moscow’s war; US bans import of Russian enriched uranium
US Treasury secretary Janet Yellen.(Photo: Tuane Fernandes / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The US on Wednesday announced sanctions on nearly 300 companies and individuals, including in China and the United Arab Emirates, for alleged support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The US Senate voted on Tuesday evening to approve legislation banning the import of enriched uranium from Russia, sending the measure to the White House which has said it supports efforts to block the Kremlin’s shipments of the reactor fuel.

Ukrainian drones hit a major oil refinery owned by state-controlled Rosneft in Ryazan, southeast of Moscow, just as the facility’s crude-processing ability had recovered from a previous strike. 

US sanctions firms in China, UAE for support of Russia’s war

The US on Wednesday announced sanctions on nearly 300 companies and individuals, including in China and the United Arab Emirates, for alleged support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

According to the US Treasury Department, the Chinese firms include Hong Kong-based Finder Technology, which is accused of exporting 293 shipments of drone parts and other electronics, Juhang Aviation Technology Shenzhen, which is accused of providing Russia with drone propellers, signal jammers, sensors and engines; and Zhongcheng Heavy Equipment Defense Technology Group, which is accused of supplying the paramilitary Wagner Group.

The Treasury also targeted for the first time manufacturers and suppliers of cotton cellulose and nitrocellulose, which are precursors for making gunpowder, rocket propellant and other explosives. A combination of Russian and Chinese companies were sanctioned for being involved in the trade of those materials.

The move came shortly after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Chinese officials the US would take action against any firms that helped Russia’s military procurement efforts.

Yellen said on Wednesday that the sanctions, along with recently enacted additional funding for Ukraine, mean that the country had a “critical leg-up on the battlefield”.

She had foreshadowed parts of Wednesday’s announcement in remarks on 8 April in Beijing, when she said that “companies, including those in [China], must not provide material support for Russia’s war and that they will face significant consequences if they do”. 

Separately, the State Department also levied sanctions against companies and individuals it said had engaged in sanctions evasion or in supporting Russia’s chemical and biological weapons programmes.

Senate passes Russian enriched uranium import ban

The US Senate voted on Tuesday evening to approve legislation banning the import of enriched uranium from Russia, sending the measure to the White House which has said it supports efforts to block the Kremlin’s shipments of the reactor fuel.

The Prohibiting Russian Uranium Imports Act, approved by unanimous consent, would bar US imports 90 days after enactment while allowing temporary waivers until January 2028. US President Joe Biden must sign the Bill before it becomes law.

North American uranium mining stocks rose early on Wednesday on the vote.  

Russia provided almost a quarter of the enriched uranium used to fuel the US’s fleet of more than 90 commercial reactors, making it the No 1 foreign supplier, according to US Energy Department data. Those sales provide an estimated $1-billion a year to Russia, but replacing that supply could be a challenge and risks raising the costs of enriched uranium by about 20%.

The White House had called for a “long-term ban” on Russian imports, which is needed to unlock some $2.70-billion to stand up a domestic uranium industry made available by Congress earlier this year, contingent on there being limits on the import of Russian uranium in place.

Read more: The Manhattan Project to wean the US off Russian uranium

“This is a national security priority as dependence on Russian sources of uranium creates risk to the US economy and the civil nuclear industry that has been further strained by Russia’s war in Ukraine,” the White House said earlier in a fact sheet. “Without action, Russia will continue its hold on the global uranium market to the detriment of US allies and partners.” 

Ukrainian drone attack sets major Russian oil refinery on fire

Ukrainian drones hit a major oil refinery owned by state-controlled Rosneft in Ryazan, southeast of Moscow, just as the facility’s crude-processing abilities had recovered from a previous strike.

The overnight attack caused a fire at the plant, a person in the Ukraine military who is familiar with the matter told Bloomberg News. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorised to discuss the information publicly.

“The Ryazan region was attacked by an unmanned aerial vehicle,” regional Governor Pavel Malkov said on his Telegram account on Wednesday, without giving further detail. Videos posted on Russian Telegram channels purported to show the plant on fire, but they couldn’t immediately be verified by Bloomberg.

Rosneft, the nation’s largest oil producer, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment during a public holiday in Russia.

Oil-processing, one of Russia’s most important industries, has been a target of Ukrainian drone attacks since late January. Kyiv is seeking to curb fuel supplies to Russian forces on the front line and cut the flow of petrodollars to the Kremlin’s coffers as Moscow’s invasion continues into its third year.

Ukraine has targeted some of Russia’s key refineries, at times causing partial or complete shutdowns, with recent strikes at the Slavyansk and Ilsky plants in southern Russia. Driven by drone-inflicted damage and seasonal maintenance, Russia’s average daily processing rates were close to an 11-month low as of late April. 

The Ryazan refinery, located some 200km from the Russian capital, was damaged by another Ukrainian drone in mid-March and had been gradually ramping up its oil-processing operations since then.  

Russia has been targeting major Ukrainian cities with missile and drone strikes since it began the February 2022 invasion. It has claimed a recent deadly bombing campaign that has killed dozens in Ukraine is retaliation for attacks on its territory. 

At least three people were killed and three injured when the southern city of Odesa came under ballistic missile attack early on Wednesday, regional Governor Oleh Kiper said on Telegram. Civil infrastructure was also damaged in the strike, he said.

On Monday, a ballistic missile struck one of Odesa’s parks, killing five civilians.

Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv and the surrounding region have also faced relentless Russian strikes using so-called guided bombs. Local authorities said early on Wednesday that 10 residential buildings were damaged. DM

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