Saturday, 2 April 2022

Ukraine Update: Kyiv Warns Russia Is Adding Troops in Moldova

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Russian troops are slowly leaving parts of Ukraine’s north, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address that warned of the dangers of landmines left by departing forces. Ukraine’s military said Russia is deploying more forces to Moldova’s Transnistria, close to Odesa. The breakaway region denied the assertions; Moscow hasn’t commented.
The U.S. is sending another $300 million in military and medical assistance to Ukraine, including Switchblade dive-bombing drones. President Joe Biden’s administration will help allies move Soviet-made tanks to Ukraine to support its defenses, the New York Times reported.
A call between Chinese President Xi and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is just a matter a time, according to a Chinese diplomat, a day after Xi spoke at an EU-China virtual summit. Pope Francis is considering a trip to Kyiv, and aimed some pointed criticism at Russia’s war.
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All times CET:
Ukrainian Journalist Killed in Fighting (5:19 p.m.)
The body of missing Ukrainian photojournalist Maks Levin has been found in a village north of Kyiv, according to a statement posted Saturday on the website of the office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general.
Levin, 40, who went missing in the conflict area on March 13, had worked with Reuters, BBC, TRT World, Associated Press, Hromadske and, according to the statement. He’s survived by four sons, his wife and parents, according to
Lithuania Ends Gas Imports over Ruble Demand (5:10 p.m.)
Lithuania’s government said it would no longer import gas from Russia over its demand to be paid in rubles. “We’re are the first EU state among Gazprom’s supply countries that has fully achieved independence from the Russian gas supplies,” Energy Minister Dainius Kreivys said.
European officials expressed confidence last week that gas shipments would continue, despite Putin’s demand to be paid in his country’s currency. “For us, with regard to Putin’s threat or announcement or plan — one doesn’t really know what to call it anymore — to get paid in rubles, the main point is that the contracts are being kept,” German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said.
Russian Soldiers Break Up Protest Outside Nuclear Plant (5:07 p.m.)
Russian troops broke up a protest outside the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeast Ukraine, Europe’s largest atomic generator, according to a statement by the country’s nuclear regulator Energoatom. Once the arrests started, shooting and explosions could be heard in the city.
Russian forces occupied the site of the plant, in the city of Enerhodar, last month after an attack that ignited a fire at the complex. Ukraine told the International Atomic Energy Agency at the time that the incident had “not affected ‘essential’ equipment,” and there had been no change reported in radiation levels.
Russia Hits Rail Infrastructure, Governor Says (4:33 p.m.)
Russian missiles on Saturday badly damaged train tracks, railcars and other infrastructure in the eastern Ukraine city of Pavlohrad, according to the governor of the Dnipro region, Valentyn Reznichenko.
The attack came as Lozova, an important railway hub about 50 km (37 miles) north of Pavlohrad, was also shelled, its mayor said on Facebook.
Firms Pull $45 Billion of Deals Since War Started (3:00 p.m.)
At least a hundred global companies have delayed or pulled financing deals worth more than $45 billion since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These include initial public offerings, bonds or loans and acquisitions.
U.S. equity market deals were the worst hit by global volatility in the first quarter as a crop of firms postponed listings, while Japanese and European debt markets also suffered from delays. The disruption comes as the conflict roiled funding markets, hurt investor appetite for risk and increased uncertainty over growth, interest-rate hikes and supply chains.
Pope Francis Says Kyiv Trip Possible (1:52 p.m.)
Pope Francis said a potential trip to the Ukrainian capital was “on the table,” in response to a question, according to the Associated Press. Without referring to Russia or to Vladimir Putin by name, Francis, who was en route to Malta, blamed “some potentate” caught up in “anachronistic claims of nationalist interests” for the war.
Moldova’s Transnistria Denies Russian Forces Plan (12:44 p.m.)
The foreign ministry of the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic, a pro-Russian breakaway enclave of Moldova, denied Kyiv’s claim that its forces and redeployed Russian troops are readying for hostilities against Ukraine in a potential new front of Moscow’s war.
Military units remain in their permanent deployments, the foreign ministry said, adding that “even planned activities” have been minimized to de-escalate tensions, and that about 25,000 Ukrainian refugees are in the territory.
Separately, the Moldovan foreign ministry said it had “no information to confirm” the Ukrainian military’s assertions. There’s been no comment from Moscow so far.
Accor Chief Says Hotels Will Stay Open in Russia (1:20 p.m.)
The French hotel company Accor SA plans to remain open in both Russia and Ukraine since it provides an essential service for those who need it, Chief Executive Sebastien Bazin said on France Inter radio on Saturday.
He added that Accor — which operates the Fairmont, Banyan Tree and Sofitel chains — isn’t financing Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine because it’s losing money in Russia and as a result isn’t paying taxes. “We have a 32% occupancy rate; you start making money at 55%,” he said.
Three of Accor’s seven hotels in Ukraine remain open, Bazin said. It manages more than 50 hotels in Russia.
Ukraine Says Russia Building Up Troop Levels in Moldova (10:58 a.m.)
Kyiv warned that a buildup of Russian troops in a pro-Moscow enclave of Moldova as a possible precursor to “provocations” on the border. The area is not far from the important city of Odesa on the Black Sea, headquarters of Ukraine’s navy. There was no immediate comment from Moscow.
“We have noted the redeployment of Russian troops and units of the so-called Transnistrian-Moldovan Republic in order to prepare for a demonstration of readiness for the offensive and, possibly, hostilities against Ukraine,” according to an operational update from Ukraine’s ministry of defense.
Transnistria is about 70 km (42 miles) northwest of Odesa. Russia fired ballistic missiles in the Odesa region late Friday from the Crimean peninsula, a Ukrainian official said.
A Visual Guide to the Russian Invasion of Ukraine
EU Not ‘Doomed to Recession’ Because of War, Gentiloni Says (10:24 a.m.)
The war in Ukraine certainly means a slowdown in economic growth for Europe, but a recession isn’t inevitable, EU Commissioner for Economy and Financial Affairs Paolo Gentiloni told reporters at a meeting in Cernobbio, Italy.
“The EU has decided to respond to the war not by taking part but by supporting the attacked country,” Gentiloni said. “This line of action must continue, without giving into blackmail; but this response has a cost, which we will need to deal with together.”
Zelenskiy Says Russian Soldiers Slowly Leaving North (9:25 a.m.)
“The occupiers are withdrawing forces in the north of our country,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an early-morning video address from Kyiv. “The withdrawal is slow but noticeable.”
He urged caution for any residents who hope to return, citing mines and tripwires that are creating “a complete disaster.” “They are mining the whole territory. They are mining homes, mining equipment, even the bodies of people who were killed,” Zelenskiy said.
And with Russian forces massing in Donbas to the east, Zelenskiy said Ukraine is preparing a more active defense. “I emphasize once again: hard battles lie ahead.” Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter that Russia’s refocus on Ukraine’s east and south heightened the need for “heavy weapons” to be provided.
Central, Eastern Regions Hit Overnight (9:20 a.m.)
Russian forces shelled infrastructure and residential houses in central and eastern regions, and fierce fighting continues in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said in a statement.
Seven humanitarian corridors are planned Saturday to evacuate people, though Russia is allowing only private cars, not buses, to leave the besieged southern city of Mariupol, according to the statement.
The Red Cross says nine staff members were trying to get to Mariupol on Saturday to help facilitate the safe passage of civilians.
Ukraine Advances Against Retreating Russian Troops, U.K. Says (8:17 a.m.)
Ukraine continues to advance against withdrawing Russian troops in the vicinity of Kyiv, the U.K. defense ministry said. Along the northwestern axis, Ukraine’s attempts to advance from Irpin towards Bucha and Hostomel are ongoing.
Russian forces have withdrawn from Hostomel airport, about 32km (20 miles) northwest of Kyiv, the U.K said. They first captured the airfield at the start of the war and it’s has been subject to fierce fighting since.
The U.K. said Ukraine has also secured a key route in eastern Kharkhiv after heavy fighting following the recapture of Trostyanets, in the vicinity of Sumy, earlier this week.
Abramovich Owns as Many as Five Yachts, FT Reports (5:00 a.m.)
Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich owns or is linked to five yachts with an estimated value of close to $1 billion, the Financial Times reported.
The ownership of some of the vessels had been unknown until this week. Two are moored in Antigua in the Caribbean.
Xi-Zelenskiy Call ‘A Matter of Time,’ China Says (4:00 a.m.)
“It’s always been on the agenda,” Wang Lutong, head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s European department, said Saturday at a briefing in Beijing.
Xi has spoken to several leaders since the invasion, including Putin, but Zelenskiy hasn’t been one of them. Xi may be reluctant to speak with Putin’s wartime rival so soon after declaring a “no limits” partnership with the Russian leader in early February.
When asked about Zelenskiy’s comment that China should be among the countries acting as its security guarantor in any peace deal with Russia, Wang said the topic wasn’t discussed at the summit with EU officials. “We’d have to study the details of that agreement,” he said.
U.S. to Help Move Soviet-Made Tanks to East (2:27 a.m.)
The White House will help allies move Soviet-made tanks to Ukraine to support its defenses in the country’s eastern Donbas region, the New York Times reported, citing an unidentified U.S. official.
The transfers will begin soon, the official told the Times while declining to say how many tanks would be sent or from which countries they will come. The White House and the Defense Department didn’t respond to requests for comment.
The tanks will give Ukraine the ability to conduct long-range artillery strikes on Russian targets in Donbas, according to the report. The decision, which marks the first time the U.S. has helped transfer tanks in the war, comes in response to a request from Zelenskiy, the official told the newspaper.
U.S. Adds 120 Entities to Blacklist (2:20 a.m.)
The U.S. Commerce Department on Friday added 120 entities in Russia and Belarus involved in the defense, aerospace and maritime industries to a blacklist that will restrict their ability to do business with American firms.
The additions to the entity list were intended to “degrade” those industries as Russia continues its invasion of Ukraine, the department said in a statement.
“These parties are being effectively cut off from the inputs necessary to sustain Putin’s war and shows that the United States has the capabilities to detect, identify, and restrict parties in Russia, Belarus, or elsewhere that seek to support that effort,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in the statement.
U.S. Providing $300 Million in Military, Medical Equipment (2 a.m.)
The Department of Defense said it will provide communications systems, medical supplies and unmanned aerial systems including the Switchblade dive-bombing drone. The new equipment brings the total U.S. commitment to more than $2.3 billion in security assistance, the agency said in a statement.
The Defense Department will start a contracting process to procure the new equipment, rather than drawing down from U.S. defense stock. The Pentagon for the first time has disclosed on record it is supplying the Switchblade. It’s also sending the Puma, a hand-launched reconnaissance drone, and providing the Ukrainian military access to commercial imagery likely to include Russian military positions.
Zelenskiy Wants Advanced Weapons From U.S. (1 a.m.)
Zelenskiy called on President Joe Biden and other U.S. allies to provide Ukraine with additional advanced weapons. In an interview with Fox News on Friday, Zelenskiy added that a Western failure to swiftly provide such weapons would call into question whether the U.S. is “playing games.”
“Just give us missiles, give us airplanes,” he said. If “you cannot give us F-18 or F-19 or whatever you have, give us the old Soviet planes. That’s all.”
Zelenskiy declined to say whether he had ordered the Ukrainian raid across the Russian border.
U.S. Cancels ICBM Test on Russia Tensions, Reuters Says (11:30 p.m.)
The U.S. military has canceled a test of its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, after earlier delaying the test in order to lower nuclear tensions with Russia, Reuters reported, citing the Air Force.
Oil Drops Below $100 After Big Weekly Decline (10:15 p.m.)
Crude futures in New York declined below $100 a barrel after posting the biggest weekly decline in more than 10 years. U.S. allies said they would join the Biden administration in releasing strategic reserves to counter the run-up in prices triggered by the invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions against Russia.
Russian Pullout from Chernobyl Completed, IAEA Says (7:44 p.m.)
All Russian forces have left the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine — site of the deadly 1986 meltdown — and international monitors are preparing to go in, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on Twitter.
Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi “intends to head an IAEA assistance and support mission” to the plant “as soon as possible,” the agency said.
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