Ukraine latest: Biden seeks extra aid

Oil is fluctuating near $105 a barrel, as traders evaluated the prospect of a European Union ban on Russian crude in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine.

President Joe Biden is seeking an additional $33 billion in aid to Ukraine and new authority from Congress to seize and sell property linked to wealthy allies of President Vladimir Putin. The proposal, however, risks getting tangled in a long-simmering partisan dispute over immigration and Covid-19 funding.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the US will “strongly support” Sweden and Finland in joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Washington Post said.

Oil is fluctuating near $105 a barrel, as traders evaluated the prospect of a European Union ban on Russian crude in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine. Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said Germany won’t block the oil embargo against Russia and that Europe’s biggest economy could also handle a complete energy cut-off.

Key Developments

  • Biden Ukraine Aid Risks Slowing as GOP Balks at Covid Tie-In
  • Tycoon Abramov’s Megayacht Likely Racing to Turkey’s Safe Waters
  • Putin’s War Targets Democracy, Germany’s Scholz Writes in Welt
  • Habeck Says Germany Won’t Block a Russian Oil Embargo
  • Alarmed by Russia’s Aggression, Europe Rethinks Its China Ties

Tycoon Abramov’s Megayacht Likely Racing to Turkey (4:50 a.m.)

The $100 million megayacht Titan tied to steel billionaire Alexander Abramov is racing near top speed to reach the Suez Canal, likely bound for the safe waters of Turkey favoured by other sanctioned Russian moguls.

The Titan, a $100 million yacht that can accommodate 14 guests and 19 crew, is headed toward the Suez Canal after long stays in Dubai and the Maldives, two destinations that are considered safe havens from sanctions and the seizure of Russian assets.

Germany, Greece Set to Send More Gas to Poland, Bulgaria, FT Says (4:17 a.m.)

Data from from Hellenic Gas Transmission System Operator showed Germany and Greece are preparing to send more natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria after Russia reduced deliveries, the Financial Times reported.

Orders for gas volumes through the pipeline at Sidirokastro, a border-crossing point between Greece and Bulgaria, increased on Thursday, with higher flows to exit toward Bulgaria than those heading south to Greece, according to the report.

US Will Back NATO Bids of Sweden, Finland, Post Reports (2:30 a.m.)

The US will “strongly support” Sweden and Finland in joining North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, the Washington Post reported, citing Secretary of State Antony Blinken.“The world has changed pretty dramatically and one of the ways it has changed is in the very strong interest of both countries to become members of NATO,” he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “We, of course, look to them to make that decision. If that’s what they decide, we will strongly support it.”

Earlier this month, Russia threatened to deploy nuclear weapons in and around the Baltic Sea region if Finland and Sweden join the NATO. Both nations have said they’re stepping up consideration of the issue in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Oil Heads for Longest Run of Monthly Gains Since Early 2018 (2:22 a.m.)

Oil is poised to eke out a fifth monthly advance after another tumultuous period of trading that saw prices whipsawed by the fallout of Russia’s war in Ukraine and the resurgence of Covid-19 in China.

The market is on the rise as prospects for a European Union ban on crude imports from Russia seemed more likely, with Germany signaling it’s prepared to phase in an end to purchases.

Negotiator Says Battlefield Success Key to Talks (12:50 a.m.)

Mykhailo Podolyak, one of Ukraine’s chief negotiators and a top adviser to Volodymyr Zelenskiy, told Bloomberg that more Ukrainian military successes must occur before negotiations can bear fruit. “Positions in negotiations, including the Russian position, and the way in which the war will end, and the way in which the war will end will be defined in the east of Ukraine, in different tactical battles,” he said in an interview. “If Ukraine, with the support of its partners, will be able to prove its point, Russia will gradually begin to adequately see the situation from the military point of view and this is when we will be able to advance in negotiations significantly.”

“Peace talks groups,” Podolyak added, “continue working together, but it’s hard to predict the next date for an in-person meeting. Russia considers its military actions in eastern Ukraine as a second round of its so-called special operation, which is the war, in reality and it wants to get tactical military benefits.”

Putin’s War Targets Democracy,Scholz Writes in Die Welt (12:00 a.m.)

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine goes beyond destroying the country and is an attack on tenets of democracy, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in an opinion piece for Die Welt.

“Putin isn’t just following the goal of destroying Ukraine,” Scholz wrote. “His war targets everything that makes up democracy: freedom, equality in front of the law, self-determination, people’s dignity.”

US, Canada Say Weapons Arriving Quickly to Ukraine (9:01 p.m.)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand said howitzers and other weaponry promised to Ukraine are being delivered quickly.

Canada has also been training Ukrainian forces on the use of the howitzers, Anand said during a joint news conference at the Pentagon. Austin urged Congress to quickly approve Biden’s proposed $33 billion supplemental for Ukraine.

Mayor Says Kyiv Is Hit by Two Missile Strikes (7:51 p.m.)

Kyiv was hit by two missile strikes on Thursday evening, according to Mayor Vitali Klitschko. He didn’t provide details except to say the missiles hit a central district of Ukraine’s capital city. Ten people were said to have been injured. There also were reports of strikes elsewhere, including in Odesa.

Ukrainian Negotiator Cites ‘Red Lines’ in War With Russia (6:05 p.m.)

Direct Russian-Ukrainian talks to end the war are “somewhat on pause” as the Kremlin presses ahead with its attack, one of Ukraine’s main negotiators said in an interview.

Potential additional war crimes, the destruction of Mariupol and organizing fake referendums on Ukrainian territory are “red lines” that could bring a halt to negotiations, Mykhaylo Podolyak told Bloomberg Television. “There isn’t even a subject for discussion because everything is going to be decided in terms of direct combat in the east of Ukraine,” he said.

Kremlin’s Gas Cuts Show It’s Not Dependable, Biden Says (5:59 p.m.) 

Biden said Russia’s cutoff of natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria shows that Moscow isn’t a dependable energy supplier. The U.S. is working with allies including Japan to divert shipments of US-produced gas to Europe.

“These actions prove that energy is not just a commodity that Russia sells to help meet other countries’ needs, but a weapon,” Biden said in remarks at the White House.

Ukraine Asks Bulgaria to Repair Heavy Weapons, Premier Says (5:32 p.m.)

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said his coalition and parliament will discuss a Ukrainian request to help with repairs for heavy weaponry at its plants. The premier said Bulgaria can also help transit gas to Ukraine from liquid natural gas terminals in Greece and Turkey – and may use its port at Varna to help with grain transport.

Bulgaria, which has a past of deep ties with Moscow, has held back weapons deliveries to Ukraine because of divisions within the ruling coalition.

One British National Killed, Another Missing In Ukraine (5:20 p.m.)

A British national has been killed in Ukraine and another is missing, the UK Foreign Office said in a statement. The government did not provide details of what the two people were doing in Ukraine, and said it was urgently seeking further information.

Old-Fashioned Artillery Proves a Big Plus for Ukraine’s Forces (5 p.m.) 

Basic artillery has played a central role in Ukraine’s resistance against Russia’s invading forces. Its function explains why the US and other nations that collectively make up Ukraine’s arsenal are now putting so much emphasis on providing 155mm howitzers — in the case of the US, at least 90 of them, worth as much as $750 000 a piece, plus 184 000 rounds of ammunition.

Traditional firepower, supported by drones that allow for pinpoint targeting, is set to remain dominant in the next phase of the war, along a 300-plus mile (482 km) front in the eastern Donbas region. Even before the arrival of the more sophisticated, often longer range canons now being fed into the Ukrainian war effort, artillery was key.

Russia May Need Half Its Planes for Spare Parts (3:36 p.m.)

Russia may be forced to ground between half and two-thirds of its commercial aircraft by 2025 in order to cannibalise them for spare parts, Kommersant newspaper reported, citing an unidentified official at the Transport Ministry.

In the ministry’s base case, at least 70% of the country’s foreign-made planes will still be flying by the end of 2025, Kommersant said. In a worst-case scenario, Russia could begin to face severe shortages starting in the second half of this year as sanctions prevent the airline industry from importing components, the report said.

Kyiv Remains Unsafe as Russia Pushes Forward, Mayor Says (3:27 p.m.)

Authorities in the Ukrainian capital still can’t guarantee safety to residents willing to return even after Russian forces pulled back from the city’s surroundings, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko told Bloomberg Television.

“We don’t know how long the war will be and how much it will cost in the next weeks — maybe months, maybe years”, Klitschko said in the interview. With more than 200 buildings in the city damaged by Russian shelling, it may take around $100 million to rebuild them, in Klitschko’s estimated.

Germany Prepares for Potential Russian Gas Halt (2:15 p.m.)

Germany has started preparations for a potential halt in Russian gas deliveries, with steps started even before the Ukraine invasion, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Tokyo on Thursday.

Germany has said gas buyers should stick to paying in euros or dollars and leave it up to Gazprombank PJSC to do the conversion, but it’s unclear whether that would be accepted by Moscow.

“Whatever the Russian government decides on this, we can only speculate,” said Scholz. “You have to prepare for it, and we already started this before the war broke out. We know what we have to do.”

Top Polish Retailer Explores Sale of Russian Operation (2:13 p.m.)

Poland’s biggest fashion retailer LPP SA began talks about selling its fast-growing Russian business, it said in a statement, citing ongoing uncertainty caused by the war in Ukraine. The company has 553 Russian stores, which it suspended last month. LPP competitor Inditex SA, seeks to return to Russia when possible, while H&M says it only paused operations.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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