Ukraine Latest: Germany closer to backing Sberbank sanctions

NATO allies have ‘pledged and provided’ more than $8bn in military aid to Ukraine so far, said alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg.
Image: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

NATO allies have “pledged and provided” more than $8 billion in military aid to Ukraine so far, said alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg. US President Joe Biden plans to deliver remarks Thursday on support for Ukraine as his administration looks to send to Congress a proposal for more weapons and humanitarian aid for Kyiv.

European Union members pushed the bloc to deliver clearer guidance over Russia’s demand for natural gas payments to be made in rubles, after flows to Poland and Bulgaria were cut off. Germany signaled it’s open to a phased-in ban on Russian oil imports. Natural gas prices fell.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is visiting sites of alleged Russian atrocities near Kyiv and is scheduled to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, after holding talks earlier in the week with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Key Developments

  • US Sharing More Intelligence With Ukraine for Donbas Fight
  • Germany Closer to Backing EU Push to Sanction Russia’s Sberbank
  • Europe Sees Ambiguity in EU’s Advice on Russian Gas Demands
  • German Parliament Urges Heavy Weapons Supplies for Ukraine (1)
  • How Russia’s Gas Ban Rips Through the Core of European Industry
  • Russia Began Preparing for Cyberattacks on Ukraine in Early 2021

(All times CET)

German Parliament Urges Heavy Weapons to Ukraine (11:36 a.m.)

Germany’s parliament urged the government to quickly supply Ukraine with heavy weapons and other equipment to help its defense.

The three parties in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s coalition and the largest opposition group — which combined hold over 80% of the seats in the lower house of parliament — teamed up to support a motion in a show of broad-based solidarity.

UN Preparing for Possible Mariupol Evacuations (11:35 a.m.) 

The United Nations resident coordinator in Ukraine tweeted that she’s going to Zaporizhzhia to prepare for possible evacuations of civilians from the besieged Black Sea port city of Mariupol.

UN officials are seeking to translate Russia’s agreement “in principle” for a UN role, reached during talks between Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Russian leaders in Moscow on Tuesday, into an agreement in detail and action on the ground.

Russia Condemns ‘Terrorist’ Acts in Transnistria  (11:33 a.m.)

Russia warned that it considers as “acts of terrorism” recent violent incidents in the breakaway Transnistria region of Moldova, Tass reported.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that Moscow will respond harshly to any Ukrainian attacks on targets within Russia after a series of fires at Russian oil and weapons depots.

Moldovan authorities have blamed the violence in Transnistria on separatist factions and vowed to resist attempts to drag the country into conflict. Transnistria leaders say they’ve traced the attacks to Ukraine.

Scholz Says Pressure on Russia Must be Maintained (11:30 a.m.)

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the EU and its allies must keep up the pressure on Russia with further sanctions and weapons deliveries to Ukraine to force Vladimir Putin to end the war.

Scholz told a business conference in Tokyo that any peace deal must be acceptable to Ukraine, and ruled out an agreement “dictated” by Moscow.

Germany Closer to Backing EU Sanctions on Sberbank (11:17 a.m.)

Germany is ready to consider including Sberbank PJSC, Russia’s largest bank, in the European Union’s next sanctions package that’s currently being finalized, said people familiar with the matter.

Germany had been one of the more reluctant member states in the push to exclude Sberbank from the SWIFT international payments messaging system, since Berlin was worried it could disrupt energy transactions.

In recent weeks, Germany has moved quickly to tap alternative suppliers for energy and is now preparing to back a phased-in ban on Russian oil.

Crossings to Poland From Ukraine Reach 3 Million (11:10 a.m.)

The number of people crossing into Poland from Ukraine since Feb. 24 has hit 3 million, Polish border authorities said.

Another 25,000 people crossed the border on Wednesday, while 18,400 entered to Ukraine from Poland.

NATO Members’ Military Aid Offers $8 Billion: Stoltenberg (10:31 a.m.)  

NATO members have “pledged and provided” at least $8 billion dollars in military aid to Ukraine, said alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg. “We see the importance of further stepping up our support,” he said in a statement ahead of a meeting at the European Parliament.

NATO allies met earlier this week at an event hosted by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to coordinate new support for Kyiv. Just prior, the US announced additional aid, saying it wants to see Russian forces ground down to the point where they can’t attempt a repeat of the invasion.

UN’s Guterres Visits Borodianka (10:30 a.m.)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is in Ukraine, two days after meeting in Moscow with Russian leaders.

He visited Borodianka, near Kyiv, one of the towns where Russian troops have been accused of killing civilians. He’s expected to visit Bucha before meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov and Defense Minister Dragomir Zakov are also in Kyiv and will meet with Zelenskiy. Their visit comes a day after Russia cut off gas deliveries to Bulgaria and Poland in a major escalation between Moscow and Europe.

European Gas Prices Tumble (10:21 a.m.) 

Natural gas prices in Europe declined as buyers considered options to keep receiving supply from Russia without violating sanctions Benchmark futures fell as much as 6.9% following two days of gains.

Russian Party Says 600,000 Jobs at Risk (9:57 a.m.) 

About 600,000 people working in Russia for companies from “unfriendly” nations could lose their jobs, Tass news service reported, citing Andrey Turchak, a top official at the country’s ruling party.

The war on Ukraine has spurred an exodus of international companies from the Russian market, with brands ranging from McDonald’s to Adidas to BMW suspending operations in the country.

Unilever Warns on Raw Material Inflation (8:14 a.m.)

The food and consumer goods company Unilever Plc warned that raw material inflation will be worse in the second half because of the war in Ukraine.

Underlying operating margins will probably be in the bottom end of its forecast range of 16% to 17% this year, the company said. Even so, sales growth was above analysts’ estimates.

In contrast, the metals and agricultural trading company Glencore Plc is anticipating bumper profits from soaring metals and energy prices and market volatility created by the war.

Russia Intensifying Its Offensive, Ukrainian General Staff Says (7:37 a.m.)

Russia’s offensive operation in eastern Ukraine is picking up pace and there’s intensive fire along the entire line of contact, General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Facebook.

Russian troops are assembling in large numbers around Izyum, near Kharkiv. Additional airborne troops and as many as 500 military vehicles have been moved by Russia to Izyum, Ukraine said.

From there, continued attacks are happening on three lines of advance: to the southeast, the southwest, and directly west.

Japan to Transport Aid Via Dubai After India Balks (4:57 a.m.)

Japan’s Self-Defense Forces are set to transport United Nations humanitarian aid for Ukraine via Dubai, after the Asahi newspaper and others reported that India refused permission for its military planes to land. India, the top buyer of Russian weapons, has been reluctant to join the US and its allies in condemning Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

House Passes Bill to Help Fund Rebuilding (4:29 a.m.)

US House of Representatives lawmakers passed a bill urging the US to seize assets valued at more than $2 million that belong to Russian individuals and entities who benefit from ties to President Vladimir Putin’s regime. The funds would be used to help rebuild Ukraine.

“The Ukrainian people should see the boats, planes, and villas of Putin’s enablers being seized and sold, and they should know that the proceeds will help their country and cause,” bill sponsor Tom Malinowski, a New Jersey Democrat, said when the measure was first introduced.

EU Energy Firms Prepare to Meet Putin’s Terms, FT Says (3:26 a.m.)

Some European companies are making preparations to comply with a new payment system sought by Russia to pay for its gas in rubles, the Financial Times reported, citing unidentified people familiar with plans. Energy companies in Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia are preparing to open ruble accounts at Gazprombank in Switzerland, it said.

US Has Delivered More Than Half of Howitzers (10:01 p.m.)

The US has delivered more than half of the 155 mm howitzers it promised to expedite to Ukraine as the war shifts to the country’s east and south. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said the weaponry had arrived and that an initial round of training for Ukrainian troops was completed earlier this week.

Biden Administration Readies Long-Term Assistance Package (9:46 p.m.)

The White House plans to send to Congress this week a proposal for emergency funds for Ukraine that will cover the rest of the current fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

The proposal will include “security or military assistance, humanitarian economic assistance” to “help address a range of needs the Ukrainians have,” Psaki said. Separately, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told senators the proposal would also include funds to help remove land mines and to combat food insecurity.

US Sharing More Intelligence With Ukraine for Donbas Fight (7:04 p.m.)

The US has lifted some restrictions on sharing intelligence with Ukraine as it confronts a renewed Russian military assault in the east and south, where it has backed separatist groups since annexing Crimea in 2014, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told Congress of the moves this month after Representative Mike Turner, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, wrote a classified letter urging the Biden administration to remove the restrictions. The expanded sharing is designed to help Ukraine defend and potentially retake territory in the Donbas region, the person said, speaking on condition of anonymity about the sensitive matter.

© 2022 Bloomberg

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