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Ukraine update: Kremlin denies report of major progress in talks

And other developments.
A Kremlin spokesman said a report of major progress in talks with Ukraine was “wrong” but that discussions will continue on Thursday. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed German lawmakers a day after an impassioned address to U.S. Congress. President Joe Biden branded leader Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” and offered $800 million-worth of new weaponry to Ukraine.

Ukraine’s military said Russian strikes continued on infrastructure sites and on densely populated areas of cities. But it said the Kremlin’s forces remain bogged down on the ground. Russia said its troops were advancing through the town of Sievierodonetsk in the Luhansk region in the east.

Group of Seven foreign ministers meet virtually Thursday to discuss the crisis. On Wednesday Zelenskiy told NBC News that negotiations with Russia are continuing but are “fairly difficult.” The U.N. Security Council also meets Thursday at the request of six Western countries.

Key developments

  • China Affirms Ukraine Friendship, Promise to ‘Never Attack’
  • U.S. House Plans Thursday Vote to Revoke Russia’s Trade Status
  • Broke Oligarch Says Sanctioning Billionaires Won’t Sway Putin
  • War in Ukraine Sends Shockwaves Across European Industries
  • Russia’s Ruined Gameplan for Ukraine Is Visible in the South
  • In a Chilling Threat, Putin Vows to Rid Russia of ‘Traitors’

UAE, Russia Discuss Energy Markets (11:21 a.m.)

The United Arab Emirates and Russia discussed the importance of stable energy markets, the UAE’s foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said during a visit to Moscow.

“We discussed global energy supplies and the essential goods markets, as well as the importance of energy and food stability for the global economy,” he said after meeting with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov. The UAE and Russia are both part of the OPEC+ alliance.

Kremlin Denies Major Progress Made in Talks (11:00 a.m.) 

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a Financial Times report of substantial progress in talks with Ukraine was “wrong” but that the discussions will continue on Thursday. He blamed Kyiv for dragging its feet on negotiations, saying Ukraine’s government was “in no rush.” Ukraine dismissed the Financial Times report on Wednesday, saying significant issues remained.

Peskov also said that President Joe Biden’s characterization of Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal” was “unforgivable.”

Futures on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 extended declines and stocks in Europe turned lower after the comments. Treasury yields rose, and crude oil advanced.

Swatch Expects to Reach Sales Goal Despite Russia Halt (10:46 a.m.) 

Swatch Group AG Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek said the Swiss watchmaker can meet its full-year sales forecast even after shuttering its operations in Russia amid the war in Ukraine.

Swatch halted exports to Russia this month and closed stores while continuing to pay employees after Russia invaded Ukraine.

Russia Not Acting Like It Wants to Settle, Pentagon Aide Says (10:30 a.m.) 

Russia continues to “hammer” cities like Kharkiv and Cherniyiv with bombardments and rocket systems, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

“For all the talk about wanting to find a diplomatic path forward, we haven’t seen them act on that,” Kirby said. “What you’re seeing by the Russians on the ground is a full-on commitment to military operations.”

Kirby said Ukrainian forces have essentially stalled Russia’s advance and are using weapons received from allies in an effective way.

Russian Invasion Is ‘New Wall,’ Zelenskiy Tells Germans (9:49 a.m.)

Zelenskiy said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was erecting a “new wall” in Europe, a reference to the Berlin Wall that symbolized post-World War II division. Speaking to German lawmakers, Zelenskiy beseeched Chancellor Olaf Scholz to abandon the country’s traditional commercial interests with Russia and “tear down this wall” — evoking President Ronald Reagan’s iconic 1987 speech at the Berlin Wall, directed to then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

“Give Germany the leadership role you deserve,” Zelenskiy told the lower house in a video address from Kyiv, saying the much more distant U.S. had become “closer to us than you.” He lamented Germany’s long-standing support for the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a direct link with Russia, as a “sad” legacy — and said that continued energy imports from Russia are financing the Kremlin’s military goals.

Before the speech, Katrin Goering-Eckardt, a deputy Bundestag speaker from the Green party, said Russia’s military was deliberately targeting civilians in Ukraine in a “blatant violation of international law.” Russia has denied targeting civilians, including those sheltering at a Mariupol theater.

Ruble Gains for a Sixth Day; European Stocks Up (9:48 a.m.)

Russia’s Finance Ministry said it had sent the order for a $117 million coupon payment on its Eurobonds to the foreign correspondent bank on March 14. The ruble gained for a sixth day in Moscow trading.

Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank Considers Exit From Russia (9:47 a.m.)

Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International AG said it was considering all options for the future of its Russian subsidiary, including a carefully managed exit from the market.

Raiffeisen, the largest foreign-owned retail bank Russia, is continuing operations in all countries for now and is complying with international sanctions law, it said.

China Affirms Its Friendship With Ukraine (9:13 a.m.) 

China’s foreign ministry endorsed earlier remarks by its envoy to Ukraine, seen as some of Beijing’s most supportive comments yet to the war-torn country.

On Monday, Ambassador Fan Xianrong told the governor of the western city of Lviv that China was a “friendly country for the Ukrainian people” and would “never attack Ukraine,” according to a summary posted on the Lviv government’s website. He went on to profess China’s “respect” for the state and praise the strength and unity of the Ukrainian people.

Asked on Thursday about Fan’s comments, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said “China surely supports these remarks by our ambassador in Ukraine. China supports all efforts that are conducive to easing the situation and for a political settlement.” A day earlier Zhao had said he wasn’t aware of the comments, creating uncertainty about whether Fan had expressed the government’s position.

House Moves to Revoke Russia’s Trade Status (4:48 a.m.)

Lawmakers are close to an agreement for legislation to revoke normal trade relations with Russia, the latest move in a series of congressional efforts to hobble the Russian economy in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Removing Russia’s “most-favored-nation” trade status would enable the U.S. to impose higher tariffs on Russian goods, and take other actions. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the vote would take place Thursday. Revoking the status, which in the U.S. requires legislation, would put Russia in the same category as other states viewed by Washington as pariahs including North Korea and Cuba.

Russia Bombed Civilian Shelter, Mariupol Council Says (1:28 a.m.)

A Russian plane bombed a theater in the besieged southern city of Mariupol where hundreds of people have been sheltering, according to the city council. Debris blocked the entrance to the interior and shelling continues, making it impossible to assess casualties, officials said.

The Maxar satellite firm collected images showing the word “children” was written in large white letters in Russian in front of and behind the theater. Ukrainian officials said air-strikes also hit a swimming-pool building that was serving as a shelter, and a convoy of civilian evacuees.

Russia’s embassy in the U.S. rejected the report that the theater was attacked by the Kremlin’s forces, calling it the latest example in a campaign of disinformation, state-run news service Itar-Tass reported.

Zelenskiy Says Talks With Russia Continue (12:30 a.m.)

Zelenskiy, in his nightly video, said negotiations with Russia were continuing. “My priorities are absolutely clear: To end the war, security guarantees, sovereignty, restoration of territorial integrity. Real protection for our country,” he said.

Mayor of Ukrainian City Freed (8:29 p.m.)

Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol, was freed from Russian captivity after a “special operation,” according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a top Ukrainian official. Fedorov was kidnapped on March 11. Tymoshenko provided no further details on the operation.

Biden Calls Putin a ‘War Criminal’ (8:07 p.m.)

Biden called Putin a “war criminal,” shortly after announcing an expansive new package of military aide to Ukraine including armed drones. The White House has previously been cautious about accusing the Russian leader or his forces of war crimes.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki previously said the U.S. would go through an established process and work with the International Criminal Court to determine whether war crimes had been committed. The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a non-binding resolution supporting an investigation into Putin over possible war crimes in Ukraine.

Zelenskiy Invites Biden to Ukraine (7:43 p.m.)

Zelenskiy told NBC News that he would be “happy to invite President Biden to Ukraine” and that he has previously “extended him invitations.” Biden is traveling to Europe next week to meet with NATO allies and take part in a summit of European Union leaders.

Biden Pledges Anti-Aircraft Systems, Drones for Ukraine (6:09 p.m.)

Biden detailed plans for $800 million in new assistance, including drones, to be distributed to Ukraine in a speech from the White House, just hours after Zelenskiy appealed for more help in an emotional virtual address to the U.S. Congress.

The aid will involve direct transfers of equipment from the Pentagon to the Ukrainian military and includes 800 anti-aircraft systems, Biden said. The package also includes 9,000 shoulder-mounted missiles for Ukraine to attack Russian armored vehicles, 7,000 small arms, pilotless aircraft and 20 million rounds of ammunition.

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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If there were an $800m bounty on Putin’s head, this would be over tout de suite. Much easier and some of his ex-KGB cronies could be thrown in to the basket.

And we have the abysmal effrontery to suggest via the ANC cadre-clique that this war of invasion can be resolved through negotiation!

According to Deputy President David Mabuza, “Nato’s “aggression” and expansion Eastwards is one of the root causes of the ongoing war. And Mbeki cautiously reminded students that the conflict was not simple, and in order to promote dialogue, South Africa and the continent must first investigate and analyse the war and its effects.” EWN.

One has to wonder what underhand connections the ANC and the Kremlin still operate?

End of comments.

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