Ukraine update: Russia widens attack; China stands with Moscow

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said invading Russian forces had opened a new campaign to conquer the Donbas region and asked parliament to extend martial law.
Image: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said invading Russian forces had opened a new campaign to conquer the Donbas region and asked parliament to extend martial law.

President Joe Biden held a call with allies amid efforts to coordinate supplies of heavy weapons to Ukraine and said he’s ready to provide more artillery. A senior Chinese diplomat said Beijing would strengthen its strategic ties with Russia, reaffirming support for President Vladimir Putin as his forces face allegations of war crimes for killing civilians.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres called for a four-day Holy Week pause in fighting beginning Thursday to coincide with the Orthodox Christian Easter. The UN’s nuclear watchdog said Ukrainian authorities restored direct communication with the crippled Chernobyl nuclear plant that was held by invading Russian forces for about five weeks.

Key Developments

  • China Says It Will Keep Strengthening Strategic Ties With Russia
  • Ukrainian Troops Risk Being Encircled in New Russian Offensive
  • Russia Learns to Roll With Economic Punches as Shock Wears Off
  • Italy Ready to Halt Russian Gas Payments If EU Finds a Violation
  • IMF Slashes Growth Outlook on Russia Invasion, China Lockdowns
  • Europe Expects to Pay Bulk of Ukraine’s Reconstruction Costs

All times CET:

Toshiba Halts New Orders From Russia (3:05 a.m.)

Japan’s Toshiba Corp. says it has halted new orders from Russia and new investment in the country because of the Kremlin’s invasion. It said in a statement that it sees the impact of the move on its overall business as minor.

China Boosts Ties With Russia (2:26 a.m.)

China will continue strengthening strategic ties with Russia, a senior diplomat said, showing the relationship remains solid despite growing concerns over suspected war crimes by Putin’s forces in Ukraine.

“No matter how the international landscape may change, China will continue to strengthen strategic coordination with Russia for win-win cooperation, jointly safeguard the common interests of the two countries and promote the building of a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind,” Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng said in a statement.

Ukraine Restores Chernobyl Communication (12:40 a.m.)

Ukraine has managed to restore direct communication with the Chernobyl nuclear power plant after Russian troops withdrew from the site, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.

Russian troops seized the plant on Feb. 24 and held it for about five weeks, according to the IAEA. On March 10, Ukraine informed the agency that it lost contact with Chernobyl. Grossi plans to visit the site later in April for a nuclear assessment, the IAEA said.

Italy Scrutinizes Ruble Payment Demand (10:30 p.m.)

Italy will refuse to comply with new gas-payment terms demanded by Moscow if the EU concludes that doing so would breach sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter.

In a preliminary assessment, the EU found that the Kremlin’s payment terms were a clear violation of the bloc’s sanctions. The Italian government is waiting for Brussels to finalize its legal analysis before taking any action, said the people. The EU gets 40% of its gas from Russia.

Biden Says He’d Send More Artillery to Ukraine (9:49 p.m.)

Biden said the U.S. would send more artillery to Ukraine as Russia presses its campaign in the Donbas region. The president answered “yes,” when asked by a reporter if Ukraine would receive such a shipment.

Asked about the brief exchange, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said only that Biden and other world leaders on a call earlier Tuesday “spoke about providing more ammunition and security assistance to Ukraine.” NBC television reported that the administration is preparing another aid package similar in size to the previous one, which was worth $800 million.

Steel Plant Nearly Destroyed in Mariupol (8:32 p.m.)

One of Ukraine’s largest steel plants, owned by businessman Rinat Akhmetov, has been almost destroyed amid ongoing heavy fighting in the city of Mariupol, according to a group of Ukrainian volunteer fighters.

The Azovstal steel plant is facing heavy shelling, as Ukraine’s troops have entrenched themselves there, using it as a fortification to try and repel Russian attacks.

U.S. and Allies Back More Aid, Sanctions (7:06 p.m.)

U.S., European and Asian allies agreed in a joint call to continue ramping up sanctions pressure on the Kremlin and to bolster humanitarian aid and weapons deliveries but failed to signal any new policies, according to readouts from several nations.

Leaders on the call “reiterated their commitment to continue providing security, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine” according to press secretary Jen Psaki. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he will work during his nation’s presidency of the Group of Seven to help Ukraine secure the 50 billion euros ($54 billion) in aid it has requested.

France Will Provide Security Guarantee After War (6:01 p.m.)

France is willing to provide the security guarantees required by Ukraine once the war is over, a senior official at the French presidency said. The guarantees would involve the delivery of military equipment, with other countries such as Germany, Italy and Turkey also potentially involved.

UN Chief Seeks Four-Day Pause for Holy Week (5:45 p.m.)

The UN’s Guterres called for the four-day pause in fighting beginning Thursday to coincide with Orthodox Christian Easter, which is celebrated in Russia and Ukraine. He said the UN is submitting detailed plans to both sides about potential aid deliveries.

The pause would provide the necessary conditions for the safe passage of civilians who want to leave the war zone and to allow for “the safe delivery of lifesaving humanitarian aid to people in the hardest-hit areas such as Mariupol, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk,” Guterres said.

Russia’s Central Bank Governor Sanctioned By Canada (5:27 p.m.)

Canada sanctioned Russian central bank Governor Nabiullina and 13 other “close associates of the Russian regime” in a fresh round of punishments.

Bloomberg News reported last month that Nabiullina had sought to resign after Russian leader Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion, only to be told by the president to stay.

Putin’s daughters Katerina Tikhonova and Maria Vorontsova are also on the list of new sanctions, as is billionaire Igor Makarov, the largest shareholder in Calgary-based natural gas producer Spartan Delta Corp.

Czechs to Repair Ukrainian Heavy Weapons (5:15 p.m.)

The Czech Defense Ministry says the country’s arms manufacturers will repair Ukrainian heavy weaponry damaged in the war. Under the first contract, privately held Czechoslovak Group will mend T-64 tanks. The Czech Republic has been among the most active providers of weapons to Ukraine.

Germany Wants to Meet Ukraine’s Weapons Demands (4:10 p.m.)

Germany wants to satisfy Ukraine’s demands for heavy weapons and is considering supplying equipment including artillery, air-defense systems and armored personnel carriers, Tobias Lindner, a deputy foreign minister, said during a virtual George Washington University event.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has come under intense pressure, including from members of his own ruling coalition, to deliver heavy weapons such as tanks to Ukraine, on top of equipment like anti-tank rockets and protective gear.

Zelenskiy Asks Lawmakers to Extend Martial Law (3:51 p.m.)

Zelenskiy submitted a draft bill to extend martial law in Ukraine by 30 days, citing the ongoing invasion. The current state of martial law was expected to conclude on April 25.

Ukraine Says Russia Attacking All Along Donbas Contact Line (2:48 p.m.)

Russia has launched attacks all along the contact line in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, which together make up the Donbas, Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said.

Russian troops are trying to break through defenses to encircle Ukrainian troops and establish full control of Mariupol, he said, adding the surge will attempt to take over both regions and secure a land corridor to the Crimean peninsula.

Netherlands to Send Armored Vehicles (2:20 p.m.)

The Netherlands will send heavier military equipment, including armored vehicles, to Ukraine in collaboration with other countries, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said on Twitter.

Russia Expels Belgian, Dutch Diplomats (2:10 p.m.)

Russia expelled 21 Belgian diplomats and 15 from the Netherlands, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow said in two statements, in retaliation for previously announced measures against Russian envoys.

The Foreign Ministry also summoned Luxembourg’s ambassador to warn that Russia may respond in kind to the expulsion of its envoy.

Russia Rolls With Economic Punches as Shock Wears Off (1:35 p.m.)

Russia’s economic crisis has lost some of its sting, buying more time for President Putin at home as his military presses the new offensive.

Even with a recession looming and inflation approaching 20%, the economy has for the moment defied the most dire forecasts. JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s economists have seen enough upbeat signs to halve their forecast for a first-quarter contraction in gross domestic product to 5%.

The bleakest scenario hasn’t materialized in large part because Russia contained the spread of financial contagion with stiff capital controls while plentiful petrodollars helped the ruble recoup losses and put a leash on inflation.

EU Eyes June for Preliminary Opinion on Ukraine Candidacy (1:19 p.m.)

The European Union is seeking to provide in June its opinion on Ukraine’s bid to become a candidate to join the bloc, paving the way for a possible decision by leaders at a June 23-24 summit, according to people familiar with the matter.

The move could complicate efforts to reach a diplomatic solution since Russia has frequently cited Kyiv’s decision to forge closer ties with the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as a rationale for its invasion of Ukraine.

Polish Prime Minister Visits Lviv (1:17 p.m.)

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visited Lviv on Tuesday, the first foreign leader to go to the city in western Ukraine after it was hit by a deadly missile strike. Morawiecki opened a facility for internally displaced people, he wrote on his Twitter account.

G-20 Finance Chiefs to Single Out Russia for Growth Fallout (1:00 p.m.)

The meeting of Group of 20 finance chiefs this week will include Russian representatives and is intended to send a clear message that the Kremlin is fully responsible for the global economic consequences of its war on Ukraine, a German government official said.

An agreement has emerged that Russia shouldn’t be able to dictate the G-20 format or the agenda of the upcoming meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors, the German official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Halliburton Writes Off All Ukrainian Assets Amid War (12:52 p.m.)

Halliburton Co. wrote off all of its Ukrainian assets seven weeks into Russia’s invasion in a year when the world’s biggest fracker is forecast to reap the largest profit increase in more than half a decade.

The company took a pre-tax charge of $22 million for its Ukrainian exposure, which included $16 million in receivables, according to a statement Tuesday. Halliburton was the first major oilfield-services contractor to announce plans to halt work in Russia in response to Putin’s invasion.

© 2022 Bloomberg

COMMENTS   1

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Its almost comical with the United Nations chief Antonio Guterres calling for a four-day Holy Week pause in fighting beginning Thursday to coincide with the Orthodox Christian Easter.

The UN has been irrelevant for years, but is just being brought back into the spotlight again to show just how irrelevant it actually is.

Why don’t you condemn Russia again Mr Guterres? I mean it has been so effective to stop the war so far.

End of comments.

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