Ukraine Update: Johnson Meets Zelenskiy in Surprise Kyiv Visit

(Bloomberg) -- Most Read from BloombergUkraine Update: Sanctions Against Putin’s Daughters, IMF AccountNations Eye Modern Arms for Ukraine as Soviet-Era Stocks DwindleFinland Hit by Cyber Attack, Airspace Breach as NATO Bid WeighedDHL Jet Skids Off Runway, Breaks Up After Emergency LandingShanghai, Guangzhou Plan More Mass Tests as Covid Cases RiseRussia continues to press a land assault in the Donetsk region while attempting to complete its capture of Mariupol in the south. President Volodymyr Read More...

(Bloomberg) —

Most Read from Bloomberg

Russia continues to press a land assault in the Donetsk region while attempting to complete its capture of Mariupol in the south. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the impending eastern battle will be crucial. Reaction continues to pour in after Russia’s bombing on Friday of a railway station that killed dozens of civilians and injured hundreds more.

The European Union and the U.K. announced sanctions against the daughters of Russian President Vladimir Putin. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Friday and promised more sanctions on Russia and financial aid for Ukraine. The EU mission in Kyiv has reopened.

Russia said YouTube had blocked its Duma-TV channel, which shows parliamentary debates and other political content. Russia’s first external default in a century now looks all but inevitable after another brutal week for the country’s finances.

(See RSAN on the Bloomberg Terminal for the Russian Sanctions Dashboard.)

Key Developments

  • Russia’s War in Ukraine: Key Events and How It’s Unfolding

  • Dozens Killed as Russia Strikes Ukraine Rail Evacuation Hub

  • Nations Eye Modern Arms for Ukraine as Soviet-Era Stocks Dwindle

  • War-Crimes Justice Grinds Slowly Amid Fury Over Ukraine Killings

  • Ukraine War Has Made This D.C. Writer’s Newsletter a Must Read

  • Russia’s First Default in a Century Looks All But Inevitable Now

All times CET:

U.K.’s Boris Johnson Makes Surprise Visit to Kyiv (4:13 p.m.)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv, the latest in a line of leaders traveling to Ukraine capital to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Ukraine’s embassy to the U.K. tweeted a picture of the pair sitting together at a table. Andriy Sybiha, the deputy chief of Zelenskiy’s staff, confirmed on Facebook that the meeting was in Kyiv. “The U.K. is a leader of defense support for Ukraine,” he said.

A Downing Street spokesperson said Johnson would set out a new package of financial and military aid during the talks.

U.S. Tightens Export Restrictions on Russia, Belarus (3:45 p.m.)

The U.S. widened export controls on Russia and Belarus to effectively cut off access to more products. The restrictions were extended “to almost any sensitive dual-use technology, software, or commodities that could be used to support Russia’s war effort,” the Department of Commerce said Saturday.

The rule expands license requirements to all items on the Commerce Control List, including certain composite materials, medical products, hydraulic fluids, pumps, valves, and lower-level machine tools.

The action also puts on notice Belarus airlines and plane owners that they can’t fly or service any aircraft without U.S. authorization if more than 25% of the machinery’s value comes from American content subject to export controls.

Google Says Complying With Sanctions Laws in Duma Site (3:39 p.m.)

Alphabet Inc.’s Google said it complied with applicable sanctions in blocking the YouTube channel of the Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament.

Duma TV said on its Telegram channel earlier Saturday that its account on YouTube, a unit of Alphabet Inc.’s Google, had been blocked.

“Google is committed to compliance with all applicable sanctions and trade compliance laws. If we find that an account violates our Terms of Service, we take appropriate action,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “Our teams are closely monitoring the situation for any updates and changes.”

Russia Complains YouTube Blocked Duma TV (2:33 p.m.)

Russian media watchdog Roskomnadzor demanded that Google immediately restore access to the Russian parliament’s YouTube channel, Duma TV, and explain the reason for imposing restrictions.

“The U.S. authorities are forcing American IT companies that own social networks to wage an information war against our country,” said Vyacheslav Volodin, head of the Russian State Duma, according to Tass.

Andrei Klishas, a senior lawmaker, said on his Telegram channel that “YouTube is on its way to becoming illegal in our country.” Foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said YouTube “has sealed its fate.”

Zelenskiy Says Battle for Ukraine’s East ‘Crucial’ (2:30 p.m.)

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy suggested that the coming battle for Ukraine’s east could be decisive. Speaking in Kyiv at a joint press conference with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer, Zelenskiy said that despite evidence of atrocities, Ukraine’s government is willing to continue talks with Moscow.

“Ukraine has always said that it is ready for negotiations and will be seeking any ways to end the war,” Zelenskiy said. “At the same time, unfortunately we see preparations for an important, what some call a crucial, battle in the east of our state.”

Ukraine to Hold Hryvnia Rate Until Martial Law Ends (1:30 p.m.)

Ukraine’s central bank will hold the official hryvnia exchange rate at the current level of 29.25 per U.S. dollar at least until martial law ends, deputy governor Serhiy Nikolaychuk said.

Thereafter it will return “gradually” to a floating rate as the central bank eases restrictions, he said in an interview on local TV. Ukraine’s government imposed martial law on Feb. 24 when Russia invaded and has extended it at least through April 25.

EU Deplores Russian Move to Oust Amnesty, Other NGOs (1:05 p.m.)

The European Union slammed Moscow for its move overnight revoke the registration of 15 widely recognized organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others.

“With this ban, the Russian political leadership continues to deny the Russian population their freedom of expression and freedom of thought,” the EU said in a statement.

Russia Cut to Selective Default by S&P (1:00 p.m.)

S&P Global Ratings cut Russia’s unsolicited foreign currency issuer credit ratings to selective default as it became the last major agency to pull sovereign ratings on the country.

It’s the latest sign that Russia’s first external default in a century now looks all but inevitable in the fallout from its invasion of Ukraine.

Greece Says Not Helpful to Ban Russian Gas Imports Now (12:45 p.m.)

“It’s not helpful at present to talk about a complete ban on the import of Russian gas,” Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Saturday speaking at Delphi Economic Forum.

“We can’t replace Russian gas from one day to next. Let us look at the functioning of market and come up with realistic solutions.”

Mitsotakis suggested that Europe repurpose 230 billion euros ($250 million) in Recovery and Resilience Facility loans to confront high energy prices and other issues. The RRF was set up to help Europe bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic.

Ukraine Hopes to Get EU Candidacy Status in June (12:46 p.m.)

Ukraine is ready to move fast on a list of measures it needs to prepare for European Union membership and hopes to receive candidate status as early as in June, a government official said on Twitter.

Olga Stefanishyna, a deputy prime minister, commented after Friday’s visit to Kyiv of top EU officials.

Road Transport of Commercial Cargo From Russia Ends (12:09 p.m.)

An EU sanction prohibiting the road transport of commercial cargo came into force at midnight.

In Finland, the Customs office said Saturday it had turned away 35 vehicles attempting to enter the EU with Russian or Belarusian license plates at three border crossings, according to a statement.

Russian or Belarusian vehicles still within the EU have seven days to exit the bloc.

Ukraine Urges More Heavy Weapons for Upcoming Battles (10:09 a.m.)

Ukraine continues to stress its need for heavy weapons, including combat planes, to support ground forces ahead of major battles expected in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions once Russian troops regroup.

“We are getting more and more supplies, but I must say that these supplies are not enough,” Defense Intelligence Chief Kyrylo Budanov told CNN. “Our priority is heavy artillery and missile systems” as well as anti-defense and aviation systems.

When asked to elaborate, Budanov mentioned “combat planes” for potential use against Russian ground forces. Ukraine’s military staff is preparing for heavy fighting in the Donbas region.

EU Mission Reopens in Kyiv (9:34 a.m.)

The European Union reopened its diplomatic mission in Kyiv, lead by Matti Maasikas, after the delegation relocated to Rzeszow, Poland, shortly after Russian forces invaded Ukraine in late February. Moscow’s troops have now retreated from the Kyiv region.

“We have witnessed first-hand the ability of the Ukrainian administration to ensure effective and full functioning of state and government structures, despite very difficult circumstances,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement as he visited Kyiv Friday with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Ukraine’s capital city is cautiously coming back to life after the departure of Russian soldiers. The subway is no longer being used as a bomb shelter, and city authorities are opening up stations that were closed after Russia’s invasion.

Fortum’s Time in Russia Running Out, Finnish Leader Says (9:27 a.m.)

Finnish utility Fortum Oyj’s days in Russia are numbered, Prime Minister Sanna Marin suggested on Saturday. Asked why Fortum continues to operate in Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, Marin told YLE TV1 that “Finnish companies should leave Russia very soon.”

The company, majority owned by the state, runs seven power plants in Russia, and its German subsidiary Uniper SE has another five units, with a book value of about 5.5 billion euros ($6 billion).

Russian Land Corridor Hopes Still Thwarted, U.K. Says (7:10 a.m.)

Russian ambitions to establish a land corridor between Crimea and the Donbas region continue to be thwarted by Ukrainian resistance, the U.K. defense ministry said.

Operations remain focused on the Donbas region, Mariupol and Mykolaiv, abetted by cruise missile launches into Ukraine by Russian naval forces. That includes strikes toward the Odessa region launched from the Crimean peninsula, Ukraine’s military said.

Russia continues “storming actions,” focusing on taking control of towns such as Nyzhnye, Popasna, Rubizhne and Novobakhmutivka, and installing complete control over Mariupol, which has been under siege for a month, Ukraine said.

Nations Eye Modern Arms for Ukraine (6:00 a.m.)

Some supporters of Ukraine are ready to start helping it shift from Soviet-era weapons to more modern NATO-style equipment in the conflict with Russia, given the prospect the war drags on for months or even years.

Countries have largely held back on supplying state-of-the-art weaponry to avoid having to train Ukrainian forces to use it. But NATO’s eastern states risk running out of Soviet-produced equipment at some point. Some allies may start training Ukrainian troops outside the country to be able to maintain and use more sophisticated weapons.

Russia Foreign Currency Rating Cut to SD by S&P (3:03 a.m.)

S&P cut Russia’s unsolicited long- and short-term foreign currency issuer credit ratings to Selective Default from CC/C.

“The foreign currency downgrade follows our understanding that the Russian government made coupon and principal payments on its U.S. dollar-denominated 2022 and 2042 Eurobonds in rubles when those payments were due on April 4, 2022,” S&P said.

IMF Creates New Account to Help Ukraine (12:15 a.m.)

The International Monetary Fund is establishing a new account designed to give donor nations a secure way to provide support to stabilize Ukraine’s economy after Russia’s invasion.

The account would receive loan or grant resources from donors in either reserve currencies or special drawing rights, the IMF’s reserve asset, and disburse support into Ukraine’s account at the fund, the institution said.

Ukraine Corn, Wheat Exports Set to Plunge Further (10:57 p.m.)

Ukraine’s grain exports are set to decline further with sea routes blocked off after Russia’s invasion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The USDA cut its forecast for corn exports by 4.5 million tons and wheat exports by 1 million tons, in the latest update of its closely watched World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates. The shortfalls will likely exacerbate the risks of food crisis in countries that rely on Ukraine and Russia for imports.

EU Formalizes Sanctions on Deripaska, Putin Daughters (9:07 p.m.)

The European Union announced sanctions against 217 individuals and 18 entities, including Russian President Vladimir Putin’s adult daughters and Oleg Deripaska, a Russian aluminum tycoon.

Deripaska, who has been under U.S. sanctions since 2018, owns an industrial conglomerate that includes a major provider of military equipment to Russia.

Moscow Shuts Human Rights Watch, Amnesty Branches (8:27 p.m.)

The Russian offices of Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International were ordered to close, a move Amnesty’s secretary general vowed wouldn’t stop her organization’s work.

“The authorities are deeply mistaken if they believe that by closing down our office in Moscow they will stop our work documenting and exposing human rights violations,” Secretary General Agnes Callamard said in a statement. “We will redouble our efforts to expose Russia’s egregious human rights violations both at home and abroad.”

Russian government officials didn’t immediately respond to questions about the closings. Both groups have been critical of Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Human Rights Watch on Thursday applauded the United Nations’ decision to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.

Von der Leyen Says Ukraine Belongs in ‘European Family’ (7:58 p.m.)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Zelenskiy in Kyiv after seeing the devastation and bodies of war victims in Bucha and vowed more support — including “rolling sanctions” — from EU members against Moscow.

“I am here with you in Kyiv today to tell you that Europe is on your side,” she said, adding that the EU would accelerate the second half of a financial aid package with 600 million euros ($650 million). Von der Leyen also delivered a folder to Zelenskiy with a questionnaire she described as an “important step toward EU membership.”

U.S. Deploys Patriot Missile System to Slovakia (6:14 p.m.)

President Joe Biden announced the deployment of a Patriot missile defense system to Slovakia after the NATO member said it was sending one of its S-300 air-defense systems to Ukraine. “I have directed my administration to continue to spare no effort to identify and provide to the Ukrainian military the advanced weapons capabilities it needs,” Biden said.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the Patriot battery will be manned by U.S. forces and should arrive in the coming days. The deployment length hasn’t been fixed, he said, adding that “we continue to consult with the Slovakian government about more permanent air defense solutions.”

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

Read More

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment