Ukraine Update: Kyiv Pursues War Crimes; Russia Stability Fund

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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Russia is pressing a land assault in the Donetsk region while attempting to complete its capture of Mariupol in the south, where air strikes are being targeted at the center of the city.

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.

Russia is boosting an economic stability fund and will finance it with oil and gas revenues. A global pledging campaign with some celebrity help raised 10.1 billion euros to help those displaced by the war. The EU mission in Kyiv has reopened, and at least two European countries — Italy and Austria — look set to follow suit soon.

(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

  • Celebrity-Backed Ukraine Campaign Raises $11 Billion for Aid

  • Half of Harvests in Crop Giant Ukraine Could Be Wiped Out by War

  • Rising Food Costs Push Arab World’s Vulnerable to Breaking Point

  • Russia’s Invasion Supercharges Push to Make a New Green Fuel

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

All times CET:

Russia Boosts Fund to Counter Sanctions With Oil, Gas Proceeds (11:25 a.m.)

Russia will increase its government reserve fund by 273.4 billion rubles ($3.4 billion) to “ensure the stability of the economy in the face of external sanctions,” the Kremlin said in a decree.

The government will mainly finance the increase via “additional oil and gas revenues received in the first quarter of 2022,” it said, citing legal amendments approved in early March by President Vladimir Putin just after he launched the invasion.

Ukraine Says It’s Pursuing 5,600 War Crimes Cases (10:42 a.m.)

Ukraine has started to pursue about 5,600 cases of war crimes linked to Russia’s invasion, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told the U.K.’s Sky News. The suspects in only the main “anchor case” include more than 500 top military, political, and other officials in Russia, she said.

“Almost every region of Ukraine was bombed, and we have a lot of concrete facts in every region and every city,” Venediktova said. The Kremlin denies targeting civilians and has blamed Ukraine for killing thousands of its own people, without providing evidence and despite satellite images, intercepted communications, eye-witness accounts and other reports indicating its troops are at fault.

Venediktova said Vladimir Putin is “the main war criminal of the 21st century,” but while he remains Russian president he can’t be charged under international law without a decision from the International Criminal Court prosecutor.

Russia Bringing Back Retired Troops, U.K. Says (8:10 a.m.)

In response to mounting losses, and as it prepares for what’s expected to be a major offensive in Ukraine’s east, Russia is looking to bolster troop numbers with personnel discharged from military service since 2012, the U.K. said in an intelligence update. Moscow is also trying to recruit from Transnistria, the pro-Russian enclave in neighboring Moldova, the U.K. said.

NATO estimated in late March that as many as 15,000 Russian soldiers had been killed since the invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. Wounded soldiers who can’t rapidly return to duty are typically twice the number of dead, according to a Center for Strategic and International Studies estimate.

Celebrity-Backed Campaign Raises $11 Billion for Aid (8:05 a.m.)

A global pledging campaign, “Stand Up for Ukraine” raised 10.1 billion euros ($11 billion) on Saturday to help more the than 10 million people displaced within and outside of Ukraine since Russia invaded six weeks ago.

Backed by Europe, Canada, Gulf countries and celebrities such as Katy Perry, Madonna and Elton John, the drive concluded at an event in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyenand Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who appeared by video link.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy also addressed the event via video, and later spoke with Trudeau, he said on Twitter.

Japan Insurers to Halt Coverage for Firms in Russia, Kyodo Says (2:46 a.m.)

Japanese non life insurers including Tokio Marine Nichido will cease acceptance of new coverage contracts for Japanese firms operating in Russia, Kyodo News said Saturday, citing people close to the matter.

Japanese drug-maker Takeda Pharmaceutical Co. won’t conduct new clinical trials in Russia, nor make any new investments in the country, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

NATO Seeks Stronger Eastern Flank: Telegraph (11:20 p.m.)

NATO is working on plans for a permanent troop presence on the alliance’s eastern border, the Telegraph reported, citing an interview with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The “reset” required after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “is to move from tripwire deterrence — which is the current concept — to something that is more about deterrence by denial or defense,” the newspaper quoted Stoltenberg as saying. Decisions are expected at a summit of NATO countries in June, he said.

Italy to Shift Gas Imports Toward Algeria (11 p.m.)

Italy will boost natural-gas imports from Algeria by almost 50% under a deal to be signed on Monday during a visit by Prime Minister Mario Draghi to Algiers, according to people familiar with the matter.

Italy imported some 21 billion cubic meters of gas from Algeria in 2021 and about 29 bcm from Russia. The agreement will probably lead to Algeria replacing Russia as Italy’s biggest supplier, according to the people.

European Embassies Start Return to Kyiv (6:10 p.m.)

European embassies that moved out of Kyiv before or during Russia’s invasion are starting to return, taking their lead from the European Union’s diplomatic mission.

Italy indicated it will reopen its embassy shortly after Easter, ANSA reported, citing Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio. Austria’s chancellor said embassy staff will return from a location in far western Ukraine “since the situation around Kyiv has now stabilized somewhat,” the Austria Press Agency reported.

Russia Hits Nitric Acid Tank in Ukraine’s East, Official Says (5:02 p.m.)

Ukrainian eastern Luhansk region governor Serhiy Haiday said that Russian troops hit a tank with nitric acid near town of Rubizhne, which they have been shelling.

Exposure to the highly corrosive acid can cause a variety of symptoms including irritation to the eyes and skin, and later lead to conditions such as bronchitis and pulmonary edema. Haiday urged residents to stay inside, close windows and doors, and use protective masks as heavy smoke was seen on the site.

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

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

Johnson pledged new military assistance of 120 armored vehicles and new anti-ship missile systems. That’s on top of 100 million pounds ($130 million) in equipment announced Friday, including over 800 anti-tank missiles, Javelin anti-tank systems, Starstreak air defense systems, helmets, armor and night-vision goggles.

The U.K. said it has also liberalized tariffs on most imports from Ukraine.

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 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.”

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