Ukraine Latest: Biden Unveils New Aid; U.K. Bans Russian Goods | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack


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(Bloomberg) — President Vladimir Putin said Russia has “liberated” Ukraine’s Mariupol, apart from the massive Azovstal steel plant, which he ordered blockaded. Kyiv has called for urgent talks to save the lives of the fighters and civilians in the city; limited civilian evacuations went ahead Wednesday and are expected to continue. 

The situation in Ukraine’s east and south remains difficult, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his address to the nation Wednesday night, as Russian forces push on with stepped-up ground and air offensives. Moscow claimed it hit 1,001 targets overnight. 

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Russia’s central bank governor said further rate cuts are possible. Finance ministers and central bankers from the Group of Seven nations say they want to isolate Russia from the global economy for its unprovoked “war of aggression.”

Key Developments

Putin Calls Off Storm of Mariupol With Ukraine Troops SurroundedKremlin Insiders Are Alarmed Over Growing Cost of Putin’s WarItaly Signs Gas Deals in Angola, Congo to Cut Russia Ties Why Mariupol and the Donbas Region Matter to Putin: QuickTakeRussia’s Surprise Rate Cut Likely Just the Start of More EasingRussia Faces New Urgency to Avoid Default, Sidestep Wall Street

All times CET:

Poland to Extend Support for Refugees (5:07 p.m.)

Poland will extend state support, initially planned for two months, for families and hotels hosting Ukrainian refugees by another 60 days. The government estimates that 600,000 Ukrainians are still benefiting from the program. The aid, amounting to 40 zloty ($9.38) for each person per day, is expected to cost the state $1.9 billion. Since the start of war, more than 2.8 million people from Ukraine have arrived in Poland.

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Biden Unveils $1.3 Billion in Arms, Aid (4:31 p.m.)

President Joe Biden said the U.S. is sending Ukraine another $1.3 billion in arms and economic aid, and that he’ll ask Congress to authorize further assistance as Russia steps up its attacks in the country’s east.

The money adds to $2.4 billion in U.S. aid already authorized for the fiscal year, much of it weaponry. Of the new package, $800 million will go toward arms. “We’re in a critical window now of time where they’re going to set the stage for the next phase of this war,” Biden said.

U.K. Imposes New Tariffs on Russian Goods (4:05 p.m.) 

The U.K. will impose import tariffs and bans on more than 1 billion pounds ($1.3 billion) of Russian goods, the British government said in a Thursday statement. The sanctions will hit items including silver, wood products and high-end items such as caviar. 

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Spain Doubles Arms Shipments to Ukraine (4:05 p.m.)

Spain has sent more than 200 tons of weapons and dozens of military vehicles to Ukraine, doubling its arms shipment, according to Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.

Sanchez made the announcement during a joint press conference with Zelenskiy and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on Thursday. Zelenskiy said he was thankful for the support “at this difficult time” and warned of hard days ahead.

Ukraine, Russia Swap Another 19 Prisoners (2:17 p.m.) 

Russia released 19 Ukrainians, including 9 civilians, in Thursday’s prisoner swap, said Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

Russia’s Lukoil CEO Resigns After Being Sanctioned (1:19 p.m.)

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Russia’s second-largest oil producer said Chief Executive Officer Vagit Alekperov will resign, in the latest sign of growing pressure on the nation’s energy industry since the invasion of Ukraine. 

The 71-year-old joins a long list of Russian CEOs who’ve stepped down after being targeted with Western sanctions. The bosses of the country’s biggest petrochemical producer Sibur Holding, internet company Yandex NV and e-commerce firm Ozon Group have all resigned in recent months.  

Ukraine Seeks Retail ‘Peace Bond’ for U.S, EU Diaspora (12:31 p.m.)

Ukraine is in talks with the European Union and the U.S. to establish a so-called peace bond for retail investors to help fund war efforts and reconstruction.

Kyiv has held talks with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the U.S., as well as with the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, said a person familiar with the plans. The commission has offered to be the go-between with national authorities that would oversee and approve a sale of the new bonds. 

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U.K. Hits Russian Military Officials, Others With Sanctions (12:22 p.m.)

The U.K. government on Thursday sanctioned Russian generals they said were “committing atrocities on the front-line in Ukraine,” according to a statement. 

The fresh sanction also targeted individuals and businesses supporting the Russian military — 26 new entries in all. The sanctions hit “the generals and defence companies that have blood on their hands,” said U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. 

Spring Planting Pushes Ahead (11:59 a.m.) 

Ukraine’s spring sowing campaign is gathering momentum with about 20% of projected area having been planted, according to the agriculture ministry. 

Ukraine is one of the world’s top producers and exporters of grains and oilseeds, and the war has pushed prices up sharply on the fear of food shortages. 

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Even in the eastern and southern regions, where fighting continues or is intensifying, farmers will be able to sow as much as 40% of planned area in the worst-case scenario, the ministry said.  Landmines left behind by retreating Russian forces is a problem for farmers in the north. 

Sweden Plans to Speed Up Its NATO Analysis (11:45 a.m.) 

Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde said political parties deliberating a potential application for NATO membership may speed up the process, initially planned to conclude by the end of next month. 

The talks should be finalized by May 13, Linde said in an interview with Swedish public radio’s Ekot. “The situation in Ukraine continues to worsen, Finland has submitted its analysis, and there is strong pressure on Sweden to finalize its analysis,” she said.  

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Support in Sweden for joining the defense bloc has surged after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

China Energy Giants in Talks for Shell Russia Gas Stake (11:16 a.m.)

Key Chinese state-run energy companies are in talks with Shell Plc to buy its stake in a major Russian gas export project, said people with knowledge of the matter.

Cnooc, CNPC and Sinopec Group are in joint discussions with Shell over the company’s 27.5% holding in the Sakhalin-2 liquefied natural gas venture after the European firm said it would exit Russian operations. Discussions are at an early stage and it remains possible no deal will be agreed. 

Ukraine Demands Humanitarian Corridor From Azovstal Plant (10:04 a.m.) 

About 1,000 civilians and 500 wounded soldiers are among those in Mariupol’s giant steel complex — ordered to be sealed by Russia’s Vladimir Putin — and they should be allowed to leave today, said Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk. 

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On Wednesday, four buses were used to evacuate a small number of people from Mariupol and that process is expected to continue today, she said earlier. 

Putin Says Contested Mariupol ‘Liberated’ (9:54 a.m.)

President Vladimir Putin said Russia has “liberated” the southern city of Mariupol, even as his defense minister said some 2,000 Ukrainian troops remain holed up in a massive steel plant there. “Taking control of such an important center in the south as Mariupol is a success,” Putin told Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in a televised meeting. 

After more than a month of laying siege to the city and facing the prospect of a longer and deadlier standoff, Putin ordered Shoigu to call off the storming of the Azovstal steel works to save the lives of Russian troops, and instead seal off the area “so that even a fly can’t get through.” He demanded that remaining Ukrainian troops surrender. 

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Capturing Mariupol is key for Russia to reassert control over the Donbas region and linking it by land with the Crimean peninsula. 

Mariupol Defenders Facing Their Final Stand 

Bank of Russia to Consider Rate Cuts, Governor Says (9:23 a.m.)

Russia’s central bank will consider deeper monetary easing in the months ahead, Governor Elvira Nabiullina said, after a surprise interest-rate cut earlier in April reversed part of the steep increase delivered after the invasion of Ukraine.

An emergency rate hike in February was needed during the acute stage of the crisis, she said. “As the situation in the financial market stabilizes, as inflationary pressure eases, we began to reduce the key rate.”  

Russia’s April Surprise Rate Cut Likely the Start of More Easing

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Russia Wants Results By Parade Day, U.K. Says (8:59 a.m.)

Russia’s Vladimir Putin wants to demonstrate “significant successes” in time for the annual May 9 Victory Day celebrations and parade, the U.K. said in an intelligence update. 

“This could affect how quickly and forcefully they attempt to conduct operations,” the U.K. said. For now, Russia is advancing from staging areas in the Donbas towards Kramatorsk. 

“High levels of Russian air activity endure as Russia seeks to provide close air support to its offensive in eastern Ukraine, to suppress and destroy Ukrainian air defence capabilities.” the U.K. said. In a morning update, Russia’s defense ministry said it high 1,001 targets overnight.

Italy Should Halt Russian Gas Imports, Energy Minister Says (8:01 a.m) 

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Italian Energy Minister Roberto Cingolani, who’s in Africa to seal new energy deals, says gas imports from Russia should be ended. Separately, Rome is ready to refuse new payment terms demanded by Russia for gas if they’re shown to violate sanctions, according to people familiar with the matter. 

“In my opinion we should soon halt gas imports from Russia, also for ethical reasons,” he said in an interview with La Stampa Thursday. According to Cingolani, Italy could cut its imports in about 18 months from now.

G-7 Ministers Condemn Russia’s War (5:06 a.m.)

Group of Seven finance ministers and central bankers condemned Russia’s “unjustifiable” war in Ukraine and will work to isolate the country from the global economy, according to a G-7 statement after the officials met in Washington. 

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“Our sanctions are already having the intended massive impact on the Russian economy,” they said. “The significant long-term hit to the Russian economy will become even clearer over time.”

They are closely coordinating with partners to increase costs of war for Russia, and also aware of the “substantial” increases in commodity prices facing the world economy, with “vulnerable groups” feeling the brunt, according to the statement.

Read more: Yellen, Ministers Leave G-20 Meeting as Russia Envoys Speak

Russia Exploring Cyberattacks, Advisory Says (2:58 a.m.)

Evolving intelligence indicates the Russian government is exploring options for potential cyberattacks, while some cybercrime groups are looking to aid Moscow, security agencies from the U.S., Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the U.K. said in a joint advisory.

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“This activity may occur as a response to the unprecedented economic costs imposed on Russia as well as materiel support provided by the United States and U.S. allies and partners,” the advisory said, adding the cybersecurity agencies behind the joint assessment are urging “critical infrastructure network defenders to prepare for and mitigate potential cyber threats.”

Indonesia Defends Putin Attending G-20 (1:40 a.m.)

Indonesia’s ambassador to Australia defended his country’s decision to invite Vladimir Putin to the November Group of 20 meeting in Bali, saying it was important to pursue the group’s economic agenda.

In an interview with Australia’s Nine newspapers, Ambassador Siswo Pramono said Putin was still invited when Australia hosted the event in Brisbane in 2014, despite Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea. Current Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other G-20 leaders have said it would not be appropriate for Putin to attend due to the invasion of his neighbor.

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Sanctioned Russian Banks Can’t Issue UnionPay Cards: RBC (11:03 p.m.)

Russian banks under sanctions won’t be able to issue UnionPay cards because the Chinese payments provider is concerned about the risk of secondary sanctions, RBC reported, citing five sources from major sanctioned banks. Employees at one of them, Sberbank, were told about the decision at a private meeting, RBC reported. 

Russia Tests Ballistic Missile Amid Putin Praise (6:17 p.m.)

Russia’s Defense Ministry released video of a Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile being test-fired from the Plesetsk cosmodrome in the northern Arkhangelsk region, Tass said. The ministry previously showed videos of the missile in 2018.

“This unique weapon will strengthen the military potential of our armed forces, will reliably guarantee Russia’s security against outside threats and force those who in the heat of frenzied aggressive rhetoric try to menace our country to think again,” Putin said on state TV.

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