Ukraine Update: U.K. Premier Says More Pressure Needed on Putin
Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. have suspended operations in Russia amid growing pressure from within Ukraine and U.S. lawmakers.
(Bloomberg) -- U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said diplomatic efforts in lead up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had stood no chance, and that President Vladimir Putin’s war was now “sinking further into a sordid campaign of war crimes and unthinkable violence against civilians.”
Writing in the New York Times, Johnson said the conflict would not become a NATO one, and reiterated the military alliance would not send troops in. NATO is seeking to prevent war potentially spilling outside Ukraine’s borders or being drawn into the conflict inside the country despite President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s repeated calls for a no-fly zone.
Kyiv and Moscow indicated more talks could happen on Monday. Any negotiations face huge hurdles to progress, including on potential humanitarian corridors. Ukraine on Saturday accused Russian forces of breaching a temporary cease-fire brokered to allow safe passage of civilians from two southeastern cities.
Visa Inc. and MasterCard Inc. suspended operations in Russia.
- Visa and Mastercard Suspend Their Operations in Russia
- Putin Warns Ukraine as Safe-Passage Plans Descend Into Chaos
- Russia Energy Chaos Triggers the Biggest Market Shock in Decades
- More Than a Million People Have Fled Ukraine in Just One Week
- War Exposes Europe’s Failure to Heed Warnings Over Russian Gas
All times CET:
‘Putin’s Act of Aggression Must Fail,’ Johnson Writes (8 a.m.)
In the New York Times essay, Johnson outlined a six-point plan for Ukraine, calling on other nations to help mobilize a humanitarian effort and help Ukraine defend itself.
Johnson said he’d meet on Monday with the leaders of Canada and the Netherlands, and on Tuesday host the leaders of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic, countries facing a growing refugee crisis as people flee Ukraine.
He also called for every Russian bank to be cut out of the SWIFT financial payments system, and for Europe to start to “wean itself off the Russian oil and gas that bankroll Mr. Putin’s war machine.” Europe is highly dependent on Russian gas. Only about 3% of U.K. energy supplies come from Russia, so any cap on imports would have a limited impact.
Radio Free Europe Suspends Russia Operations (6 a.m.)
Radio Free Europe, which also operates as Radio Liberty, is halting activities in the country after local tax authorities initiated bankruptcy proceedings against the broadcaster’s Russian entity on March 4 and police pressured its journalists, the group said in a statement.
Biden Speaks to Zelenskiy in Call (3:58 a.m.)
Biden’s “administration is surging security, humanitarian, and economic assistance to Ukraine and is working closely with Congress to secure additional funding,” he told Zelenskiy on Saturday evening, according to a White House statement. They spoke for about half an hour.
Australia Says Military Supplies Arrived in Ukraine (2:14 a.m.)
Military equipment including missiles and ammunition has arrived into Ukraine from Australia, Defense Minister Peter Dutton said Sunday. Dutton said the delivery had been carried out with help from the U.S. and U.K.
Bennett Briefs Germany’s Scholz on Putin Talks (1:30 a.m.)
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz met Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to discuss the Israeli leader’s talks with Putin in Moscow on Saturday. Scholz and Bennett agreed during a 90-minute meeting in Berlin “to remain in close contact,” German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said in a statement, which didn’t disclose details of the conversation.
Bennett also spoke with the Ukrainian and French presidents during travels, his spokesman said.
Bill Ackman’s Warnings on Ukraine: Tweet Thread (1:29 a.m.)
Musk Sending More Starlink Terminals to Ukraine (1:25 a.m.)
Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Inc. and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., promised another batch of Starlink satellite terminals for Ukraine to help keep internet communication working as the country fights Russia’s invasion.
In a Twitter post on Saturday, Zelenskiy said he spoke with Musk. Another delivery of Starlink systems will arrive next week “for destroyed cities,” the president said.
U.S. in Talks With Poland, Slovakia on Fighter Jets (12:06 a.m.)
The Biden administration is considering backfilling any Soviet-era fighter jets Poland may send from its own fleet to Ukraine, a White House spokesperson said.
The decision is Poland’s to make, the spokesperson said, adding that there are logistical and other challenges, including how to transfer aircraft from Poland to Ukraine.
F-16 fighter jets are what the U.S. would likely send Poland, according to a person with the matter. The process would be time consuming and involve bidding for and awarding a contract, as well as building planes specific to the country and providing training. A member of Congress said the U.S. is also in talks with Slovakia.
Visa, MasterCard Suspend Russia Operations (11:15 p.m.)
All transactions initiated with Visa cards issued in Russia will no longer work abroad. Any Visa cards issued by financial institutions outside of Russia will no longer work within the country, the company said in a statement Saturday.
“We are compelled to act following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, and the unacceptable events that we have witnessed,” said Al Kelly, chairman and chief executive officer. MasterCard, which provided fewer details on the suspension, said in a statement that given the “unprecedented nature of the current conflict and the uncertain economic environment – we have decided to suspend our network services in Russia.” U.S. lawmakers had called for the companies to halt transactions in Russia.
Blinken Crosses Into Ukraine to Meet Kuleba (11:10 p.m.)
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken crossed from Poland into Ukraine on Saturday for a meeting with Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister.
“We’ve come from several days of meetings with NATO, the European Union, countries beyond the G-7, and we see that support not only continue – security support, humanitarian support, economic support – but that support will increase,” Blinken said, according to a State Department account of the encounter at the border.
In Poland, Blinken toured a welcome center for Ukrainians who fled in the wake of the Russian invasion.
EU Provides Initial Refugee Assistance (10:57 p.m.)
The European Union on Saturday announced the first tranche of 500 million euros to help Ukrainian refugees crossing the border into European nations.
“Refugees from Ukraine deserve our solidarity and support, and so do the countries that welcome them,” EU President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted Saturday.
The news comes on the heels of a Friday decision to allow most Ukrainian refugees to live and work in the EU and have access to health services and schools for at least a year.
IAEA Reports on Seized Ukrainian Nuclear Plants (10:37 p.m.)
Radiation levels at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant are normal and technical safety systems remain intact a day after Russian forces took control of the site, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in an update, citing Ukraine officials.
However, staff at the Chernobyl nuclear plant -- seized by Russian military last week -- have been on site since Feb. 23 and have been unable to rotate shifts, the IAEA said.
Putin Allows Foreign Credit Payments in Rubles (9:15pm)
Russia and Russian companies will be allowed, for now, to pay some of their foreign creditors in rubles, according to a decree signed by Putin on Saturday.
The temporary rules let the government and other entities circumvent technical problems when dealing in foreign currency and pay instead in quickly depreciating rubles.
The decree applies to payments of more than 10 million rubles per month to creditors from “countries that engage in hostile activities” against Russia, its companies and citizens. The government will prepare a list of such countries within two days.
Israeli Premier Meets With Putin in Surprise Moscow Trip (6:31 p.m.)
Bennett was accompanied by Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin who speaks Russian and translated during the meeting, which went for around three hours. The White House was informed in advance of the trip, according to a spokeswoman for Bennett.
Bennett has held phone conversations with both Putin and Zelenskiy in recent days as Israel attempts to leverage its good relations with both Kyiv and Moscow to help mediate.
The prime minister also spoke with Putin about the situation facing Israelis and Jewish communities as a result of the conflict in Ukraine, according to an Israeli official.
Putin and Bennett discussed “various aspects of the situation in Ukraine in the context of the Russian special operation to defend Donbas,” the Kremlin said in an emailed statement, which did not give further details of the talks.
U.S. Urges Americans to Leave Russia ‘Immediately’ (6:28 p.m.)
The State Department issued an updated advisory that cited the potential for harassment and the embassy’s limited ability to assist citizens there. “Limited commercial flight options are still available. Overland routes by car and bus are also still open,” it said. “If you wish to depart Russia, you should make arrangements on your own as soon as possible.”
Russian Food Retailers Limit Purchases After Run on Goods (5:45 p.m.)
Russian retailers restricted purchases of staple, “socially important” food items following reports of hoarding after this week’s drastic ruble devaluation and on concerns about disruptions to imports. The Agriculture Ministry said in a statement it supported the move.
Earlier, Russia’s biggest food retailer said it would temporarily limit large purchases of some goods after a spike in demand for foods like sugar, sunflower oil and buckwheat in several regions. X5 Retail Group NV said it has sufficient supplies but is struggling to pack and transport products quickly enough to meet demand.
IMF Says Ukraine Wants $1.4 Billion in Emergency Funds (5:25 p.m.)
The IMF said Ukraine has asked for $1.4 billion in emergency financing, and that its staff expects to submit the request to the board to consider for approval as soon as next week.
In addition to the rising human toll, Russia’s invasion has done substantial damage to Ukraine’s physical and economic infrastructure, including to sea ports, airports, roads and bridges. While it’s difficult at this stage to assess financing needs precisely, it’s clear Ukraine will face significant recovery and reconstruction costs, the IMF said.
Neighboring Moldova also has requested an increase and adjustment of its current IMF loan to help meet the costs of the crisis.
Zelenskiy Asks U.S. Lawmakers to Boost Aid (4:45 p.m.)
Ukraine’s president asked U.S. lawmakers to back a so-called no-fly zone over Ukraine, expand weapons shipments, and ban Russian oil imports, according to a person familiar with the conversation.
NATO on Friday rejected Zelenskiy’s call to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine because of the potential for a broader conflict with Russia. The U.S. is seeking an extra $10 billion in funding to respond to the Russian invasion, including humanitarian and military aid.
Zelenskiy “made a desperate plea for Eastern European countries to provide Russian-made planes to Ukraine,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. A number of European countries have rejected donating military aircraft.
Putin Warns Ukraine Again on Statehood (3:10 p.m.)
Putin repeated his warnings against the leadership in Ukraine as Zelenskiy and other officials call for a NATO no-fly zone over the country and further weapons to be sent to help it fight Russia.
The Russian president again demanded “demilitarization” of Ukraine. He’s made clear he wants the government replaced, even as talks were held between Russian and Ukrainian officials in the past week on some sort of mediated solution. A third meeting is in the offing, with no firm date set.
“The current leadership should understand that if they continue to do what they are doing, they will be putting the issue of Ukrainian statehood in question,” Putin said at an event in Moscow on Saturday.
Putin said martial law would only be imposed “in the event of external aggression, including in specific areas of combat operations. But we aren’t in a situation like that and I hope we won’t be.”
Blinken Speaks With China’s Wang on Ukraine (3:07 p.m.)
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken used a phone call with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to push Beijing to take a tougher line against Russia. “The secretary noted the world is watching to see which nations stand up for the basic principles of freedom, self-determination and sovereignty,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
China has so far refused to denounce Moscow, even as it recognizes Ukraine’s right to sovereignty. And its public comments have signaled greater alarm at events on the ground with the war in its second week. President Xi Jinping spoke previously with Vladimir Putin and urged him to negotiate with the government in Kyiv.
Russia Bans Some Foreign Flights to Stop Aircraft Seizures (1:11 p.m.)
Russia will halt some international flights to keep rented planes out of the hands of foreign owners trying to take them back.
The order takes effect Sunday and applies to airlines that have leased planes from foreign owners, the country’s aviation regulator said. It cited “the high risk of Russian airlines’ planes being held or seized abroad.”
The move will give Aeroflot and other Russian carriers cover to hold on to hundreds of aircraft that, under European Union sanctions, must be returned to owners by March 28.
Moody’s Suspends Commercial Operations in Russia (12:14 p.m.)
Moody’s Corp. will suspend its commercial operations in Russia for now. The move covers both Moody’s Investors Service and Moody’s Analytics operations, the company said in a statement. Moody’s Investors Service will maintain analytical coverage for existing ratings from outside Russia, it added.
Poland Says Close to 800,000 Refugees Have Crossed Its Border (12:05 p.m.)
Poland said a record 106,400 people from Ukraine crossed its border on Friday, and another 34,000 early Saturday morning. Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine close to 800,000 people have fled Ukraine for Poland. Smaller numbers have traveled to Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Moldova and other EU countries, as well as Russia itself.
©2022 Bloomberg L.P.
With assistance from Bloomberg