Ukraine Latest: Zelenskiy Urges Swift Repairs After Attacks

Ukrainians awoke to a fresh wave of Russian missile attacks on Thursday morning and sirens were heard in many parts of the country.
Ukrainian servicemen fire with a 105mm howitzer towards Russian positions on March 8. Photographer: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images
Ukrainian servicemen fire with a 105mm howitzer towards Russian positions on March 8. Photographer: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged a rapid repair of energy infrastructure in areas hit by a fresh barrage of Russian missile attacks that cut power to hundreds of thousands across war-battered Ukraine. 

“We must ensure the protection of energy infrastructure from enemy fire and ensure the rapid restoration of power supplies,” Zelenskiy said in a statement posted on Telegram. 

Power was restored to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after the attacks knocked out its supply for the sixth time. A White House spokeswoman said at least 11 Ukrainians died in the attacks. At least five people were killed near the western city of Lviv, which was hit by an array of weapons, including Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones and Kinzhal missiles, which Russia says are hypersonic rockets and able to evade air defenses.

Key Developments

  • UK Suspects Russians Using British Firms to Launder War Profits
  • Biden Unexpectedly Stops By to Meet Once-Famed Putin Whisperer
  • Russia Shifts Tactics With Barrage That Kills Five in Ukraine
  • Germany Identifies Ship Possibly Involved in Nord Stream Bombing
  • Russian Cyberwar in Ukraine Stumbles Just Like Conventional One
  • EU Stalls in Search for Sanctioned Russian Billionaires’ Assets

(All times CET)

UK Probes Ties to Russian Money Laundering (3:40 a.m.)

The UK government suspects Russian nationals have exploited lax checks by the companies register in attempts to launder war profits stolen from Ukraine, according to people familiar with the matter.

British law enforcement agencies have identified large numbers of sham companies incorporated in the UK by nationals from a range of countries in recent years, likely for the purposes of money laundering or tax evasion, the people said, asking not to be named discussing confidential matters. 

Hundreds of those firms list Russians as their officers and some Russian-controlled companies are now trying to exploit the war in Ukraine for financial gain, the people said.

White House Calls Russian Attacks ‘Brutal, Unjustified’ (7:21 p.m.)

White House spokeswoman Olivia Dalton said that almost 80 missiles were launched across Ukraine and were targeted at what appears to be civilian infrastructure “with the apparent intent of cutting off heating and electricity and other critical necessities to Ukraine.”

“We saw 11 Ukrainians lost their lives so far,” she told reporters on Air Force One as Biden was en route to Pennsylvania to promote his US budget proposal. She said it’s “devastating to see these brutal, unjustified attacks on civilian infrastructure.” 

“The United States continues to provide air defense capabilities to Ukraine and to make sure, in concert with our allies and partners across the globe, that we’re providing what they need to meet this moment,” Dalton said. 

Kharkiv and Zhytomyr Regions Have Limited Power (6:49 p.m.)

Russian missile and drone attacks damaged power equipment repaired after previous attacks in the Zhytomyr region in northern Ukraine. But national power grid operator Ukrenergo said on Facebook that there’s enough power to maintain critical infrastructure during repair work that may take as long as two weeks. In the Kharkiv region, the critical infrastructure also is getting electricity, although it may take few days until supply is stabilized.

The southern city of Odesa and the surrounding region face power shortages as well, though repair crews are working quickly to restore the supply, according to local authorities.

Russia Still Uses ‘Toxic’ Euro, Dollar to Sell Exports (4:44 p.m.) 

Russia still conducted nearly half of all trade late last year in the currencies of its adversaries that imposed sanctions over the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine, even as the yuan and the ruble made deep inroads into the settlement of transactions.

Payments for exports using what the Bank of Russia calls “toxic” currencies, primarily US dollars and euros, accounted for 48% of the total at the end of 2022, down from 87% at the start of the year. The yuan’s share increased to 34% from 0.5% and the ruble made up 16%, a report by the central bank showed on Thursday.

Russian Oil Flows to China Hit by Pacific Diversions and Delays (4:23 p.m.) 

The shipment of Russia’s key ESPO crude oil to China is showing signs of running into trouble, with deliveries slowing and fully-laden vessels still floating around Asia a month after taking on their cargoes.

Vessels hauling Russia’s main Pacific export crude are waiting weeks to discharge, ships are bouncing between ports and more cargoes are heading to India. Delays are tying up tankers for longer on voyages, reducing loading frequency and increasing the number of ships needed to keep exports flowing. The slowdown is also contributing to a surge in shipping costs.

Russia’s Resilience May Thwart Oil Market Squeeze (2:51 p.m.) 

The oil market squeeze that’s predicted for later this year depends in large part on something that doesn’t seem to be happening: a large and lasting reduction in Russian output.

Oil traders and analysts across the industry widely expect the world’s demand to exceed supply in the second half of 2023, depleting inventories and sending prices toward $100 a barrel. The views are largely based on estimates of a rebound in Chinese consumption as the Asian giant’s economy reopens, but also on assumptions that Russian output will buckle under international sanctions — a prediction that Moscow has so far defied. 

Ukraine Restores Supply to Nuclear Plant After Attack (2:26 p.m.)

Power supply was restored to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, national grid operator Ukrenergo said on Telegram. The plant had been running on emergency diesel after disruption from the Russian missile attack, Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said earlier.

“This cannot go on,” Grossi told the UN watchdog’s board of governors in comments posted on Twitter. “Each time we are rolling a dice — and if we allow this to continue, time after time, then one day our luck will run out.” It was the sixth time that Europe’s largest nuclear power station had lost all off-site power and had to tap emergency resources, he said.

Kadri Simson, the European Union’s energy commissioner, will convene the bloc’s 27 energy ministers and Ukraine’s energy minister Herman Haluschenko for a virtual call at 4 p.m. to discuss the incident, according to a person familiar with the matter. 

EU Stalls in Search for Billionaires’ Assets (2:07 p.m.) 

The EU is struggling to find and freeze the assets of sanctioned Russian billionaires, with the total figure increasing only modestly in recent months. 

The bloc has so far frozen €20.9 billion ($22 billion) in assets, even though the EU has targeted Russia with 10 rounds of sanctions since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago. Back in October, the bloc reported that some €17.4 billion had been frozen.

Energy Facilities Damaged in Eight Regions: Ukraine’s Premier (1:58 p.m.) 

Russia’s attack damaged energy generating and distribution facilities in eight Ukrainian regions, though the country’s energy system as a whole was operational, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said on Telegram. 

“Repair crews are on the spot, special attention is paid to restoring electricity supply to Kharkiv,” Shmyhal said.

Germany Identifies Ship Possibly Involved in Nord Stream Bombing (12:54 p.m.) 

German authorities said they searched a vessel that may have transported explosives used in the attack on the Nord Stream pipelines last year, signaling that an investigation may yield more on who was behind it. Traces and items found in the search of a vessel from Jan. 18 to 20 are being probed, the Federal Prosecutor said in a statement on Thursday. Germans working for the company that leased the ship are not under investigation, it said. 

“The identity of the perpetrators and their motives are the subject of the ongoing investigation,” the Federal Prosecutor’s office said in a statement. “At present, it is not possible to make any statements of a concrete nature, in particular on the question of whether this was a state-sponsored action.” 

Russia Has Resources for Two Years of War: Lithuania (12:50 p.m.)

Russia has enough resources and capabilities to sustain its war in Ukraine at its current intensity for another two years, according to estimates by Lithuanian intelligence.

“Russia is likely preparing itself for a protracted conflict, no matter what the cost,” Lithuania’s intelligence agency said in a report assessing threats to national security. The Kremlin is increasing the size of its army and defense spending in preparation for a long-term conflict with Ukraine and the West, it said.

The highly-militarized Russian exclave of Kaliningrad, which borders Lithuania, remains the country’s biggest threat, the report said, adding that while ground deployment in Kaliningrad was reduced, air and naval forces remain unaffected by the war. 

Russia Still Has Many Questions About Grain Deal (10:51 a.m.)

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said many questions remain open over implementing the United Nations-brokered grain deal, Russia’s Tass news agency reported. The agreement, whose 120-day run ends on March 18, has enabled the shipment of more than 20 million tons of Ukrainian crops since it was negotiated last July. 

Peskov said there are no plans for talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who stressed the importance of renewing the the Black Sea agreement during a visit to Kyiv this week. 

Grain Traders Bank on Renewal of Black Sea Deal (9:18 a.m.)

Markets are betting the grain deal gets extended. The agreement can be extended for another 120 days after March 18 if no side seeks to modify or terminate the pact. 

Futures for wheat and corn — the top two crops shipped through the corridor — have fallen in recent weeks amid an outlook for ample supplies. Wheat has hit the lowest since 2021, also pressured by big Russian and Australian harvests.

Read More: Grain Traders Bank on Renewal of Vital Ukraine Crop Deal 

Ukraine Vows to Keep Fighting for Bakhmut (8:47 a.m.)

Ukraine will hold the line in Bakhmut “until it becomes impossible,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica and other media. 

“No one will be sacrificed,” and if there is a “concrete threat of encirclement” the decision can be reviewed, he said. Still, he said that “if we can still fight in Bakhmut, we must fight.” 

Russia Fired 81 Missiles on Thursday, Ukraine Says (8:44 a.m.)

Of those, Ukraine downed 42 missiles and four drones, the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said on Telegram. That included six Kinzhal missiles fired from Russian jets, he said.

Russian Missile Kills Five People in Lviv Region (8:42 a.m.)

A missile killed at least five people in their homes near Lviv in western Ukraine, regional Governor Maksym Kozytskyi said on Telegram.

Recovery work was underway, and more people may remain buried under the debris. The resulting fire destroyed three houses, he said.

Russian Kinzhal Missile Hit Kyiv, Authorities Say (7:07 a.m.)

Russia launched Shahed drones and practically all available missiles against Ukraine, Kyiv’s city military administration said on Telegram.

During the seven-hour-long air raid alarm, the capital’s air defenses downed all Russian single-attack drones and cruise missiles. However, one Kinzhal hypersonic missile hit infrastructure in the capital, according to the statement. Missile debris wounded two people as well as damaged cars in western Kyiv.

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