Ukraine update: Polish and Baltic presidents to visit kyiv

(Bloomberg) — The presidents of Poland and the three Baltic states are headed to kyiv in a show of support that follows visits by other leaders to the Ukrainian capital, including Boris Johnson and the heads of the European Union.

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US President Joe Biden has stepped up his condemnation of Vladimir Putin by accusing the Russian president’s forces of committing genocide in Ukraine, as Washington prepares a new military aid package for kyiv. Russia has been concentrating its forces in eastern Ukraine and a new push is expected to try to take control of the wider Donbas region.

Putin said peace talks are deadlocked and vowed to continue his “military operation” even as he called the conflict “a tragedy.” Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak called the discussions “extremely difficult.”

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key developments

  • US Prepares New Massive Increase in Military Aid to Ukraine

  • World’s top oil trader says it will stop trading Russian crude

  • Richest Russian strikes deal as sanctions trap other oligarchs

  • Russia Faces Hard-to-Verify Chemical Weapons Claims in Mariupol

  • The Ukraine war will begin to affect US corporate profits.

All CET times:

Baltic and Polish leaders will visit kyiv (6:28 am)

The leaders of Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are headed to kyiv, Jakub Kumoch, a foreign policy adviser to Polish President Andrzej Duda, wrote on Twitter.

Oil maintains its advance while Putin continues the war (6:04 am)

Oil stabilized in Asia after rallying above $100 a barrel as the Russian president vowed to continue his war in Ukraine, which has rattled markets and reduced global crude supply. West Texas Intermediate rose 6.7% on Tuesday, the most in three weeks.

The US prepares a new wave of military aid (4:44 am)

About $750 million worth of weaponry is expected to be shipped under presidential withdrawal authority, people familiar with the matter said. This allows Biden to transfer equipment from US stocks without congressional approval to expedite delivery during an emergency. Weapon types are still being discussed.

The United States has provided more than $2.4 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since Biden took office. Of that, more than $1.7 billion was delivered after the invasion began on February 24.

Major Oil Trader Will Stop Trading Russian Crude (2:57 am)

Volumes of Russian oil handled by Vitol “will decline significantly in the second quarter as current contractual obligations decline,” a company spokesman said by email. “We anticipate this to be completed by the end of 2022.”

BP Plc, Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. earlier announced plans to ditch their holdings in Russia-related investments as they move to halt dealings with the nation. Refineries in India and China have continued to buy cargoes of Russian oil, either directly from Moscow or through traders.

Separately, Russia is ready to sell crude oil and oil products to “friendly countries” within any price range, Izvestia reports, citing an interview with Energy Minister Nikolay Shulginov.

Biden says Putin has committed ‘genocide’ (11 pm)

Biden for the first time accused Russia of committing genocide in Ukraine. Speaking at an event in Iowa on Tuesday outlining steps to reduce fuel costs that have risen during the war, Biden described Russia’s actions in the conflict as “genocide.” He later stood by his comments, but said the attorneys would ultimately make the official determination.

“Yes, I called it genocide because it has become increasingly clear that Putin is just trying to eliminate the idea that you can be Ukrainian,” the president told reporters before leaving Iowa. “The evidence is mounting.”

Biden accuses Putin of committing ‘genocide’ in Ukraine

Macron says that Putin is paranoid and will not stop the attacks (7:56 pm)

French President Emmanuel Macron told Le Point magazine that Vladimir Putin’s decision to attack Ukraine stemmed from resentment and paranoia against the West. Covid-19 exacerbated Putin’s sense of isolation, according to Macron.

“He found himself in Sochi for months, locked himself in, had less contact with other thoughts,” Macron said, predicting that Putin will not stop his attacks and needs a military victory before May 9, the day Russia marks its victory in the war. WWII. The French leader stressed that he will continue to speak with his Russian counterpart to warn him about the dangers of continuing the cycle of violence.

The German president is not welcome in kyiv (6:36 pm)

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier planned to visit kyiv in a gesture of solidarity with the Ukrainian government, but was not welcomed, according to Bild.

“I was prepared for it,” Steinmeier was quoted as saying by the newspaper in Warsaw on Tuesday. “But apparently, and I have to take this into account, that was not wanted in kyiv.”

Steinmeier has been criticized by Ukrainian officials for his previous support for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. In a rare admission, the former chancellor said in a television interview this month that he and other German officials had failed in their policy toward Russia and President Vladimir Putin over the past two decades.

Ukraine negotiator says talks continue, difficult (4:42 pm)

Talks continue with Russia in working subgroups, Mykhailo Podolyak said via WhatsApp message, adding that “the emotional background is difficult.” He said Moscow was seeking to use public statements to push its claims through the negotiation process.

Putin says peace negotiations are ‘at a dead end’ (4:15 pm)

The “military operation” is going “according to plan,” Putin said at a joint news conference with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. In his first public comments on the reported atrocities in Bucha, he said the accusations that Russia was responsible were “false.”

Putin also accused Ukraine of going back on earlier concessions. The kyiv government says it has not changed its position, and in turn blames Russia for the lack of progress.

Russia’s economy has withstood the “blitzkrieg” of sanctions, Putin said, citing the recovery of the ruble’s exchange rate. But he admitted logistics and payment systems remain a weakness and the long-term impact could be more painful.

ArcelorMittal will restart blast furnace in Ukraine (4:04 p.m.)

Europe’s largest steelmaker said it was responding to a request from the kyiv government. The company stopped operations at its Kryvyi Rih facility when war broke out. Pig iron output will return to about a fifth of the plant’s normal output.

Airbus defends the decision to buy Russian titanium (4:03 pm)

The company said the sanctions would hurt aerospace manufacturers that rely on light metal and would not deter Putin when it comes to Ukraine.

The European planemaker has been stockpiling titanium for many years, Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury told the company’s general meeting of shareholders. That has given it a breathing space in the short and medium term, even if an embargo goes into effect.

OPEC sees that the war slows down the supply and demand for oil (3:32 pm)

The cartel’s comment suggests that it sees little need to deviate from its current production policy. OPEC Secretary General Mohammad Barkindo told the European Union on Monday that the oil market was out of his control.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries cut forecasts for world oil consumption in 2022 by 410,000 barrels per day, according to its latest monthly report. At the same time, it lowered projections for supplies from outside the cartel by 330,000 barrels a day, with output from Russia now 530,000 barrels a day below previous estimates.

The World Bank announces USD 1.5 billion for Ukraine (14:19)

The World Bank is preparing $1.5 billion for Ukraine to support the continuation of essential government services during the war, World Bank President David Malpass said in Warsaw.

Donor and recipient countries approved $1 billion for Ukraine and $100 million for Moldova, according to Malpass. The disbursement is part of up to 3,000 million dollars that the World Bank has promised to finance for Ukraine after the Russian invasion.

The number of people returning to Ukraine increases (12:30 pm)

The number of people returning to Ukraine from abroad has increased to about 30,000 a day, according to Andriy Demchenko, a spokesman for the State Border Guard Service.

While in the first days of the war most men returned to Ukraine, now more women, the elderly and children are returning, Demchenko said in a video briefing. The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates that more than 4.3 million refugees fled the country after the outbreak of the war, with some 7.1 million internally displaced.

Putin says conflict with the West is inevitable (11:30 am)

Speaking to workers at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East, Putin said conflict with the West was inevitable and Russia was too big to be isolated from the rest of the world.

Western sanctions imposed over the invasion of Ukraine will not prevent Moscow from developing space exploration efforts, he added, vowing to resume the country’s lunar program.

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