ECONOMY

Ukraine Update: Zelenskiy Says Talks With Russia Are at Dead End

Billionaire Roman Abramovich is attempting to restart talks between Ukraine and Russia, which both sides say are stuck. Ukrainian central bank and finance officials will head to Washington for next week’s meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Shelling resumed near Kyiv and the Lviv region close to Poland saw its first known missile attack in weeks. Russia has warned the U.S. over its weapons shipments, according to a diplomatic note cited by the New York Times and the Washington Post. 

The U.K. said destroyed roads are hampering humanitarian aid deliveries. Ukraine’s economy may shrink by as much as half, Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said.

(See RSAN on the Bloomberg Terminal for the Russian Sanctions Dashboard.)

Russia Demands Mariupol Defenders Surrender (11:30 p.m.) 

Russia called on Ukrainian forces in the besieged industrial port city of Mariupol to lay down their arms on Sunday to avoid being killed. Ukraine has rejected similar Russian demands in the past.

Colonel General Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s National Defense Control Center, cited a “catastrophic situation” at Azovstal, a sprawling steel plant that has become a last stand in the city’s defense. “All those who lay down their arms are guaranteed the preservation of life,” Tass quoted Mizintsev as saying. 

Austria Needs Years to Cut Off Russian Gas (9:30 p.m.)

Austria could end Russian natural gas imports “maybe in a few years,” Chancellor Karl Nehammer told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Austria is 80% dependent on Russian gas, so “it is not possible today, tomorrow,” he said. 

Nehammer, whose country is militarily neutral under a 1955 arrangement that ended its post-World War II occupation by Allied and Soviet forces, was received by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday. He said he made the trip to “confront” Putin with evidence of civilian killings in Bucha, a Kyiv suburb that had been held by Russian forces.

Zelenskiy Says Russia Talks at Dead End (7:53 p.m.)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said talks with Russia are at a “dead end because we will not trade our territory and our people.” 

If Russian forces follow through on a threat to destroy the remaining Ukrainian troops fighting in Mariupol, that would “put an end” to talks, he said in an interview with Ukrainian online media.

Abramovich Seeks to Jump-Start Talks (6:52 p.m.) 

Billionaire Roman Abramovich has traveled to Kyiv in a bid to restart peace talks between Russia and Ukraine, which stalled after evidence emerged of Russian atrocities against civilians.

Abramovich met Ukrainian negotiators to discuss ways of reviving the negotiations, according to people with knowledge of the matter. 

In Russia, Abramovich “represents the side that backs a diplomatic resolution and end of the war,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told online media. “Nobody can guarantee that it isn’t a  game.”

Ukraine’s Putin Ally Medvedchuk Kept in Custody (6:41 p.m.)

A Ukrainian court ordered the continued detention of Kremlin-friendly politician Viktor Medvedchuk after he tried to escape the country, according to a statement on the court’s Facebook page. 

Prosecutors suspect Medvedchuk, a tycoon sanctioned by the U.S. since 2014, of high treason and terrorist financing. His assets were frozen in 2021. He denies any wrongdoing. 

Medvedchuk had been under house arrest since last year but fled during Russia’s initial invasion. He was apprehended by Ukrainian security forces this week at an undisclosed location.

Ukraine Update: Zelenskiy Says Talks With Russia Are at Dead End

Zelenskiy Has Follow-Up Call With Johnson (6:22 p.m.)

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy spoke Saturday with Boris Johnson, a week after the U.K. prime minister’s visit to Kyiv. They discussed “the need for a long-term security solution for Ukraine,” according to a Downing Street readout.  

Russian Ships Barred From Italian Ports After Sanctions (6:14 p.m.)

Russian ships won’t be able to anchor at Italian ports as of Sunday, Ansa news agency reported. The move is part of the recent package of European Union sanctions against Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine, Ansa said.

The change also applies to ships that changed their flag to any other nationality from Russia after Feb. 24, Ansa said. Vessels moored in Italy should depart as soon as possible. 

Ukrainian Central Bankers to Visit Washington (5:17 p.m.)

Central bank governor Kyrylo Shevchenko and deputy Serhiy Nikolaychuk will travel to Washington for spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, bank spokeswoman Halyna Kalachiva said. They’ll be accompanied by prime minister Denys Shmyhal and finance minister Serhiy Marchenko. The meetings start Monday. 

The IMF has established a new account designed to give donor nations a secure way to provide support to Ukraine’s economy. Canada in its recent budget proposed as much as CAD 1 billion ($795 million) to be disbursed through the account, and it will be available for other IMF members or intergovernmental entities that wish to use it as a vehicle to provide assistance, the IMF said.  

Minister Vows Kyiv Will Service Foreign Debt (2:12 p.m.)

More than 80% of the debt Ukraine has to repay this year is domestic, “which we can easily cover” or refinance, Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko said in a television interview. 

He said the repayment schedule for foreign debt is “quite moderate and simple,” with a peak in September when Kyiv is due to pay interest on $500 million in Eurobonds. The minister said Ukraine has cut spending by 180 billion hryvnia ($6 billion) and needs $5 billion to $7 billion a month to finance its budget while the war continues. 

The Ukrainian economy may shrink between 30% to 50%, Marchenko said. 

Putin, Saudi Crown Prince Upbeat on OPEC+, Kremlin Says (12:40 p.m. CET)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman gave a “positive assessment” of their cooperation in the OPEC+ producers group to stabilize the world oil market, the Kremlin said in a statement on Saturday.

The phone conversation came at the initiative of Saudi Arabia, the Kremlin said, and the leaders also discussed the situations in Ukraine and Yemen. The Crown Prince spoke on Friday with Chinese President Xi Jinping and also discussed Ukraine, according to state television. 

Saudi Arabia and other major Persian Gulf oil producers have so far resisted U.S. calls to increase output as prices have surged amid the crisis in Ukraine and concerns about possible sanctions on Russian exports.

Russia Has Captured Over 1,000 Civilians, Official Says (12:43 p.m.) 

Over half the civilians taken by Moscow’s forces are women, said Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk, who demanded in a televised briefing that they be released immediately. “We won’t swap military people for civilians. It would violate the Geneva Conventions,” she said. 

Ukraine has captured more than 700 Russian soldiers, and Russia has captured about 700 of Ukrainian soldiers, with further prisoner exchanges possible, she said.

Ukraine and Russia agreed on nine humanitarian corridors on Saturday to evacuate civilians. Russian troops shelled the center of Lysychansk in the Luhansk region while people gathered for evacuation, she said.

Lithuanian Leader Brushes Off Russian Threat on Baltics (11:38 a.m.)

President Gitanas Nauseda urged Finland and Sweden to apply to for NATO membership as soon as feasible, the Financial Times reported. 

He brushed off Moscow threats to increase its military presence in the Baltics, saying Russia has had such weapons in Kaliningrad, a Russian holding wedged between Poland and Lithuania, for years.  

“The Kaliningrad region is probably the most militarized region in Europe, and tactical nuclear weapons are already there,” Neuseda said. “I don’t think we should react to this rhetoric.”

Russia Bans Johnson, Other U.K. Officials (11:20 a.m.)

Russia said it was retaliating against U.K. sanctions on its top officials with entry bans on Prime Minister Boris Johnson and much of his cabinet.

The move — largely symbolic as Western officials have all but stopped traveling to Russia since the war broke out — covers a dozen others, including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Defense Minister Ben Wallace and former Prime Minister Theresa May, the Foreign Ministry said. 

Russian Strikes Target Far Western Lviv Region (10:06 a.m.) 

Russia made its first known attempted missile strike on Ukraine’s far western Lviv area in about two weeks, the region’s governor said. 

Maksym Kozytskiy said on Telegram that Russian SU-35 planes took off from the Baranovichi airfield in Belarus. Ukraine’s air defense system shot down four cruise missiles, he said, offering no details about damage or casualties.

Russia’s defense ministry claimed strikes overnight on military targets, including near Odesa and Mykolaiv in the south and Poltava in central Ukraine, Interfax reported, but didn’t mention Lviv.   

More Ukrainians Head Back Over Border From Poland (9:53 a.m.) 

Polish authorities on Friday processed more departures to Ukraine than arrivals of refugees for the first time since the Russian invasion started on Feb. 24. There were 24,400 arrivals at crossings with Ukraine compared to 25,100 that left. 

As Russian ground forces gather for an expected assault in the eastern Donbas region, more Ukrainians are returning to the areas from which troops have withdrawn. 

Authorities have cautioned against rushing back, especially given Russian threats to step up attacks on the capital. Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko on Saturday warned against returning for now. 

U.N. Agency Calls for Access to Encircled Cities (8:39 a.m.)

The United Nations World Food Program called for unimpeded access to families trapped in conflict areas, including the besieged city of Mariupol. 

“It’s one thing when people are suffering from the devastation of war. It’s another thing when they’re being starved to death,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said in a statement after a three-day visit to Ukraine.  

No humanitarian aid has been allowed into Mariupol since it was encircled more than two weeks ago, and it’s thought to be running out of its last food and water. To the west, the city of Mykolaiv remains unreachable due to active conflict in the area. WFP said it’s also concerned about several cities in Ukraine’s east. 

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