The Ukrainian crisis roundup

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April 1 (Reuters) – Russian gas was still flowing to Europe on Friday despite a deadline set by President Vladimir Putin to cut it off unless customers start paying in roubles, Moscow’s strongest threat to retaliate for sanctions imposed over its invasion of Ukraine.

NEXT STEPS

* Under the decree signed by Putin, foreign buyers of Russian gas must open rouble accounts in state-controlled Gazprombank from Friday to allow foreign currency to be converted to roubles. Analysts said the plan, which puts Gazprom at the heart of the trade, was more about shielding it from future sanctions than depriving Europe of gas. 

* Member states of the International Energy Agency are set to convene an extraordinary meeting (1200 GMT) to discuss a possible coordinated release of oil stocks to bring down prices. U.S. President Joe Biden announced a release from the U.S. emergency oil reserve on Thursday. 

* One of Putin’s allies warned that Russia, a major global wheat exporter, could limit supplies of agriculture products to “friendly” countries only.

* Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov began meetings with India’s leaders in New Delhi after seeing his Chinese counterpart earlier in the week, as Moscow tries to keep the Asian powers on its side. 

* Russia and Ukraine are due to resume peace talks online, a senior Ukrainian official said. 

* Ukraine says Russia talks resumed online on Friday.

*Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko held a phone call with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on Friday to discuss the situation in Ukraine and their countries’ bilateral relations, Belarus’ Belta news agency reported.

FIGHTING

*Russia has accused Ukraine of sending attack helicopters across the border to strike an oil storage facility in what would be the first raid on Russian soil since the outbreak of the war if confirmed.

* Ukrainian forces are preparing for new Russian attacks on the Donbas region in the southeast after they repelled Russia’s assault on the capital Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.

*Death toll rises to 28 from strike on regional HQ in Ukraine’s Mykolaiv.

*The Kremlin said on Friday that Moscow was not sending conscripts to Ukraine, a day after President Vladimir Putin signed a decree ordering 134,500 new conscripts into the army as part of Russia’s annual spring draft.

* He said the situation in the south and the Donbas remained extremely difficult and Russia was building up forces near the besieged and devastated southern port of Mariupol, where officials say some 170,000 people are trapped.

* Russia had promised an evacuation ceasefire for Mariupol after a request to Putin from French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was hopeful evacuations of thousands of civilians could begin but that its teams which went in to collect people on Friday had not been allowed to take any aid. 

ECONOMY

* Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom said on Friday it was continuing to supply natural gas to Europe via Ukraine in line with requests from European consumers. 

* A source had told Reuters some gas contracts involved delivery before payment, suggesting the taps might not be turned off immediately. 

* Banks should beware of fake news that could trigger a run on their deposits, the European Union’s banking watchdog said in a warning about potential fallout from the war in Ukraine. 

*Ukraine, a major producer of grain, oilseeds and steel products, will guarantee insurance payments to cargo vessels damaged in hostilities on its stretch of the Danube, according to the government decision published on Friday.

* Senior U.S. officials fanned out this week to press world leaders to join the campaign of sanctions and other measures to pressure Moscow, as the initial economic shock to Russia seems to be ebbing. 

* A U.S. government official shared images of what they said was damage to grain storage facilities in Ukraine, the world’s fourth-largest gain exporter in the 2020/21 season. 

QUOTES

* “When I came out of the basement into the street, all the houses were on fire,” said 14-year-old Karina Ivashchenko, who has escaped from Mariupol to Poland. “Black smoke everywhere. All houses, all glass – it was simply gone. It was very scary. I have never seen anything like it. It was hell.” 

* “When our army came then I fully understood we had been liberated. It was happiness beyond imagination. I pray for all this to end and for them never to come back. “When you hold a child in your arms it is an everlasting fear,” Lilia Ristich said in Irpin near Kyiv.

Ukrainian serviceman evacuates Valentyn Vasylenko (83) from his damaged home at the Teteriv village not far from Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine. Valentyn Vasylenko remains just one inhabitant of that village. Ukrainian servicemen evacuated him from there and hand to volunteers who will help him to find a new home. Russian troops entered Ukraine on 24 February resulting in fighting and destruction in the country, and triggering a series of severe economic sanctions on Russia by Western countries. EPA-EFE/STR

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