Huge smoke cloud rises after massive explosion at factory in Moscow
Vladimir Putin is believed to have held an emergency meeting to discuss state currency controls, the latest sign that Russia’s war in Ukraine is damaging its own economy.
Mr Putin was expected to hear proposals yesterday from his finance ministry that would require exporters to demand a chunk of their foreign earnings in roubles, two people aware of the developments told the Financial Times.
It is the first such proposal for increased currency controls being debated in the Kremlin since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Russia’s rouble has become one of the world’s worst-performing currencies in recent months and the country’s central bank has stepped in to try to halt the slide, including an extraordinary 3.5 per cent interest rates hike.
On the battlefield front, Ukrainian forces recaptured the village of Urozhaine from Russian troops in the southeast yesterday but warned the situation on the northeastern front was deteriorating amid Russian counter-attacks.
Urozhaine represents the first village recaptured by Kyiv’s forces since 27 July, as Ukrainian troops advance through heavily mined Russian defensive lines.
Sweden to explore whether Russia sanctions are complied with
Officials in the Swedish government have instructed the National Board of Trade to explore whether a rise in exports to countries bordering Russia was triggered by attempts to circumvent sanctions imposed over the war in Ukraine.
“The increase (in exports) has given rise to suspicions that the sanctions are not fully complied with,” the Swedish foreign ministry said in a statement.
Arpan Rai17 August 2023 06:24
Ukraine struggling to defend northeast against Putin’s forces – ‘mostly convicts’ – says general
The situation on the Kupiansk front in the northeastern region of Kharkiv is growing more difficult for Ukraine, says senior general Oleksandr Syrskyi, with Putin’s forces led by Russian assault squads “consisting mainly of convicts”.
“Due to the complication of the situation in the Kupiansk direction, I worked most of the day with units that lead the defence on the approaches to the city,” General Syrskyi was quoted as saying by Ukraine’s Military Media Centre.
“The enemy is trying to break through the defences of our troops every day, in different directions, with assault squads consisting mainly of convicts, with the aim of blockading and then capturing Kupiansk,” he said.
Kupiansk, a town with a pre-war population of around 27,000, was seized by Russia in the early days of the February 2022 invasion before Ukrainian troops recaptured it in a lightning offensive last September that embarrassed Moscow.
Losing Kupiansk a second time would be a major blow to Kyiv’s battlefield momentum at a time when its summer counter-offensive has so far failed to deliver significant territorial gains, except for a few villages such as Urozhaine in Luhansk.
Russia controls nearly a fifth of Ukraine, including the peninsula of Crimea, most of the Luhansk region and large tracts of the regions of Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
Arpan Rai17 August 2023 05:59
Putin scrambles to convene currency control meeting over economic fears
Vladimir Putin was expected to speak to Russian policy makers yesterday over currency controls as the rouble continued to slide despite an extraordinary 3.5 percentage point interest rates hike, in signs of Moscow’s full-scale war weighing down its own economy.
The Russian president was expected to hear proposals from the finance ministry to require exporters to convert a chunk of the country’s foreign earnings into roubles, two people aware of the developments told the Financial Times.
Proposals drawn up by the Russian finance ministry would require exporters to sell up to 80 per cent of their foreign currency revenue within 90 days after delivery, the newspapers reported. It also sought a ban on companies that refused to comply from receiving government subsidies.
This is the first such proposal on increased currency control being debated in the Kremlin since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine was launched in February last year.
In recent months, Russia’s rouble has become one of the world’s worst-performing currencies and the country’s central bank has stepped in to try to halt the slide.
The rouble’s decline is “not very welcome” to the Kremlin, said Janis Kluge, a Russian economy expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.
While not a full-blown crisis, “this is the closest we came to a real economic problem since the start of the war,” he said.
The chaos at the start of sanctions was far worse, but since then, the rouble’s decline “is the first time that something seems to be not so much under control,” he said.
Arpan Rai17 August 2023 04:47
US condemns Russia’s attacks on grain infrastructure: ‘Putin doesn’t care’
The United States has slammed Russia’s continued attacks on Ukraine’s grain infrastructure and called on Moscow to return immediately to the grain deal.
Russian president Vladimir Putin does not care about global food security, State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters after Ukraine earlier yesterday said Russia had attacked its grain storage facilities overnight.
Arpan Rai17 August 2023 03:56
Ukraine loses hope of using F-16 fighter jets this year
A Ukrainian air force spokesperson has said Ukraine will not be able to defend itself using F-16 fighter jets during this autumn and winter against the continuing Russian invasion.
“It’s already obvious we won’t be able to defend Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets during this autumn and winter,” spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said at a joint telethon broadcast by Ukrainian channels.
“We had big hopes for this plane, that it will become part of air defence, able to protect us from Russia’s missiles and drones terrorism,” Mr Ihnat said, confirming Kyiv’s awareness of delays in receiving the warplanes it has been seeking from its Western allies.
Earlier in August, Mr Zelensky had announced training of Ukrainian pilots on F-16 fighter jets this month and said that the “delivery and combat use of F-16s by our pilots should take place as soon as possible”.
The supply of top-tier warplanes to the war-hit nation would be a signal that Russia’s invasion would end in defeat, Mr Zelensky had said. However, a former Nato commander has said the West’s promised assistance with F-16s for Ukrainian pilots has been slowed down as the war-hit nations’ allies do not wish to provoke Russia and launch a direct confrontation between nuclear powers.
Arpan Rai17 August 2023 03:53
US says working to identify alternative paths for Ukraine grain exports
The United States on Wednesday condemned Russia‘s continued attacks on Ukraine‘s grain infrastructure and said it was working with partners to identify alternative options to ensure Ukrainian grain exports.
“The United States … calls for Russia to immediately return to the Black Sea Grain Initiative,” State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said in a briefing, referring to a pact that had allowed export of Ukraine grain by the Black Sea.
Russia quit the deal on 17 July.
Patel said the US was seeking “to possibly find ways and corridors in which we can continue to get grain to the places it needs to go,” without providing details. He added that Washington has not seen any indication from the Russians that they wanted to go back to the deal.
Maanya Sachdeva17 August 2023 02:30
Why tensions have been growing along NATO’s eastern border with Belarus
Poland is deploying thousands of troops to its border with Belarus, calling it a deterrent move as tensions between the two neighbors ratchet up.
Those tensions between Poland — a NATO and European Union country — and Belarus, which is Russia’s ally in its war on Ukraine, have been building up in recent months on the border.
Maanya Sachdeva17 August 2023 01:20
Putin accuses West of ‘adding fuel to fire’ with conflict in Ukraine
Vladimir Putin has accused Western countries of adding ‘fuel to the fire’ by funding the conflict in Ukraine.
Addressing participants of an international security forum, the Russian president shifted the blame for Russia’s ongoing invasion.
Putin said countries that were “pumping billions of dollars into the neo-Nazi regime” were “igniting the conflict even more, to draw other states into it.”
It comes as experts told The Independent that Western pressure on Ukraine’s counteroffensive to achieve a “Hollywood”-style breakthrough against Russia’s forces is “unrealistic.”
Putin accuses West of ‘adding fuel to fire’ with conflict in Ukraine
Maanya Sachdeva17 August 2023 00:20
ICYMI: Warning as unexploded Russian mines wash up on Europe’s tourist beaches
Russian mines are washing up on busy Black Sea tourist beaches, frequently exploding, and sometimes even killing holidaymakers.
As recently as Monday, a Russian mine exploded in the Romanian Black Sea resort of Costinesti, although it caused no injuries or damage, according to local reports. Meanwhile, another mine was also discovered in the water there.
My colleague Tara Cobham reports:
Maanya Sachdeva16 August 2023 23:20
Wagner mercenaries issue a chilling message on Poland’s doorstep: ‘We are here’
Warsaw is sending 10,000 troops to its border with Belarus, with the mercenary group setting up camp and recruitment posters appearing announcing their presence. Kim Sengupta reports from the Suwalki Gap in Poland, a key spot in Nato’s defence of Europe, as provocations from Russia and Belarus also ramp up.
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Maanya Sachdeva16 August 2023 22:20