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Ukraine Latest: US Senator Delays Aid Vote; Russia Eyes Border

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·7-min read
Ukraine Latest: US Senator Delays Aid Vote; Russia Eyes Border
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(Bloomberg) -- US Republican Senator Rand Paul held up a vote on a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine that has bipartisan backing, by refusing to give consent unless language he demanded was added to the measure.

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Russia will likely step up defenses along its border with Finland if the latter goes ahead with plans to join NATO, the Russian ambassador to the European Union said.

The EU may be looking to delay a push to ban Russian oil, amid objections from Hungary. Natural gas prices at one point surged more than 10% in Europe after Russia reduced supplies to Germany in retaliation for European sanctions over the invasion of Ukraine.

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

Key Developments

  • Orban Is Losing Friends as Poland Gives Him the Cold Shoulder

  • Ukraine Aid Delayed After GOP Senator Paul Objects to Vote

  • Mystery Deepens as Oligarch’s Yacht Goes Dark on Way to Bahamas

  • Global Diamond Trade Fractures Under Russia Sanctions Pressure

  • Russia Curbs Gas Supplies to Germany in Warning for Europe

  • Finnish Leaders Back Joining NATO With Sweden Set to Follow

All times CET:

Oil Extends Gains as Investors Weigh Ban (6:02 a.m.)

Oil advanced for a third day, bookending another tumultuous week of trading as investors weigh the prospect of a EU ban on Russian crude imports and uncertainty over China’s virus resurgence.

West Texas Intermediate futures rose above $107 a barrel. Some EU nations said the bloc may have to consider delaying the ban on Russian oil if it can’t get Hungary to agree on the embargo.

Sovcomflot in Deals to Sell Tankers, WSJ Says (4:10 a.m.)

Russia’s Sovcomflot has sold five tankers to Dubai-based Koban Shipping and four natural-gas carriers to Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the deals.

The company, one of the world’s largest tanker operators, is selling vessels to repay loans to Western banks, the newspaper said. It is also in talks with China Merchants Group Ltd. to sell other ships. Sovcomflot said in a written statement that it’s selling “aging facilities as well as vessels, the usage of which seemed to be impossible due to restrictions imposed against the Russian commercial fleet,” the paper said.

Read more: Sovcomflot Says It Plans to Sell Part of Its Fleet

Russia to Boost Border Defense If Finland Joins NATO (11:40 p.m.)

Russia’s ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said plans by Finland and Sweden to join NATO will “necessitate certain military-technical measures, like improving or raising the degree of defense preparations along the Russian-Finnish border.”

Joining NATO “has never made any country more secure,” Chizhov said in an interview with the UK’s Sky News. He also said he was “sure” there would be a negotiated solution to the war in Ukraine that would see the country become a neutral state and recognize the Donbas republics and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Ukraine says it’s open to neutrality but won’t concede any territory.

US Senate Postpones Passage of Ukraine Aid Bill (10:35 p.m.)

The US Senate was forced to postpone final passage of a $40 billion Ukraine support package after Rand Paul refused to allow the vote unless a provision to appoint an official with oversight powers for the aid was included.

Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said that US deficit-spending in order to support Ukraine could further stoke soaring inflation. The Senate, where work can be slowed by objections from one senator, is now expected to vote on the legislation and send it to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature next week.

Read more: Ukraine Aid Delayed After GOP Senator Paul Objects to Vote

EU Mulls Delay in Russian Oil Embargo (8:06 p.m.)

Some EU nations are saying it may be time to consider delaying a push to ban Russian oil so they can proceed with the rest of a proposed sanctions package if the bloc can’t persuade Hungary to back the embargo.

Governments are still aiming for a deal on the full package, including a phased-in oil ban, by Monday, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels, according to EU diplomats. The idea of putting off the move against Russian oil, which Hungary has said would be too damaging to its economy, is gaining support, the diplomats added.

Russia’s War Is ‘Nuremberg Moment,’ US Official Says (7:29 p.m.)

The US will soon begin a “major initiative” alongside the EU and the UK to help Ukraine document potential war crimes and human rights abuses committed during Russia’s invasion, Beth Van Schaack, the State Department’s ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Van Schaack appeared remotely from a conference in the German city of Nuremberg, where Nazi leaders were tried after World War II. “This is another Nuremberg moment,” she told senators. “There’s a global consensus that Russia’s conduct is intolerable and that those responsible for atrocities must be held accountable.”

G7 Ministers Seek Way to Break Russia’s Grain Blockade (6:17 p.m.)

“Twenty-five million tons of grain are blocked in Ukrainian ports, especially in Odesa,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said at the opening of the G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Weissenhaus in Northern Germany. “This is grain which is urgently needed as food in African countries and the Middle East.”

Accusing Russian President Vladimir Putin of using grain to further divide the global community, Baerbock said, “We must stand together in the face of this food crisis.”

Wheat futures in Chicago rose after a US Department of Agriculture report said production in Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest growers, will drop by one-third compared to last season.

US Lawmakers See Finland, Sweden in NATO as Likely (5:05 p.m.)

Leaders of a key US Senate committee described Finland and Sweden joining NATO as almost a done deal. “We’re about to get two new members,” Senator James Risch, the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said at a hearing.

Senator Bob Menendez, the panel’s Democratic chairman, said members were “already working to ensure swift consideration” if Finland and Sweden apply to join the military alliance.

Karen Donfried, the assistant secretary of state for European affairs, said Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has backfired. “I am struck by how so much of what Putin says he was seeking to avoid he has brought about,” she said. “Finland and Sweden’s interest in NATO is a key example of that.”

Ukraine Seeks to Evacuate 38 Soldiers from Azovstal (4:55 p.m.)

Ukraine is in “very difficult negotiations” to evacuate seriously wounded fighters from the Azovstal steel plant in the city of Mariupol as part of a swap for captured Russian soldiers, Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

“At the moment we are talking about 38 heavily wounded soldiers,” Vereshchuk said. “We are working step by step. Once we swap those 38 heavily wounded, we will move further”

Ukraine managed to evacuate all civilian women, children and the elderly from Azovstal, where they were hiding for weeks under Russian bombardment. Mariupol, home to almost 500,000 people before the war, has been under siege since March 1.

Russia Cuts 3% of Natural Gas Flows to Germany (1:40 p.m.)

Russia’s gas supply cut to Gazprom Germania units represents about 3% of Russian flows to Germany, or about 10 million cubic meters per day, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in Berlin. The government will guarantee replacement gas contracts and won’t raise its gas emergency threat level, he said.

The cut is a result of sanctions by Russia announced late Wednesday and is seen as a retaliation against Germany for sanctions over the war in Ukraine and for the seizure of Gazprom PJSC’s units in April. The German government took control of them to secure Europe’s gas supply and is now in talks to finance them.

NATO’s Stoltenberg Sees Smooth, Swift Accession for Finland (11:40 a.m.)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said “the accession process would be smooth and swift” should Finland decide to become a member of the military alliance.

“Finland is one of NATO’s closest partners, a mature democracy, a member of the European Union, and an important contributor to Euro-Atlantic security,” Stoltenberg said. “NATO membership would strengthen both NATO and Finland’s security.”

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said Estonia, a NATO member since 2004, “will make necessary steps quickly” should Finland decide to apply.

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