Zelenskiy in Izyum as counteroffensive pushes on
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited Izyum, the biggest city recaptured last week during a counteroffensive in the country’s northeast that marked Kyiv’s most significant battlefield victory in months.
Ursula von der Leyen, the head of the European Union’s executive, pledged in her annual state of the union address to work to guarantee “seamless” access for Ukraine to the bloc’s massive single market to help its economy recover from the war.
The US is preparing another package of aid to Ukraine, according to John Kirby, spokesman for the National Security Council, who cited a “shift in momentum” in the war after the government in Kyiv said it recaptured more than 2,300 square miles of occupied territory.
Ukraine was consolidating control over retaken territory, Zelenskiy said, following a push that shifted momentum in Kyiv’s favour. Fighting continued in the south, the Ukrainian military said. Russia again targeted civilian infrastructure, according to Ukraine’s General Staff, while local authorities said the cities of Mykolaiv and Nikopol were shelled overnight.
Ukraine’s military destroyed several ammunition depots and is targeting Russian troops with artillery fire, military spokeswoman Nataliya Humeniuk told a briefing Wednesday. The Russian navy has also increased the number of missile carriers in the Black Sea to five with the total number of Kalibr type cruise missiles to 36.
Russia’s financial sector suffered hundreds of billions of dollars in “direct losses” from the sweeping sanctions imposed by the US and its allies over the invasion of Ukraine, according to an internal Finance Ministry document.
The estimate, which includes significant hits to the stock market, bank capital as well as $300 billion in foreign-exchange reserves frozen by the restrictions, was included in a presentation for a top-level meeting of officials on responding to sanctions held last month. The Finance Ministry declined to comment.
Different approaches to Russia sanction rules taken by Europe’s major clearing houses means some international investors are now stuck with billions of dollars worth of ruble bonds while others are free to unwind.
Bondholders using Luxembourg-based Clearstream as their depository can’t settle ruble-denominated government bond trades, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Investors estimate that Clearstream has more than $10 billion of sovereign ruble bonds under custody, they said. The other large depositary service provider Euroclear allows for settlement of ruble bonds already in the system, free of payment, the people said.
Ukraine expects to continue exporting electricity to European countries over the winter season despite the conflict and the idling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, according to Volodymyr Kudrytskyi, chief executive of state-run power company Ukrenergo.
“We’re talking about more than 600 megawatts of export capacity for Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Moldova,” Kudrytskyi said. Ukrenergo plans to increase exports and is now preparing for winter season to ensure consumers have power.
Zelenskiy participated in a flag-raising ceremony in Izyum, which had been a key staging point for Russian troops before they retreated in the face of a lightning Ukrainian counteroffensive last week, according to a statement on the presidential website.
The Kharkiv region city of Izyum, which was occupied by Russia since March, is one of the most strategically significant areas retaken during the counteroffensive. The speed of the Russian retreat last week was evident in the amount of military vehicles and ammunition left behind.
The Russian military said on Saturday it pulled troops out of two areas in the Kharkiv region to regroup its forces in the Donetsk region.
Russian officials reached out to Ukraine in recent days about negotiations, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olha Stefanishyna told France 24 in an interview.
Moscow doesn’t reject negotiations with Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on state television Sunday. However, the longer they are delayed, the more difficult the talks will be, he said.
There haven’t been substantial peace talks since the early days of the war, and the prospect of a settlement appears dim following Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive this month. Billionaire Roman Abramovich attempted to revive contacts between the sides in April but failed to achieve a breakthrough.
Von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said she would make her third trip to Ukraine since the war began later Wednesday to discuss a plan to ensure “seamless access to the single market of the European Union” with President Zelenskiy.
“Europe’s solidarity with Ukraine will remain unshakable,” von der Leyen told European lawmakers in her annual speech in Strasbourg. Sanctions imposed by the EU against Russia following its invasion “are here to stay.”
Von der Leyen said she will travel to Kyiv with Ukraine’s first lady, Olena Zelenska, who attended the speech.
Russia has secretly funnelled more than $300 million to foreign political parties and candidates in more than two dozen countries since 2014 to influence elections, and may ramp up its efforts in the coming months in a bid to blunt the effect of sanctions, a senior US official said, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity.
Russia transfers the funds - cash, cryptocurrency and non-monetary contributions - using intermediaries including security services, oligarchs and supposedly independent foundations or think tanks, the State Department said in a note to dozens of US embassies that was shared with reporters.
President Joe Biden, asked if Ukraine’s recent battlefield successes marked an inflection point in the war, said Tuesday evening that “the question is unanswerable right now.”
“It’s clear the Ukrainians have made significant progress,” he told reporters after voting in Wilmington, Delaware. “I think it’s gonna be a long haul.”
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