Russia largely talked down yesterday’s reports on a potential ceasefire framework, with a Kremlin spokesperson saying, “It is not right - there are elements there that are right but on the whole it is incorrect.” An aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Zelenskyy still believes that Ukraine’s 1991 borders must be maintained. In other words, Ukraine still wants Crimea, Donetsk, and Luhansk back in the fold. An unnamed Western official told Reuters, “Both sides are taking [the talks] seriously, but there is a very, very big gap between the positions.” The U.S. is also skeptical.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister visited Ukraine to discuss ceasefire efforts. Ukraine reportedly wants Turkey to be among those guaranteeing its security as part of a deal with Russia.
President Joe Biden will hold a call with Chinese President Xi Jinping tomorrow to discuss Ukraine in a sign that China may be seriously contemplating responding to Russia’s request for more military equipment. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters, “President Biden will make clear that China will bear responsibility for any actions it takes to support Russia's aggression, and we will not hesitate to impose costs."
President Zelenskyy spoke to the German Bundestag today, imploring and at times shaming the country to help destroy a new “wall” Russia is erecting in Europe.
The House of Representatives pass H.R. 7108, the Suspending Normal Trade Relations with Russia and Belarus Act, on a 424-8 vote. Text is not available on Congress.gov yet, but the legislative text and a fact sheet are available on the House Ways and Means Committee’s website. The bill would:
- Suspend normal trade relations for Russia and Belarus the day after enactment
- Empower the President to proclaim higher tariff rates for certain imports from Russia and Belarus, after consultation with Congress, through January 1, 2024
- Allow the President to restore normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus on a temporary or permanent basis after consultation with Congress, subject to a Congressional resolution of disapproval
- Require USTR to work at the WTO to condemn Russia’s aggression, encourage other countries to suspend trade concessions to Russia and Belarus, consider further steps to suspend Russia’s WTO participation, and seek to halt Belarus’ accession application
- Permanently reauthorize the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act
Canada closed its airspace to Belarusian aircraft.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced a bill to ban Russian imports of uranium.
Russia reportedly made dollar payments on Russian sovereign bonds that were due yesterday. It was the first major test of how possible a default is. Croatia seized a yacht reportedly belonging to a Russian politician. The Swiss Bankers Association estimates that Russians hold $213 billion in Swiss bank accounts.
The Washington Post reports that 400 companies have withdrawn from Russia. After initially committing to stay in Russia, Austrian bank Raiffeisen is now examining its options to exit. Buyk, a Russian-backed grocery delivery app, filed for bankruptcy due to sanctions. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister called out Nestle on social media for not ceasing to do business in Russia.
Both the U.S. and UK believe that the Russian invasion has largely stalled. That said, Russia has reportedly seized the city of Izyum, which is south of Kharkiv, as they seek to cut Ukrainian troops off to the east. Meanwhile, the U.S. intelligence conservative estimate is that Russia has lost over 7,000 troops.
Secretary of State Blinken warned that Russia may stage a chemical weapons attack and blame it on Ukraine, while continuing to kidnap local officials and replace them with pro-Russian officials.
There was some good news out of the Mariupol theater that was bombed yesterday, with the bomb shelter holding together and apparently keeping many safe, though there is still an unknown number of casualties. Italy says it’s prepared to foot the bill to rebuild the theater. Ukraine claims that 80-90% of buildings in Mariupol are either damaged or completely destroyed. The WHO believes that 43 Ukrainian hospitals and medical facilities have been attacked since the invasion began.
The EU announced that it has successfully synchronized the electrical grids for Ukraine and Moldova.