Russia said Wednesday that it was shutting off gas supplies to two European Union nations that staunchly back Kyiv, one day after the U.S. and dozens of allies announced plans to increase military support to embattled Ukraine.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said this week that his nation had sent tanks to aid its neighbor’s battle to repel invading Russian forces.
State-controlled Russian giant Gazprom said it had cut natural gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria until payments are made in Russian rubles, as President Vladimir Putin had demanded.
“We should do the same with other countries that are unfriendly to us,” said Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s state Duma, in a Telegram post.
European gas prices rose sharply, although Bulgaria’s Energy Minister Alexander Nikolov said Wednesday that Bulgaria can meet the needs of users for at least one month. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen accused Russia of using gas “as an instrument of blackmail” and said the region’s 27 countries are prepared to weather Russia’s cutoffs.
Bloomberg, citing a person close to Gazprom, said four European gas buyers have paid for supplies in rubles, and 10 companies have opened accounts at Gazprombank that would allow them to meet the new payment rules.
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►Chinese drone maker DJI Technology has suspended activities in Russia and Ukraine while “reassessing compliance requirements in various jurisdictions.” China itself has refused to join nations sanctioning Russia because of the invasion.
►Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck said his country has reduced the share of its oil supply imported from Russia from 35% before the war to about 12%, making an embargo on deliveries “manageable.” However, Berlin has said it will take longer to overcome any major cutback in gas supplies from Russia.
►British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he doesn’t expect Russian President Vladimir Putin to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the day after a Russian diplomat said the possibility of nuclear war “should not be underestimated.”
►Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., on Tuesday seemed to suggest the reason Russia targeted Ukraine and other countries is because they were “part of Russia,” a remark that sparked criticism he was touting Putin’s talking points.
During Vladimir Putin’s rise to power and fortune, he and his associates are suspected of silencing some of those who raised questions about the source of his apparent wealth. Potentially dozens of people have been killed or survived poisonings and other assassination attempts or have had their investigations blocked or shut down, according to USA TODAY interviews and a review of documents and reports. Untold numbers of others have long looked the other way for fear of similar retribution.
You can read about some of the more high-profile victims here and how he became one of the richest men in the world here. Details on sanctions now faced by his family and associates are here.
– Josh Meyer
The Russian-aligned Transnistria region of Moldova sits on the Ukraine border, and its neighbors have long worried that Russia would use it as a staging area for an invasion either east into Ukraine or west into Moldova. Border guards in the breakaway region wear Russian-style camouflage, and even the Soviet-style hammer and sickle is on the flag.
On Monday night, explosions rocked the headquarters of Transnistria security forces, who are paid by Russia. More explosions Tuesday destroyed transmission towers used for Russian broadcasts. Moldovan officials said the Monday explosions were caused by grenade launchers and that the attacks were designed “to create pretexts for tensioning the security situation” in the disputed area.
“Most of those troops are people who are born in Transnistria and have Russian citizenship. They’re not really Russian troops,” said Keith Harrington, an Irish scholar who studies the area about the troops stationed in Transnistria. “And from what I’ve heard, there’s no appetite for those armed forces to get involved in the Ukraine conflict.” Read more here.
– Trevor Hughes
U.S. diplomats are starting to return to Ukraine, the Department of State said, the latest sign pointing toward heightened American diplomacy in the country. According to the State Department, diplomats are making day trips to temporary offices in the western city of Lviv beginning Tuesday. The first group crossed from Poland to Lviv on Tuesday morning, returning to Poland later that day.
The return of American diplomats to Ukraine follows Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv. In addition to promising that the United States would provide more than $300 million in foreign military financing and had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition to Ukraine, Blinken said American diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country as soon as this week.
President Joe Biden also announced his nomination of Bridget Brink to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine this week, a position that’s been empty for three years.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and Russian President Vladimir Putin met one-on-one Tuesday, a U.N. spokesperson said.
During their one-on-one meeting, Guterres and Putin “discussed the proposals for humanitarian assistance and evacuation of civilians from conflict zones, namely in relation to the situation in Mariupol,” according to Stephane Dujarric.
They agreed “in principle” that the U.N. and the International Committee of the Red Cross should be involved in the evacuation of civilians from a besieged steel plant in Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol.
Ukrainian officials had previously criticized the meeting between Guterres and Putin. Ukrainian ambassador Igor Zhovkva said Guterres was “not really” authorized to speak for Ukraine and that “we did not understand his intention to travel to Moscow and to talk to President Putin,” on NBC News.
Contributing: The Associated Press