Talks fail to broker ceasefire as Russia ramps up assault on Ukrainian cities
“Some progress” — but no ceasefire agreement — was made in five hours of talks between Russian and Ukrainian officials yesterday, the Wall Street Journal reports. Russian negotiators said the two sides had agreed to reconvene on the Polish-Belarusuian border in the coming days, without specifying a date, the Interfax news service reported yesterday, according to Bloomberg.
ON THE BATTLEFIELD-
Talks were overshadowed by Russia’s heavy assault on Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. At least 11 people were killed in some of the heaviest shelling so far, according to Ukrainian officials, while dozens were wounded as Russia targeted buildings with suspected cluster bombs.
Ukraine asked its allies to enforce a no-fly zone over its airspace to stop the bombing — a request Western nations are unlikely to grant, as they have no intention of entering a direct conflict with Putin.
Ukraine eyes “war bonds” to fund its armed forces: The country’s finance ministry is looking to borrow money from international investors “to meet the needs of the armed forces of Ukraine and to ensure the uninterrupted provision of the state’s financial needs under the war,” it said in a statement yesterday, the Financial Times reported.
EGYPTIANS IN UKRAINE-
More than 1.2k students have now arrived safely in Poland from Ukraine, Emigration Minister Nabila Makram told Sada El Balad’s Ahmed Moussa (watch, runtime: 5:49 | 8:37), while 250 others have reached Romania.
Egyptians with expired passports in Ukraine will be allowed to cross the border into Poland, the Egyptian embassy in Warsaw announced, according to Ahram Online. Our embassy in Bucharest is also working on a similar arrangement with the Romanian government. A Romanian flight will take off for Cairo from Bucharest this evening. The foreign ministry has issued emergency directives to Egyptian embassies in countries neighboring Ukraine to provide transport and temporary housing to Egyptians fleeing the war over land borders, according to a statement.
FINANCIAL MELTDOWN IN MOSCOW-
Russia faces a financial meltdown as Western countries impose sanctions. The US imposed further “crushing” sanctions on Russia including blocking transactions involving the country’s central bank, finance ministry or national wealth fund, while the EU has frozen the assets of several of Russia’s most powerful oligarchs, who have close ties to President Vladimir Putin.
The punitive measures sent the Russian currency crashing and resulted in frantic cash withdrawals by Russian citizens, many of whom are on the hunt for USDs and considering fleeing the country, according to a Financial Times report.
Russia took emergency measures to stabilize the RUB: Russia’s central bank doubled interest rates to 20% to boost the sinking RUB, authorities instructed local exporters to sell 80% of their FX reserves, and Putin banned some foreign currency transfers by Russian citizens. The RUB tumbled nearly 30%, before paring losses after the central bank’s decisions. It closed at an 11.6% decline — around 95 RUB to 1 USD.
Global markets tumbled, with several US and European indexes falling. European financial institutions were hit hard, with those most exposed to Russian banks plunging between 9.5% and 14%. Investors dumped Russian bonds and went for safer assets including gold, which rose to cap its best month since May 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported. The New York Stock Exchange and the Nasdaq halted trading of several Russia-based stocks due to “regulatory concern,” said the NYSE website.
RESHAPING THE WORLD ORDER-
Ukraine wants to join the EU *right now* as it searches for leverage in ceasefire negotiations: EU leaders may next week discuss the possibility of Ukraine joining the bloc, a senior EU official told Reuters, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he had signed an official request for “immediate membership” through a “new special procedure.” The presidents of eight EU members have called for immediate talks.
Ukraine being admitted today will do nothing to shore up the EU’s ties with Turkey, which has been dancing like an organ grinder’s monkey trying to win membership for … just about a generation now? As with opening one’s borders to refugees, apparently it helps in some quarters of Europe if you “look like us”?
Switzerland broke its historical neutrality, saying it would match EU sanctions against Russia. The decision was “unique and difficult” but “morally” imperative, Federal President Ignazio Cassis said yesterday, the Financial Times reported.
NATO holdout Finland is now openly debating whether to ask to join the military alliance, Politico reports.
FIFA and UEFA have suspended Russian national and club teams from all international football until further notice, potentially blocking Russian participation in the 2022 World Cup and women’s Euro 2022. “Football is fully united here and in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine,” the two organizations said yesterday.