Day 91 of the conflict in Ukraine: surprise Russian asset freeze, Orthodox quarrel

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Widow and daughter of Andriy Vertiev, a Ukrainian serviceman, at his funeral in Lviv. /Yuriy Diachyshyn/AFP

Widow and daughter of Andriy Vertiev, a Ukrainian serviceman, at his funeral in Lviv. /Yuriy Diachyshyn/AFP

MAIN TITLES

• European Union states reported that the asset freeze of the Russian Central Bank was much weaker than expected. LEARN MORE BELOW

• The Russian Orthodox Church has failed the Orthodox Christian Fathers supporting Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of some 260 million Orthodox Christians around the world, said in an interview. LEARN MORE BELOW

• Time is running out to get some 22 million tonnes of grain out of Ukraine ahead of the new harvest as Russia continues to blockade the country’s Black Sea ports, according to a Ukrainian lawmaker. LEARN MORE BELOW

• A Russian-backed official says the first ship to leave the occupied Ukrainian port of Mariupol since pro-Russian forces completed its capture will leave in the coming days.according to the TASS news agency.

• German government hopes talks on new round of EU sanctions against Russia will end soon but it will not be a topic at the next leaders’ summit, a German official said.

• The Russian ruble fell sharply beyond 60 to the dollar from its highest level in more than four years in volatile trading on Wednesday and bonds rallied after the central bank announced an extraordinary board meeting.

• Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says Russia is trying to ‘blackmail’ the international community by raising the possibility of an offer to unblock the Black Sea ports in exchange for an easing of sanctions.

• Ukraine fights to retain control of key highway to frontline city of Sievierodonetsksaid the country’s defense ministry.

• Swedish diplomats to discuss Turkey’s demands in meetings in Ankara on Wednesday aimed at lifting Turkish reservations on Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO membership applications, said Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson.

• The European Commission has proposed to criminalize non-compliance with EU sanctions against Russiaa move that would allow bloc governments to confiscate the assets of companies and individuals that evade restrictions against Moscow.

• The main Dutch journalists’ union, Nederlandse Vereniging van Journalisten (NVJ), has taken legal action challenging the EU ban on Russian state-backed media as a violation of European citizens’ rights to freedom of information. LEARN MORE HERE

• Russian forces launched offensives on towns in eastern Ukraine Wednesday, with constant mortar bombardment destroying several homes and killing civilians, Ukrainian officials said, as Russia focuses its attack on the industrial region of Donbass.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew castigated the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. /Murad Sezer/Reuters

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew castigated the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. /Murad Sezer/Reuters

IN DETAIL

Surprise freeze of Russian assets

EU states have reported the freezing of $24.5 billion in Russian Central Bank assets, a figure that is expected to be much higher.

Russia has publicly stated that Western sanctions have resulted in the freezing of around $300 billion of its central bank assets worldwide.

Of those frozen assets, only less than a tenth are in the EU, according to information the European Commission has gathered from the 27 EU governments, EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told a briefing. press conference.

This figure is dwarfed by the $100 billion frozen by the United States.

EU countries have also frozen around $10 billion in physical assets, such as yachts and villas, linked to oligarchs and officials with Kremlin ties, Reynders said.

Many EU governments have traditionally been cautious about fully applying EU sanctions, and some of them have declined to say publicly whether they have frozen Russian assets.

Servicemen of pro-Russian troops remove branches covering a 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer at their combat positions in the Lugansk region. /Alexander Ermoshenko/Reuters

Servicemen of pro-Russian troops remove branches covering a 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer at their combat positions in the Lugansk region. /Alexander Ermoshenko/Reuters

Orthodox leader slams Russian church

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world’s 260 million Orthodox Christians, has attacked the Russian Orthodox Church’s support for Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.

In an interview broadcast on Greek public television ERT, the Patriarch said he expected Russian Orthodox Patriarch Cyril to oppose Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to send forces to Ukraine and resign. if necessary, in a notice of opposition.

“It would not be possible for all the churches not to condemn the violence, the war. The Russian church disappointed us. I did not want the Russian church and the brother patriarch Cyril to be this tragic exception. I don’t know not how he can justify himself in his conscience,” he said.

About 100 million Orthodox Christians live in Russia. Ukraine has about 30 million Orthodox believers.

Ukrainian MP advocating for grain

Ukrainian MP Yevheniia Kravchuk says time is running out to transport 22 million tonnes of grain out of Ukraine ahead of the new harvest as Russia continues to blockade the country’s Black Sea ports.

“We have about a month and a half before we start harvesting the new crop,” she told a reporter on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos, adding that there were no enough space to store fresh harvest. .

Warnings of a global food crisis are mounting as Russia and Ukraine together account for almost a third of global wheat supplies, while Ukraine is also a major exporter of corn, barley, sunflower oil and rapeseed oil.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has called for talks with Moscow on unblocking wheat exports trapped in Ukraine following a Russian maritime blockade.

Ukraine expects the new crop to be around 70% of last year’s harvest, as some fields are now under Russian control or have been mined, Kravchuk said.

“Grain is okay because we have turned some fields into cereals…sunflower which grows mainly in the south – that would be a big problem,” she added, referring to the south of the country, where Russia occupied much of the territory. territory.

Kravchuk called for help clearing fields and fuel support as farmers needed diesel for their tractors and Ukraine had lost much of its refining capacity due to Russian attacks.

Source(s): Reuters, AFP

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