Blinken, Lavrov Have Unexpected Talk at G-20

(Bloomberg) – President Vladimir Putin dropped a planned visit to southern Russia after the Kremlin spoke of an “attack” on the border with Ukraine. The Russian head of state called the incident “an act of terrorism”.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke unexpectedly briefly with his Russian counterpart while in India for the G-20 foreign ministers’ meeting, one of the items on which was Russia’s war in Ukraine.

G-20 officials couldn’t agree on the language to describe the war, much like the finance ministers’ finding last weekend.

Important Developments

  • Putin denounces attack near border, which Ukraine describes as a plan

  • Blinken pushes Lavrov to Ukraine in an unexpected conversation on the G-20

  • The G-20’s top diplomats can’t agree on language on the Russian war

  • China and Belarus issue vague call for pacification of Ukraine

(All times CET)

Blinken presses Lavrov on Ukraine in an unexpected chat (17:44)

During a stopover in Tashkent on Wednesday, Blinken said he had “no plans” to meet with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the G-20 meeting. But Russia’s foreign ministry said it was Blinken who sought Thursday’s talk, which Interfax said did not qualify as “talks or meetings.”

Blinken did not respond to a question during his press conference about why he was seeking the meeting with Lavrov, and State Department spokesmen declined to comment on the matter.

“I said to the Secretary of State what I and so many others said at the United Nations last week and what so many G-20 foreign ministers have said today: end this war of aggression, engage in meaningful diplomacy that is just and create lasting peace,” Blinken told reporters after the encounter, referring to a United Nations vote condemning Russia’s invasion.

More Russian diesel stranded at sea (4:30 p.m.)

The amount of Russian diesel stranded at sea swells to new records as the fuel exporter scrambles for buyers amid sanctions.

As many as 3.2 million barrels of Russian diesel fuel have been sitting idle offshore for seven days or more, according to Kpler data compiled by Bloomberg. The surge in so-called floating storage comes as diesel exports from Russia’s port of Primorsk hit the highest level since at least 2016.

Read more: Russian diesel stranded at sea continues to grow with tight buyers

Top NATO Eastern Flank Security Officials Meet (3:51 p.m.)

Senior security officials from Turkey, Romania and Poland – the biggest military powers on NATO’s eastern flank – are meeting in Warsaw to discuss the war in Ukraine and strengthening the domestic defense industry, Poland’s National Security Bureau said.

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Turkey’s National Security Council Secretary-General Seyfullah Hacımüftüoğlu, Romanian Ion Oprisor and Pole Jacek Siewiera are in talks, which also include planning the next NATO summit in Vilnius in July.

Poland sees growing espionage activity on Kaliningrad border (3:12 p.m.)

Russia is stepping up espionage against Poland in the neighboring exclave of Kaliningrad to escalate tensions at the border, Stanislaw Zaryn, a spokesman for Poland’s security services, said on Thursday.

Moscow has recently stepped up efforts to gather intelligence on Poles, targeting individuals and interrogating Polish citizens in Kaliningrad about army movements and access to sensitive security information, Zaryn told reporters in Warsaw.

Poland has arrested nine people suspected of working for Russian and Belarusian intelligence services in recent months, he said.

China Tells Russia – Again – It Supports Peace Talks (2:57 p.m.)

China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang held a meeting with Russian counterpart Lavrov on the sidelines of the G-20 foreign ministers’ meeting in India and exchanged views on Ukraine, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Read more: China reiterates to Russia it supports peace talks on Ukraine

McDonald’s will reopen in Odessa, Dnipro (1:11 p.m.).

The US fast-food giant plans to reopen stores in Odessa at the end of March and in Dnipro at the end of April. Dnipro “needs a little more time to secure supply chains and logistics processes,” McDonald’s Ukraine said on Twitter.

The chain has reopened dozens of restaurants in and around Kiev, including Bucha, and western Ukraine in recent months.

Russian Tank Display Spurs Tensions in Baltics (12:29 p.m.)

A display of Russian tanks captured by Ukrainian forces and shipped to the Baltics failed after supporters of Russian troops began laying flowers on the vehicles.

A fight broke out between two men after one placed a flower on one of the badly damaged T-72 tanks and another attempted to remove it.

Read more: Captured Russian tank fuels tensions in Baltics

Top G-20 Diplomats Cannot Agree on Russian War Language (12:45 p.m.)

G-20 foreign ministers could not agree on the language to describe Russia’s war in Ukraine, India’s foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar told reporters after a meeting of the group. The two-day meeting will issue an outcome document instead of a formal joint statement, Jaishankar added.

A similar meeting of G-20 finance ministers and central bank governors over the weekend failed to reach consensus on the language to use to describe Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, forcing host India to issue a Chairperson’s summary instead of a traditional joint communiqué. Russia and China had deviated from the Bali formula and objected to the use of the word “war”.

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Putin’s domestic trip canceled over reports of border attack (12:10 p.m.)

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the president receives regular reports from senior security officials about the events. Russian state news agencies on Thursday offered conflicting reports on events in the border area near Ukraine, with some reporting civilian casualties blamed on unidentified attackers who numbered in the dozens.

Ukraine dismissed the claims as a Russian “provocation” aimed at building public support for the invasion. Ukraine’s Northern Military Command warned on February 23 that intelligence reports showed sightings of troops without insignia and wearing uniforms similar to Ukrainian ones in Russia’s Bryansk region near the border.

Poland’s Orlen Won’t End Russian Oil Deal, CEO Says (12:05)

PKN Orlen SA, Poland’s largest oil company, will not cancel a supply deal with a Russian exporter after supplies through the Druzhba pipeline halted last week, Chief Executive Officer Daniel Obajtek told PAP Newswire.

State-controlled company Orlen has argued that it needs European Union sanctions to be able to cancel Russia’s contract, which accounts for 10% of the country’s oil consumption, without facing penalties. The company has yet to comment on whether it expects oil flows to resume. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said earlier this week that Orlen would not get Russian oil in February and March.

Russia could run out of money in 2024, Deripaska warns (10:55)

Billionaire Oleg Deripaska said Russia could find its coffers empty as early as next year and needed investment from “friendly” countries to break sanctions on the economy. “Already next year there will be no more money,” Deripaska said at the Krasnoyarsk Economic Forum in Siberia. “We will need foreign investors.”

Now the funds are running out, and “that’s why they’ve already started to shake us,” said Deripaska, founder of United Co, Rusal International PJSC, the largest aluminum producer outside of China. His comments are some of the most blunt from a prominent business leader as the government seeks to turn big companies into gear after ending last year with a record fiscal deficit and the 2023 budget still deeply in the red.

Billionaire Deripaska warns that Russia could run out of money in 2024

Zelenskiy aide says Ukraine under no pressure to compromise: HVG (10:40am)

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Ukraine’s partners understand that Russia will remain a threat unless it loses the war and all those responsible are prosecuted, Zelenskiy’s associate Mykhaylo Podolyak told news website There is a “broad international consensus” behind Zelenskyj’s point of view. “We know that if we don’t win the war, Ukraine will cease to exist,” Podolyak said.

Moldova’s new PM sees no risk of military escalation by Russia (10:10)

New Moldovan Prime Minister Dorin Recean said Russia does not have the necessary resources to escalate its military conflict and invade the tiny country as distances and Ukrainian forces separate it from Moscow’s armed units.

The Ukraine-bordering nation has enough capacity to handle a potential escalation from the breakaway Transnistria region, which is home to Russian military units but is now “very aligned with the Moldovan government’s peace and security goals,” Recean told late Wednesday the Romanian State Television.

Moldova has come under increasing pressure from Russia over the past year, with missiles aimed at Ukraine crossing its airspace, domestic protests and accusations that Moscow is trying to overthrow its pro-European government.

Scholz warns China against arms deliveries to Russia (9.35 a.m.)

Scholz told the lower house of parliament in Berlin he was frustrated that China had dropped what he described as “a clear condemnation of the Russian attack,” which leaders agreed at a G20 summit last year agreed in Bali. “My message to Beijing is clear: Use your influence in Moscow to urge the withdrawal of Russian troops,” said Scholz. “And,” he added, “do not supply arms to the aggressor Russia.”

The US has warned China not to help Russia arm it, and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said last week that any arms support to Moscow would come at a “real cost”.

Russia Attacks Ukrainian Zaporizhia With Rockets (8:10 a.m.)

Russia fired rockets at the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhia, hitting a four-story apartment building in the city center at night, police said. Four people were killed and six injured by a Russian S-300 missile, the Attorney General’s Office said, citing preliminary information. Five people, including a child, are still missing.

More than 10 apartments were destroyed, the police said. “The terror state wants to turn every day into a day of terror for our people,” Zelenskyy said in a statement to Telegram about the attack.

(See RSAN on the Bloomberg Terminal for the Russian Sanctions Dashboard.)

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