China Promotes Plan; Spain’s Plea to LNG Buyers

(Bloomberg) – China has urged Europe to back its proposal for talks on Russia’s war in Ukraine, despite the US saying Beijing’s proposal would freeze the Kremlin’s territorial gains. President Xi Jinping will meet with other dignitaries, including leaders of Brazil and Spain, to push the draft forward.

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Ukraine’s president called on European Union leaders to convene a “peace summit” in “one of the world’s capitals” as he addressed an EU leaders’ meeting in Brussels via video on Thursday.

Spain, the largest European buyer of liquefied natural gas from Russia, urged importers not to sign new contracts with Moscow.

Important Developments

  • Credit Suisse, UBS among banks in Russia sanctions investigation by US Department of Justice

  • Xi’s diplomatic push picks up speed again after Moscow visit: Next China

  • Putin arrest warrant urges South Africa to seek legal advice

  • The US is fighting for influence in Africa, where China and Russia play a major role

  • Russian wanted by US for tech smuggling escapes arrest in Italy

(All times CET)

South Africa Seeks Legal Advice on Putin’s ICC Arrest Warrant (11:52)

The South African government is seeking legal advice on how to deal with an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for President Vladimir Putin if the Russian leader attends a BRICS summit in August.

The court issued an arrest warrant against Putin for war crimes in connection with the alleged kidnapping of children from Ukraine. South Africa is a signatory to the Rome Statute which established the International Criminal Court and may therefore be obliged to execute the arrest warrant.

In 2015, South Africa refused to execute an ICC arrest warrant for then-Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir while he was attending an African Union summit in the country.

Read more: Could Putin really be charged with war crimes?: QuickTake

Denmark recovers unknown object in Nord Stream explosion probe (11:26 a.m.)

Denmark is recovering an unidentified object found next to the Nord Stream 2 underwater gas pipeline, which was damaged in an explosion last September, while investigators continue to seek who was behind the attack.

The operation comes two weeks after German authorities said they had searched a ship that may have been carrying explosives used in the attack on Russia’s pipelines.

Read more: Denmark recovers unknown object in Nord Stream explosion probe

Spain urges LNG importers to turn away from Russia (11:18)

Spain, Europe’s largest buyer of liquefied natural gas from Russia, is urging importers not to sign new contracts with Moscow.

LNG importers received a letter from the government recommending that companies not sign up for new purchases from Russia, according to people familiar with the matter. The letter, seen by Bloomberg News, makes no specific mention of spot contracts, but generally advocates stepping up efforts to find non-Russian LNG suppliers.

Read more: Spain urges LNG importers to diversify away from Russian supplies

Estonia expels Russian diplomats for security reasons (10:49 a.m.)

Estonia is expelling a diplomat from the Russian Embassy in Tallinn who has been called “undermining” the security of the Baltic nation, the Estonian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The person, who must leave the country by March 29, has been accused of spreading propaganda justifying Russia’s military action and dividing Estonian society, the ministry said.

Estonia expelled about 20 Russian embassy employees in January – half its staff – and later said many were busy gathering information. The move sparked a diplomatic row in which Russia removed the Estonian ambassador to Moscow, to which Baltic neighbor Latvia responded by withdrawing its own Russian envoy.

Russia attacks several regions with drones and guided bombs (9:14 am)

Kremlin troops early Friday attacked several regions with Iran-made Shahed drones and guided bombs, Ukraine’s Air Force said via Telegram.

The drones were launched from Russian territory near Ukraine’s northeastern border and hit targets in the Kryvyi Rih and Sumy regions, the air force statement said.

Russian tactical aircraft took off from airfields in Morozovsk and Akhtubinsk; Ten Su-35 fighter jets fired eleven bombs and one Kh-31P missile over the Sumy region. Information on victims or damage was initially not available.

Russian wanted by US for tech smuggling evades arrest in Italy (8:42am)

A politically-affiliated Russian who faces extradition to the US for money laundering and evading sanctions has escaped house arrest in Milan after breaking his electronic bracelet.

Artem Uss, 40, son of a Siberian governor, has been accused by US prosecutors of involvement in a global network that illegally imported US technology to aid President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

READ ALSO: Secret Chip Deals Allegedly Helping US Tech Flow To Russia

European Defense Lobby Group Welcomes Munitions Plan (8:30 a.m.)

A European defense lobby group, whose members include Rheinmetall and Airbus, welcomed the EU’s plan to speed up munitions production for Ukraine but urged governments to provide longer-term certainty for expanding production volumes.

“The challenge is not just ramping up production to meet an immediate demand spike, but also improving industrial preparedness for possible future crises,” said Jan Pie, head of the Aerospace and Defense Industries Association of Europe.

ASD also called on the EU to implement additional support measures for the European defense industry, including ensuring reliable access to finance.

Five Killed When Rocket Hits “Point of Invincibility” (7:00am)

According to the Kiev-based Prosecutor General’s Office, five people were killed when a Russian missile struck a “point of invincibility” in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kostyantynivka. The Russians used S300 missiles, originally designed to intercept missiles.

Thousands of “points of invincibility” have been set up across Ukraine to provide residents with basic services – from internet access and cell phone charging to drinking water supplies, first aid and personal care products.

Wheat Prices Fall With Focus on Russian Exports (6:38 am)

Chicago wheat futures are heading for their biggest weekly loss in a month as traders assess the strength of Russian exports.

Black Sea wheat continues to dominate the trade as the 2022-23 marketing year draws to a close. Russian shipments tend to run out at this time of year, but large stocks from last year’s bumper crop mean exports are running hot.

Read more: Wheat faces weekly decline with focus on Russian exports

US battles for influence in Africa vs. China, Russia (6am)

President Joe Biden’s administration is stepping up a campaign to expand American influence in Africa, where the US has lost ground to its main competitors in what appears to be a new Cold War.

Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Ghana, Tanzania and Zambia next week follows the visits of Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken.

China calls on Europe to back its draft (4am)

China’s top diplomat has urged Europe to play a role in supporting the peace talks, even as the US said Beijing’s latest plan would effectively freeze the Kremlin’s territorial gains in eastern and southern Ukraine over the past year.

“A ceasefire, ending the war, resuming peace talks and finding a political solution to the crisis should become the strategic consensus between China and Europe,” Wang Yi, a diplomatic adviser to the French president, said in a phone call on Thursday.

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s diplomatic foray is gaining momentum after his return from Moscow. Xi is set to meet with more dignitaries as he tries to spark impetus for a ceasefire proposal to stop Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Xi’s diplomatic push picks up steam again after Moscow visit

Zelenskyi Says Residents Return to Destroyed Villages (10:45 p.m.)

Zelenskyi said he had returned from a tour of Kherson in the south, where about 50 villages had been almost completely destroyed by the Russians. However, he added that residents would be coming back anyway.

“In some places more than 90% of the buildings in the villages have been destroyed. But even to such villages, people are returning, and it is proof that life is still alive,” he said in his late-night address on Thursday.

“I would like to especially thank everyone involved in demining,” added Zelenskiy. It’s nice to see when the fields of the Kherson region, cleared by Russian mines and shells, are cultivated again, come alive again.

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