IAEA’s Grossi Will Travel to Zaporizhzhia Plant

(Bloomberg) – The head of the United Nations nuclear agency will travel to the Zaporizhia plant in the coming week, the International Atomic Energy Agency said on its website. It is the second time Rafael Mariano Grossi has crossed the front line in Ukraine to reach the facility occupied by Russia last year.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a phone conversation with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin “underlined the importance Turkey attaches to the immediate ending of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine through negotiations,” Ankara said in a statement.

Poland’s prime minister said appetite for an 11th round of EU sanctions was waning in some European capitals, which he did not name, despite Ukraine’s repeated pushes for more action. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff quickly called for “no easing” of sanctions against Moscow.

Important Developments

  • Ukraine’s official creditors extend freeze to 2027 amid IMF loan

  • Germany wants the EU to introduce end-user controls for sanctioned technologies

  • Russia seeks 400,000 more recruits since recent Ukraine push stalls

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

(All times CET)

Grossi from the IAEA will travel to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant next week (6 p.m.).

Rafael Mariano Grossi, director-general of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, will travel to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant next week and will cross the frontline for the second time to reach the facility, the agency said on its website.

Grossi plans to “assess firsthand the serious nuclear security situation at the facility” which has been occupied by Russia since the earliest days of the Kremlin invasion of Ukraine.

In a statement, Grossi said he wanted to “see for himself how the situation has evolved since September and speak to those who are running the plant in these unprecedented and very difficult circumstances.” The IAEA has had expert teams on the ground in Zaporizhia since that first visit, but Grossi described the situation there as “still precarious”.

Russian army shells humanitarian aid station in Kherson (3:25 p.m.)

Russian troops shelled a humanitarian aid distribution center in Kherson, leaving two people in hospital with shrapnel wounds, the state regional administration said on Telegram.

The incident came a day after a Russian missile destroyed a “Point of Invincibility” in the city of Kostyantynivka in eastern Ukraine – a place set up by the Ukrainian government to provide free basic services to residents. The strike killed five, including three elderly women.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff said on Telegram that Khasiv Yar and Toretsk near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region were shelled by Russia, with one death reported in each city.

Erdogan calls for “immediate end” to the conflict (1 p.m.)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Vladimir Putin over the phone and thanked the Russian president for helping facilitate a further extension of the Black Sea Safe Transit Agreement for Ukrainian grain exports, according to an advertisement from Ankara.

Erdogan stressed the importance of “immediate termination” of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine through negotiations, the ad said.

A Kremlin readout contained no reference to efforts to end the war in Ukraine. Russia said the couple also discussed Syria and the normalization process of Syria-Turkey relations.

Zelenskyy Chief of Staff warns of sanctions (12:59 p.m.)

Hours after Poland’s prime minister said interest in parts of Europe in imposing additional sanctions on Moscow was waning, Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff warned of wavering resolve.

“There must be no relaxation of sanctions against Russia,” wrote Andriy Yermak on Twitter and Telegram. “Tough sanctions provide security” and there should be no “manipulation” on the subject of food security.

“We need to expand sanctions and deal in detail with the issue of companies used by the enemy to find ways, albeit complicated, to obtain components for weapons production,” Yermak wrote in Ukrainian.

Germany wants the EU to introduce end-user controls for sanctioned technologies (12:13 p.m.)

Germany wants EU states to introduce end-user controls for technological and electronic goods that Russia could use for military purposes in Ukraine, the country’s economy minister said. It is part of the EU’s focus to curb the circumvention of ten rounds of sanctions against Russia.

“We looked at the export data for many states of the former Soviet Union and many of the countries bordering Russia,” Robert Habeck told reporters in Copenhagen. “It’s very, very noticeable with the movement of trucks over the years and suddenly it’s quadrupled since the sanctions began.”

Polish PM says appetite for new sanctions is waning (10:46 am)

Mateusz Morawiecki said appetite for an 11th round of EU sanctions against Russia is waning in some European capitals as the focus shifts to full implementation of the measures imposed in the previous 10 rounds.

Still, the Polish prime minister told Radio RMF that an 11th round of anti-Moscow measures within two months was still possible and that he was “optimistic” the bloc would step up them.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly called for further sanctions against Russia, including Thursday during a speech to an EU leader via video link. “The delay with new European sanctions packages will be unpleasant,” said Zelenskyj.

Ukraine plans to double oil transit fee, Kommersant reports (9:30 a.m.)

Ukraine plans to double its transit fee for Russian oil flowing through its territory in the Druzhba pipeline to Eastern Europe, Kommersant reported, citing unidentified sources.

The proposal would raise the tariff to €27.20 per tonne ($29.30) from April 1 through the southern branch of the pipeline, which will deliver oil to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, the newspaper reported. Ukrtransnafta JSC blamed the increase on the cost of repairing infrastructure damaged by Russian missile strikes, sources said.

Russian attack on Bakhmut ‘largely stalled’, UK says (8am)

The Kremlin’s month-long attack on Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine “has largely stalled” because Russian forces there are “extremely worn down”, the UK MoD said, adding that Kiev’s forces had also suffered heavy casualties.

The situation was also likely exacerbated by tensions between the Russian Defense Ministry and the Wagner mercenary group, both of which troops are contributing to efforts to take the city of Donestsk, the ministry said in a Twitter thread.

Russia has likely shifted its focus to Avdiivka south of Bakhmut and to the Kremina-Svatove sector in the north, mainly to stabilize its front line, the UK said. The Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think tank, said Russian forces carried out limited attacks along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kremina line on Friday.

Zelenskyy Says Counteroffensive Timing Depends on Gun Donations (7am)

The Ukrainian army is unable to launch a new offensive against Russia in the east of the country because it lacks the necessary weapons, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Japan’s largest newspaper.

“We can’t start [a counteroffensive] still. Without tanks, artillery and HIMARS, we cannot send our brave soldiers to the front,” Zelenskyy told Yomiuri Shinbun, according to Russian news agency Tass.

He also again pointed to the lack of ammunition in Ukraine, hammering out a point that has been repeatedly made.

Ukraine creditors extend freeze until 2027 (00:30)

Ukraine’s official creditor group has extended a debt moratorium until 2027 while the war-torn country receives an emergency aid program from the International Monetary Fund.

The agreement came along with other funding pledges the group made on Thursday, an important step in freeing up billions of dollars the nation needs to weather the Russian invasion, now in its second year.

The creditor plan follows an IMF staff-level agreement concluded earlier this week on a $15.6 billion package that marks the first loan to a nation at war in the institution’s 77-year history.

Read more: Ukraine’s official creditors extend freeze to 2027 amid IMF loan

Biden Downplays Importance of Deepening Russia-China Relations (10:25 p.m.)

President Joe Biden said he “does not take lightly” the prospect of a growing China-Russia alliance, but countered that the US is making progress in strengthening international opposition to Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

“We have significantly expanded our alliances. I haven’t seen that happen with China and Russia, or anyone in the world,” Biden said Friday, days after Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Putin in Moscow, during which the two nations pledged to deepen ties.

Russia is looking for 400,000 more recruits (4:45 p.m.)

The Kremlin has rolled back plans for another offensive in Ukraine this spring after not gaining much ground and will focus on repelling a fresh push by Kiev forces that is expected to begin soon.

The Kremlin is aiming to enlist up to 400,000 contract soldiers this year to fill out its ranks, according to people familiar with the plan, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters that are not public.

Read more: Russia seeks 400,000 more recruits as latest Ukraine push stalls

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