Ukraine Latest: US Building War Crime Cases, Merrick Garland Says in Lviv

(Bloomberg) – US Attorney General Merrick Garland paid an unannounced visit to Ukraine and met in Lviv with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and top prosecutors from several European countries to discuss criminal investigations into Russia’s wartime actions

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The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces visited Bakhmut troops after Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, released a video saying his units had “virtually surrounded” the eastern Ukrainian city.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with members of his Security Council to discuss strengthening what he called counter-terrorism measures a day after canceling a trip to southern Russia following an incident near the border with Ukraine.

In neighboring Belarus, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Ales Bialiatski, has been sentenced to a decade in a penal colony as the authorities continue to crack down on dissidents.

Important Developments

  • In Scholz, Biden praised German military aid to Ukraine
  • The US announces $400 million in ammunition and supplies for Ukraine
  • Blinken pushes Lavrov to Ukraine in an unexpected conversation on the G-20
  • Russia’s oil and gas revenues nearly halved in February
  • Abramovich’s billionaire Ally takes on Britain in sanctions challenge
  • Russian grain exports are booming as buyers buy cheap freight

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(All times CET)

Garland Says US Has Identified Alleged War Crimes (1am)

According to a Justice Department statement released Friday night, Garland and the other prosecutors attended the United for Justice conference in Lviv.

The Attorney General said the US had launched investigations into war crimes “that may violate US law”.

“Although we are still building our cases, interviewing witnesses and gathering evidence, we have already identified certain suspects,” Garland added in the statement. Zelenskiy’s office issued a statement saying Garland had been assisted by senior prosecutors from Spain, Britain and other European countries, as well as senior officials from the International Criminal Court and the United Nations.

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Biden praises Germany’s support in meetings with Scholz (1am)

President Joe Biden praised Germany’s commitment to providing military and other support to Ukraine when he met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House on Friday. “Ammunition, artillery, armored tanks, air defense systems — we were together all the time,” Biden said.

Both leaders are pushing to produce arms and ammunition for Ukraine as the Russian invasion enters its second year. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged allies to address ammunition shortages, particularly for tanks and air defense weapons supplied by Germany.

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The US on Friday was ready to announce a new military aid package to Ukraine worth around $400 million, including missiles for mobile launchers, ammunition for armored fighting vehicles and explosive munitions.

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US Announces $400 Million in Munitions and Supplies to Ukraine (8:00 p.m.)

The Biden administration announced a new $400 million military aid package for Ukraine, including ammunition for its howitzers and highly mobile artillery missile systems, the US said on Friday.

The aid was primarily aimed at replacing the huge amount of shells and rockets Ukraine fired to repel Russian forces and did not include any new weapons systems. Among the items were 155mm artillery shells, 25mm ammunition and explosive munitions, as well as bridges and spare parts shot down by armored vehicles, the Pentagon said.

Hungary Commits to NATO Expansion, Lawmakers Say (4:12 p.m.)

Zsolt Nemeth, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee in the Hungarian legislature, said he was “confident” that parliament would ratify Sweden and Finland’s applications for NATO membership and hoped the assembly would consider the alliance’s expansion in a voting at the end of this month.

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Of the organization’s 30 members, Hungary and Turkey are the only remaining countries to have ratified the Nordic bids.

Read more: Hungary pledges to NATO expansion, lawmakers say

Ground Commander of Ukraine Visits Bakhmut Troops (15:33)

Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander in charge of Ukraine’s ground forces, was visiting troops defending Bakhmut, according to Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. Fighting in and around the city continues and Russia is rallying troops trying to take it over, the ministry said on Telegram.

In a video released on Friday, Prigozhin addressed Ukraine’s president and said that “the scissors are closing” on the Kiev troops still in the area as only one road out of the city remains open. Taking control of Bakhmut is seen as a springboard for Russian forces to push further west and north.

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The video was “disinformation” aimed at sowing panic and was filmed near a village that Russian forces claimed to have captured on February 20, the Ukrainian government’s Center for Strategic Communications told Telegram with.

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Latvia Helps Reconstruct Ukraine’s Chernihiv Region (2:58 p.m.)

Latvia will approve its budget next week and there is a “special line” of support for northern Ukraine’s Chernihiv region, Latvian President Egils Levits told journalists at a joint news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the western Ukrainian city of Chernihiv Lviv. Chernihiv was occupied by Russia in the first month of its invasion last year.

Levits, who is visiting Ukraine for the third time since the invasion began, also said he is urging allies to increase and speed up arms shipments to Ukraine as “a crucial battle will take place next month.”

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Ukraine says nearly 10,000 Russians have reported a desire to surrender (2:25 p.m.)

According to the country’s military center, which deals with prisoners of war, a total of 9,836 Russian soldiers filed for surrender in advance through a special line of contact set up by Ukraine in September.

The project allows Russian soldiers to notify Ukrainian authorities of their surrender plan through a website or Telegram channel. This includes those in Russia who fear mobilization and want to ensure safe passage to Ukrainian prison camps if sent to fight.

Russian prisoners of war can choose between returning home or applying for asylum in Ukraine or some European Union countries, the center said, without specifying how many of those who asked to surrender did so.

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Putin holds Security Council meeting (2:05 p.m.)

Putin opened the regular meeting with senior officials, including the head of the Interior Ministry, a day after he denounced an attack in a village near the Russia-Ukraine border as an “act of terrorism”.

Russia said Ukrainian fighters crossed the border in the Bryansk region, a claim officials in Kiev dismissed as a facility aimed at building public support for Putin’s invasion.

Russia’s oil and gas revenues plummeted 46% in February (1:31 p.m.)

Russia’s oil and gas revenues fell to 521 billion rubles ($6.91 billion) last month, according to the Treasury Ministry. Revenues from crude oil and petroleum products – which accounted for more than two-thirds of energy tax receipts last month – fell 48% year-on-year to RUB 361 billion, according to Bloomberg calculations.

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The decline comes after the price of Ural crude – Russia’s main export blend – traded at a significant discount to Brent. The EU banned most seaborne imports of crude oil and petroleum products from Russia, and the Group of Seven developed a price cap.

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Raiffeisen suspends opening of new accounts for Russian companies (1:23 p.m.)

Raiffeisen Bank International AG said it has stopped opening accounts for new corporate customers in its Russian operations and is temporarily restricting new foreign currency services for existing customers due to increased demand for services and higher administrative burdens.

The Austrian bank is one of the few Western lenders still doing business in Russia, where it estimates it handles about a quarter of all euro and dollar transactions into and out of the country. The US authorities have checked whether the company has complied with the sanctions.

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Putin Orders New Rules for Defense Firms Under Martial Law (1:17 p.m.)

Putin signed a decree with new rules to tighten scrutiny of companies that fail to fulfill defense contracts in the event of martial law being imposed.

Under the executive order, the state would be given the power to take over companies that fail to meet their obligations under military contracts and suspend the rights of owners and shareholders. The Kremlin has imposed martial law in the regions of Ukraine currently occupied by its armed forces, with the exception of Crimea. Officials have said there are currently no plans to enact it further, despite regular calls for it over the past year.

OECD boss: Russia “finally” pays reparations (12:10 p.m.)

OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann told Bloomberg TV that Russia will ultimately have to pay reparations “for the harm and damage it has caused to Ukraine.”

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Belarus sentences Nobel Peace Prize winner to 10 years (11:35 am)

Ales Bialiatski, 60, who received the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize in a Belarusian prison, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison as his country’s authoritarian government continues to crack down on opponents.

Two other members of the Viasna human rights center run by Bialiatski were sentenced to nine and seven years in prison, respectively, according to the state news agency Belta.

All were found guilty of financing anti-government protests and “smuggling cash” in an organized group. They have denied wrongdoing.

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


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