Ukraine Update: U.S. Skeptical After Russia Vows Kyiv Pullback

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The Pentagon said Ukraine’s capital Kyiv remains under threat even after Russia promised to scale back military operations there, and President Joe Biden said he’ll wait and see whether Russia delivers on a pledge made after peace talks in Istanbul. 

Those negotiations didn’t result in a cease-fire agreement, though optimism that they made some progress triggered declines in oil and grain prices, and a rally on stock markets. Ukraine said it’s willing to discuss the status of occupied Crimea, while Russia indicated a meeting was possible between the two countries’ presidents, Vladimir Putin and Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

European nations expelled more Russian diplomats from their capitals, and the U.S. said it’s considering an additional $500 million in aid for Ukraine.

Ukraine Update: U.S. Skeptical After Russia Vows Kyiv Pullback

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Zelenskiy Sees ‘Positive’ Signals in Peace Talks (10:35 p.m.)

There are some “positive” signals from the latest round of peace talks, though those signals “won’t drown out the explosions of Russian shells,” Zelenskiy said in his daily video address to the nation. 

The Ukrainian president again ruled out any compromise over Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the negotiations, and said the issue of easing sanctions on Russia can’t be raised before the war is over. 

Ukraine Update: U.S. Skeptical After Russia Vows Kyiv Pullback

Threat to Kyiv Hasn’t Faded, Pentagon Says (9:25 p.m.)

The threat to Kyiv isn’t over despite Russian talk of pulling back, because Putin’s goals continue to stretch well beyond the eastern Donbas region, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“Nobody should be fooling ourselves by the Kremlin’s now-recent claim that it will suddenly just reduce military attacks near Kyiv or any reports that it is going to withdraw all its forces,” Kirby said. It’s “a repositioning, not a real withdrawal” from positions around the Ukrainian capital.

Oil, Wheat Decline After Russia-Ukraine Peace Talks  (9:15 p.m.)

Energy and grain prices declined on indications that Russian and Ukrainian negotiators made some progress in Istanbul peace talks, even though the meeting didn’t result in a cease-fire agreement.

Crude futures in New York fell 1.6% to settle around $104 a barrel, paring an earlier decline that briefly took the price below $100. Benchmark wheat and corn futures were among the commodities to post declines. Aluminum and precious metals including gold also fell. 

World Food Programme Head Sees ‘Catastrophe’ From War (8:53 p.m.)

Middle East countries such as Egypt, Yemen and Lebanon, which had relied on Ukraine for a majority of their wheat imports, are facing “a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe” as a result of Russia’s invasion, David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme, told the UN Security Council.

Beasley said the WFP’s own expenses are soaring, which means people will go hungry unless the world steps up humanitarian aid.

Biden Says Wait and See on a Russian Pullback in Ukraine (7:56 p.m.)

Biden said he wants to see how Russia acts in Ukraine after Kremlin negotiators said its military would pull back from assaults on Kyiv and Chernihiv, following talks in Turkey.

“I don’t read anything into it until I see what their actions are,” the president said at a news conference with Singapore’s prime minister. “We’ll see if they follow through on what they’re suggesting.”

In a call with the leaders of the U.K., France, Germany and Italy earlier, Biden said, there also seemed to be “a consensus that, let’s just see what they have to offer. We’ll find out what they do.”

Ukraine Update: U.S. Skeptical After Russia Vows Kyiv Pullback

Macron Demands Mariupol Truce in Call With Putin (7:05 p.m.)

French President Emmanuel Macron had a phone conversation with Putin Tuesday in which he demanded a truce in the besieged city of Mariupol to allow for the evacuation of civilians and the delivery of humanitarian aid, an Elysee official said. Putin said he would  to respond to the French demands but no timeline was set, the French official added.

The French leader also reiterated a previous rejection by European nations that Russian gas purchases be paid for in rubles, according to the person. Macron will report on his conversation with Putin to Ukraine’s Zelenskiy in the near future, the official said.

According to the Kremlin, Putin told Macron that Ukrainian fighters should surrender in order to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Mariupol. 

U.S. Weighs $500 Million More in Aid for Ukraine (5:57 p.m.)

The U.S. government is considering providing Ukraine with an additional $500 million in aid and is pushing European allies to match the contribution, according to people familiar with recent discussions. The Ukrainians could use the money to shore up government services or for humanitarian aid or military purposes, one of the people said.

Officials in the governments of several NATO allies, including the U.S. and U.K., are skeptical of recent Russian announcements that it will scale back its assault on Kyiv and have urged increased support to Ukraine, the people said.

Ukraine Update: U.S. Skeptical After Russia Vows Kyiv Pullback

Luxembourg Freezes 2.5 Billion Euros in Sanctions Crackdown (5:55 p.m.)

Luxembourg has frozen assets worth 2.5 billion euros so far, as it enforces EU sanctions targeting Russia, Finance Minister Yuriko Backes told lawmakers. The Finance Ministry, which works with Luxembourg’s financial markets regulator, said last week that it has received about 100 notifications of assets or financial resources that have been frozen.

Poland to Ban Russian Coal Imports (5:52 p.m.)

Poland’s government plans to ban coal deliveries from Russia and look instead for supplies from countries including Australia, Colombia and the U.S., Environment Minister Anna Moskwa said.

The country, which has been importing around 8 million tones of Russian coal annually, has been calling on the European Union to ban energy exports from Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. The government will present a plan on Wednesday to cut supplies of Russian oil and gas, Moskwa said.

European Countries Expel More Russian Diplomats (5:15 p.m.)

The Netherlands announced it was expelling 17 Russian intelligence officers, and Belgium said it would oust 21 for spying. North Macedonia also declared five diplomats personae non grata for breaching diplomatic conventions. The Czech Republic, which forced out scores of Russians from the embassy in Prague last year, said on Tuesday it was telling one more to leave.

Since last month’s invasion, European Union members have expelled Russian diplomats, including the three Baltic nations, which expelled 10 people; Bulgaria, which expelled 10 more; and Poland, which ordered 45 to leave. Police in Slovakia expelled three Russian diplomats after it detained four people suspected of spying for Moscow. Germany is also considering expelling suspected spies, an official said Tuesday.

Ukraine Needs Fast Help to Rebuild Farming, World Bank Says (5:05 p.m.)

Ukraine will need fast help from other countries to get the fertilizer and seeds needed to restore its farming output and crucial exports to the rest of the world once Russia’s invasion is over, according to the head of the World Bank.

Ukraine would be helped by fertilizer from western Europe to replace imports of that key agricultural input from Belarus that have been cut off, David Malpass, president of the Washington-based development lender, told Bloomberg Television.

Ukraine Update: U.S. Skeptical After Russia Vows Kyiv Pullback

Denmark Offers to Send 800 Troops to Baltics (4:46 p.m)

Denmark is offering to increase its military deployment in the three Baltic countries by sending 800 more troops under NATO command. 

Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said Denmark already has 200 troops and several F-16s in the Baltic countries as well as a warship in the area. Denmark is waiting for an official request from NATO before sending the troops.

U.S. Hasn’t Seen Signs Russia Is Serious in Talks (4:45 p.m.)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. is focusing on Moscow’s actions, not its words, as peace talks with Ukrainian negotiators in Istanbul ended with a Russian pledge to reduce some of its military operations.

“There is what Russia says and there is what Russia does; we’re focused on the latter,” Blinken told reporters in Morocco. “We have not seen signs of real seriousness” from Russia toward de-escalating its war, he said.

Ukraine Update: U.S. Skeptical After Russia Vows Kyiv Pullback

Ukraine-Russian Talks End in Turkey With No Cease-Fire (3:40 p.m.)

The first round of face-to-face talks between Russian and Ukraine in more than three weeks failed to agreed on a cease-fire, but offered a potential pathway to a meeting between Putin and Zelenskiy to resolve the war. 

Ukraine’s negotiators said that they were seeking security guarantees for areas outside of Russian-controlled Crimea and separatist-held territories. Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said that Kyiv has offered to discuss the status of Crimea, which was seized by Russia in 2014 and has been occupied ever since.

Russia responded with an announcement that it was cutting military activity near Kyiv and the city of Chernihiv, where Ukrainian officials say they are driving Russian forces back through counterattacks. Russian chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said Ukraine had presented a clear position that would be escalated promptly to Putin for a response.

Germany Considers Expelling Suspected Russian Operatives (3:35 p.m.)

Germany is considering expelling a number of suspected Russian operatives, following similar action from other European Union nations that have ousted diplomats from Moscow in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine. 

Germany historically has had a large number of Russian spies operating on its territory, according to people familiar with Berlin’s discussions. One official, who asked not to be identified discussing intelligence matters, said there were dozens of Russian agents in Germany. A German government spokesperson said he was not aware of any such plans.

Russia Offers to Buy Back 2022 Eurobonds in Rubles (1:42 p.m.)

Russia’s Finance Ministry offered to buy back $2 billion in dollar-denominated Eurobonds that come due next week, but says it will pay for the repurchased notes in rubles.

The offer comes as Russia has to date avoided a default since the war started, even as credit-rating companies warn one could be imminent. Local capital controls would mean that any investors who receive rubles for their obligations would not be able to convert them into dollars.

Russia is Heading for Deep Recession, IMF Says (12:29 p.m.)

Russia is going to be in a deep recession this year, Kristalina Georgieva, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, told a forum in Dubai.

The IMF has previously said Russia will default on its debt obligations as the nation suffers a deep recession caused by sanctions in response to its invasion.

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