Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Kremlin doesn’t expect ‘anything positive’ for Russia-UK relations under new prime minister

The Kremlin does not have high hopes for its relations with the U.K. after a new prime minister is chosen, Russian government spokesman Dmitry Peskov told media when asked about the selection of Britain’s new head of government.

“I don’t think we can hope for anything positive,” Peskov said regarding the impact on U.K.-Russia relations.

“I wouldn’t like to say that things can change for the worse, because it’s hard to imagine anything worse,” he said, speaking before the next prime minister was revealed.

Following the remarks, Liz Truss was named the next U.K. prime minister after a long and drawn-out contest leadership contest.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss leaves at the end of a cabinet meeting in Downing Street in London on July 5, 2022.

Justin Tallis | Afp | Getty Images

Outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was a staunch supporter of Ukraine, pledging the provision of more than £3.8 billion ($4.6 billion) in aid and weapons to the country as of late August. He also oversaw numerous sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

The U.K. is Kyiv’s second-largest backer in terms of financial and weapons aid after the U.S., and Johnson in August urged whoever succeeds him to “stick with Ukraine.”

Peskov, when asked if Russian President Vladimir Putin would congratulate the next British leader, he said, “Let’s wait and see who becomes prime minister.”

— Natasha Turak

Moscow warns of ‘retaliatory measures’ in response to G-7 plan to cap oil price

The Kremlin vowed to take “retaliatory measures” in response to a plan by G-7 nations to put a cap on the price of the oil they import from Russia.

The Group of Seven finance ministers announced the proposal Friday as part of its efforts to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine and ease the impact of soaring oil prices on its citizens. Moscow in return pledged to stop exporting the vital commodity to the countries imposing the cap.

Already, Russia has completely halted the supply of its gas to Germany via its Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which supplies much of Europe, sending European gas prices soaring. Energy bills across Europe have hit their highest level on record and are expected to rise significantly higher this winter, triggering warnings of recession for the continent.

The G-7 is comprised of the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Canada.

— Natasha Turak

Australian artist removes mural of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers hugging following backlash

Australian artist Peter Seaton has painted over a mural he created on a wall in Melbourne after receiving backlash from the community and the Ukrainian ambassador to Australia.

The mural, entitled “Peace before Pieces,” featured a Ukrainian soldier and a Russian soldier hugging. Seaton said the idea was to promote peace, but critics said it created a sense of false moral equivalence between Ukraine and Russia, the latter of whom invaded its neighbor in late February, setting off a war that has killed thousands and forced more than 10 million Ukrainians to flee. Russian forces now occupy more than 20% of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, described the mural as “utterly offensive to all Ukrainians.”

Seaton told Australian media in an interview that he stayed up until 3:00 a.m. local time to paint over the mural.

“The mural cost me $2,000 to $3,000 … I wouldn’t do that and spend 10 days doing it if I had thought it was going to hurt people,” he said.

Seaton said that despite the backlash, he still felt it had a “net benefit” and that “a lot of people did get the message.”

“There’s obviously a contingent of people that feel that this is going to be hurtful and maybe traumatizing and that’s not what I want to create my work,” he added.

— Natasha Turak

Kremlin blames sanctions and Europe for gas stoppage

Russia’s Gazprom saw its shares surge on Wednesday after reporting bumper first-half profits and announcing a new dividend to shareholders.

Stoyan Vassev | Press service of Gazprom Neft | via Reuters

The Kremlin is rejecting blame for its halting of gas supplies to Europe via its Nord Stream 1 pipeline, pointing instead to Western-imposed sanctions that it says has made it impossible to acquire the parts needed to keep the pipeline infrastructure running.

Western sanctions were “causing chaos” to necessary maintenance work on the pipeline, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a conference call with media, disagreeing with European leaders’ accusations that it was weaponizing its gas supplies.

Russian state gas provider Gazprom, which supplies the gas for the Nord Stream 1 pipeline connection to Russia and Germany, completely halted its supplies to Europe after detecting what it said was an oil leak.

— Natasha Turak

Euro drops below 99 cents as Russia cuts main gas supply line to Europe

On Friday, Russian energy supplier Gazprom said it would not resume its supply of natural gas to Germany through the key Nord Stream 1 pipeline, blaming a malfunctioning turbine.

Hannibal Hanschke | Reuters

The euro has fallen below 99 cents for the first time in 20 years after Russia said it would shut off its main gas supply pipeline to Europe indefinitely.

The euro was hovering just below the 0.99 level as European markets opened Monday, trading at 0.9893 versus the dollar shortly after 8:00 a.m. London time (3:00 a.m. ET). Earlier in the morning, it hit lows of around $0.9881.

On Friday, Russian energy supplier Gazprom said it would not resume its supply of natural gas to Germany through the key Nord Stream 1 pipeline, blaming a malfunctioning turbine.

The announcement was made hours after the Group of Seven economic powers agreed on a plan to implement a price cap on Russian oil.

Read the full story here.

— Jenni Reid

Russian forces likely missed several deadlines to capture all of Donbas, UK says

Russian forces likely missed several deadlines to capture more of Ukraine’s Donbas, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in its latest intelligence update posted to Twitter.

Taking this full eastern region is the Kremlin’s primary goal, and it’s the area where its forces have seen the most success, though they’ve been making gains slowly, the ministry wrote.

The Russian military’s “principal axes of advance in the Donbas remain at Avdiivka near Donetsk City and, 60km to the north, around Bakhmut,” the tweet said. “Although Russia has had the most success in this sector, its forces have still only been advancing around 1km per week towards Bakhmut.”

“The political goal of the Donbas operation almost certainly remains to secure the whole of Donetsk Oblast, which would enable the Kremlin to announce the ‘liberation’ of the Donbas. Russian forces have highly likely repeatedly missed deadlines to achieve this aim,” it added.

Ukrainian officials say that Russian troops now have a deadline of Sept. 15 to achieve this, according to the ministry, which sees it as “highly unlikely.”

That will “further complicate Russia’s plans to run referendums on the occupied areas joining the Russian Federation,” the ministry said.

— Natasha Turak

European gas prices soar as Russia halts gas flows

European gas prices soared by around 30% on Monday after Russia said it would shut off gas flows to the continent via its Nord Stream 1 pipeline indefinitely, renewing fears of widespread gas shortages and rationing.

The front-month gas price at the Dutch TTF hub, a European benchmark for natural gas trading, was last seen at 281 euros per megawatt hour.

Zelenskyy says counteroffensive is making progress

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at Independence Square on Aug. 24, 2022, the country’s Independence Day. “I believe that the Ukrainian flag and free life will return to Crimea again. We will liberate all our land, all our people,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Sunday.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | Reuters

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the country’s push to liberate Russian-occupied territories in the south of the country is making progress, a week after it began.

“I believe that the Ukrainian flag and free life will return to Crimea again. We will liberate all our land, all our people,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Sunday.

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine, our intelligence, and special forces are taking the necessary steps for this. You can hear these steps. And everyone can see: the occupiers have already begun to flee from Crimea,” he added.

Zelenskyy’s comments came almost a week after Kyiv launched a counteroffensive to reclaim Kherson, one of the first cities to fall to Russian forces at the start of the invasion, and its surrounding settlements, in addition to carrying out a spate of attacks in Crimea, which was annexed by Russia back in 2014.

He praised several Ukrainian forces for liberating a town in the region of Donetsk in the Donbas in eastern Ukraine and said two settlements in the south of the country were also liberated.

— Holly Ellyatt

Germany announces 65 billion euro package to offset surging energy costs

German Chancellor OIaf Scholz stands next to a gas turbine meant to be transported to the compressor station of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline in Russia during his visit to Siemens Energy’s site in Muelheim an der Ruhr, Germany, August 3, 2022.

Wolfgang Rattay | Reuters

Germany’s government on Sunday announced a 65 billion euro ($64.5 billion) package of measures to help those most affected by soaring energy costs, as European sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine trigger a shortage of energy supplies.

European gas prices skyrocketed by about 30% Monday after Russia said it was halting its supply of gas to Germany through its Nord Stream 1 pipeline which supplies much of Europe indefinitely. The EU in previous years has relied on Russia for as much as 41% of its gas imports and 36% of its oil.

The measures in the 65 billion euro package include one-off government payments to retirees, students and those on benefits, as well as caps on power bills. It also offers tax breaks to some 9,000 energy-intensive businesses amounting to 1.7 billion euros. Scholz said that a windfall tax on the profits of energy companies will also help offset people’s bills.

— Natasha Turak

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