Ukraine Latest: UK Arrests Russian; Zelenskiy Faults Price Cap

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President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the $60 per barrel price cap on Russian crude a sign of weakness toward Moscow. The cap agreed on by European Union countries is higher than the price at which Russian oil is trading and the Kremlin said it’s preparing a workaround in any case.

A “wealthy Russian businessman” was arrested in London this week on suspicion of money laundering, the UK National Crime Agency said.

Microsoft warned that Russia, as it faces more setbacks on the battlefield, will step up efforts at cyber attacks and political influence to undermine Ukrainian and allied support.

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

Key Developments

  • Nuclear Monitors Near Accord on Security Zone at Ukraine Plant

  • The G-7 Oil Price Cap Looks Set to Keep Russian Oil Flowing

  • Ukrainian Troops Begin EU Training as Bloc Expands Military Role

  • Wealthy Russian Arrested in London Over Money Laundering, Fraud

  • Russia Won’t Accept $60 Price Cap on Its Oil, Kremlin Says

On the Ground

Russian missile attacks were reported in the Zaporizhzhia region on Saturday. Over the past day Ukrainian troops have repelled attacks in Luhansk and Donetsk, with assaults continuing in the vicinity of Avdiivka and Bakhmut, according to Ukraine’s General Staff. There were two missile and ten aviation strikes by Russian forces on Saturday, including a strike at civilian infrastructure facility in Kramatorsk. Areas along the contact line continue to come under artillery fire. There’s still a threat of Russian missile attacks on the energy system and critical infrastructure throughout the country. Ukraine’s aviation forces made 17 strikes on the areas of concentration of Russian personnel, weapons and military equipment and thee attacks on Russia’s anti-aircraft missile system.

(All times CET)

Zelenskiy Calls Oil-Price Cap ‘Weak’ (7:47 p.m.)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called the emerging $60 per barrel price cap on Russian oil a “weak position,” saying it’s “completely comfortable” for Russia’s budget.

“It’s a pity that time will be lost,” he said in his nightly video address. “This money will be spent for further destabilization of those countries that are trying now to avoid serious decisions.“

Lukashenko, Russian Defense Chief Meet in Minsk (5:30 p.m.)

Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko met with Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Minsk, the state-owned Belta news agency reported. The pair spoke about preparation and combat coordination of the units of both countries.

Before the meeting, Shoigu and his Belarus counterpart Viktor Khrenin signed a protocol on amendments to the agreement between Russia and Belarus on joint provision of regional security, as well as discussed bilateral military cooperation, according to Belta. No further details were provided.

Microsoft Warns of Rising Russian Cyber Attacks (5 p.m.)

Moscow will intensify its efforts to pressure the sources of Ukraine’s military and political support, domestic and foreign, by using cyber attacks, according to Microsoft Corp.

In a post on the company’s “On the Issues” blog, Clint Watts, general manager of Microsoft’s digital threat analysis center, urged customers to prepare for more Russian cyber intervention over the winter, including the type of ransomware attacks recently seen in Poland.

Wealthy Russian Arrested in London Over Money Laundering (3:10 p.m.)

A “wealthy Russian businessman” was arrested in London this week on suspicion of offenses including money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the Home Office, and conspiracy to commit perjury.

The 58-year-old, who wasn’t identified, was detained on Thursday at his “multi-million-pound residence” in the capital by officers from the National Crime Agency’s Combatting Kleptocracy Cell, the NCA said.

Kremlin Says Russia Won’t Accept $60 Price Cap (3:02 p.m.)

Russia will not accept the $60 per barrel price cap for its crude oil agreed upon by the European Union, the state news agency Tass reported, citing Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

It was the Kremlin’s first reaction after European diplomats decided on the threshold on Russian oil Friday evening following lengthy negotiations. Peskov said Russia is preparing workarounds.

Read more: Russia Won’t Accept $60 Price Cap on Its Oil, Kremlin Says

Naftogas in Deal With Norway’s Equinor on Gas Imports (2:58 p.m.)

Ukraine’s Naftogas inked an agreement with Norway’s Equinor on the purchases of additional natural gas for “the most difficult heating season in history,” CEO Oleksiy Chernoshov said in a statement on company’s website.

The company is seeking “special terms” for the purchase, and to secure volumes needed in future. Norway pledged to finance Ukraine’s gas imports to 2 billion kroner ($205 million) for the current heating season. Much of Ukraine’s power infrastructure has been damaged by Russian missile strikes.

Mykolaiv Governor Urges Companies to Work At Night (2:49 p.m.)

Vitaly Kim, governor of the Mykolaiv region, urged local enterprises to switch to operations at night where possible as a way to balance increasing electricity consumption with limited supplies, according to a statement on his Facebook page.

One of the reasons for increasing consumption is that some people who fled the city in Ukraine’s south have chosen to return home, he said.

Estonia Buying Advanced US Rocket Systems (12 p.m.)

Estonia, which shares a 300-km (186-mile) border with Russia, will buy six High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems from the US worth about $200 million, its defense department said. It’s Estonia’s largest ever arms procurement project.

The HIMARS deal was signed on Friday and includes ammunition and rockets as well as training on the Lockheed Martin Corp. system. Deliveries are expected to start in 2024. The rockets have ranges of 70km to 300km.

“The operational capabilities of the new multiple rocket launchers are compatible with those of the US and other allies,” said Magnus-Valdemar Saar, director general of Estonian Centre for Defense Investments. Lithuania and Latvia are also expected to buy HIMARs systems, Estonia said.

Russia Assembles ‘Shadow’ Tanker Fleet to Work Around Oil Sanctions: FT (8:30 a.m.)

Russia has amassed a fleet of more than 100 tankers to help circumvent western restrictions on Russian oil sales following its invasion of Ukraine, the Financial Times reported, citing shipping brokers and analysts.

Moscow intends to use the vessels to supply oil to countries such as India, China and Turkey, which have continued to buy Russian crude as Europe has cut back, the newspaper said.

Russia Continues to Focus on Bakhmut Assault, UK Says (8 a.m.)

Moscow’s troops “continue to invest a large element of their overall military effort and firepower” on a 15-kilometer (9 mile) stretch of entrenched front around Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, the UK defense ministry said on Twitter.

Russia has prioritized the city, with a pre-war population of about 70,000, since early August, the ministry said. While capturing the town “would have limited operational value,” it would allow Kremlin forces to threaten larger urban areas of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk.

“There is a realistic possibility that Bakhmut’s capture has become primarily a symbolic, political objective for Russia,” the UK said.

Ukrainian Troops Begin EU Training in Poland (7 a.m.)

Ukrainian soldiers have been receiving training near Brzeg, in southwestern Poland, since late November on de-mining techniques and how to defuse booby traps. They’re part of the first contingent of 1,100 troops being trained in different locations across the continent.

The EU is trying to mount the ambitious €106.7 million ($112 million) mission, aimed at training 15,000 Ukrainian soldiers, on top of significant weapons deliveries to Ukraine, economy-crushing sanctions on Russia and billions of euros to bolster Kyiv’s finances.

Read more: Ukrainian Troops Begin EU Training as Bloc Expands Military Role

US Seeks to Ease Oil Market Jitters on Price Cap (12:40 a.m.)

Those who watch the oil price cap issue carefully have raised the risk of “over-compliance,” in which companies not prohibited by law from working in a given area nevertheless exit entirely because of concerns about violating US policies, or for other reasons like reputation risks.

A senior Treasury official acknowledged the unprecedented nature of the price cap during a call with reporters on Friday, but said the US has tried to counter that by engaging extensively with industry players before the implementation. The countries in the price cap coalition have tried to make the policy as easy as possible to follow, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the talks.

Ukraine Gets $1.5 Billion US Grant Through World Bank (7:43 p.m.)

Ukraine has received a $1.5 billion grant from the US via the World Bank to be used for pensions and other social payments, the country’s Finance Ministry said on its website.

It’s the first installment of $4.5 billion pledged by the US to help with budget spending and to maintain governance amid the war.

EU Agrees on $60 Cap for Russia Oil Exports (7:10 p.m.)

The Group of Seven is set to impose a price cap on Russian oil that’s well above where it now trades. If there was any doubt what the premise of the cap was, it’s now clear: the US and its allies want Russia’s crude to keep flowing.

European Union ambassadors backed limiting the price of Russian oil, a key source of income for President Putin’s war machine, at $60 a barrel after fraught talks that dragged into the night more than once. That’s above the $50 that Russia’s flagship Urals grade already trades at, according to data from Argus Media.

“We don’t care what the price cap will be. We’ll negotiate with our partners directly,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday. “And partners who continue working with us won’t look at those caps.” WTI crude futures shrugged off news that the EU finally agreed on a price cap.

Read more here.

Not the Time for Biden-Putin Talks: White House (7:04 p.m.)

The White House said Friday that conditions weren’t ripe for direct talks between Biden and Putin because the Kremlin has shown no indication of willingness to end the conflict in Ukraine.

“We’re just not at a point right now where talks seem to be a fruitful avenue to approach right now,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters, adding that the White House’s focus remains sending security assistance and other aide to Ukraine.

The US also would consider talks only if they were endorsed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Kirby said. Biden said in a news conference on Thursday he would be willing to meet with Putin if the Russian leader were serious about ending the conflict, and after consultation with NATO partners.

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