The Kremlin is ready to go to ‘energy war’ with the West and threatened to limit gas supplies to Europe if an oil embargo is launched against Russia. A scenario, says Moscow, that would take a barrel of oil above 300 dollars – more than double the historical maximum marked in 2008. Meanwhile, the slow progress of the ground invasion of Ukraine and the scant results of the border negotiations have been accompanied by an increase in indiscriminate bombing of the country’s main cities. “Please boycott imports to Russia,” was President Volodymyr Zelensky’s last plea to the West, who is resisting, for twelfth consecutive dayentrenched in the Ukrainian capital.
Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said on Tuesday that Russia has every right to take action if sanctions are imposed on its energy exports, such as imposing an embargo on gas that reaches Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline. “Today, Europe consumes about 500,000 million cubic meters of gas per year, and 40% of this comes from Russia. For decades, Russia has been a reliable partner, no matter what. And even now, Gazprom fully complies with its contractual commitments, its obligations to deliver gas to Europe,” he said in statements collected by the Interfax agency.
In the combat line, the Russian Army continues to concentrate on the southeastern front, where the capture of the port city of Mariúpol has become the main strategic objective of the occupying forces, but they are encountering Numantine resistance. With the assault on Kiev paralyzed for a week, Moscow has bombed Kharkov, Melitopol and Mariupol itself. On Monday, the most intense ones were suffered in Mykolaiv, which also gives access to the Black Sea and was subjected to a heavy artillery and mortar fire from early Monday morning.
Lucas Proto. Lviv (Ukraine) Photographs: Alejandro Martínez Vélez
“They have dishonorably and cynically attacked our city, while people slept“, said the governor of the Mykolaiv region in a message on Facebook, in which he acknowledged the death of eight soldiers while they were resting in their barracks. However, the official added, they have not managed to break the Ukrainian defense, which has been weekend resisting the Russian onslaught.The taking of Mykolaiv, with 480,000 inhabitants and close to Kherson -the first city to be occupied by the Russians-, would be the step prior to the assault on Odessaa key southern port to which a fleet of Russian warships deployed in the Black Sea has been aiming for days.
In the markets, the panic of an ‘energy war’ caused crude oil to reach the $139 per barrel of Brent —maximum of 14 years— during a day marked by volatility. Statements by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, ruling out that his country is going to limit purchases of Russian oil, relaxed prices, which closed at 123 dollars per barrel. Gas, gasoline and electricity, among other energy products, also registered strong increases. However, US media have published that the White House would be willing to go ahead with the boycott even without support from its partners on the other side of the Atlantic, whose energy dependence on the Eurasian giant is enormous.
The Wall Street Journal. Gordon Lubold, Nancy A. Youssef, and Alan Cullison
“It is absolutely clear that rejecting Russian crude would have catastrophic consequences for the global market,” Alexander Novak, also a former energy minister, said in a message broadcast on state television. “The price rebound would be unpredictable: more than 300 dollars per barrelif not more,” he warned.
The unacceptable Russian ‘peace’
Although the fighting has not stopped, the negotiators of both governments continued this Monday with the third round of talks on the border with Belarus. The meeting ended with small advances in “improving the logistics of humanitarian corridors”, said presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak. However, the head of the Russian delegation, Vladimir Medinsky, told Interfax that the talks “did not meet expectations.” [de Rusia]” and that it was “too early to talk about anything positive.” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba have agreed to meet for the first time in Turkey on Thursday.
Russia continues to bombard the outskirts of Kiev
Russia has stated that it is ready to stop the military offensive “immediately” if Ukraine complies with its well-known demands: declare its neutrality in the Constitution —to avoid joining NATO—, recognize Crimea as Russian territory and accept the independence of the self-proclaimed republics of Donbas. The Kremlin’s demands, according to sources close to the negotiations quoted by the investigative outlet Bellingcat, would include keep Volodymyr Zelensky as a ‘decorative’ president, while the pro-Russian Yuriy Boyko would be the prime minister, chosen by Moscow. Ukraine would have rejected these terms.
In addition, for the third consecutive day it was not possible to establish humanitarian corridors safe to evacuate civilians from cities under fire, such as Kiev, Kharkov or Mariupol. “The Russian Federation once again sabotaged the opening of humanitarian corridors for the evacuation of the civilian population,” accused the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry in a statement after the new fiasco. Moscow, for its part, offered a ceasefire in those cities on Monday to allow the safe departure of civilians; but only in the direction of the Russian borderdenounce the Ukrainian authorities.
“I don’t know too many Ukrainians who want to take refuge in Russia,” said French President Emmanuel Macron, who has described the proposal as “immoral and unacceptable”. The French leader, who has maintained direct communication with the Kremlin since the beginning of the war, has insisted that Putin respect civilian lives and infrastructure.
However, the slow terrestrial advance means that there few Russian victories and increasing deaths. Ukraine claims to have killed more than 11,000 Russian soldiers – Moscow has only recognized 490 casualties – while the conflict has already left more than 400 civilian victims and almost a thousand wounded since Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion on February 24, according to calculations by the ONU. Russia is even trying to recruit Syrian mercenaries to fight in Ukraine, sources from the US Department of Defense have leaked.
“As the Russians grow frustrated and the speed of their invasion slows, are increasingly turning to long-range fire”, explained the Pentagon spokesman, John Kirby, stressing that, in recent days, the Russian troops “have not made any noteworthy progress”. US intelligence indicates that the occupying forces are dealing with shortages of fuel, supplies and low morale among soldiers. Also the Ukrainian air defense and its pilots – still standing – would be achieving neutralize part of the Russian attacks. Late on Monday, the Ukrainian Army claimed to have shot down two Russian planes near Kiev.
Alvaro F. Cruz
Until this Tuesday, more than 1.7 million Ukrainians have escaped the war in your country towards the western borders with the European Union. Half are minors, according to figures provided by the executive director of Unicef, Catherine Russell, to the UN Security Council. The humanitarian drama could worsen enormously in the coming days if it is not possible to create safe passages for the exit of civilians and the entry of food and supplies to places like Mariupol. “There are no medicines, products, heating, and the central water supply system is broken”Ukrainian government adviser Anton Gerashchenko said on Facebook about the situation in the city, surrounded by Russian troops.
At the last minute, President Zelensky has once again addressed the nation. “I am in Kiev, in Bankova [la calle donde se encuentra la Administración presidencial]. I do not hide”, he says in the first seconds of the recording made in selfie format from the balcony of the offices of the Ukrainian presidency in the capital. The president turns the phone back in his office and looks straight into the camera: “And I’m not afraid of anyone. Whatever it takes to win this war.”