March 15, 2022

Oil prices fall below $110 bpd as diplomatic talks to end Ukraine war continue

•UN says 636 civilians killed so far, votes additional $40m to Ukraine

•Putin discusses Ukraine with Israeli prime minister

Oil prices dropped three per cent yesterday amid reinforced diplomatic efforts to end the Russia-Ukraine crisis. At 09.08 GMT+1, Brent crude, the global oil benchmark, shed 3.20 percent, trading at $109.1 a barrel.

West Texas Intermediate, also declined over 3 percent, to $105.5 a barrel.
According to a Reuters report, the development is coming on the heels of the meeting to be held between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators on Monday via video link after both sides cited progress.

Negotiators had given their most optimistic assessments after weekend negotiations, hinting there could be positive results within days.

On Sunday, Wendy Sherman, US deputy secretary of state, had said Russia was showing signs it might be willing to have substantive negotiations over Ukraine, while Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said that Russia was “beginning to talk constructively”.

On Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, oil prices had skyrocketed amid oversupply fears in the global oil market.

This was intensified as the United States banned the importation of coal, gas, and oil from Russia.

Russia, a major oil exporter, accounts for about 7 million barrels per day of crude and refined fuel, representing around 7% of global supplies.

On the other hand, the US Federal Open Market Committee would meet from March 15 to March 16 to make decisions regarding the raising of interest rates.

The federal reserve is expected to begin raising rates this week, which would lower pressure on oil prices.

In Nigeria, it is expected that the downward trend in oil prices would provide succour to increasing diesel prices while at the same time, reducing importation expenses on refined petroleum products.

The price of automotive gas oil, also known as diesel, had surpassed N600 per litre —after crossing the N500 mark at ex-depot.

UN says 636 civilians killed so far, votes additional $40 million to Ukraine
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has said the UN will allocate a further $40 million from its central emergency response fund to ramp up humanitarian assistance for Ukraine.

In an address to the Security Council, the UN chief said millions of people in Ukraine were facing hunger and dwindling water supplies.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency estimates 2.8 million people have left Ukraine. “They need help and support every step of the way,” Guterres said.

He also sounded the alarm over Russia raising the alert level for its nuclear forces, describing it as a “bone-chilling development.”

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) has confirmed the deaths of at least 636 civilians in Ukraine through to March 13, including 46 children.

The actual toll is likely much higher, it said, since there have been delays receiving and corroborating reports from places with intense hostilities such as Kharkiv and Mariupol.
OHCHR has some 50 staff members involved with human rights monitoring in the country.

Putin discusses Ukraine with Israeli prime minister
Russian President Vladimir Putin has discussed the conflict in Ukraine by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, the Kremlin has said in a statement, adding that the call had been at Israel’s request.

Bennett told Putin about his recent contacts with leaders of several countries on the subject and both agreed to continue their dialogue, the Kremlin has said.

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Bennett has held numerous calls with Putin in an attempt to assist efforts to resolve the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.

Russia has not asked China for military aid: Kremlin
The Kremlin says Russia has not asked China for military assistance and has sufficient military clout to fulfil all of its aims in Ukraine in time and in full.

The comments by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov come after US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Russia had asked China for military equipment.

Ukraine says more than 100 hospitals damaged
More than 100 hospitals in Ukraine have been damaged since the invasion began, the health minister has said.

Seven have been destroyed completely and “can’t be restored” and 97 more have been damaged by shelling and bombardment, Viktor Lyashko wrote on Facebook.

Lyashko added the healthcare system was operational and almost 2,000 foreign medical doctors and nurses had volunteered to work in Ukraine.

Erdogan says unclear whether Turkey will buy more Russian arms
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said it was too early to comment on Turkey’s possible purchase of more Russian weapons given Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Under the current circumstances, it would be premature to talk about what the future shows, right now. We have to see what the conditions bring,” Erdogan said, speaking in Ankara alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

NATO member Turkey was handed US sanctions in December 2020 over its purchase of Russian S-400 missile defence systems and had been criticised by Western allies over the move. Ankara has said it was forced to opt for the Russian weapons because allies did not provide arms on satisfactory terms.

Ukraine nationalist leader sends warning to Kadyrov
Andriy Biletsky, leader of Azov, a group of mostly ultra-nationalist war veterans in Ukraine, says if Chechen leader Ramza Kadyrov is in Kyiv region “it will be possible to shoot him dead.”

Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s Chechnya region and ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has claimed that he travelled to Ukraine to meet Chechen troops fighting alongside Russian forces.

“This will be an unforgettable welcome for you, Don,” Biletsky said in a tweet, referring to Kadyrov’s nickname that mimics the title of Italian mafia leaders.

Citi faces $1.5BN of charges in Russia exit, analyst says
Citigroup Inc yesterday followed rival Wall Street banks by accelerating its withdrawal from Russia, saying it is no longer taking on new clients and will further cut its exposure, raising the prospect it could take substantial losses.

Citigroup follows rivals JPMorgan Chase & Co and Goldman Sachs Group Inc, which last week said they were unwinding their operations in Russia and not pursuing new business there. European lenders, such as Deutsche Bank, have made similar moves.

Citigroup has exposure of nearly $10bn in Russia, the most of any United States bank, and had previously warned it could lose nearly half of that in the worst-case scenario.

Citigroup declined to comment Monday on the financial impact of the decision. The bank’s shares rose nearly 2 percent in early trading, outperforming the broader market.

The bank had already planned to exit its Russian consumer business prior to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. It said last week that it was operating that business on a more limited basis while sticking with its plan to sell the franchise.

“We have now decided to expand the scope of that exit process to include other lines of business and continue to reduce our remaining operations and exposure,” Edward Skyler, Citi’s executive vice president for global affairs, said yesterday.

The decision means Citigroup will also be giving up its institutional and wealth management clients in Russia.

The bank will stop soliciting any new business or clients in Russia, Skyler said. It reiterated a previous commitment to “provide assistance to multinational corporations, many of whom are undergoing the complex task of unwinding their operations”.

Citigroup’s withdrawal will take time to execute, Skyler said, citing “the nature of banking and financial services operations”.

Ukraine negotiator says talks with Russia will continue today
Talks between Ukraine and Russia have paused and will continue on Tuesday (today), one of Ukraine’s negotiators said on Twitter.

“A technical pause has been taken in the negotiations until tomorrow. For additional work in the working subgroups and clarification of individual definitions. Negotiations continue,” Mykhailo Podolyak said.

Russia says it will attack Ukrainian arms factories
The Russian defence ministry has said it is planning to attack Ukrainian arms factories in retaliation for what it said was a Ukrainian strike on the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, and urged workers and local residents to stay away.

The defence ministry noted in a statement that Russia believed Ukraine had used cluster charges on a densely populated area of Donetsk.

Strike on Ukraine TV tower kills nine: Official
Nine people have died and another nine have been injured after Russian forces hit a television tower outside the western Ukrainian city of Rivne, local authorities said.
“Nine dead, nine wounded,” the head of the regional administration, Vitaliy Koval, said on messaging app Telegram.

Russia registers foreign aircraft domestically to bypass sanctions
Russian airlines will be allowed to register their leased foreign aircraft in future in Russia after President Vladimir Putin signed a decree allowing the move.

The measure means the state-owned company Aeroflot and other aviation firms can continue using their fleets on domestic routes.

The decree also enables the issuing of domestic airworthiness certificates, the TASS news agency reported yesterday.

The measures are in reaction to Western sanctions against the Russian aviation industry and at the same time a way of ensuring that domestic passenger flights can continue.

The aviation authority on the Caribbean island of Bermuda has revoked the airworthiness of all Russian aircraft registered there.

Many aircraft of Russian companies are registered in the British overseas territory, recognisable by the abbreviations VP-B and VP-Q in the registration plates of the aircraft.

In spite of the presidential decree, it is likely to become increasingly difficult for Russia to maintain civilian flight operations in view of the sanctions.

“For example, the European Union has ordered that Russia may not receive new passenger aircraft and spare parts and the aircraft may no longer be maintained and insured.

“Leasing contracts with Russian airlines must be terminated by the end of March.”
This is likely to hit Aeroflot hard as the state-owned company relies almost exclusively on Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

UK residents offered $457 a month to host Ukrainian refugees
A new British government scheme will offer UK residents $467 (£350) per month to host Ukrainian refugees, according to Michael Gove, UK Secretary of State for Leveling Up.

All Ukrainian nationals and residents will be eligible for the “Homes for Ukraine,” Gove said, stressing that “there will be no limit to the number of Ukrainians who can benefit from this scheme.”

Ukrainians arriving in the UK “will have full and unrestricted access and benefits, health care, employment,” Gove said.

Under the scheme, sponsors will have to provide accommodation for a minimum of six months and will have to undergo “necessary vetting checks,” according to Gove.

The UK has “a long and proud history of supporting the most vulnerable during their darkest hours,” Gove told lawmakers in the UK parliament on Monday.

The scheme will initially “facilitate sponsorship between people with known connections” with the government hoping to “rapidly expand” the scheme to encompass charities, churches and community groups.

Vanguard News Nigeria