(Bloomberg) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy delivered an emotional address to the U.S. Congress, appealing for help from Americans to fend off the Russian invasion. Hours later, President Joe Biden offered hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of new weaponry and called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “war criminal.” 

After hours of talks between Russia and Ukraine, a Kremlin spokesman said that a neutral Ukraine with its own army could be a possible compromise in the current crisis, while Kyiv said it needed firm security guarantees in any outcome.  Meanwhile, Moscow pressed the U.S. to stop weapons deliveries to Kyiv, Interfax reported. 

Russian forces continue to strike infrastructure targets while the overall military situation is largely unchanged, Ukraine said. Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces are advancing through urban areas in the Luhansk region town of Sievierodonetsk.

NATO defense ministers are in Brussels to discuss ways to reinforce the alliance’s eastern members and prevent spillover from the war in Ukraine, a risk illustrated by recent crashes of drones. Biden will travel to Europe for NATO and European Union summits next week. 

Ukraine Update: Biden Calls Putin a ‘War Criminal’

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

Mayor of Ukrainian City Freed (8:29 p.m.)

Ivan Fedorov, the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Melitopol, was freed from Russian captivity after a “special operation,” according to Kyrylo Tymoshenko, a top Ukrainian official.  

Fedorov was kidnapped on March 11. Tymoshenko provided no further details on the operation. 

Biden Calls Putin a ‘War Criminal’ (8:07 p.m.)

Biden called Putin a “war criminal” on Wednesday, shortly after announcing an expansive new package of military aide to Ukraine including armed drones.

While Biden has repeatedly condemned Putin and the Ukraine invasion, the White House has previously been cautious about accusing the Russian leader or his forces of war crimes.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki previously said the U.S. would go through an established process and work with the International Criminal Court to determine whether war crimes had been committed. The U.S. Senate on Tuesday passed a non-binding resolution supporting an investigation into Putin over possible war crimes in Ukraine.

Ukraine Update: Biden Calls Putin a ‘War Criminal’

Zelenskiy Invites Biden to Ukraine (7:43 p.m.)

Zelenskiy told NBC News that he would be “happy to invite President Biden to Ukraine” and that he has previously “extended him invitations.” Biden is traveling to Europe next week to meet with NATO allies and take part in a summit of European Union leaders. 

When asked if he would step down as president as part of negotiations with Russia, Zelenskiy signaled he would not, saying there would be an election at the end of his five-year term. 

“There will be an election and free democratic people of Ukraine and absolutely open,” Zelenskiy said. “They will select or elect a president for themselves. There is no other provisions that would be providing the stepping down of the president of Ukraine.”

IMF Suspends Russian Board Member’s Role as Dean (7:20 p.m.)

The International Monetary Fund’s board has temporarily suspended Russian executive director Aleksei Mozhin’s role as “dean” based on the war and its potential impact on his ability to carry out the role’s tasks effectively, a spokesman said. The move is largely symbolic since the role of dean carries few responsibilities. 

Mozhin continues to represent Russia at the IMF, which can only suspend or expel Russia as a member based on a violation of economic obligations that to this point the nation is meeting.

Russia Sticks With Plans for Urals Crude (6:49 p.m.)

Russia plans little change to loadings of Urals crude from its Baltic and Black Sea ports in early April, even as many of its key customers are shunning the country’s oil amid the war in Ukraine, according to a loading program seen by Bloomberg. 

It’s not clear, though, whether the shipments will all find buyers, so actual loadings may be different. Although most governments haven’t targeted Russian oil as part of their sanctions to isolate Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine, many buyers — particularly those in Europe — are staying away from Russian barrels.

Russia’s full April loading program for the Urals is due later this month.

Netherlands Plans to Increase Defense Spending (6:25 p.m.)

The Netherlands is looking to increase defense spending further after Germany announced plans for beefing up spending in line with NATO targets, Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said in an interview with Bloomberg News. A decision could come this spring, she said.

Ollongren said the Netherlands had already increased spending by about 25% with the new government at the start of the year to bring the country in line with the European Union average. But those plans were drafted before the war in Ukraine broke out.

In addition to what’s already been decided, she said, her country is “now looking into how we can make plans that have to be ambitious, and also realistic, of increasing even more,” Ollongren said. The Netherlands for years has fallen short of NATO’s target for members to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense.

Biden Pledges Anti-Aircraft Systems, Drones for Ukraine (6:09 p.m.)

Biden detailed plans for $800 million in new assistance, including drones, to be distributed to Ukraine in a speech from the White House, just hours after Zelenskiy appealed for more help in an emotional virtual address to the U.S. Congress.

“The American people are answering President Zelenskiy’s call for more help, more weapons to Ukraine to defend itself, more tools to fight Russia aggression,” Biden said.

The aid will involve direct transfers of equipment from the Pentagon to the Ukrainian military and includes 800 anti-aircraft systems, Biden said. The package also includes 9,000 shoulder-mounted missiles for Ukraine to attack Russian armored vehicles, 7,000 small arms, pilotless aircraft and 20 million rounds of ammunition.

Theater Serving as Shelter Bombed in Mariupol (5:46 p.m.)

A bomb hit the city theater in besieged Mariupol, where hundreds of people have been sheltering, according to the city council. It said the central part of the building was ruined and debris blocked the entrance to the bomb shelter inside.

Rockets hit a convoy of civilians who were trying to evacuate from Mariupol to Zaporizhzhia, according to the Defense Ministry, which said there were a number of deaths and those injured included children.

Latvia in Talks with Allies Over Missile Defense (4:50 p.m.)

Latvia has been “heard and together with our allies, we have started working” on getting an anti-missile defense system, Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said in a tweet. NATO members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have long called for air defense systems, and a bigger presence of NATO soldiers since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

International Court Orders Russia to Suspend Hostilities in Ukraine (4:48 p.m.) 

The International Court of Justice in the Hague ordered Russia to suspend military operations in Ukraine. It’s the first international court to weigh in on the crisis but is unlikely to have any real-world impact. The panel of judges voted 13-2 in favor of the order, with the two dissenting judges coming from Russia and China.

“The court is acutely aware of the extent of the human tragedy that is taking taking place in Ukraine and is deeply concerned about continuing loss of life and human suffering,” the court said in the ruling. “The court is profoundly concerned about the use of force by the Russian Federation in Ukraine, which raises very serious issues of international law.”

NATO Chief Urges Russia to Negotiate ‘In Good Faith’ (4:40 p.m.)

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance has seen no evidence on the ground that Russia is genuine in its approach to the peace talks.

“On the ground we don’t see any sign, and that is the reason why we also call on Russia to engage in these talks in good faith,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels after a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

Ukraine Update: Biden Calls Putin a ‘War Criminal’

WHO Has Verified 43 Attacks on Health-Care Facilities (4:34 p.m.)

The World Health Organization said it has verified 43 attacks on health-care facilities in Ukraine since the invasion began, driving the global rate of such attacks to a record so far this year.

“Health care is becoming a target,” said Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s health emergencies program, adding that clinic attacks are making it more difficult to send staff to shore up Ukraine’s “teetering” medical system. ”This is the most basic of human rights, and it has been directly denied to people.”

Nearby rocket strikes blew out windows and damaged walls at Ohmatdyt children’s hospital in Kyiv on Wednesday, according to the hospital’s Facebook page. The hospital said no one was wounded in the attack. 

NATO Keeps Up Supply of Weapons Into Kyiv (4:29 p.m.)

NATO allies are maintaining a constant flow of weapons into the Ukrainian capital because Russian forces have not succeeded in completely encircling the city, according to two senior NATO military officials.

The visit of three EU leaders on Tuesday is a sign that routes into Kyiv remain open and, as a result, that arms shipments can continue, they said. Old Soviet equipment can be more useful than more modern kit because it doesn’t require additional training, the officials added, and open-source video show that the Ukrainian fighters are having some success. 

Markets Rally on Optimism of Diplomatic Resolution (3:42 p.m.) 

European stocks rallied on Wednesday, as tentative signs of optimism in the talks between Russia and Ukraine revived global risk appetite ahead of a crucial Federal Reserve meeting. Treasuries and the dollar fell, while crude oil whipsawed.

The Stoxx 600 Europe Index advanced by 3.4% as of 2:40 p.m. in London, extending its gains after the Financial Times reported that Ukraine and Russia have made “significant progress” on a tentative 15-point peace plan. The main European equities benchmark was less than 1% away from erasing almost all of its losses since the start of the war.

Sullivan Warns on Chemical Attack, Demands Cease-Fire, in Patrushev Call (3:23 p.m.) 

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told his Russian counterpart that the U.S. was committed to Ukraine’s defense and warned the Kremlin against using chemical or biological weapons. Sullivan told General Nikolai Patrushev that if Russia is serious about a diplomatic path, it should stop attacking Ukrainian cities and towns, National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne said.

“Mr. Sullivan clearly laid out the United States’ commitment to continue imposing costs on Russia, to support the defense of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, in continued full coordination with our allies and partners,” Horne said in a statement.

Patrushev told Sullivan that the U.S. should stop supplying Kyiv with weapons, according to Interfax. Biden signed a spending bill Tuesday that includes billions more in support for Ukraine, including weaponry, and plans to announce further assistance later Wednesday.

Ukraine Starts Trial Connection to European Electricity Grid (2:51 p.m.) 

Ukraine has linked its electricity grid to Europe on a trial basis to help increase independence from Russia. Work to connect the systems had been underway since 2017, but was accelerated after the war began.

The link won’t enable trade of electricity, but will help Ukraine keep its electricity system stable, homes warm and lights on, according to the European Commission. It’s “a historic milestone for the EU-Ukraine relationship – in this area, Ukraine is now part of Europe,” Kadri Simson, EU energy commissioner for energy said in a statement. 

Zelenskiy Tells Biden to Be Leader of World (2:30 p.m.)

During his address to the U.S. Congress, Zelenskiy played a graphic video of the destruction in Ukraine that ended with the words: “Close the sky over Ukraine.”

Zelenskiy also asked lawmakers to sanction “all politicians in the Russian Federation” who do not cut ties with those backing the invasion of Ukraine and stressed that “all American companies must leave Russia.”

The Ukrainian leader, who at first spoke through an interpreter and then later switched to English, closed with a direct appeal to Biden, saying, “And, in the end, to sum it up, today it’s not enough to be the leader of the nation.” 

Ukraine Update: Biden Calls Putin a ‘War Criminal’

Zelenskiy Makes Plea to U.S. Congress (2:15 p.m.)

Zelenskiy made a dramatic appeal to the U.S. Congress, urging lawmakers to remember the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington as it weighs more aid to the war-torn country.

“Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people,” Zelenskiy said following a standing ovation from lawmakers.

Zelenskiy continued his calls for a no-fly zone over his country, his biggest request that U.S. and European countries have so far resisted. “If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative,” Zelenskiy said, stressing that the country needs more air defense systems like the Russian S-300.

Blinken Says Russian Withdrawal Needs to Be ‘Irreversible’ (1:35 p.m.)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said any diplomatic solution to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would have to include assurances that a pullback by Moscow would be “in effect, irreversible.”

The U.S. wants to make sure “this can’t happen again, that Russia won’t pick up and do exactly what it’s doing in a year or two years or three years,” Blinken told NPR in an interview, adding that he didn’t see any sign Moscow was ready to back down from its military attack.

Switzerland Expands Sanctions List to Mirror EU’s (12:01 p.m.)

Switzerland added more than 200 individuals and entities to its sanctions list, bringing it in line with the EU. As of midday local time on Wednesday, assets of those in question will be frozen and reported to the economy ministry. 

The Swiss Federal Council earlier adopted the EU’s extended sanctions from March 2 and March 9 in full against Belarus, prohibiting the export of all dual-use goods and widening import bans to wood products and products made of rubber, iron and steel, and cement, among others.

Kremlin Says Neutral Ukraine With Army Is Option (11:20 a.m.)

The idea of Ukraine becoming a neutral country but retaining its own armed forces “could be viewed as a certain kind of compromise,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Wednesday, hinting at possible progress in peace negotiations.

Peskov declined to provide details beyond confirming that the idea of Swedish- or Austrian-style neutrality is under discussion in the talks now underway with Ukraine. Mykhaylo Podolyak, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, said that any solution will need to give Kyiv “a really powerful pool of allies with clearly outlined security guarantees.” 

U.S. futures and European stocks extended gains, with contracts on the Nasdaq 100 rising more than 2%. The dollar weakened, and Treasury yields rose as haven demand eased. Crude oil in New York reversed gains.

Dutch Ready to Ban Use of Shell Companies With Russia Ties (11:10 a.m.)

The Dutch government wants to restrict the use of trust offices that provide services to set up letterbox companies in the country because not doing so would mean “leaving a backdoor open” in sanctions against Russia, according to Finance Minister Sigrid Kaag.

World’s Biggest Reinsurer to Halt Activity in Russia (10:31 a.m.)

Reinsurance provider Munich Re will not renew existing contracts in Russia and Belarus, and new business has been suspended, it said in a statement. The company will only make exceptions to this rule – sanctions regulations permitting – if the suspension negatively affects people or businesses in need of protection.

Russia Says Ukraine’s Neutrality Under Discussion (9:39 a.m.)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia’s demands for Ukraine’s neutrality in the future are under serious discussion as the two sides plan to resume negotiations, according to the state-owned Tass news agency, but Russia’s demands are broader. The talks with Ukraine aren’t going easily, he said, but there are hopes to reach a compromise.

Amid the conversations about Ukraine’s potential neutrality status, Ukraine has continued to call for EU membership and pleaded with NATO to send weapons and enforce a no-fly zone.

Zelenskiy, meanwhile, told the Ukrainian people in a video address that Russia’s positions are starting to sound more realistic. “Efforts are still needed, we still have to fight and work — everyone in their place,” Zelenskiy said. “In particular, our representatives, our delegation in negotiations with the Russian Federation. It is difficult, but important, because any war ends in an agreement. Meetings continue.”

Ukraine Update: Biden Calls Putin a ‘War Criminal’

Ukraine Accuses Russia of Violating Cease-Fires (8:31 a.m.)

Russian forces have been violating cease-fire agreements during evacuation efforts through humanitarian corridors, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said in a video statement.

“Occupiers began to fire on columns of buses, fire on residential areas and points where people gathered for evacuation,” she said. Vereshchuk added that Russian troops captured a hospital in Mariupol and are firing outward from the building. There was no immediate response from Russia.

Ukraine’s War Losses Put at $565 Billion (7:23 a.m.)

Ukraine’s direct losses from the Russian war were estimated at $565 billion, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said at a meeting with the prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic in Kyiv. “This money will be needed to restore our state, both at the expense of Russia and with funds from our partners,” he said. “We will work to achieve the arrest of money and assets of Russia abroad. We trust that our partners will join this large scale plan.”

Shmyhal also called for new package of sanctions to cancel all issued foreign visas for Russian citizens as he outlined a set of far-reaching steps countries have said they’re not ready to take. He also said Ukraine’s allies should recognize Russia as a sponsor of terrorism, embargo all Russian goods and close all ports for Russian ships and sailors.

Ukraine Update: Biden Calls Putin a ‘War Criminal’

Singapore Calls on China to Use ‘Enormous Influence’ on Russia (7:15 a.m)

Singapore’s top diplomat said he hopes China will use its “enormous influence” on Russia to help end the war, warning that Beijing’s decisions in the coming days and weeks could determine the future path of the global economy. 

“The big issue now is what decisions and actions China takes,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan said in an interview with Haslinda Amin to be broadcast at the upcoming Bloomberg Live’s Asean Business Summit. “If you get a deepening of the bifurcation of the global economy, of supply chains, of technology, this will be a very, very different world.”

Singapore last month became the first Southeast Asian nation to say it was imposing unilateral sanctions on Russia.

Ukraine Update: Biden Calls Putin a ‘War Criminal’

U.K.’s Johnson in Gulf Seeking Help With Energy Crisis (6:22 a.m.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson began a visit to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia where he will to try to persuade the U.K.’s Gulf allies to step up oil production and ease pressure on energy prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He’ll meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in Abu Dhabi before traveling to Riyadh to see Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The war in and the sanctions on Russia have roiled energy markets and put pressure on OPEC members to raise output. 

Ukraine Update: Biden Calls Putin a ‘War Criminal’

Russian Court Websites Defaced (4:36 a.m.)

At least eight websites of arbitration courts in Russia’s Far East were defaced by hackers who used the portals to post anti-war statements calling Putin a terrorist, the Regnum news service reported. 

The websites now appear to have been taken down, but the profanity-laced messages, which also appeared to have been posted to the Moscow Arbitration Court’s website, were briefly visible in search engine results for some pages.

Zelenskiy Calls European Leaders in Kyiv ‘Courageous’ (3:21 a.m.)

Zelenskiy praised the leaders of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic as “courageous” in a video released by his office, after they traveled to Kyiv by train for talks. 

Ukraine Update: Biden Calls Putin a ‘War Criminal’
This post More Talks Planned as Russian Shelling Continues was original published at “https://www.bloombergquint.com/politics/ukraine-update-more-talks-planned-as-russian-shelling-continues”

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