Ukraine Latest: US Weighs Terrorism Label for the Wagner Group

  • In Business
  • 2022-11-29 18:45:30Z
  • By Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration is weighing whether to label Russia's Wagner Group as a foreign terrorist organization, two people familiar with the matter said, as part of efforts to handicap the privately owned military company that has played a role in Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

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Ukraine should be free to strike military sites inside Russia as it fends off attacks on its critical infrastructure, Latvia's foreign minister said.

Ukraine urged NATO to speed up decision-making on issues including producing and supplying weapons and called for more air-defense systems to help defend against Russia's invasion. Justice ministers from the Group of Seven nations also gathered in Berlin Tuesday to discuss how to better coordinate efforts to secure evidence of war crimes in Ukraine and prosecute the alleged perpetrators.

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

Key Developments

  • Ukraine Should Be Free to Hit Targets in Russia, Latvia Says

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On the Ground

Russian forces targeted the southern city of Dnipro with missiles overnight, damaging a private enterprise, local authorities said on Telegram. Parts of the Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions were shelled over the past day, while Ukrainian troops repelled attacks near 10 settlements in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, Ukraine's General Staff said. Russian forces made incremental gains south of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, but the advances are unlikely to trigger an imminent encirclement of the city, according to the latest report from the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War.

(All times CET)

US Weighs Terrorism Label for Russia's Wagner Group Mercenaries (7:35 p.m.)

The Biden administration is weighing whether to label Russia's Wagner Group as a foreign terrorist organization, two people familiar with the matter said.

The administration has made no final decision on the designation, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private deliberations. Labeling Wagner a foreign terrorist organization would allow the US to pursue criminal prosecution against the group and its members, as well as go after its assets around the globe. The White House and State Department had no immediate comment. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn't return a message seeking comment. Russia's government has denied any official connection to Wagner in the past.

Moving against Wagner would mark a new US effort to counter a group that has gained in prominence and power around the globe, especially since Russia invaded Ukraine, where its mercenaries have played a major role in the fighting. The Wagner Group also has a growing presence in Africa.

NATO Promises More Fuel and Generators for Ukraine, Stoltenberg Says (6:37 p.m.)

NATO allies made additional pledges to the alliance's non-lethal support for Ukraine, including fuel and generators, in response to Russia's assault on the nation's infrastructure, Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance's secretary general, told reporters.

On the first day of a two-day meeting in Bucharest, the NATO foreign ministers also reaffirmed a 2008 decision by leaders that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance, Stoltenberg said, but still didn't provide a concrete road map to eventual membership.

Short of membership, allies are discussing how to strengthen NATO's political partnership with Ukraine, the NATO chief said, including with more regular meetings and substantive discussions to help the country move toward membership.

Latvia Says Ukraine Should Be Free to Hit Russia (5:45 p.m.)

Ukraine should be allowed to target air fields and missile sights from which strikes are launched that hit Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said.

Allies "should not fear" escalation, he said in an interview on the sidelines of the NATO foreign ministers' meeting in Bucharest.

While the US hasn't imposed restrictions on how Ukraine uses weapons, it has so far declined to send weapons with sufficient range to strike inside Russia. Rinkevics said several other member states also believed Ukraine generally shouldn't have constraints on how it uses weapons.

Ukraine Urges NATO to Take Decisions Faster (5:03 p.m.)

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said "a lot has been done" by NATO in helping to equip his country with weapons, but urged the alliance to make decisions faster.

"We appreciate what has been done, but the war goes on," Kuleba said at a joint press briefing in Bucharest, Romania with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. "But decisions on weapons, decision on launching new production lines of weapons in western countries, they have to be made faster and deliveries of weapons have to be done faster," he said, adding that he discussed the issue with NATO.

Kuleba also asked for generators, transformers and other equipment to help this country to survive winter amid Russian attacks on energy infrastructure. He also called for more air-defense weapons.

US Sending Ukraine $53 Million to Help Repair Grid (4:15 p.m.)

The US is giving Ukraine more than $53 million to help repair electrical infrastructure damaged by Russian attacks in recent weeks, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Tuesday.

The package will help Ukraine buy transformers, circuit-breakers, vehicles and other equipment, Blinken announced Tuesday on the margins of a NATO foreign ministers' gathering in Bucharest. The US wants to get the equipment to Ukraine quickly to restore power as winter sets in.

Estonia, Lithuania Push for Lower Price on Russian Oil Cap (2:42 p.m.)

Estonia's foreign minister called for the price of any cap on Russian oil to be set as low as possible, while his Lithuanian counterpart brushed off any urgency to agree to any price as the Baltic nations remained holdouts in contentious talks at the European Union.

EU states have debated whether to set a price cap as low as $62 a barrel on exports of Russian crude oil after several countries demanded a level that could put more pressure on Moscow, but the talks remain stuck, diplomats said. Poland and the Baltic nations said the price level was still too high, according to the diplomats.

Russia Says Nuclear Talks With US Unlikely Before Next Year (1:43 p.m.)

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said the decision to pull out of a new round of talks under the New START treaty this week was "political" and a signal to the US, according to Interfax and Tass.

Russia will propose new dates for the consultations after some time, and it's unlikely that they will take place this year, he added. While the US insisted on a resumption of nuclear weapons inspections, Russia has other priorities, Ryabkov said.

The talks would have been the first such discussions since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February and would have marked a step toward the resumption of broader arms control negotiations.

Ukraine Considers Using Bigger Grain Ships (1:20 p.m.)

Ukraine is considering a push for bigger ships to use its crop-export corridor, in an effort to bolster volumes as inspection lags slow trade. Ships transiting the country's ports have often been delayed near Istanbul, where cargoes must be checked by teams from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations -- the parties involved in the Black Sea Grain Initiative.

Given the bottlenecks, Ukrainian officials recently held talks with agriculture industry representatives about prioritizing bigger ships, according to Roman Slaston, head of the Ukrainian Agribusiness Council.

Nordic NATO Bids Need More Work, Turkey Says (12:40 p.m.)

Sweden and Finland have made progress toward winning Ankara's approval for their applications to join NATO but they still need to do more, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

"There are still some issues, they made some progress and some steps were taken but at this moment it's not sufficient enough," Cavusoglu told Bloomberg before meeting his Swedish and Finnish counterparts on the sidelines of the NATO meeting. Turkey and Hungary are the only two of 30 NATO allies not to have ratified the Nordic nations' bids.

Slovakia Supplies 30 Fighting Vehicles (11:30 a.m.)

Slovakia has donated 30 infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine as part of a swap agreement with Germany, according to Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad.

Under the terms of the deal, Germany will deliver 15 Leopard 2 battle tanks to Slovakia from armaments industry stocks in a package that includes ammunition, training and logistics, the defense ministry in Berlin said in a tweet.

Russia 'Trying to Erase Ukraine's Cultural Identity' (11:20 a.m.)

Russia is also waging war on Ukrainian culture and the Kremlin's aim is to "obliterate" the country's identity, according to Claudia Roth, Germany's State Minister for Culture.

"We have to do something to counter this," Roth told reporters before talks with EU counterparts in Brussels, accusing Russia of targeting Ukraine's "museums, theaters, cinemas, archives and libraries."

Ukraine's Power Deficit Remains At 30% (11 a.m.)

Ukraine is still facing a 30% power shortage even after repairs to damage caused by multiple Russian missile strikes on the country's energy infrastructure, according to Ukrenergo, the nation's grid operator.

The power deficit widened slightly following emergency blackouts at several generation facilities Monday and after a further increase in electricity consumption due to colder weather conditions. Ukraine's military expects another missile barrage from Russia targeting its energy infrastructure as early as this week.

Ukraine Wants to Secure Banking Operations (10:30 a.m.)

Ukrainian Central Bank Governor Andriy Pyshnyi and his deputies met with ambassadors from the G-7 and the EU to discuss the country's financial sector, economic outlook and cooperation with the International Monetary Fund, according to an emailed statement.

"At the moment, one of the issues we are focused on is ensuring uninterrupted operation of banks," Pyshnyi said, adding that there were "no systemic disruptions" in the system despite the intensity of Russian missile attacks.

Qatar to Supply Germany With LNG (10 a.m.)

Qatar will supply Germany with liquefied natural gas under a long-term deal that will go a small way to helping the European country replace piped flows from Russia.

State-owned Qatar Energy and ConocoPhillips have signed agreements that will see the Persian Gulf state send as much as 2 million tons of LNG a year to Germany from 2026. The deals will last at least 15 years, Qatar's energy minister, Saad al Kaabi, told reporters in Doha alongside Ryan Lance, ConocoPhillips' chief executive offer.

Moldova Expects More Blackouts (9:45 a.m.)

The prospect of "massive Russian missile attacks" on Ukraine in coming days may again cause blackouts in Moldova, which already suffered extensive outages this month due to its interconnection with the Ukrainian grid, Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spinu said on Facebook.

Germany's foreign ministry said ahead of the NATO meeting -- which Moldova's foreign minister will also take part in -- that the "European family" will continue to support the government in Chisinau as it's "directly affected and threatened by Russia's war of aggression."

Novak Warns of Risks for Commodities Markets (9:30 a.m.)

A plan by Western nations to introduce a price cap on Russian oil may result in significant risks for commodities markets, Deputy Premier Alexander Novak said at the Russia-China Energy Business Forum in Moscow, according to Tass.

"The latest restrictions, decisions on introducing price caps, all these actions are bringing about huge risks for the industry, provoking energy and investment deficits, not only in oil," Tass quoted Novak as saying. Russia won't supply oil to any countries observing the price cap, even if it would be profitable to do so, Novak said.

Putin Ally Kudrin Leaves State Job (9 a.m.)

Alexei Kudrin, a longtime Putin ally, said he is stepping down as head of the Audit Chamber, a government watchdog. Kudrin is poised to take a senior role at Yandex, a top Russian technology company that plans a restructuring amid sanctions imposed on its founder over the war.

Kudrin didn't confirm the new job in his Telegram post, saying only that it will be connected to a "private initiative." Putin formally asked the upper house of parliament to remove Kudrin from the Audit Chamber post Tuesday, RIA reported.

Ukraine Asks USAID to Help with Gas Purchases (9 a.m.)

The head of Ukraine's state-run energy company NJSC Naftogaz Ukrainy asked international development agency USAID for help with buying additional volumes of gas for the winter.

Russian shelling has damaged 450 kilometers (280 miles) of gas pipelines and Ukraine has an "urgent need" to boost storage, Naftogaz CEO Oleksiy Chernyshov said after talks with USAID Assistant Administrator Erin McKee. They also discussed providing additional equipment, including compressors and generators.

Zelenskiy Says Grain Drive Exceeds $180 Million (8:30 a.m.)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said an international initiative backed by NATO and the United Nations to get grain to some of the world's poorest countries in Africa has amassed more than $180 million since it was launched at the weekend.

"This is already one of the historically largest Ukrainian humanitarian initiatives," Zelenskiy said late Monday in his evening address. "And it will be even bigger."

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