Russia-Ukraine war live: Moscow to halt gas supplies to Netherlands; US will not supply long-range rocket systems to Kyiv

Pjotr Sauer

Russia will cut off gas supplies to the Netherlands on Tuesday, the Dutch-backed trader GasTerra said on Monday after the company refused to pay supplier Gazprom in roubles, in the latest escalation of the energy payments row with the west.

Gazprom Export has demanded that European countries pay for Russian gas supplies in roubles because of sanctions imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Gazprom had already cut off gas to Finland, Poland and Bulgaria after they refused to comply with the new payment terms.

GasTerra, which buys and trades gas on behalf of the Dutch government, said in a statement that it had “anticipated” Russia’s moves to cut off gas and has bought “elsewhere” some of the 2 billion cubic metres of gas it had expected to receive from Gazprom through October.

Around 44% of Dutch energy usage is based on gas, but only about 15% of Dutch gas comes from Russia, according to government figures. The Dutch government earlier announced the country’s plans to stop using Russian fossil fuels by the end of the year.

European nations are divided over how to respond to Moscow’s demand that all payments for the gas should be made in the local currency. Germany and Italy have reportedly told their companies they could open rouble accounts to keep buying Russian gas without breaching sanctions.

Russia is considering paying Eurobond holders by applying the mechanism it uses to process payments for its gas in roubles, Reuters reports.

The scheme, according to Reuters, would allow Moscow to pay bondholders while bypassing western payment infrastructure. Investors, however, said the move would not enable Russia to avoid a historic default on debt.

The news comes days after the US decided against extending a license that had permitted creditors to receive bond payments while enabling Russia to dodge default.

The Russian, finance minister,Anton Siluanov, said:

As happens with paying for gas in roubles: we are credited with foreign currency, here it is exchanged for roubles on behalf of [the gas buyer], and this is how the payment takes place. The Eurobond settlement mechanism will operate in the same manner, only in the other direction.

According to Reuters, the money would be channelled through Russia’s National Settlement Depository (NSD), which, unlike many Russian financial institutions, is not under western sanctions.

A financial market source told Reuters Russia planned to present the scheme to investors before its next payments, on two bonds, due on 23 June.

Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth

The rumours have spanned the gamut: Vladimir Putin is suffering from cancer or Parkinson’s disease, say unconfirmed and unverifiable reports, the Russian leader has survived a coup attempt or, as some tabloids think, he is already dead and has been replaced by a body double.

Photographs of Putin meeting top aides are inspected in microscopic detail: is he gripping the table in pain during a meeting with defence minister Sergei Shoigu in late April? Is his puffy face a sign of steroid use, as former foreign secretary Lord Owen claimed in March?

As Russia’s war in Ukraine enters its fourth month, reports suggest that Russia’s leader may be ill. But that may be just wishful thinking for Putin’s many critics, who appear ready to embrace conspiracy theories of divine vengeance or palace coups for his unrelenting assault in Ukraine.

Russian President Putin attends the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council via video link in Moscow.
Russian President Putin attends the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council via video link in Moscow.
Photograph: SPUTNIK/Reuters

You can read the whole piece here:

Russia ready to facilitate export of grain from Ukrainian ports in coordination with Turkey

In talks with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said Russia was ready to facilitate the unhindered export of grain from Ukrainian ports, according to Reuters.

The Kremlin said of Putin’s call with Erdoğan:

During the discussion of the situation in Ukraine, emphasis was placed on ensuring safe navigation in the Black and Azov seas and eliminating the mine threat in their waters. Vladimir Putin noted the readiness of the Russian side to facilitate the unhindered sea transit of goods in coordination with Turkish partners. This also applies to the export of grain from Ukrainian ports.

Putin added, according to Reuters, that if sanctions were lifted, then Russia could “export significant volumes of fertilisers and agricultural products”.

Silos and ports across Ukraine are brimming with more than 20m metric tonnes of grain and corn that has nowhere to go, with Russia blockading the country’s Black Sea coast and the exit routes for Ukraine’s grain.

Ukraine used to export most of its goods through seaports but since Russia invaded the country, it has been forced to export by train or via its small Danube River ports.

As a result, global wheat prices leaped by 20% in March, owing to the direct impact of the war on wheat production, with the world facing a worsening state of food insecurity and malnutrition, at a time when 42 million people were already one step away from famine.

Ukraine is fed up with “special solutions” and separate models for its integration into the European Union, the country’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said on Monday, Reuters reports.

After a meeting with France’s foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, in Kyiv, he said:

We need a clear legal affirmation that Ukraine is a part of the European integration project, and such an affirmation would be the granting of candidate status.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (R) and his French counterpart Catherine Colonna (L) attend their press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (R) and his French counterpart Catherine Colonna (L) attend their press conference in Kyiv, Ukraine. Photograph: Foreign Ministry Press Service/EPA

New US ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, arrives in Kyiv in symbolic move

Shaun Walker

Shaun Walker

The new US ambassador to Ukraine has arrived in Kyiv, the Guardian understands, a symbolic move after the US withdrew all diplomats from the country before the Russian invasion in February.

Bridget Brink talks before she testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing.
Bridget Brink talks before she testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing. Photograph: Mariam Zuhaib/AP

A career diplomat who served as US ambassador to Slovakia until recently, Bridget Brink was nominated by President Joe Biden in late April and confirmed unanimously by the US Senate on 18 May.

The state department has not yet officially announced Brink’s arrival in Kyiv but it was confirmed by her biography page on the US embassy website, which notes that she arrived in the city on 29 May.

Read more here:

Summary

It’s approaching 7pm in Ukraine. Here are some of the latest developments:

  • EU leaders have failed to agree on a Russian oil import ban before the two-day summit gets underway in Brussels. While the leaders of the 27 countries will agree in principle to an oil embargo, the details of their draft conclusions are yet to be decided.
  • Russia will stop supplying gas to the Netherlands as of tomorrow after the government-backed trader GasTerra refused to pay supplier Gazprom in roubles. About 44% of Dutch energy usage is based on gas, but only about 15% of Dutch gas comes from Russia, according to government figures.
  • A French journalist, Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, was killed after an evacuation car was hit near the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk. The French president, Emmanuel Macron, said: “I share the pain of the family, relatives and colleagues of Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, to whom I send my condolences.”
  • Russian troops have entered the outskirts of the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk. The regional governor, Serhiy Gaidai, has described the fighting as “very fierce”. Gaidai has also appeared on national television in Ukraine to say: “Unfortunately we have disappointing news, the enemy is moving into the city.”
  • Ukrainian soldiers captured by Russian forces after the three-month siege of the Azovstal steel plant may face the death penalty, AFP reports. At least 1,000 Ukrainian fighters, including members of the Azov battalion, were transferred to Russian-held territory more than a week ago.
  • The US president, Joe Biden, has said the US will not send Ukraine rocket systems that can reach into Russia. The comments followed reports that the Biden administration was preparing to send advanced long-range rocket systems to Kyiv.
  • Ukraine’s former president Petro Poroshenko, who faces treason charges, has been allowed to leave the country to attend a political meeting. Poroshenko, the owner of the Roshen confectionery empire and one of Ukraine’s richest businesspeople, is being investigated for his alleged involvement in financing of Russian-backed separatists in 2014-15.

Pjotr Sauer

Pjotr Sauer

Russia will cut off gas supplies to the Netherlands on Tuesday, the Dutch-backed trader GasTerra said on Monday after the company refused to pay supplier Gazprom in roubles, in the latest escalation of the energy payments row with the west.

Gazprom Export has demanded that European countries pay for Russian gas supplies in roubles because of sanctions imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Gazprom had already cut off gas to Finland, Poland and Bulgaria after they refused to comply with the new payment terms.

GasTerra, which buys and trades gas on behalf of the Dutch government, said in a statement that it had “anticipated” Russia’s moves to cut off gas and has bought “elsewhere” some of the 2 billion cubic metres of gas it had expected to receive from Gazprom through October.

Around 44% of Dutch energy usage is based on gas, but only about 15% of Dutch gas comes from Russia, according to government figures. The Dutch government earlier announced the country’s plans to stop using Russian fossil fuels by the end of the year.

European nations are divided over how to respond to Moscow’s demand that all payments for the gas should be made in the local currency. Germany and Italy have reportedly told their companies they could open rouble accounts to keep buying Russian gas without breaching sanctions.

EU leaders fail to agree on Russian oil ban

Despite last-minute negotiations between EU countries, leaders have failed to agree on a Russian oil import ban before the two-day summit gotunder way in Brussels, Reuters reports.

While the leaders of the 27 countries will agree in principle to an oil embargo, the details of their draft conclusions are yet to be decided.

Estonian prime minister Kaja Kallas said it was realistic to expect an agreement at the EU’s next summit on June 23-24, according to Reuters.

The draft text, seen by Reuters and which may be revised again, would include a ban on seaborne oil imports, with pipeline oil supplied to landlocked Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic to be sanctioned at some later point.

“There is no compromise for this moment at all,” said Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, whose country was blocking the latest European sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s war machine.

According to Reuters, Orbán later added that Hungary would be ready to back a deal if “there are solutions for the Hungarian energy supply security, we haven’t got that now”.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who proposed the latest package of sanctions at the start of May, said “we’re not there yet”.

Latvia prime minister Krisjanis Karins said:

We’re getting a little bogged down in all of the details and we’re forgetting the big picture. It’s only money. The Ukrainians are paying with their lives.

The rest of the draft sanctions comprising the EU’s sixth package includes EU loans worth 9bn euros (or £7.67bn), an international fund to rebuild Ukraine after the war, and work to help Ukraine move its grain out of the country and ways to curb rising energy prices.

Read more from my colleague Jennifer Rankin:

Russia to stop gas supplies to Netherlands

Russia will stop supplying gas to the Netherlands as of tomorrow after the government-backed trader GasTerra refused to pay supplier Gazprom in roubles, the Guardian’s Pjotr Sauer reports.

Russia will stop supplying gas to the Netherlands as of tomorrow after the government-backed trader GasTerra refused to pay supplier Gazprom in roubles. About 15% of Dutch gas comes from Russiahttps://t.co/1HfqvTiAZc

— Pjotr Sauer (@PjotrSauer) May 30, 2022

More to come…

Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff named as French journalist killed in Ukraine

Earlier, we reported on a French journalist killed after an evacuation car was hit near Sievierodonetsk.

On Twitter, French president Emmanuel Macron said:

Journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff was in Ukraine to show the reality of the war. On board a humanitarian bus, alongside civilians forced to flee to escape Russian bombs, he was fatally shot.

Macron added: “I share the pain of the family, relatives and colleagues of Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, to whom I send my condolences.”

The newspaper Le Parisien said Leclerc-Imhoff was 32 years old and had worked for the news channel BFMTV for six years.

This morning we reported on two civilian deaths and five civilians wounded by shelling as Russian troops entered the outskirts of the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk.

The news of Leclerc-Imhoff’s death comes as France’s new foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, visits Ukraine. On Monday she called for an investigation into his death, Reuters reports.

France demands that a probe is carried out as soon as possible and in transparency on the circumstances of this drama.

In a phone call with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, on Monday, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said the country was ready to take on a role in an “observation mechanism” between Russia, Ukraine and the United Nations.

Erdoğan said peace needed to be established as soon as possible and that confidence-building steps needed to be taken, Reuters reports.

Ukrainian soldiers captured by Russian forces after the three-month siege of the Azovstal steel plant may face the death penalty, AFP reports a a pro-Moscow separatist official saying on Monday.

At least 1,000 Ukrainian fighters, including members of the Azov battalion, were transferred to Russian-held territory more than a week ago after the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol was taken by Russian forces.

The Azov battalion has played a central role in Russia’s justification for its invasion, which was originally launched with the supposed goal of “denazification”. Officials in Kyiv have suggested they could be swapped in a prisoner exchange, but some Russian officials have called for them to face trial or even execution on “terrorism” charges.

“The court will make a decision about them,” said Yuri Sirovatko, the justice minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic in eastern Ukraine, according to AFP. He said:

For such crimes we have the highest form of punishment in the DNR – the death penalty. All the prisoners of war are on the territory of the DNR.

A view shows destroyed facilities of Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol
A view shows destroyed facilities of Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol
Photograph: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters

Sirovatko added there were about 2,300 soldiers from the Azovstal steel plant among them, reports AFP.

The news comes a week after the Guardian reported captured Ukrainian soldiers were being held in “satisfactory” conditions, according to a unit commander’s wife. It was not immediately clear if Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov battalion, had been able to speak freely during their brief call.

If you wanted evidence that finding an EU-wide agreement on a next set of sanctions against Russia was not going to be easy, then the differing lines coming from different leaders in Brussels is all you need to hear.

“We will always find a compromise. There are still talks going on. As long as there are talks, I am hopeful,” Luxembourg’s prime minister, Xavier Bettel, said as he was going into their meeting this afternoon.

However, Reuters reports less encouraging words from Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orbán. He told reporters that Hungary also needed guarantees that it could purchase oil by sea if Russian oil shipments stopped coming via the Druzhba pipeline.

“What is a problem for us, and why we have to fight today, is that if something happens to the Russian oil coming by pipeline … if there is no oil coming, then we should have the right for purchases by sea,” Orbán said. “This is the guarantee we need.”

Biden says US will not send Ukraine weapons systems that can reach into Russia

The US president, Joe Biden, has said the United States will not send Ukraine rocket systems that can reach into Russia, Reuters reports. The comments followed reports that the Biden administration was preparing to send advanced long-range rocket systems to Kyiv.

The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said he expected the European Union to reach consensus on an oil embargo against Russia but did not give a time frame for when it may happen.

“Everything I hear sounds like there could be a consensus – and sooner or later there will be,” he told reporters as he arrived for an EU summit in Brussels, according to Reuters.

A quick snap from Reuters here that the Danish energy agency has said a cut-off of Russian gas to Denmark would not have any immediate impact on supply in the country. Energy firm Ørsted has warned that Gazprom could halt supply.

Here are some of the latest images from the EU summit, as protesters gather outside of the European Council’s headquarters Monday morning, pleading for a full embargo on Russian oil.

Protest demanding to boycott Russian oil ahead of EU summit in Brussels
Protest demanding to boycott Russian oil ahead of EU summit in Brussels
Photograph: Stéphanie Lecocq/EPA
Protest demanding to boycott Russian oil ahead of EU summit in Brussels
Protest demanding to boycott Russian oil ahead of EU summit in Brussels Photograph: Stéphanie Lecocq/EPA
Protest demanding to boycott Russian oil ahead of EU summit in Brussels
Protest demanding to boycott Russian oil ahead of EU summit in Brussels Photograph: Stéphanie Lecocq/EPA
Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for the first day of a special meeting of the European Council at The European Council Building in Brussels
Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrives for the first day of a special meeting of the European Council at The European Council Building in Brussels Photograph: John Thys/AFP/Getty Images



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