Latest news from Russia and the war in Ukraine

EU consumers should prepare to use ‘less heat’ in winter when gas rationing kicks in, official says

With EU countries agreeing on Tuesday to cut their gas use by 15% over the winter months in order to mitigate the impact of lower supplies from Russia, how and where each member state will make those reductions — which will be voluntary unless there is a supply emergency — will be closely followed.

“Member states are best placed to decide where they will cut the gas for this winter,” European Commissioner for Energy Kadri Simson told CNBC on Wednesday.

Aman Sharma | Getty Images

While it is voluntary, Simson added, member states can ask various sectors as well as household consumers to reduce their gas use, unless there is an emergency in which households would be protected consumers, she noted.

Nonetheless, she said, consumers could do their bit by keeping their air conditioning use to a minimum in summer and, in winter, by consuming “less heat.”

The EU’s decision to curb its gas use comes after years of reliance on Russia for around 45% of its gas supplies. With the ongoing war in Ukraine, the bloc has looked to end that awkward energy dependence.

A transition to alternative energy supplies is likely to take some time, however, and in the meantime, Russia has reduced its flows to Europe via its Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

It has insinuated that flows could resume as before if sanctions against it are relaxed which, it claims, would allow it to maintain the pipeline and its components. That’s widely seen by the West as a ploy to get sanctions relief.

Holly Ellyatt

Grain exports from Ukraine could begin in a few days, officials say

The first grain exports to leave Ukraine in months are reportedly imminent under a new deal between Russia and Ukraine — and brokered by Turkey and the U.N.

An unnamed senior Turkish official told Reuters today that the first ship is likely to depart Ukraine’s Black Sea ports in a few days.

“It will not take more than a few days. It looks like the first grains will be loaded this week and its export from Ukraine will take place,” said the official.

A farm implement harvests grain in the field, as Russian-Ukrainian war continues in Odesa, Ukraine on July 04, 2022.

Metin Aktas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The deal reached last Friday saw both Russia and Ukraine agree to the setting up of a joint coordination center in Istanbul that will oversee departures of ships carrying produce from several Ukrainian ports. The ships will be guided through mined waters in the Black Sea and will then pass through Turkish waters. The deal threatened when Russian shelled the port of Odesa last Saturday but has held.

Both Russia and Ukraine are major global exporters of grain, cooking oil and fertilizer and global prices have risen since a blockade prevented the export of these goods from Ukraine.

Separately, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko reportedly said Wednesday that grain shipments from Ukraine would start soon.

“Judging by what our Turkish colleagues say, on whose territory the coordination center is located, they expect that these deliveries, at least from Ukraine, will begin in the near future,” he told reporters on Wednesday, answering a question from Russian news agency Interfax.

Responding to a clarifying question about whether we are talking about days or weeks, Rudenko said: “I refer to them [Turkey]. This is not our information.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Kremlin claims Russia is supplying Europe with as much gas as possible

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov at an event during Russia’s Victory Day commemorations in Moscow on May 9, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

President Putin’s spokesman has said that state gas firm Gazprom is supplying as much gas as possible to Europe and that it’s wrong to assume a cut in supplies is linked to the EU’s sanctions regime on Moscow.

“This is a completely wrong link,” Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said in comments reported by news agency Tass, having been asked to respond to suggestions that Russia will keep gas supplies to Europe at a minimum until the EU lifts sanctions.

Gazprom “supplies as much as necessary and as much as possible,” Peskov said, just hours after Gazprom gas flows to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline fell to just 20% of the pipeline’s capacity. Gazprom has said that the cut in supply is due to a turbine on the pipeline needing maintenance work, a claim rebuffed by Western officials.

Russia has been angling for sanctions relief which it says will help it maintain and run the pipeline’s full capacity as before, while critics say it’s a basic ploy to circumvent EU penalties.

“We know that now the technical capabilities for pumping have become smaller, they have narrowed, because the process of maintaining various units is extremely for those restrictions and sanctions that Europe has introduced, namely the European Union,” Peskov said Wednesday. 

“These sanctions do not make it possible to promptly perform maintenance, change spare parts, perform major repairs and other routine maintenance on the equipment necessary for pumping,” Peskov said.

Holly Ellyatt

Hotel shelling in Bakhmut leaves at least one person dead and others injured

Ukrainian firefighters arrive in front of a burning house hit by a shell in the outskirts of Bakhmut, Eastern Ukraine, on July 27, 2022 amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Bulent Kilic | AFP | Getty Images

A hotel has been shelled in the Donetsk town of Bakhmut, leaving one person dead and others injured.

The two-storey building was partially destroyed in the strike which took place at 7am local time this morning, Donetsk’s emergency services said on Facebook.

“At 9:25 am during search and rescue operations, a rescuer rescued a man from the rubble, who was hospitalized in a medical facility. In general, since the beginning of the works, the body of 1 dead person was found at the scene, and 4 people were injured. Acoustic contact is maintained separately with one injured person, the body of the other dead person is visible. Work on the demolition of debris continues.”

TOPSHOT – A municipal worker cuts sidewalks trees past a burning house hit by a shell in the outskirts of Bakhmut, Eastern Ukraine, on July 27, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Bulent Kilic | AFP | Getty Images

Earlier on Wednesday, the head of Donetsk’s regional military administration Pavlo Kyrylenko said in an operational update that Russian forces had targeted a hotel and that there were dead and wounded, and a rescue operation was underway. CNBC was unable to immediately verify the reports.

Bakhmut is a key target for Russian forces trying to advance into Donetsk, a part of the Donbas in eastern Ukraine. The nearby cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk and surrounding villages have also come under heavy fire.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine confirms strikes on vital Kherson bridge, Russia tries to downplay it

Ukraine confirmed it attacked the Antonivka Road Bridge, also known as Antonovsky Bridge, which is a key supply route for Russian forces in the occupied city of Kherson.

The strikes on the bridge, reported overnight, were confirmed by Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for the southern command of Ukraine’s Armed Forces on Wednesday, who said it was vital for Ukraine to regain control of transport routes seized by Russia.

“This doesn’t allow them to maneuver or bring in more personnel or ammunition,” she said, according to a translation by NBC, and she hinted that the strikes to the bridge were not aimed at destroying it completely but making it unusable.

“I also want to stress that we value all of our infrastructure even when it’s under occupation. We ruin not the infrastructure itself, but the enemies plan. Our artillery’s work is aimed at demoralizing the enemy. There were hits on the bridge, but they were sophisticated,” she said.

Ukraine’s armed forces posted a video on social messaging site Telegram last night purportedly showing several missiles striking the bridge which is seen as a vital supply route for Russian forces in the city, and used to keep them stocked with ammunition and other heavy weaponry and equipment. Ukraine has previously attacked the bridge, as seen in this image below.

A picture taken on July 21, 2022 shows a car moving past a crater on Kherson’s Antonovsky bridge across the Dnipro river caused by a Ukrainian rocket strike, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine.

Stringer | AFP | Getty Images

Russian media also reported Wednesday that the Antonoskyy Bridge had been damaged as a result of an Ukrainian attack, but tried to downplay the significance.

“There are hits on the bridge, the bridge has not been destroyed. More holes have been added,” news agency Tass quoted the deputy head of the Russian-installed military-civilian administration of the Kherson region, Kirill Stremousov, as saying.

“At the moment, the bridge is completely closed to traffic,” he added, reportedly telling Tass that the strikes were carried out by Ukraine’s U.S.-supplied HIMARS light multiple rocket launchers.

The Russian-installed official claimed the damage to the bridge had “affected only civilian infrastructure and created inconvenience for residents of the Kherson region” and said “the attack on the bridge does not affect the situation in the Kherson region.” Repair of the bridge will begin soon, he added.

Holly Ellyatt

Nord Stream 1 gas flows fall to 20% of capacity, as expected

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline, through which Russian natural gas has been flowing to Germany since 2011.

Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 from Russia to Germany fell to 20% of the pipeline’s capacity on Wednesday, as Gazprom had previously forewarned.

Gas grid operator Gascade said that 1.28 million cubic meters per hour, or about 20% of Nord Stream’s maximum capacity, has been transported via Nord Stream 1 in accordance with nominations since 8 a.m. local time, Reuters reported Wednesday morning.

The supply cut has come into force just two days after the pipeline’s majority owner Gazprom said it would cut supplies via the route — which was already operating at greatly reduced capacity, and had just reopened last week after 10 days of annual maintenance — saying it had further maintenance to do on a turbine.

The decline in flows is causing concern in Europe, and particularly Germany, which still relies heavily on Russian gas while it scrambles to reduce its dependence on such supplies due to the war in Ukraine.

EU countries agreed Tuesday to lower their respective gas use by 15% from August to March as fears set in over the winter outlook. The agreement foresees EU states making voluntary cuts to their own gas demands but could become compulsory if the energy rationing is not properly implemented.

— Holly Ellyatt

Yellen discusses price cap on Russian oil with UK’s Nadhim Zahawi

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen speaks during a press conference in Bali on July 14, 2022. U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen highlighted a proposed price cap on Russian oil on a call with British Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi on Tuesday, the U.S. Treasury Department announced in a press release published on the same day. The proposed price cap aims to alleviate the impact of Putin’s war on global energy prices and curtail Russia’s war revenue.

Sonny Tumbelaka | Afp | Getty Images

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen discussed a proposed price cap on Russian oil with U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi, according to readout from the Treasury.

Yellen has previously said a limit on Russian oil prices would “deny Putin revenue his war machine needs.”

The two also discussed U.S. and U.K. support for Ukraine as well as “opportunities to build on the historic sanctions imposed on Russia,” according to the Treasury readout.

— Natalie Tham

Ukraine reportedly shells bridge supply route into occupied Kherson

Ukraine’s armed forces have reportedly shelled the Antonovskyy Bridge that leads into Russian-occupied Kherson in southern Ukraine.

The armed forces posted a video on social messaging site Telegram last night purportedly showing several missiles striking the bridge which was occupied early on in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The reports have not been able to be independently confirmed by CNBC.

The bridge is seen as a vital supply route for Russian forces in the city used to keep them stocked with ammunition and other heavy weaponry and equipment. It’s not the first time the bridge has come under attack as Ukraine attempts to recapture the city.

Last week Ukrainian shelling left the bridge partially damaged and some reports suggest it could have been destroyed last night but that has not been confirmed, and the state of the bridge is unknown.

— Holly Ellyatt

Zelenskyy says Russia is using gas prices to terrorize Europe

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends the NATO summit via video link, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine June 29, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia is using gas prices to terrorize Europe.

“Among other things the engineered increase in gas prices to above $2000 for 1,000 cubic meters on European markets, is enough of an experience to broaden sanctions against Russia,” Zelenskyy said during a nightly address.

“As it is clear to everyone that this is intended Russian price terror against Europeans. Using Gazprom, Moscow is doing all it can to make this coming winter as harsh as possible for the European countries. Terror must be answered, impose sanctions,” he added.

— Amanda Macias

U.S. Defense Secretary Austin speaks with Ukrainian counterpart about more military aid

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks at a news briefing at the Pentagon on July 20, 2022 in Arlington, Virginia.

Anna Moneymaker | Getty Images

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Ukrainian counterpart and gave an update on the latest U.S. military aid package.

Austin reassured Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov that the United States is moving as quickly as possible to deliver equipment to Ukraine. Reznikov also updated Austin on the situation on the battlefield.

The latest security package will include additional High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS. The HIMARS, manufactured by defense giant Lockheed Martin, are designed to shoot a variety of missiles from a mobile 5-ton truck.

— Amanda Macias

Deputy U.S. Treasury secretary meets French counterparts to discuss more sanctions against Russia

Wally Adeyemo, deputy U.S. Treasury secretary, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

Ting Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo met with government counterparts in Paris this week to discuss additional sanctions imposed on Russia for its war in Ukraine.

Adeyemo also spoke with the executive director of the International Energy Agency about a price cap on Russian oil and other ways of restricting revenue to fund Russia’s military.

“In addition, Deputy Secretary Adeyemo met with financial services executives as well as economists and scholars to analyze the economic outlook in the United States, France, Europe, and globally, and the impact of Russia’s illegal war, particularly on global energy prices and food insecurity,” according to a readout from the Department of Treasury.

In the months since Russia invaded its ex-Soviet neighbor, Washington and its allies have imposed rounds of coordinated sanctions that vaulted Russia past Iran and North Korea as the world’s most-sanctioned country.

— Amanda Macias

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