US President Joe Biden announced a $2.98 billion weapons and equipment package for Ukraine on the six-month anniversary of Russia’s invasion, the biggest tranche of American security assistance to date.
The announcement came as Ukraine celebrates the anniversary of its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. US diplomats have warned that Russia is preparing to intensify attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure and government facilities, while President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said the Kremlin may attempt a “particularly cruel” attack.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Kremlin forces have deliberately slowed their offensive to limit civilian casualties. Meanwhile, police detained the former mayor of Yekaterinburg on charges of “discrediting” Russia’s army after he’d criticized the war, state-run Tass news service reported.
Russia shelled Kharkiv in the country’s north and Zaporizhzhia in the south overnight, according to RBC-Ukraine, while Zelenskiy warned that “brutal strikes” are possible on Independence Day. The Ukrainian army said Russian forces struck towns and made several unsuccessful assaults in the eastern Donetsk region. The UK Defence Ministry said the Kremlin’s Donbas offensive is making little progress and that Russia is suffering from shortages of munitions, vehicles and personnel.
Russia Seen Floating Oil Discounts Amid Price-Cap Push (1:49 p.m.)
Russia has approached several Asian countries to discuss possible long-term oil contracts at steep discounts as US officials continue to push a plan that would cap the price of the country’s oil, according to a Western official.
The tentative conversations to offer some Asian buyers discounts of up to 30% may be a sign that Russia is trying to head off discussions by Group of Seven nations about carving out an exception for pending European Union sanctions on Russian oil, said the official, who asked for anonymity to discuss sensitive talks. That plan would allow third parties to more easily purchase Russian crude oil at a low price set by Western nations.
Biden Announces $3 Billion Package on Independence Day (1:32 p.m.)
The White House said the latest package will allow Ukraine to purchase air-defense and artillery systems, as well as munitions, anti-drone systems and radars, over the long term.
“I know this independence day is bittersweet for many Ukrainians as thousands have been killed or wounded, millions have been displaced from their homes, and so many others have fallen victim to Russian atrocities and attacks,” Biden said in a statement. “But six months of relentless attacks have only strengthened Ukrainians’ pride in themselves, in their country, and in their thirty-one years of independence.”
Europe Natural Gas Jumps as Outages Compound Supply Risk (1:28 p.m.)
European natural gas prices increased, with outages in Norway and the US adding to supply curbs from Russia, further tightening the market.
Benchmark futures jumped as much as 7.4%. Prices are about 14 times higher the five-year seasonal average as a historic energy crisis destabilizes European economies, heaping pressure on politicians to blunt the impact of the worst inflation in decades.
Portugal’s Foreign Minister Visits Kyiv (12:10 p.m.)
Portuguese Foreign Minister Joao Cravinho visited Kyiv to commemorate Ukraine’s Independence Day and offer political, military and financial support, he said on Twitter.
Russia Eyes Yuan Bonds Amid Plans to Resume Debt Sales (11:20 a.m.)
Russia will resurrect local bond sales as soon as next month and it wants yuan-denominated debt to eventually play a role as it retools its sanctions-hit markets with a view to its ally, China.
Sales of ruble bonds, known as OFZs, could resume with small offerings in the second half of September after a six-month hiatus, according to a person familiar with the matter. At the same time, a plan to debut Chinese currency notes locally is being dusted off after sanctions shut Russia out of its traditional markets in the US and Europe, the person said.
The government froze weekly auctions in early February, just two weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, fulfilling less than a fifth of its first-quarter borrowing plan.
Russia Detains Anti-War Opposition Leader (10:05 a.m.)
Police detained the former mayor of Yekaterinburg, Yevgeny Roizman, on charges of “discrediting” Russia’s army, state-run Tass news service reported. Roizman, who’s already been fined three times for criticizing the invasion under the country’s “fake news” law, was one of the last prominent opposition activists remaining in Russia not in detention as part of a sweeping Kremlin crackdown on dissent.
Video posted on social media showed masked officers swooping on his apartment and leading Roizman away. He’s heard telling a journalist that he was being detained for “one phrase – the invasion of Ukraine.” Roizman, a Putin critic who was mayor of Russia’s fourth-largest city from 2013 to 2018, faces as many as five years in prison if convicted.
Shoigu Says Russia Deliberately Slowed Offensive (9:30 a.m.)
Russia has slowed the pace of its offensive in Ukraine intentionally in order to minimize civilian casualties, Shoigu said at a meeting of defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.