The United States has declared an “economic war” on Russia, the Kremlin said Wednesday.
Yesterday, President Joe Biden announced his administration was banning Russian oil, natural gas and coal imports to the US in order to target “the main artery” of the Russian economy.
The United States has undoubtedly declared an economic war on Russia and they are waging this war. This is de facto true,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on a regular conference call.
When asked what his country needed to do in order to prevail in this economic environment, Peskov said that Russia would “do what is best for our interests.”
The West have slapped an array of economic sanctions on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine last month, the European Union continuing the trend today with a fourth round of sanctions.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas has appealed to the people of neighboring Russia to make it clear the European Union is not acting against them, but against President Vladimir Putin following his invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking to lawmakers at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday, Kallas stressed that current sanctions are “intended to isolate President Putin and his government which is conducting a brutal war against Ukraine.”
But she also cautioned the Russian people that the consequences of sanctions implemented against Moscow since the invasion will get much worse, warning that Putin is an “autocrat” who “does not care for the people” and “only cares for his power […] that is something that is so hard to understand in a democratic world.”
Kallas, reflecting on her childhood growing up in Soviet-era Estonia, said: “Your government is already instituting practices that are familiar to me.
“Like censorship, like threatening journalists with a 15-year prison sentence for speaking about the war, like rationing for foodstuffs, like asking teachers to report on the political sympathies of their pupils and their parents.”
Kallas said Putin’s actions have left ordinary Russians living in an “isolated infospace” and without access to the truth. The task of the European Union is to “break the wall of lies,” she said.
“It is a complicated task. We need to mobilize our technological potential to win the war for truth,” said Kallas, warning that “we are in this for the long haul. We will have to exercise strategic patience because peace is not going to break out tomorrow.”
After Ukraine and Russia agreed on several evacuation corridors Wednesday for the evacuation of civilians, there was limited progress in moving people from the worst-affected areas.
Heavy weapons fire appears to have disrupted some routes.
In Kyiv, evacuations are planned from five districts hit hard by fighting in the last week: Vorzel, Borodyanka, Hostomel, Irpin and Bucha.
The regional military administration said for the Kyiv region said that “departure is provided by police, representatives of the International Red Cross and the regional military administration.”
But several hours after the evacuation was due to begin, there was no sign of people being brought out of the affected areas in the bus convoys that had been organized.
There appeared to be greater progress in organizing buses to get people out of the central city of Enerhodar.
But in the east, Oleh Syniehubov, head of Kharkiv region administration, said that it was impossible to evacuate civilians from the town of Izyum “as we constantly hear explosions.”
“Buses are still being held at the entrance to Izium,” Syniehubov said.
During an attempted evacuation from Demidova — a town north of Kyiv that was not among the agreed corridors — one police officer was killed and two more people seriously injured during an attempted evacuation of civilians, according to regional authorities.
The European Union has approved a fourth round of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine that includes another 160 oligarchs, Russian politicians and three Belarusian banks, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said Wednesday.
“We are further tightening the net of sanctions responding to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine,” von der Leyen said on Twitter.
The French Presidency for the Council of the European Union also said on Twitter that EU ambassadors had approved “new sanctions aimed at leaders and Russian oligarchs and members of their families implicated in the Russian aggression against Ukraine.”
“In particular the approved targeted measures exclude three Belarusian banks from the SWIFT system. They clarify the issue of cryptocurrencies and add to the list of goods and materials that cannot be exported,” the French presidency continued.
Further details will be set out in the Official Journal of the European Union later Wednesday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that the threat to his country is “at maximum level” but affirmed the scale of its response is also at its highest.
As the war hits the two-week mark and millions of civilians flee the country, Zelensky said that the Ukrainian army would be recharged by weapons and supplies taken from Russians in combat.
“Our military have managed to replenish the ammunition arsenal with many trophies taken in battlefield. The enemy’s tanks, armored vehicles and ammunition will work for our defense, our life, our country. What can be more humiliating for the occupants? We will fight the enemy with their own weapons, in addition to ours,” Zelensky said.
Zelensky also made an appeal to Russian soldiers, speaking in Russian: “Leave.”
Why are you here? You can save yourselves if you just leave. You take our lives, and leave yours. Let’s end this war, and get back to peace,” he said.
“Close the skies”: Zelensky repeated his global call to “send us the planes” in order to avoid “a massive humanitarian catastrophe.”
The Pentagon dismissed Poland’s proposal to transfer their Mig-29 fighter jets to the United States for delivery to Ukraine as not “tenable.”
Ukraine has been saying this to its partners from the first day of the war: If you don’t close the skies, you will also be responsible for this catastrophe, a massive humanitarian catastrophe,” Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian President cited Russia’s use of rockets and helicopters against civilians, cities and infrastructure.
The US has agreed to send two Patriot missile batteries to Poland as a “defensive deployment,” a spokesman for US European Command said Tuesday, but this is strictly to counter any potential threat to US and NATO allies and will not support “offensive operations.”
Zelensky added: “Listen, we are at war. We have no time for this media, for the signals … this is not a game of ping pong. This is about human life. We ask once again: make your decision quickly. Don’t transfer responsibility to one another. Send us the planes.”
Heineken will stop producing and selling beer in Russia.
The brewer announced Wednesday that it would “take immediate steps to ring-fence” its Russian business, “to stop the flow of monies, royalties and dividends” out of the country.
The beverage giant, which sells into more than 190 countries, had already announced a suspension on new investments and exports to Russia.
“We are assessing the strategic options for the future of our Russian operations,” it said in a statement. “We see a clear distinction between the actions of the government and our employees.”
Mothercare is also suspending business in Russia and stopping shipments there.
“Our local partner has confirmed that it will be immediately pausing operations in some 120 stores and online,” it said Wednesday.
Russia accounts for around 20% to 25% of sales for the retailer, which specializes in goods for parents and babies.
US Vice President Kamala Harris will discuss the thorny issue of delivering Soviet-era jets to Ukraine when she visits Poland this week, senior administration officials said ahead of her departure.
Harris’s visit was complicated when Poland issued a surprise statement saying it would hand over its MiG fighter jets to the United States instead of giving them directly to Ukraine, an idea that was roundly rejected by Washington.
“There are a lot of ideas on the table. As you’ve seen from the Pentagon statement, it is our judgment that this one is not a tenable one, but we want and certainly are encouraging all allies to bring ideas forward. And for us to stay in very close coordination across the board,” a senior administration official said.
The official said Harris would engage Polish leaders — including the President and Prime Minister — on the issue when she meets them Thursday in Warsaw.
“We have been in dialogue with the Poles for some time about how best to provide variety of security assistance to Ukraine. And that’s a dialogue that absolutely will continue up to and as part of the Vice President’s trip,” the official said.
“This is a key priority for us and for all of our NATO allies. And so we expect that we will continue talking about how to achieve this really important objective. A number of people have had a variety of ideas and we think all of them are worth discussing and that’s what we’re going to continue doing.”
Harris is traveling to Poland and Romania at a critical juncture for Europe and for the Biden administration.
“The past couple of months have all been very much focused on what has tragically become a defining issue for the entire administration,” a second senior administration official said.
Harris, for her part, has “really been immersed in this issue,” the first official said, “working intensively on a daily basis on all of the issues that are related to the ongoing crisis resulting from the Russian invasion.”
Also on the agenda: In Warsaw, Harris will also meet with refugees who have fled violence in Ukraine, as well as American diplomats who relocated to Poland from the US Embassy in Kyiv, which was closed.
She’ll also meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is visiting at the same time, and will speak to US and Polish troops on Friday.
The US has moved nearly 5,000 additional troops to Poland in a show of reassurance amid Russia’s aggression.
From Poland, Harris travels to Romania, where she’ll meet the country’s president and staff at the US embassy.
The officials said Harris arrived in Europe with a three-part message: that the US stands by its NATO allies, that it will continue to support the Ukrainian people, and that Putin has made a mistake that will result in “resounding defeat” for Russia.
The Ukrainian government will ban exports on key agricultural goods including wheat, corn, grains, salt, and meat, according to a cabinet resolution that passed Tuesday.
According to the resolution it is now “forbidden” to export oats, millet, buckwheat, sugar, salt, wheat, meat, as well as cattle and its by-products from Ukraine.
��This means a de facto export ban,” the cabinet statement read.
Ukraine’s Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Roman Leshchenko said the steps had been taken “to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Ukraine” and “meet the needs of the population in critical food products.”
Ukraine is one of Europe’s largest suppliers of agricultural produce, per data from the European Commission.
Combined, Russia and Ukraine are responsible for almost 30% of global wheat exports, according to Gro Intelligence, an agricultural data analytics firm.
Some context: Wheat prices spiked in the wake of Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, reaching prices not seen since 2008.
Ukraine had been on track for a record year of wheat exports prior to the invasion, while Russia’s wheat exports were slowing, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
The mayor of Enerhodar, which was recently attacked by Russian forces, has welcomed the announcement of an evacuation corridor to and from the town.
Enerhodar is the site of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which is held by the Russian troops since they captured the facility late last week. Fierce fighting during that attack drew international condemnation and sparked fears of a potential nuclear incident.
Insulin, some medicines and food will be delivered to Enerhodar,” Mayor Dmytro Orlov said Wednesday.
Orlov urged women and children to join the convoy and leave.
The pace of evacuation from the nearby city of Zaporizhzhia has escalated since the plant’s capture, yet millions of civilians remain trapped in grim conditions across Ukraine.
The Ukrainian military has agreed to a 12-hour ceasefire with Russia on Wednesday to allow civilians to escape through evacuation corridors, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said earlier.
Read more on the nuclear power plant here: