Railway cars, stamped “Cereale” on their sides, spilled Ukrainian corn onto underground conveyor belts, sending up billowing dust clouds last week at the terminal operated by the American food giant Cargill. At a quay operated by COFCO, the largest food and agricultural processor in China, grain was being loaded onto a cargo ship from one of the enormous silos that lined its docks. At COFCO’s entry gate, trucks that displayed Ukraine’s distinctive blue-and-yellow-striped flag on their license plates waited for their cargoes of grain to be inspected before unloading.

During a visit to Kyiv last week, Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, said that since the beginning of the invasion more than a million tons of Ukrainian grain had passed through Constanta to locations around the world.

But logistical problems prevent more grain from making the journey. Ukraine’s rail gauges are wider than those elsewhere in Europe. Shipments have to be transferred at the border to Romanian trains, or each railway car has to be lifted off a Ukrainian undercarriage and wheels to one that can be used on Romanian tracks.

Truck traffic in Ukraine has been slowed by backups at border crossings — sometimes lasting days — along with gas shortages and damaged roadways. Russia has targeted export routes, according to Britain’s defense ministry.

Romania has its own transit issues. High-speed rail is rare, and the country lacks an extensive highway system. Constanta and the surrounding infrastructure, too, suffer from decades of underinvestment.

Over the past couple of months, the Romanian government has plowed money into clearing hundreds of rusted wagons from rail lines and refurbishing tracks that were abandoned when the Communist regime fell in 1989.

Still, trucks entering and exiting the port from the highway must share a single-lane roadway. An attendant mans the gate, which has to be lifted for each vehicle.

When the bulk of the Romanian harvest begins to arrive at the terminals in the next couple of weeks, the congestion will get significantly worse. Each day, 3,000 to 5,000 trucks will arrive, causing backups for miles on the highway that leads into Constanta, said Cristian Taranu, general manager at the terminals run by the Romanian port operator Umex.

Mr. Mircea’s farm is less than a 30-minute drive from Constanta. But “during the busiest periods, my trucks are waiting two, three days” just to enter the port’s complex so they can unload, he said through a translator.

That is one reason he is less sanguine than Mr. Corbea is about Romania’s ability to take advantage of farming and export opportunities.

“Port Constanta is not prepared for such an opportunity,” Mr. Mircea said. “They don’t have the infrastructure.”

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Live Updates: Ukrainian Holdouts in Mariupol Surrender to an Uncertain Fate

BUCHA, Ukraine — A breeze rustles through the cherry blossoms in bloom on almost every block in this small city, the white petals fluttering onto streets where new pavement covers damage left by Russian tanks just weeks ago.

Spring has arrived in Bucha in the six weeks since Russian soldiers withdrew from this bedroom community outside Kyiv, leaving behind mass graves of slaughtered citizens, many of them mutilated, as well as broken streets and destroyed buildings.

A semblance of normal life has returned to the city. Residents have been coming back to Bucha over the past few weeks, and the city has raced to repair the physical damage wrought by the invading Russian troops and their weapons. Now, on the leafy springtime streets of the city, it is hard to imagine the horrors that unfolded here.

On a newly paved street with freshly painted white lines, the rotating brushes of a street cleaning machine whisked away what was left of shattered glass and bits of iron shrapnel. In one of the neighborhoods where many of the roughly 400 bodies of Ukrainian citizens were discovered in April, technicians were laying cable to restore internet service. At one house, a resident was removing pieces of destroyed Russian tanks still littering his garden.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Sweeping away as many traces as possible of the destruction caused by the Russian occupation was an important step in healing the wounds suffered by Bucha’s residents, said Taras Shapravsky, a City Council official.

Mr. Shapravsky said 4,000 residents had stayed in the city while it was occupied, terrified and many hiding in basements without enough food. Even after the Russian soldiers withdrew, many residents remained traumatized.

“They were in very bad psychological condition,” he said. “Specialists explained to us that the faster we clear away all possible reminders of the war, the faster we will be able to take people out of this condition.”

Mr. Shapravsky said phone reception was restored a few days after the Russians left, and then water and electricity. He said about 10,000 residents had returned so far — roughly a quarter of the prewar population of this small city 20 miles from Kyiv, the capital.

In a sign of life returning to normal, he said the marriage registration office reopened last week and almost every day, couples are applying for marriage licenses.

Bucha was a city where many people moved to for quieter lifestyles, a place where they could raise families away from the bustle of the capital, to which many commuted to work. It was a place where people from Kyiv might drive to on a nice weekend to have lunch.

Six years ago, Sergo Markaryan and his wife opened the Jam Cafe, where they served Italian food, played old jazz and sold jars of jam. He described the cafe as almost like their child, and he has decorated it with an eclectic mix of hundreds of pictures and strings of photos of customers.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

When Russia invaded, Mr. Markaryan, 38, drove his wife and 3-year-old son to the border with Georgia, where he is from. As a Georgian citizen he could have stayed outside the country, but he came back to Ukraine to volunteer, sending food to the front lines.

Two weeks ago, when the electricity was restored, Mr. Markaryan came back on his own to Bucha to see what was left of the cafe and repair the damage caused by the Russian soldiers.

“They stole the knives and forks,” he said, ticking off missing items. He said the soldiers dragged the dining chairs out to use at checkpoints and stole the sound system. And, he said, despite the working toilets, they had defecated on the floor before leaving.

Two days before it was due to reopen last week, the cafe and its outdoor terrace looked spotless and Mr. Markaryan was taste-testing the espresso to see if it was up to par.

“Many people have already returned but some are still afraid,” Mr. Markaryan said. “But we have all definitely become much stronger than we were. We faced things that we never thought could happen.”

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

On the other side of town, in a row of closed shops with peaked roofs and boarded-up windows, Mr. B — a former cocktail bar run by Borys Tkachenko has been patched up and turned into a coffee bar.

Mr. Tkachenko, 27, came back to Bucha a month ago, repaired the roof, which like most of the buildings on the street appeared to have been damaged by shrapnel, and found that the espresso machine was still there. He reopened to sell coffee — or in the case of customers who were soldiers or medical workers, give it away.

Mr. Tkachenko, who had worked in clubs in Florida and Canada and studied the hotel business in Switzerland, opened the bar with his savings last December. Russia invaded two months later.

He said he knew they had to leave when his 14-month-old daughter started running around their apartment, covering her ears and saying “boom, boom, boom” at the sound of explosions.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Mr. Tkachenko drove his family to the border with Slovakia, where they eventually made their way to Switzerland. He returned to Ukraine to volunteer, helping to send supplies to the front and to displaced civilians.

“We had big plans for this place,” Mr. Tkachenko, who despite everything had a wide smile that matched a tattoo on his arm reading, “Born to be happy,” said of his bar.

He said that when the war ended he would probably join his wife and daughter in Switzerland.

“I don’t see a future here right now,” he said.

While the frenetic activity of city workers and residents has helped clear the city of much of the debris of the Russian occupation, the scars of what happened here run deep.

On one quiet street corner, a bunch of dandelions and lilies of the valley had been laid out on a flowered scarf in a modest sidewalk memorial.

Volodymyr Abramov, 39, said the memorial honored his brother-in-law, Oleh Abramov, who was taken out of his house at gunpoint by Russian soldiers, ordered to kneel and shot. (Oleh Abramov and his wife, Iryna, were the subject of a Times article published this month.)

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

“He was not even interrogated,” he said.

Mr. Abramov’s home was destroyed by Russian soldiers who tossed grenades into his house. But he said that was nothing compared with the suffering of his 48-year-old sister, Iryna Abramova, who lost her husband as well as her house.

“I try to help her and take care of her so she doesn’t kill herself,” he said. “I tell her that her husband is watching her from heaven.”

Mr. Abramov, a glazier, said he was now wondering if he should rebuild his house. “I want to run away from here,” he said.

Outside the city’s morgue, where French and Ukrainian investigators are still working to identify bodies from the massacres by Russian troops, a small group of residents gathered, hoping to find out what happened to family members.

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

Yulia Monastyrska, 29, said she had come to try to get a death certificate for her husband, whose body was among those discovered in April. His hands were bound, he had been shot in the back and the legs, and one of his eyes was burned out, she said.

Ms. Monastyrska said her husband, Ivan, was a crane operator who disappeared while she and her 7-year-old daughter, Oleksandra, hid in the basement of their apartment building.

Oleksandra, wearing glasses and sneakers with princesses on them, leaned against her mother as she listened to details that were clearly now familiar to her.

“As far as I know, everyone wants to come back here, but they are still afraid,” Ms. Monastyrska said. “We were born here, we lived here, a lot of good things happened here.”

Yulia Kozak, 48, accompanied by her daughter Daryna, 23, and Daryna’s 3-year-old son, Yehor, had come to take a DNA test to see if there was a match among the unidentified remains of her missing son, Oleksandr, 29, who had fought in the war against Russia in 2017.

Credit…David Guttenfelder for The New York Times

Prosecutors found his military ID, dirty and moldy, in a basement where the Russians held prisoners.

Sobbing, she said the last time she spoke by phone with her son, in March, he had told her he was being shot at. In his apartment, there is a bullet hole in the window, on which the sign of the cross had been etched.

Ms. Kozak, a cook, said she planned to stay in Bucha until she found her son.

“I am sure he is alive, 100 percent sure,” she said. “I feel that he is somewhere, I just don’t know where.”

Credit…Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times

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Ukraine Live Updates: U.S. Says It Wants Russian Military Weakened

Smoke hung over the gray streets that day in Kyiv, where protesters had piled tires, furniture and barbed wire to barricade themselves from security forces. Torn blue and yellow Ukrainian flags whipped in the wind, and candles left on sidewalks marked where people had been gunned down. A drawing of a reviled president depicted as a pig was tacked to a lamp post.

And yet there was a feeling of hope in Kyiv in March 2014, as Secretary of State John F. Kerry met with survivors of a violent crackdown on demonstrations. He commended the Ukrainians for their bravery in confronting a Kremlin-backed leader and promised that the United States would support the new government.

But Russian forces had moved into Crimea, Ukraine’s peninsula on the Black Sea, and Mr. Kerry warned: “It is clear that Russia has been working hard to create a pretext for being able to invade further.”

Eight years later, with Russian troops obliterating Ukrainian cities and towns, Mr. Kerry’s words seem eerily prescient.

Through the administrations of three American presidents, the United States has sent mixed signals about its commitment to Ukraine. All the while, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia watched Washington’s moves, biding his time.

“We’ve been all over the place on Ukraine,” said Fiona Hill, a Russia and Eurasia expert who advised the three administrations before President Biden. “Our own frames have shifted over time, and our own policies have shifted.”

“I think we need to re-articulate why Ukraine matters,” she said.

Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Now, two months into Mr. Putin’s war, the United States is at the center of an extraordinary campaign to foil him, casting the military conflict as a broader battle between democratic values and authoritarian might.

“It’s nothing less than a direct challenge to the rule-based international order established since the end of World War II,” Mr. Biden said in Warsaw last month. “And it threatens to return to decades of war that ravaged Europe before the international rule-based order was put in place. We cannot go back to that.”

The United States has rushed weapons and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and imposed sanctions intended to cut off Russia from global markets. This past weekend, Mr. Biden sent Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III to Ukraine as affirmation of Washington’s support.

After a secret train ride from Poland, the two spoke with President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Sunday about military aid. Mr. Austin said the Pentagon would expand training for Ukrainians on weapons systems; Mr. Blinken said Mr. Biden was nominating Bridget Brink, currently the ambassador to Slovakia, as his ambassador to Ukraine, the State Department said in a readout. The department is sending American diplomats back to Ukraine this week.

In many ways, officials said, Mr. Biden is trying to make up for the years of U.S. indecisiveness toward Kyiv. Those who wavered earlier include top Biden aides who had worked in the Obama administration as well as officials in the administration of Donald J. Trump, who undermined U.S. policy on Ukraine for personal political gain, according to current and former officials and a review of records.

The Roots of War

Since the earliest days of Ukraine’s independence, in 1991, American officials have recognized the country’s strategic value as Russia struggled to find its footing after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

“Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire,” Zbigniew Brzezinski, who had been the national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, wrote in a March 1994 essay. “But with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.”

Two months earlier, under pressure from the United States, Ukraine had reached an agreement to destroy its nuclear arsenal. President Bill Clinton heralded the pact as “a hopeful and historic breakthrough” to improve global security. But Ukraine’s leader, President Leonid Kuchma, warned that it would make his fledgling country more vulnerable.

“If tomorrow, Russia goes into Crimea, no one will raise an eyebrow,” he said that year.

At the time, Moscow was already goading a separatist movement in Crimea, even as Mr. Clinton predicted that Ukraine would become a major European power.

Yet over the next decade, experts said, NATO left out Ukraine to avoid angering Russia, which some members saw as an important economic partner and energy supplier and hoped would evolve into a more democratic and less threatening power.

The Baltic States joined NATO in 2004, and four years later, President George W. Bush publicly backed Ukraine’s ambition to follow. But Western European nations were reluctant. Today, Ukraine is neither a NATO member nor a part of the European Union, and officials cautioned as recently as this month that its inclusion in either was far from likely.

Years after Mr. Bush’s show of support, a new Ukrainian president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, tried to move the country closer to Russia, sparking mass protests in November 2013 when he refused to sign a long-planned agreement to strengthen ties with the European Union.

That led to the crackdown in Kyiv’s streets in 2014.

Security forces opened fire on protesters in central Kyiv in February that year, killing dozens. Protesters held their ground, attracting public support in Europe and the United States. Mr. Yanukovych fled to Russia.

“In the hearts of Ukrainians and the eyes of the world, there is nothing strong about what Russia is doing,” Mr. Kerry said during his visit to Kyiv.

Within days, Mr. Putin ordered the invasion of Crimea, and he soon formally recognized it as a “sovereign and independent state.”

A slow-burn war in eastern Ukraine followed, with Kyiv battling a separatist movement supported by Russian weapons and troops. An estimated 13,000 people were killed over the next eight years.

Credit…James Hill for The New York Times

Mr. Putin’s swift actions caught President Barack Obama off guard.

Mr. Obama vowed the United States would never recognize Russia’s annexation of Crimea and imposed economic sanctions, but his aides said in later accounts that he was skeptical of Ukraine’s corruption-ridden government.

And Mr. Obama said in a 2016 interview that a showdown with Mr. Putin over Ukraine would have been futile.

His administration gave more than $1.3 billion in assistance to Ukraine between 2014 and 2016, but Mr. Obama said no when his national security team, including Mr. Biden and Mr. Kerry, recommended sending weapons to Kyiv.

Among Mr. Obama’s defenders was Mr. Blinken, then the deputy secretary of state and now America’s top diplomat.

By sending military aid to Ukraine, “you’re playing to Russia’s strength, because Russia is right next door,” Mr. Blinken, then the deputy secretary of state, said in early 2015.

Any aid, he added, “is likely to be matched and then doubled and tripled and quadrupled by Russia.”

Neither the Obama administration nor its key European allies believed Ukraine was ready to join NATO. But tensions in the alliance were growing as Europeans sought to maintain trade ties and energy deals with Russia.

The division was captured in a phone call in which a senior State Department official profanely criticized European leaders’ approach to helping Ukraine. A leaked recording of the call was posted on YouTube in February 2014 in what was widely believed to be an attempt by Russia to stir up discord between the United States and Europe.

Yet as much as anything else, Ukraine was a costly distraction to Mr. Obama’s broader agenda.

“It was hard to reconcile the time and energy required to lead the diplomacy on Ukraine with the demands on the United States elsewhere around the world, especially after ISIS took over much of Iraq and Syria in the summer of 2014,” Derek H. Chollet, a senior Pentagon official at the time, wrote in a book about Mr. Obama’s foreign policy.

Mr. Chollet is now a senior counselor to Mr. Blinken at the State Department.

‘Do Us a Favor’

Volodymyr Zelensky, a former comedian, won a landslide victory in Ukraine’s presidential elections in April 2019 after campaigning on an anti-corruption pledge.

Once in office, he turned to ending the war in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine through negotiations with Mr. Putin.

The new Ukrainian president “knew he needed the backing of the United States and the American president,” said William B. Taylor Jr., who started his second tour as ambassador to Ukraine that June after his predecessor, Marie L. Yovanovitch, was pushed out on Mr. Trump’s orders.

Mr. Zelensky tried to arrange a meeting with Mr. Trump at the White House. But Mr. Trump had negative views of Ukraine even before he took office, influenced partly by his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who had made more than $60 million consulting for a Ukrainian political party backed by Russia.

Mr. Trump’s opinions were reinforced in meetings with Mr. Putin, whom he publicly admired, and Viktor Orban, the autocratic prime minister of Hungary.

And close associates of Mr. Trump, in particular Rudolph W. Giuliani, then his personal lawyer, were urging the president to get Mr. Zelensky to open two investigations: one into Mr. Biden, Mr. Trump’s main political opponent, for actions in Ukraine related to his son Hunter Biden’s business dealings; the other based in part on a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, had interfered in the 2016 election, to help Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump embraced the theory because it undermined the finding of the U.S. intelligence community that Russia had interfered to help him.

But U.S. policy had been on a notably different track. Earlier, in December 2017, under pressure from his national security aides and Congress, Mr. Trump agreed to do what Mr. Obama would not: approve the sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

But in mid-2019, the White House froze $391 million in military aid to Ukraine, including the Javelins, to build leverage for Mr. Trump’s demands, congressional investigators later found. The move hobbled Ukraine’s war effort against Russia-backed separatists.

“For it to be held up, they couldn’t understand that,” Mr. Taylor said.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

That set the stage for a fateful July 25 call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky. “I would like you to do us a favor,” Mr. Trump said. He requested the two investigations.

Mr. Zelensky and his aides were confused. “The rest of the U.S. government was very supportive of Ukraine,” Mr. Taylor said. “But from the top, the president had a different message and set of conditions.”

Mr. Zelensky scheduled a CNN interview for September to announce one or both of the investigations that Mr. Trump had requested to satisfy the American president. But the interview never happened because journalists had begun reporting on the hold on military aid, and lawmakers sympathetic to Ukraine had persisted in asking the White House about the suspended aid. On Sept. 9, three House committees announced investigations into the pressure campaign after reviewing a whistle-blower complaint citing the July call.

The Trump administration released the aid on Sept. 11.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Mr. Zelensky in Kyiv on Jan. 31, 2020, the first cabinet official to do so since the announcement of an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump the previous September. The Senate trial was underway.

Just days earlier, Mr. Pompeo had blown up at an NPR reporter in an interview, asking her to identify Ukraine on an unmarked map and yelling, “Do you think Americans care” about Ukraine? — using an expletive before “Ukraine.”

Yet in Kyiv, Mr. Pompeo stood next to Mr. Zelensky in the presidential palace and said the U.S. commitment to support Ukraine “will not waver.”

But the damage had been done, and Mr. Zelensky was unconvinced that the United States was a trusted ally, Ms. Yovanovitch said in an interview last month.

“Trying to use our national security policy in order to further President Trump’s personal and political agenda was not just wrong, but it was really detrimental to the bilateral relationship,” she said. “It colored how Zelensky handled foreign policy.”

With all the disruption, former U.S. officials said, Mr. Putin no doubt saw weakness in Washington.

Credit…Sarahbeth Maney/The New York Times

Biden vs. Putin

Consumed by the pandemic and the economy, Mr. Biden did not prioritize Ukraine at first. But Mr. Blinken visited Kyiv in May 2021 with a message of support.

During a steady rain, Mr. Blinken joined Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, on a walk to the Wall of National Remembrance, where photos of soldiers who had been killed in combat with Russia in the Donbas were displayed outside St. Michael’s monastery.

But he also went to Kyiv with some tough love, determined to press Ukraine to make political and economic changes — a core issue for Mr. Biden when he oversaw relations with the country as vice president.

Just before the visit, Mr. Zelensky’s government had replaced the chief executive of the largest state-owned energy company, whom Western officials had praised for his transparency. The State Department had chastised the move as “just the latest example” of Ukrainian leaders violating practices of good governance. In Kyiv, Mr. Blinken told reporters that he was urging Ukraine to strengthen itself by “building institutions, advancing reforms, combating corruption.”

Such concerns paled in the face of Russia’s growing military threat, which Washington was watching “very, very closely,” Mr. Blinken said. Mr. Putin had begun amassing troops along Ukraine’s borders. By fall, the number approached 100,000.

This past January, Mr. Blinken rushed back to Kyiv for more consultations before a hastily arranged meeting in Geneva with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, in a last-ditch attempt to avert war.

But Russia would not be deterred, and high-level contacts between Washington and Moscow have been severely limited ever since.

By contrast, Mr. Blinken speaks frequently to Mr. Kuleba to convey American support that, at least in terms of aid, has been greater than at any time in the three decades since Ukraine declared independence.

“The world is with you,” Mr. Blinken told him on March 5, stepping into Ukraine just a few feet beyond Poland’s border.

“We’re in it with Ukraine — one way or another, short run, the medium run, the long run,” he said.

Mr. Kuleba referred to an “unprecedented, swift reaction” to Russia’s invasion and thanked Mr. Blinken for the support.

“But,” he said, “it has to be continued.”

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Russian gas flows to Europe dip in line with customer requests, article with image

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A view shows a gas processing facility, operated by Gazprom company, at Bovanenkovo gas field on the Arctic Yamal peninsula, Russia May 21, 2019. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

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OSLO, April 7 (Reuters) – Russian gas deliveries to Europe via the Yamal-Europe pipeline reversed direction to flow from Germany to Poland on Thursday morning and supplies via Ukraine also eased, all in line with requests from customers.

Gas flows switched to an eastward direction into Poland at the Mallnow metering point on the German-Polish border on Thursday morning after flowing westward overnight, data from pipeline operator Gascade showed. read more

The change is in line with nominations from shippers, with no requests for westward shipments for the rest of the day, the data showed. read more

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Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM) is continuing to supply gas to Europe via Ukraine in line with requests from European consumers, which dropped to 105.4 million cubic metres (mcm) from 108.4 mcm the previous day, according to news agency Interfax. read more

Nominations for flows into Slovakia from Ukraine via the Velke Kapusany border point were at 936,935 megawatt hours (MWh) per day on Thursday, down from 968,186 MWh/day on Wednesday, data from Slovakian operator TSO Eustream showed.

Flows to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline across the Baltic Sea were at 73,165,350 kWh/h on Thursday, little changed from the previous 24 hours.

SANCTIONS CONUNDRUM

The gas market remains concerned that flows of Russian gas, which accounts for some 40% of its supplies, could stop in reaction to the West imposing more sanctions on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

While shying away from sanctioning oil and gas so far, European Union envoys are set to approve a ban on Russian coal that would take full effect from mid-August. read more

Top EU diplomat Josep Borrell said the package could be passed on Thursday or Friday and that the EU will discuss an embargo on Russian oil as well. read more

Finland and Estonia have become the latest European member states to announce their intention to cut out Russian gas deliveries by planning a joint charter of a floating LNG terminal. read more

Lithuania has already announced it has stopped all Russian gas imports. read more

There are also still questions over how many countries may concede to a Russian request to pay for gas deliveries in roubles as of this month.

On Wednesday Hungary became the first EU member country to say it was prepared to pay in the Russian currency, with companies buying gas from Russian producer Gazprom (GAZP.MM) awaiting guidance from their respective governments. read more

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Reporting by Nora Buli; Editing by Jan Harvey

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Live Updates: Explosions Shake Kyiv and Ukraine’s Second-Largest City

Africans who had been living in Ukraine say they were stuck for days at crossings into neighboring European Union countries, huddling in the cold without food or shelter, held up by Ukrainian authorities who pushed them to the ends of long lines and even beat them, while letting Ukrainians through.

At least 660,000 people have fled Ukraine in the five days following the start of Russia’s invasion, the United Nations refugee agency U.N.H.C.R. said. Most are Ukrainians, but some are students or migrant workers from Africa, Asia and other regions who are also desperate to escape.

Chineye Mbagwu, a 24-year-old doctor from Nigeria who lived in the western Ukrainian town of Ivano-Frankivsk, said she had spent more than two days stranded at the Poland-Ukraine border crossing in the town of Medyka, as the guards let Ukrainians cross but blocked foreigners.

“The Ukrainian border guards were not letting us through,” she said in a phone interview, her voice trembling. “They were beating people up with sticks” and tearing off their jackets, she added. “They would slap them, beat them and push them to the end of the queue. It was awful.”

The African Union and President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria have condemned the treatment of Africans fleeing Ukraine following social media reports about border guards hindering them from leaving. Africans have also reported being barred from boarding trains headed to the border.

“Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist” and violate international law, the African Union said.

Ukraine’s deputy interior minister, Anton Heraschenko, denied that his country was obstructing foreigners from leaving.

“Everything is simple,” he said. “We are first to release women and children. Foreign men must wait for women and children to come forward. We will release all foreigners without hindrance,” he added, in a written response to questions. “Same goes for blacks.”

Credit…Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

Ms. Mbagwu, the Nigerian doctor, managed to reach Warsaw, but said she crossed the border only by struggling and pushing her way through.

“They would say ‘only women and children can pass through,’” she said. “But they were letting some Ukrainian men through. And whenever a Black lady would try to pass, they said: ‘Our women first,’” Ms. Mbagwu added.

“There was no shelter from the cold. It snowed. There was no food, water, or a place to rest. I was literally hallucinating from sleep deprivation,” she said.

She said her 21-year-old brother, a medical student, had been blocked at the border since Friday, but made it into Poland after four days of trying.

Not all foreigners reported ill treatment by Ukrainian authorities at the border crossings.

A Pakistani student and an Afghan national who crossed from Ukraine into Poland on Saturday said the only problem was very long lines. And a group of Vietnamese workers crossed easily into Moldova on Monday.

Mohammed Saadaoui, a 23-year-old Moroccan pharmacy student who traveled from the Ukrainian city of Odessa to Warsaw, said he did not have any problems.

“But we took a long time to find the good border crossing where there would not be too many people,” he said. “There, we were treated the same way as the Ukrainians.”

The International Organization of Migration estimated that there are more than 470,000 foreign nationals in Ukraine, including a large number of overseas students and migrant workers. At least 6,000 of them have arrived in Moldova and Slovakia alone over the past five days, according to the I.O.M., and many more have crossed into Poland.

Many of the foreigners fleeing Ukraine said they were warmly welcomed in neighboring Poland, Moldova, Hungary and Romania. But Mr. Buhari, the Nigerian president, said there were reports of Polish officials refusing Nigerians entry.

Piotr Mueller, the spokesman for the Polish prime minister, denied this, saying, “Poland is letting in everyone coming from Ukraine regardless of their nationality.”

Piotr Bystrianin, head of the Ocalenie Foundation, a Polish refugee charity, said that so far, “problems were on the Ukrainian side.”

Credit…Maciek Nabrdalik for The New York Times

More than 300,000 people have fled from Ukraine to Poland since the Russian invasion began, according to Poland’s interior ministry. Makeshift accommodation is being set up across the country, and Poles are helping Ukrainians on a massive scale, transporting them through the border, hosting them in their homes, feeding and clothing them.

On Monday, Poland’s ambassador to the United Nations, Krzysztof Szczerski, said his country welcomed all foreign students who were studying in Ukraine, and invited them to continue their studies in Poland.

In the years leading up to the Russian invasion, Poland had taken a hard line on migrants trying to enter the country. The army and border guards have pushed asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa back into Belarus. Last week, aid organizations said a 26-year-old man from Yemen froze to death at that border.

Some of the foreigners arriving in Poland from Ukraine over the past few days were exhausted and freezing, according to local aid organizations on the ground. Some were taken directly to hospitals because of their injuries.

Ahmed Habboubi, a 22-year-old French-Tunisian medical student, said all foreign nationals, including Africans, Israelis, Canadians and Americans, were told to go to one gate at the Medyka crossing from Ukraine to Poland, which would only process four people every couple of hours, while Ukrainians were allowed to pass freely through another gate.

“The Ukrainian army beat me up so much I couldn’t properly walk,” he said in an phone interview. “When I finally managed to enter Poland, the Polish authorities took me straight to the hospital,” he added.

“It was absolute chaos. We were treated like animals. There are still thousands of people stranded there.”

He said that Poland had welcomed him warmly.

Dennis Nana Appiah Nkansah, a Ghanaian medical student, said he saw the same discrimination at the crossing from Ukraine into the Romanian town of Siret — one rule for Ukrainians and another for everyone else. Thousands of foreigners, including Zambians, Namibians, Moroccans, Indians and Pakistanis, were directed to one gate that was mostly closed, while another reserved for Ukrainians was open and people flowed through.

Over about three hours, four or five foreigners were allowed to leave, while there was a “massive influx” of Ukrainians crossing, he said. “It’s not fair,” he said, but “we understood that they have to see to their people first.”

Mr. Nkansah, 31, said he had organized 74 Ghanaian and Nigerian students to pitch in and hire a bus to flee together. They reached the border early Saturday morning, he said, but it took them 24 hours to cross over.

Emmanuel Nwulu, 30, a Nigerian student of electronics at Kharkiv National University, said that when he tried to board a train in Ukraine going west toward the border, Ukrainian officials told him, “Blacks could not board the train.” But Mr. Nwulu and his cousin managed to force their way aboard.

Credit…Laetitia Vancon for The New York Times

Taha Daraa, a 25-year-old Moroccan student in his fourth year studying dentistry in Dnipro Medical Institute, started his journey out on Saturday around noon and crossed the border into Romania in the early hours of Monday morning after days without sleep.

“We were treated so badly. We took buses to the Romanian border. It was very scary then we had to walk across the border while hearing gunshots,” he said via WhatsApp. “All we did was pray. Our parents prayed as well for our safety. It’s the only protection we had,” he added.

“I witnessed a lot of racism.”

He said he was in a group with two other Moroccans and many other Africans and he asked a Ukrainian border guard to let them through. The guard started firing his gun in the air to scare them and so they stepped back.

“I have never felt so much fear in my life,” Mr. Daraa said. “He asked us to move back. Snow was falling on us. As the crowd got bigger, they gave up and let everyone through.”

He said the Romanians were taking good care of him and other foreigners and providing them with food and other necessities.

“They gave us everything,” he said.

Abdi Latif Dahir contributed reporting from Nairobi, Kenya, Valerie Hopkins from Kyiv, Ukraine, Ben Novak from Zahony and Beregsurany, Hungary and Aida Alami from Rabat, Morocco.

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Dutch to deliver 200 air defence rockets to Ukraine -govt letter

AMSTERDAM, Feb 26 (Reuters) – The Netherlands will supply air defence rockets and anti-tank systems to Ukraine, the Dutch government said in letters to parliament on Saturday.

The Dutch agreed to a Ukrainian request to rapidly ship 200 Stinger air defence rockets and 50 “Panzerfaust 3” anti-tank weapons with 400 rockets, the letters said.

The Netherlands is also jointly considering with Germany sending a Patriot air defence system to a NATO battle group in Slovakia, it said.

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Based on requests from Ukraine “the Netherlands will provide 200 Stinger air defence rockets”, the letter said.

“Along with our allies, the Defence Ministry aims to deliver these goods as quickly as possible.”

The missiles are in addition to other equipment already promised by the Netherlands earlier this month, including rifles, ammunition, radar systems and mine-detecting robots.

Earlier on Saturday, the Netherlands said it was moving Dutch embassy staff from the western Ukrainian city of Lviv to Jaroslaw, across the border in Poland, due to deteriorating security.

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Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Catherine Evans and Alison Williams

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Why the Toughest Sanctions on Russia Are the Hardest for Europe to Wield

The punishing sanctions that the United States and European Union have so far announced against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine include shutting the government and banks out of global financial markets, restricting technology exports and freezing assets of influential Russians. Noticeably missing from that list is the one reprisal that would cause Russia the most pain: choking off the export of Russian fuel.

The omission is not surprising. In recent years, the European Union has received nearly 40 percent of its gas and more than a quarter of its oil from Russia. That energy heats Europe’s homes, powers its factories and fuels its vehicles, while pumping enormous sums of money into the Russian economy.

a third of the national budget. But a cutoff would hurt Europe as well.

37 percent of its global trade in 2020. About 70 percent of Russian gas exports and half of its oil exports go to Europe.

The flip side of mutual interest is mutual pain.

European leaders are caught between wanting to punish Russia for its aggression and to protect their own economies.

halt Nord Stream 2 — the completed gas pipeline that directly links Russia and northeastern Germany — is among the most consequential that Europe has taken, said Mathieu Savary, chief European investment strategist at BCA Research.

Russia shrank its pipeline exports by close to 25 percent compared with a year earlier, according to the International Energy Agency. Europe’s reserves stand at just 30 percent, and Europeans are already paying exorbitant prices for energy.

The conflict is occurring when supplies of both oil and natural gas have been tight for months, driving up prices.

“There are serious concerns” that Moscow will tighten exports further and send prices higher, said Helima Croft, head of commodities at RBC Capital Markets, an investment bank.

Germany, Russia’s largest trading partner in Europe, gets 55 percent of its supply from Russia. Italy, the second-biggest trading partner, gets 41 percent. At a forum in Milan last week, the Russian ambassador Sergey Razov said President Vladimir V. Putin had told the Italian prime minister, Mario Draghi, that “if Italy needs more gas we are ready to supply it.”

Mr. Putin also made a point of saying that roughly 500 Italian businesses have operations in Russia and that bilateral investments are worth $8 billion.

Austria, Turkey and France are large consumers of Russian natural gas. In central and Eastern Europe, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are the biggest customers, the Russian energy giant Gazprom said.

250,000 barrels a day from Russia that move through Ukraine to Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. That amount is relatively small in a global market that consumes 100 million barrels a day, but its loss could create severe shortages in those countries.

dizzying spikes in prices for energy and food and could spook investors. The economic damage from supply disruptions and economic sanctions would be severe in some countries and industries and unnoticed in others.

The money that Russia makes from energy exports could also be reduced if shippers, wary of the growing complexity of transporting Russian crude and supplies, raise what they charge Moscow, Mr. Goldwyn said.

He added it was possible that the White House would ban imports of Russian crude to the United States. Such a move, experts said, would force American refiners to rely on other suppliers and Moscow to find other buyers for around 700,000 barrels a day. China would most likely be one, after the two countries pledged to “strongly support each other.”

Flows of L.N.G. from elsewhere, mostly the United States, have exceeded Russian gas volumes to Europe in recent weeks. Such measures would probably help Western European countries like Germany and Italy more than those in southern and Eastern Europe with fewer alternatives to Russian gas.

Even without a clear cutoff of fuel by Moscow or a disruption by war, there is a substantial risk that extraordinarily high gas and electricity prices will continue, squeezing hard-pressed consumers and, possibly, pushing more businesses to scale back their operations. In recent months, some energy-intensive businesses, including fertilizer makers, have announced closures because of high gas costs.

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Austria Imposes Lockdown Amid Europe’s Covid Surge

Vaccination rates in most of Western Europe are higher, but the levels in Eastern Europe are far lower — from 59 percent in the Czech Republic to 24 percent in Bulgaria.

Belgium is highly vaccinated, at 75 percent, but a rise in cases has caused the government to impose tighter restrictions, including more working from home and wider mandatory mask wearing. That prompted a protest in Brussels on Sunday of an estimated 35,000 people near the European Union headquarters. Some protesters threw stones and set fires, the police made more than 40 arrests, and three officers were hurt.

Alexander de Croo, the prime minister of Belgium, called the violence “absolutely unacceptable.” Like Mr. Rutte, he said Belgians were free to protest, but that “the way in which some demonstrators behaved had nothing to do with freedom.” He continued: “It had nothing to do with whether vaccination was a good thing or not, this was criminal behavior.”

In Greece, the government said on Monday that unvaccinated people would be barred from indoor spaces, including restaurants, cinemas, museums and gyms. Vaccination certificates for those older than 60 will be valid for only seven months, with people then required to get booster shots to maintain validity.

In Slovakia, the country’s prime minister, Eduard Heger, announced a “lockdown for the unvaccinated” from Monday. Slovakia and the Czech Republic banned unvaccinated people from restaurants, pubs, shopping malls, public events and stores, except for those selling essential goods.

The W.HO. chief for Europe, Hans Kluge, earlier this month blamed the region’s woes on insufficient vaccination despite the availability of vaccines, and said that the continent could see half a million more deaths by February.

“We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of Covid-19 to preventing them from happening in the first place,” he said.

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China’s Popular Electric Vehicles Have Put Europe’s Automakers on Notice

FRANKFURT — The name MG used to be synonymous with spirited but finicky sports cars from Britain. Nowadays the iconic octagonal badge serves a different kind of motoring ambition: China’s push to become a big player in the global auto market.

SAIC Motor, one of China’s Big Four automakers, bought the MG brand in 2007 and is stamping it on a line of electric sport utility vehicles on sale in Germany and other European markets. MG is an example of how Chinese carmakers are exploiting the shift to electric cars to challenge the American, European and Japanese carmakers that have long dominated the industry.

The Chinese automakers are arriving as electric cars surge in popularity, accounting for almost 10 percent of new car sales in Western Europe, and consumers are in a mood to buy, with savings built up during the pandemic. At the same time, car manufacturers are cutting back production because of shortages of microprocessors.

MG already has 350 dealers in 16 European countries and is still expanding. Two other Chinese automakers, Nio and BYD, are moving into Europe by way of Norway, the world’s most electrified large car market.

Nio, based in Shanghai, opened a dealership in Oslo at the end of September, the company’s first outlet outside China. BYD, based in Shenzhen, delivered an electric S.U.V. called the Tang, to the first Norwegian customer in August.

Polestar, which is based in Sweden but belongs to Geely Holding of China, has been selling a Chinese-made battery-powered model in Europe and the United States since 2020. And many of the Teslas on European roads were imported from the company’s factory in Shanghai. (That will change once the company finishes building a factory near Berlin.)

Foreign automakers like Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz or General Motors sell millions of cars in China, so they can hardly complain when Chinese automakers encroach on their turf. Even though China is the world’s largest car market, its brands have only a sliver of the international market. Even buyers in China prefer foreign brands, although local carmakers are growing quickly and have captured more than 40 percent of the domestic market.

global semiconductor shortage. The wait time for an MG hybrid is only four weeks, and three months for an all-electric model, “which is pretty much OK compared to other brands right now,” Mr. Stark said.

Waits for many European brands can be much longer, especially for lower-priced models. Carmakers like Renault are allocating scarce chips to higher-end vehicles, which generate more profit.

While the market may be ripe for Chinese electric cars, the political timing may not be so ideal. Many European leaders share their American counterparts’ concern about Chinese trade practices, accusing Beijing of subsidizing companies to give them an unfair advantage in international competition.

are negotiating to form a government that is likely to include the Green Party, which favors a harder line against China than Angela Merkel, the departing chancellor. MG may be particularly vulnerable to concerns about the mingling of government and corporate interests because its parent company, SAIC, is majority owned by the state.

international car show in Munich in September. “Car brands, wherever they are located, have export business.”

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Russian Attempts to Expand Sputnik Vaccine Sets Off Discord in Europe

BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — When Slovakia’s prime minister welcomed a military aircraft carrying 200,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia in March, he posed proudly for photographs on the tarmac in front of crates stuffed with what he expected to be his country’s medical salvation.

Slovakia at the time had the world’s highest per-capita death rate from Covid-19, and the arrival of the Russian vaccine offered a rare glimmer of hope. For Russia it offered big benefits, too: a small but symbolically important new market for its product in the European Union, which has so far declined to register the vaccine and urged member states to hold off on orders until approval is granted.

But the effort by the Slovakian leader, Igor Matovic, soon blew up in his face, costing him his job and almost toppling the whole government — just three months after it adopted a new security strategy rooted in unequivocal support for NATO and wariness of Russia.

The strongly pro-Western Slovak government, torn between its commitment to abide by European rules and desperation for a way out of the health crisis, spasmed in crisis for weeks.

Sputnik V, the world’s first registered vaccine, is the medical breakthrough proclaimed last summer by President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, but it has already proved itself to be remarkably effective in spreading disarray and division in Europe.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron talked to Mr. Putin recently about possible deliveries of Sputnik, which Mr. Macron’s own foreign minister derided as a “propaganda tool.” The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, furious that European regulators have been slow in approving Sputnik, has clashed with Germany’s leader, Angela Merkel, over the bloc’s vaccination program, which so far involves only Western vaccines.

But Slovakia provides the most concrete example of how Russia’s vaccine diplomacy has had side effects that can be highly toxic.

The decision by Mr. Matovic, then the Slovakian prime minister, to order two million doses of Sputnik V set the country at odds with the European Union and brought one of Eastern Europe’s most stoutly pro-Western governments to the brink of collapse as junior partners in a fractious governing coalition, outraged by the import of Sputnik, defected.

said in a tweet in February that Mr. Putin offered Sputnik V to the world as a “weapon to divide and rule.” And Poland said it was considering buying Chinese vaccines, despite similar concerns about it, but would definitely not order Sputnik V.

A recent survey by the Globsec research group found that, among those willing to be vaccinated, only 1 percent of Poles and Romanians and 2 percent of Lithuanians would choose Sputnik over American and European brands. Even in Hungary, the lone European Union member to start inoculating its citizens with Russia’s product, only 4 percent want Sputnik V.

But in Slovakia, around 15 percent of those willing to be vaccinated expressed a preference for the Russian vaccine, offering Moscow an opportunity to break out of the quarantine imposed by deep suspicion elsewhere.

That Russia targeted Slovakia as a place to widen Sputnik’s narrow beachhead in Europe was evident long before Mr. Matovic decided to order the vaccine.

video on Facebook in January saying that he was ready to help broker a deal with Moscow for the delivery of Sputnik.

His pitch appealed to the generally Russia-friendly sentiments of many ordinary Slovaks, particularly those of an anti-establishment bent.

Martin Smatana, a former Health Ministry official in Bratislava, said he had been amazed by how many of his friends want the Russian vaccine and say, “Screw the system, use Sputnik.”

a report this past week, the European Union’s foreign service said that Russia’s drive to promote Sputnik abroad was aimed at “sowing distrust” in Europe’s medicines regulator and stoking divisions.

In response, the Russian state investment agency spearheading Sputnik’s export drive lamented that the vaccine, which it hails as a “vaccine for all mankind,” has fallen victim to “unfortunate daily information attacks.” On Friday, after Brazil raised concerns about Sputnik, complaining of inadequate data, the vaccine’s developer in Moscow, the Gamaleya Institute, issued an angry statement complaining that “unethical forces continuously attack the Sputnik V vaccine for competitive and political reasons.”

The testy arguments in Slovakia over the vaccine reached a peak in April when the country’s drug regulatory agency claimed that Mr. Matovic had fallen for a Russian bait-and-switch. It said the vaccine doses sent to Slovakia at a cost of around $2 million differed from the Sputnik V reviewed favorably in a peer-reviewed February article in The Lancet, a respected British medical journal.

The Slovak claim, denounced by Moscow as “sabotage,” cast doubt on Sputnik’s main selling point: a proven efficacy rate of over 90 percent against Covid-19. The Lancet gave the vaccine 91.6 percent efficacy in February, and Russian scientists have since claimed a “real world” rate 97.6 percent.

But the main issue with Sputnik has never been whether it works — most experts believe it does — but Russia’s repeated failure to follow procedure and provide all the data needed by foreign regulators to assess safety. Slovakia’s regulator made its damning statement not because it had discovered any specific problems with Sputnik but “due to the lack of data from the manufacturer, inconsistencies in dosage forms and inability to compare the batches used in different studies and countries.”

The 200,000 doses that Russia delivered in March were still all unused at a pharmaceutical company in eastern Slovakia as of last week. But Mr. Matovic said Russia had already returned the money paid by Slovakia.

Pavol Babos, a political analyst in Bratislava, said Mr. Matovic was “never pro-Russian” but “very naïve.” Desperate for a way to slow the pandemic and lift his own slumping ratings, the prime minister, Mr. Babos added, “fell into a trap set by Russian propaganda.”

But Mr. Matovic scoffed at accusations that Moscow had played him to promote its own geopolitical agenda. The Russians, he said, “wanted to help, but instead of thanking them we said, ‘You are stupid, and you are cheating people around the world.’”

Most at fault, Mr. Matovic said, was the State Institute for Drug Control, which asserted that the Sputnik V batches Russia sent to Slovakia did “not have the same characteristics and properties” as the version V reviewed by The Lancet. This, he said, “was an extremely incorrect political statement.”

Zuzana Batova, the institute’s director, who has received death threats from aggressive Sputnik fans, declined to be interviewed, saying she did not want to pour oil on the fire.

The head of the Biomedical Research Center, which carried out a series of 14 tests in Slovakia on the Russian vaccine, said she had no concerns over whether Sputnik V works but was troubled by Russia’s lack of transparency.

While the potential side effects of the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have been documented in detail publicly, the center’s chief, Silvia Pastorekova, said, “We know nothing about Sputnik’s side effects.”

The Russian vaccine, she said, passed all of her team’s tests but failed to win approval from the state regulator because more than three-quarters of the documents required to meet European norms had either not been submitted or were incomplete.

“We are part of the European family and we should accept the rules of the family,” Ms. Pastorekova said.

Monika Pronczuk contributed reporting from Brussels, and Kristina Hamarova from Bratislava.

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