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U.S. expected to announce fresh arms package for Ukraine; IAEA begins risky nuclear power

G-7 finance ministers to discuss a cap on Russian oil prices

Janet Yellen, US Treasury secretary, Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s deputy prime minister and minister of finance, Christian Lindner, Germany’s finance minister, Rishi Sunak, U.K. chancellor of the exchequer, Joachim Nagel, president of the Deutsche Bundesbank, front from left, and fellow ministers and governors pose for a family photo during the G7 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors in Konigswinter, Germany, on Thursday, May 19, 2022.

Alex Kraus | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The G-7 finance ministers will unveil new details later this week about a U.S.-led plan to cap the price of Russian oil, a White House spokeswoman said.

The representatives of the G-7 economic powers will meet Friday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. Their agenda will include the plan to effectively bar the shipping of Russian oil that was purchased for more than a maximum price agreed upon by the G-7 group.

The plan is currently the leading proposal to cut into Russia’s oil revenues, which have soared since the invasion of Ukraine drove up global energy prices. Jean-Pierre deflected a question about why President Joe Biden has not authorized more domestic energy production amid record high gas prices.

“We think that working with our allies and making this announcement on this price cap on Russian oil is going to be very effective,” she said.

So far, U.S. and European efforts to deprive Russia of the oil revenue critical to funding its government and its military have fallen flat, largely due to massive increases in Russian oil imports by India and China.

— Christina Wilkie

Yellen meets with British counterpart to discuss price cap on Russian oil

Janet Yellen , US Treasury Secretary, answers journalists’ questions. At Petersberg near Bonn, the finance ministers of the largest industrialized nations are discussing billions in aid for Ukraine on Thursday.

Federico Gambarini | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen thanked U.K.’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi for his leading efforts in pushing for a price cap on Russian oil.

“At a time when Russia’s war has resulted in high energy prices globally, I think a price cap is one of the most powerful tools we have to fight inflation by ensuring a stable flow of oil into global markets at lower prices,” Yellen said during a bilateral meeting, according to a Treasury transcript.

“We also know that without a price [cap] we face the threat of a massive global energy price spike if the majority of Russian oil production gets shut in,” Yellen said.

“I really look forward to our conversation today and the opportunity to discuss the price cap and other topics,” she added.

— Amanda Macias

80% of NATO members have ratified Sweden and Finland’s entry into the alliance

Sweden’s foreign minister thanked the 24 NATO countries, or 80% of members, that have cleared Sweden and Finland to join the world’s most powerful military alliance.

Earlier this month, U.S. President Joe Biden signed ratification documents following a 95-1 Senate vote to bring Finland and Sweden into NATO.

In May, both nations began the formal process of applying to NATO as Russia’s war in Ukraine raged. All 30 members of the alliance have to ratify Sweden and Finland into the group.

— Amanda Macias

White House says the next security assistance package for Ukraine will be announced ‘in the coming days’

Ukraine was already stocking up on U.S.-made Javelins before Russia invaded. Here a group of Ukrainian servicemen take a shipment of Javelins in early February, as Russia positioned troops on Ukraine’s border.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

The Biden administration will announce a new security assistance package for Ukraine “in the coming days,” U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

We have committed more than $13 billion in security assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces, and we will continue to do that,” Kirby said on a conference call with reporters.

“There will be announcements of future security assistance in coming days,” he added.

Last week, to mark Ukraine’s 31 years of independence from the Soviet Union, Biden announced a U.S. military aid package worth approximately $3 billion.

The latest arms package, the 19th such installment, is Washington’s largest since Russia’s full-scale invasion began six months ago.

— Amanda Macias

NATO secretary-general speaks with German defense minister about more aid to Ukraine

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said he spoke with German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht on additional ways to support Ukraine.

“Russia continues its aggressive war and winter is coming soon,” Stoltenberg warned, adding that Germany has been a strong contributor to Ukraine’s security assistance.

“Germany is already doing a lot and we will do more together in NATO,” he wrote in a tweet.

— Amanda Macias

‘Too soon to tell’ how Iranian drones will affect the war in Ukraine, White House says

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi greets Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 19, 2022. Putin likely wanted to show that Moscow is still important in the Middle East by visiting Iran, said John Drennan of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Sergei Savostyanov | AFP | Getty Images

It is “too soon to tell” how Russia’s use of Iranian drones will affect the war in Ukraine, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

“It remains to be seen what the overall impact is going to be on those drones, but it’s not going to change the kinds of capabilities we continue to provide,” Kirby told reporters on a conference call.

“We know of some difficulties that the Russians have been having with some of those drones,” Kirby added, but declined to elaborate and reiterated that the U.S. was closely monitoring the situation.

— Amanda Macias

Biden administration says Putin is weaponizing energy with Nord Stream 1 shutdown

Nord Stream 1 provider said gas flows have resumed after maintenance works.

Hannibal Hanschke | Reuters

U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby called Russia’s claims that it shut down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for “maintenance” another attempt to weaponize energy.

Russian gas giant Gazprom halted energy supplies to Europe via the pipeline in a planned “maintenance outage” expected to last until Sept. 3.

“We’re pragmatic about this and we know that there’s more work to do. So, we’re going to look into ways to increase gas stockpiles in Europe or to help bolster other sources of energy,” Kirby told reporters on a conference call.

“But, all of this work, quite frankly is a result of Mr. Putin’s decisions to weaponize energy as he has weaponized food as he has weaponized information,” Kirby added.

— Amanda Macias

EU announces some visa suspensions for Russians in effort to limit border crossings

A national flags of Ukraine an EU flags outside the Town Hall in Lille, France, on Wednesday, March 16, 2022.

Chris Ratcliffe | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The European Union announced it would suspend some visas for Russian citizens in an effort to limit border crossings.

“Since mid of July, we have seen a substantial increase on border crossing from Russia, in the neighboring states. And this has become a security risk for these neighboring states,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said during a press conference in Prague.

Borrell added that EU member states have seen “many Russians traveling for leisure, shopping, as if no war was raging in Ukraine.”

“We are not business as usual, it cannot be used business as usual,” he added.

Borrell said that the bloc agreed to significantly reduce the number of new visas issued by EU member states to Russian citizens.

“It’s going to be more difficult, it’s going to be longer the process. And consequently, the number of new visas will be substantially reduced,” he added.

— Amanda Macias

G-7 urges Russia to immediately withdraw from Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

A Russian serviceman stands guard the territory outside the second reactor of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in Energodar on May 1, 2022.

Andrey Borodulin | AFP | Getty Images

Members of the G-7’s non-proliferation directors group urged Russia to immediately withdraw from the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine.

The G-7 representatives wrote that they are “profoundly concerned by the serious threat” Russian armed forces pose to the safety and security of the facility.

“These actions significantly raise the risk of a nuclear accident or incident and endanger the population of Ukraine, neighboring states, and the international community,” the group wrote.

“The Russian Federation must immediately withdraw its troops from within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and respect Ukraine’s territory and sovereignty,” the group added.

“We reaffirm that the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and the electricity that it produces rightly belong to Ukraine and stress that attempts by Russia to disconnect the plant from the Ukrainian power grid would be unacceptable.”

— Amanda Macias

Kuleba urges European Union to ban Russian tourists

A sign hangs above a passport control at the quiet and nearly empty Imatra border crossing between Finland and Russia on May 24, 2022 near Imatra, Finland.

Sean Gallup | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The European Union should ban Russian tourists, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, urging a step the bloc’s foreign ministers gathered in Prague are unlikely to take due to deep divisions on the matter.

Kuleba also proposed a program in which Russian soldiers who surrendered would be rewarded with “a new life”, though he did not say where.

Eastern and Nordic countries strongly back a tourism ban, while Germany and France have warned their peers it would be counter-productive, saying ordinary Russians should still be allowed access to the West.

— Reuters

IAEA wants to establish ‘permanent presence’ at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

The monitoring team from the International Atomic Energy Agency, a U.N. watchdog, has arrived in Zaporizhzhia with the head of the delegation telling NBC News that the agency would like to establish a permanent presence at the Russian-occupied nuclear power plant.

A team from IAEA arrived in the south of Ukraine around midday local time and are due to travel directly to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. They will inspect the facility over several days to assess the security and safety of the plant, which both Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of shelling.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy shakes hands with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who is to head a planned mission to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine August 30, 2022.

Ukrainian Presidential Press Service | via Reuters

IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi told NBC’s Joshua Lederman that the mission will take a few days and that, in the longer term, the IAEA is also hoping to establish a “permanent presence” at the plant.

When asked whether he’s confident the mission can be carried out safely, Grossi said “of course,” despite fears that Russia could carry out what Ukraine has said could be a “provocation” during the visit. Russia has denied this and in turn, accused Ukraine of planning an attack during the visit.

Asked whether he believes Russia will allow the IAEA inspectors to see what’s really going on at the plant, Grossi said that the team was very experienced and made up of “the best and the brightest” in nuclear safety and security. “We will have a pretty good idea of what’s going on,” he says.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine counteroffensive has had ‘successes’ in some areas of the Kherson region, official says

Ukrainian forces have had “successes” in three areas of the Russian-occupied region of Kherson, a Ukrainian regional official said on Wednesday, according to comments reported by Reuters.

Yuriy Sobolevskyi, the deputy head of Kherson’s regional council, told Ukraine’s national news broadcaster that Ukrainian troops had enjoyed successes in the Kherson, Beryslav, and Kakhovka districts, but declined to give details.

“Now is the time to support our armed forces … Now is not the time to talk about the specific successes of our lads,” he said, echoing the Ukrainian military’s insistence on a near-total information blackout about the offensive. Kyiv announced the start of a southern counter-offensive to retake territory two days ago.

Ukrainian artillerymen in the military assembly center check the weapons and special equipment to make them ready before they go to their duties at the frontline in Kherson, Ukraine on July 15, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Sobolevskyi urged Ukrainians to support their armed forces with “everything they could” as the offensive was using up a vast quantity of resources.

“Right now, drones and ammunition are being used there like expendable material,” he said.

— Reuters

‘We are going into a war zone’: IAEA chief says as mission to Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant begins

As a delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency set off from Kyiv to southern Ukraine to inspect the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the leader of the team of international experts on the mission said they had a “very important task” to perform.

“These operations are very complex operations. We are going to a war zone, we’re going to occupied territory and this requires the explicit guarantees not only from the Russian Federation, but also from the Republic of Ukraine. And we have been able to secure that,” IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi told reporters as the delegation prepared to depart from Kyiv this morning, Reuters reported.

“We have a very important task there to perform — to assess the real situation there, to help stabilize the situation as much as we can.”

Personnel from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations prepare to depart for Zaporizhzhia from a hotel in Kyiv, Ukraine on Aug. 31, 2022.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

He said the team would be spending a few days in Zaporizhzhia, an area of fierce fighting between Russian and Ukrainian troops, and would be reporting back after the mission.

Russia took control of the nuclear power plant — Europe’s largest of its kind — near the start of the invasion and concerns have grown over a possible nuclear disaster given shelling near the complex.

Ukraine accused Russia of shelling the travel corridor that the IAEA team would take to reach the power plant and said it Moscow was planning “provocations” during the visit. Russia has in turn accused Ukraine of planning a similar action, an accusation rebuffed by Kyiv.

Ukraine has called for the full demilitarization of the plant and withdrawal of all Russian military personnel. Having met Grossi yesterday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said “only demilitarization of the ZNPP and returning to Ukraine full control over it will eliminate any risks.”

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia’s Gazprom rallies by over 20% after bumper profit and dividend announcement

Russia’s Gazprom saw its shares surge on Wednesday after reporting bumper first-half profits and announcing a new dividend to shareholders.

Stoyan Vassev | Press service of Gazprom Neft | via Reuters

Russian gas giant Gazprom posted a record first-half profit and promised new dividends to shareholders, sending its shares soaring more than 27% in early trade in Moscow on Wednesday.

The majority state-owned energy company said its board had proposed a dividend of 51.03 Russian rubles ($0.85) per ordinary share for the first half of 2022. In its first-half earnings report on Tuesday, Gazprom announced a record 2.5 trillion ruble ($41.75 billion) net profit.

The leap in the group’s share price took Russia’s dollar-denominated RTS index 3.6% higher and the ruble-denominated MOEX Russia Index 4.7% higher by late morning in Moscow.

Gazprom’s earnings boost comes amid volatile relations with its customers in Europe. The EU is frantically trying to reduce its reliance on Russian gas following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while still being largely dependent on such supplies to the bloc.

Gazprom, meanwhile, has greatly reduced gas flows to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline citing maintenance issues and international sanctions, leading European officials to accuse Russia of using gas supplies as a way to “blackmail” it.

The Nord Stream 1 pipeline has been shut down Wednesday with the outage due to last several days; Gazprom again said this was due to a compressor unit requiring maintenance.

— Elliot Smith

EU split on restricting travel rules for Russians

The EU’s foreign policy chief on Wednesday urged bickering nations to settle their differences on restricting travel for Russian citizens, and said Europe must remain united in its defiance of Moscow six months after the invasion of Ukraine.

Josep Borrell made his warning as foreign ministers of the European Union gathered in Prague for a second day of talks, where they were expected to agree in principle on suspending a visa facilitation agreement with Moscow.

That step would make Russians wait longer, and pay more, for visas for travel to EU countries.

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell speaks during a press conference following the informal EU Foreign Ministers meeting on September 20, 2021 in New York City.

Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images

But the 27 member states were stubbornly divided on whether they should go further and impose a blanket tourism ban, despite repeated call from Ukraine to make ordinary Russians pay for the invasion.

Some EU states have already restricted entry for Russians. Eastern and Nordic countries are pushing for an outright ban, while Germany and France have warned their peers it would be counter-productive.

“We will have to reach an agreement and a political decision,” the EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters as he arrived at the Prague meeting.

— Reuters

Nord Stream 1 gas supplies to Europe halted again for more ‘maintenance’

Russia has drastically reduced natural gas supplies to Europe in recent weeks, with flows via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline currently operating at just 20% of agreed upon volume.

Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Russian gas giant Gazprom halted supplies to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline in a planned “maintenance outage” expected to last until Sept. 3.

Russian gas supplies to Europe have been unpredictable and volatile this summer with Gazprom reducing flows along the pipeline, which stretches from Russia to Germany, both in June and then July.

Gazprom has said the reduction in gas flows is due to maintenance issues and has blamed international sanctions for delays in replacing a key turbine at the Portovaya compressor station, the initial compressor station of the gas pipeline.

International analysts say Russia is using gas supplies as a way to pressure Europe, which is seeking to curb its use of Russian gas due to the war in Ukraine, and as a way to get sanctions relief.

Gazprom said in a statement in mid-August that during the current outage, the only gas compressor unit that is in operation will be switched off “for a preventive maintenance period” and that if no malfunctions are found, “gas transmission will be resumed at the rate of 33 million cubic meters per day.” That’s only around 20% of the pipeline’s full capacity.

— Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine has pushed the front line back ‘some distance in places,’ UK says

Pro-Ukraine volunteers from Chechnya train near Kyiv. The Zelenskyy government has displayed growing confidence in recent weeks, increasingly taking the initiative in a conflict that the Kremlin itself has admitted is stalled.

Genya Savilov | Afp | Getty Images

Ukrainian armored forces have continued to assault Russia’s southern forces on several axes across the south of…

Read More:U.S. expected to announce fresh arms package for Ukraine; IAEA begins risky nuclear power