Ukraine updates

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Many incidents are developing centering Ukraine, which are largely ignored by a major part of media. But these incidents help understand the real picture centering Ukraine.

Racism Against Students

A Rolling Stone report (‘Ugly, Unprofessional’: International Students Describe Racism at the Ukrainian Border, March 2, 2022) said:

Since Thursday, Feb. 24, more than 660,000 people have fled Ukraine, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. Among them have been thousands of international students who came to Ukraine for college or medical school. At least two students — from India and Algeria — have been killed by Russian shelling in Kharkiv. As droves of people flee toward Ukraine’s western border, reports of racist behavior by authorities at the entry points to neighboring countries have proliferated on social media.

Twitter users have said that in an effort to evacuate Ukrainians ahead of other refugees, officials were segregating people by race to decide who got to pass through the border. Videos went viral purporting to show Black people from African nations being left stranded at Ukrainian train stations or being blocked from boarding trains, and groups of African and Indian students being menaced with guns and vans and pushed and beaten at the Polish border. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump shared a clip that showed a Black woman cradling an infant in a crowd at the Polish border, according to the caption, where the creator of the video said Black people were being denied passage and shelter. One Nigerian student told the BBC that an official told her “if you are Black, you should walk.” She had made it into Hungary and was trying to get a ticket home to Nigeria as quickly as possible. “If your skin is dark, you’re at a disadvantage,” she said.

Another Nigerian student who fled to Hungary told Rolling Stone he had such a hard time at the Poland border, he’d had to turn back and try a different way out. “I eventually left the Poland border due to the inhumane behaviors of the Ukrainian soldiers, and the acts of racism,” says Coy Emerald, 26. “I went back to Lviv and chose another route to Hungary.” He says he’d walked for 10 hours only to be left “unattended” at the border to Poland by people who he claims were Ukrainian soldiers. He said he had several “unexpected, ugly” interactions with the officials. “I thought they were trained to protect lives,” he says, adding that the “unprofessional conduct” of officials at the border was a threat beyond the crisis of war that he had not seen coming.

Ismail Adedolapo, a 23-year-old Nigerian who was studying in Ukraine before fleeing to Poland, says he experienced some racism as he traveled, and that officials only allowed Ukrainian women and children to leave. “I was subject to racist treatment at the Ukrainian border, but it is kind of excusable considering they have experienced the war firsthand for the last eight years,” he says. “At the same time, everyone deserves a chance at life because we were all trying to escape certain death.”

Nazish Ehtesham, a 19-year-old student from India, also says he saw officials separating people by nationality at the border to Romania. “I don’t know whether to call that racism or what, but they were allowing less foreigners as compared to Ukrainians,” he says.

On Monday, several African nations on the U.N. Security Council denounced the reported discrimination against African citizens. “We strongly condemn this racism and believe that it is damaging to the spirit of solidarity that is so urgently needed today,” Kenyan UN ambassador Martin Kimani said, in part. “The mistreatment of African peoples on Europe’s borders needs to cease immediately.” The U.N. ambassador from Gabon said the reported racism was “unacceptable.” In a statement, the African Union said, “Reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach [of] international law.” The AU urged all countries to “show the same empathy and support to all people fleeing war notwithstanding their racial identity.”

Fake Video

An AP report (Propaganda, fake videos of Ukraine invasion bombard users, February 24, 2022, said:

The messages, videos and photos flying across Twitter, Facebook and Telegram far outnumber the airstrikes raining down on Ukraine.

They claim to show Russian fighter jets being shot down or Ukrainians dodging for cover in their own homes.

Some are real, horrifying images of this war. Others had been lurking on the internet for years before Russia launched the largest attack on a European country since World War II.

The invasion of Ukraine is shaping up to be Europe’s first major armed conflict of the social media age, when the small screen of the smartphone is the dominant tool of communication, carrying with it the peril of an instantaneous spread of dangerous, even deadly, disinformation.

TikTok videos, propagandized headlines and tweets pinging out across screens around the world are confusing millions about the reality of how this battle is unfolding on the ground.

Across Telegram and Twitter, Russia’s attack on Ukraine was both “unprovoked” and “necessary,” depending on the sender of the message.

The report said:

As Thursday wore on, the truth became even more difficult for the rest of the world to disentangle from a string of hundreds of misleading tweets, deceptively edited videos and out-of-context photos that emerged after the first shots of war rang out.

One clip, taken from a video game, amassed millions of views as users falsely claimed it depicted real attacks. A video captured by The Associated Press in Libya more than a decade ago was revived across Facebook and Twitter Thursday, with users saying it showed a Russian fighter jet plummeting through gray skies to the ground after being shot down by Ukrainian forces. And some TikTok users wrongly believed they were watching a video of soldiers parachuting into Ukraine after a Russian account posted years-old footage while Russia’s invasion was underway — that didn’t stop the clip from racking up more than 22 million views before the day’s end.

People who see these videos, photos and claims online are likely to watch them, share them and move on with their day, said John Silva, a senior director of the News Literacy Project, a nonprofit that works to fight misinformation through education.

“We see a paratrooper, he’s speaking Russian, and so we don’t take the time to question it,” said Silva. “If we see a piece of information that’s new to us, we have this compulsion to share it with others.”

And while some users are unintentionally spreading rumors in hopes of shaping perception of the invasion, others are betting on the idea that they can dupe unwitting social media users into sharing the falsehoods.

Mexico Declines To Join Anti-Russia Sanctions

Other media reports said:

Mexico would not be taking part in the international pile-on to sanction Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said he seeks to keep his country on peaceful terms with all nations.

“We are not going to take any sort of economic retaliation because we want to maintain good relations with all the governments of the world,” Lopez Obrador told reporters on Tuesday.

Even as Mexico tries to avoid alienating its dominant trading partner, the U.S., Mexico also aims to maintain economic ties with Russia and Moscow’s Latin American allies. Russia’s Lukoil this year bought into an offshore oil project in Mexico, and Lopez Obrador said on Monday that his country will keep its airspace open for Aeroflot’s flights to Mexico City.

Lopez Obrador criticized censorship of Russian media outlets, including RT, by governments and social media companies. “I do not agree with the fact that media from Russia or any other country is censored,” he said.

Mexican Tourism Minister Miguel Torruco was widely criticized this week for posting a Twitter message offering “warm greetings” to Aeroflot and noting that “tourism is synonymous with peace, friendship and understanding between peoples.”

He added that Russian tourist visits to Mexico more than doubled last year to over 75,000.

Maduro Condemns Destabilizing Activities of U.S. and NATO

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has accused U.S. and NATO countries of destabilizing Eastern Europe and launching a campaign of lies and disinformation regarding the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Maduro made his comments on Tuesday in a telephone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to a Kremlin readout of their conversation. Putin shared his assessment of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, emphasizing that Moscow’s goal is to protect civilians in the Donbass region and secure Kiev’s recognition of the Donetsk (DPR) and Lugansk (LPR) People’s Republics, as well as Russian sovereignty over Crimea.

Putin said Russia aims to “demilitarize and denazify” Ukraine’s government, reiterating a key point made when he announced the military operation last week. Moscow also seeks to ensure that Kiev won’t join NATO or obtain nuclear weapons.

Maduro praised Russia’s “decisive actions” and emphasized the importance of countering disinformation on the Ukraine crisis.

The two leaders agreed to continue making contacts and exchanging delegations at various levels of their governments.

Poland and Bulgaria Deny Warplanes Supply to Ukraine

Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Monday Poland and NATO were not part of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine and therefore can’t send jets to join the combat.

“We are not sending any jets to Ukraine because that would open a military interference in the Ukrainian conflict. We are not joining that conflict,” he said at a press conference after his meeting with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, adding that they were supporting Ukrainians with humanitarian aid.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Ukrainian Air Force officially announced on their Facebook page that three NATO countries – Poland, Slovakia, and Bulgaria – would deliver more than 70 warplanes for the Ukrainian army. The jets were supposed to be able to operate from Polish airfields.

The Bulgarian Defense Ministry told local media on Tuesday that it has not considered providing combat aircraft to Ukraine.

Ukraine Recalls Ambassadors

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has summoned his diplomats back to Kiev for immediate discussions over Kyrgyzstan and Georgia’s responses to Russia’s attack on the Eastern European nation.

Speaking in a video address on Tuesday, Zelensky announced the measures he is taking in relation to the two former Soviet Republics.

The Ukrainian leader added that Kiev “immediately recalls the ambassador from Kyrgyzstan for justifying aggression against Ukraine.”

Zelensky issued a similar demand to the representative from Georgia after Tbilisi’s government allegedly “created obstacles for volunteers who want to help us, and for the immoral position on sanction.”

The decision comes after Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov apparently expressed support for his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin’s military offensive in Ukraine.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili told reporters the day before that Tbilisi “does not plan to participate in the financial and economic sanctions, as this would only damage our country and population more.”

A number of Western nations have hit Russia with sanctions in response to its onslaught against its neighbor. In the wake of the attack, U.S. President Joe Biden revealed a wave of punitive measures that are designed to impede Russia’s ability to do business in major currencies, as well as punitive measures against banks and state-owned enterprises.

China Suggests Russia and Ukraine Can Make Peace

Moscow and Kiev’s top officials must sit down at the negotiating table to establish a path to de-escalating aggression, one of Beijing’s top diplomats has said, as Russia’s armed forces continue to attack Ukraine.

Speaking on Monday at an emergency session, China’s permanent representative to the UN, Zhang Jun weighed in on how he believed tensions between the two former Soviet Republics could be eased.

“The most important thing right now is to return to the track of diplomatic negotiations and create a political settlement as soon as possible to help deescalate the situation,” he claimed.

According to the diplomat, “China supports direct dialogue and negotiation between Russia and Ukraine,” which he insists is the definitive way to resolve the conflict.

Zhang also said that the international community should “prioritize regional peace, stability and the universal security for all.”

China has previously blamed the U.S. for inflaming the hostilities which led to Russia’s incursion into its neighbor. Speaking last Thursday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying dubbed Washington’s officials as “culprit of current tensions.”

“If someone keeps pouring oil on the flames while accusing others of not doing their best to put out the fire, such kind of behavior is clearly irresponsible and immoral,” Hua claimed.

Iran’s Supreme Leader on Root Cause of Ukraine Crisis

The supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, claims that Ukraine fell victim to American policies aimed at creating crises around the globe. Khamenei cited Washington’s influence as the “root cause” of the current military conflict in Ukraine.

In a series of statements published on Tuesday both by Iranian media and on the supreme leader’s Twitter page, Khamenei said the “U.S. dragged Ukraine to where it is now.”

Among Washington’s actions that he thinks led to the military confrontation with Russia were America’s alleged interference in the Eastern European nation’s “internal affairs” in the form of “creating color revolutions and toppling one government and putting another in power.”

Khamenei noted that Iran “supports ending the war in Ukraine.”

Iran’s supreme leader also said the latest dramatic events in Ukraine should serve as an important lesson to other countries. One of the two key conclusions that can be drawn according to Khamenei is that America and Europe’s support for other countries is just a “mirage and not real.”

The cleric went on to liken “today’s Ukraine” to “yesterday’s Afghanistan,” in that both nations were “left alone” by the U.S. and Western governments.

The other important lesson which Khamenei said could be learned from the Ukrainian crisis is that the “people are governments’ most important support.” He proceeded to claim that the “people of Ukraine” did not really “approve of the government.”

According to Iran’s supreme leader, had the Ukrainian government enjoyed popular support, it would not have found itself in the current situation.

India to Ship Record Wheat as Ukraine Crisis Upends Trade Flows

On February 28, 2022, a Bloomberg report said:

India is set to benefit from the shifts in global wheat trade as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine leaves a vital source of supply hanging in balance.

The uncertainty caused by the war means that importing nations will be looking to buy wheat from elsewhere. India’s exports could exceed a record 7 million tons in 2021-22 if the conflict drags on, according to Vijay Iyengar, chairman and managing director of Singapore-based Agrocorp International Pte.

“Everyone in the market is working to find out how much would be the incremental demand for Indian wheat,” said Iyengar, whose company trades about 12 million tons of grains annually. He expects the demand to come mainly from Asian countries.

Asia markets are well supplied for the April-May period but from July and August onward, the coverage is very low, Iyengar said.

Indonesia, one of the biggest buyers of Ukraine wheat, is starting to seek alternatives and eying supplies from Argentina, Brazil, India and other European countries, according to an industry group official.

Iyengar’s view echoes a forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for India to ship 7 million tons in 2021-22, more than double the prior season and will rank the nation as the world’s ninth-largest shipper.

Chaos in Commodities

The turmoil unleashed in commodity markets due to the Ukraine incidents worsened on Monday as liquefied natural gas (LNG) orders were paused, finance for trade in raw materials dried up and Black Sea wheat sales froze.

On March 1, 2022, another Bloomberg report said:

As tougher U.S. and European sanctions threaten to partly cut Russia off from the global financial system, disruptions to shipments of raw materials from palladium to wheat mounted. Buyers also paused purchases of Russian LNG as they awaited clarity on restrictions against banks and companies. The cost of shipping the nation’s raw materials is soaring, while the fallout is reverberating from London to Hong Kong as international investors ditch Russian commodities assets.

The immediate focus is on disruption to Black Sea trade, which includes millions of barrels of oil a day and about a quarter of the world’s grain exports. While Russian raw materials were so far exempted from sanctions, the threat of a severe dislocation to flows will increase as the conflict escalates.

“Unintended consequent risk, meaning a pipeline outage or something like that, is extraordinarily high, and this is on top of the difficulty of getting the seaborne trade up and running,” Jeff Currie, head of commodities research at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “This is an enormous amount of oil that has the potential to be disrupted for weeks.”

Even before the expulsion of some Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system — used for trillions of dollars worth of transactions around the world — a number of lenders were halting the finance of commodities trading from Russia.

Societe Generale SA and Credit Suisse Group AG have stopped providing trade finance for Russian raw materials flows, according to people familiar with the matter. Dutch banking giants ING Groep NV and Rabobank are restricting lending to deals involving movement of commodities from Russia and Ukraine, and Chinese banks are also pulling back.

That means that even without sanctions, many of the commodity markets in which Russian exports play a significant role at are risk of seizing up. As the war intensifies — with ships bombarded last week — the risk of logistical turmoil is also increasing. Insurers are either refusing to offer cover for vessels sailing into the Black Sea, or demanding huge premiums to do so.

Grain loading in Ukraine has been halted with ports closed. More than two dozen vessels in the midst of loading have been held up at Ukrainian ports, according to Nabil Mseddi, chief executive officer of AgFlow.

Top wheat importer Egypt was forced to yet again ditch efforts to buy the grain it needs to subsidize bread for its people, highlighting the threat that the Russia-Ukraine war poses to the world’s food needs. There were no offers from Black Sea shippers and Egypt’s state buyer cited higher prices for the tender cancellation.

Benchmark wheat futures jumped 8.6% in Chicago, the biggest single-day gain in more than 11 years, and 8.9% in Paris. Corn climbed 5.3% and soybeans 3.3%.

However, there are signs of oil traders starting to overcome an initial wariness of dealing with Russian supply that emerged immediately after the invasion.

Poland’s PKN Orlen bought a consignment of the nation’s flagship Urals crude, while Trafigura Group provisionally hired a tanker to take the same grade. Traders said there was increased buying activity. That’s not to say that the market has fully returned to normal, with a tender to sell Urals failing to proceed for a second time.

Norway said it was starting to remove Russian assets from its $1.3 trillion sovereign wealth fund, while BP Plc dropped after saying it would offload its stake in state-owned oil company Rosneft PJSC.

While equity trading was halted in Moscow, MMC Norilsk Nickel PJSC, Russia’s biggest metals and mining company, slumped as much as 58% in London and closed 43% lower. In Hong Kong, aluminum giant United Co. Rusal International PJSC fell 16%.

Rusal halted shipments at a Ukraine alumina refinery that’s a key source of raw material for its smelters in Russia. Ukrainian iron-ore miner Ferrexpo Plc said Monday the availability of rail capacity to ship its pellets to customers in Europe was unclear. The London-listed company, which operates three mines in central Ukraine, said it’s delaying the publication of its full-year results.

There are sanctions’ carve outs for Russian raw materials, but traders, banks and shippers fear those exemptions may not last.

“Commodity markets need to reflect not only these difficulties in paying for Russia’s exports but, with little left to sanction, the risk that Russian commodities eventually fall under Western restrictions,” Goldman analysts including Damien Courvalin and Currie said in a note dated Feb. 27.

European natural gas surged as much as 36% before paring gains, as the new round of sanctions spurred concerns about energy shortages. With Russian markets paralyzed and heavy fighting reported around key cities in Ukraine, Putin’s invasion looks set to underpin many commodities for some time.

“This reinforces that longer-term structural bull market in commodities,” said Currie.

‘Moving, But Completely Fake’

Russian deputy ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy has caught U.S. officials in a bald-faced lie in their reporting on the Russian operation in Ukraine.

U.S. deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman and State Department spokesman Ned Price posted a viral video snippet from Ukrainian UN ambassador to Ukraine Sergiy Kyslytsya’s speech on Monday reading what the Ukrainian diplomat claimed was a smartphone texting exchange between a Russian soldier and his mother.

“‘Mama, this is so hard.’ That was the last text this Russian mother received from her son before he was killed during fighting in Ukraine. President Putin putting Russians’ lives at risk. #StopTheLies,” Price wrote in a tweet accompanying the video.

“Moving, but completely fake.” Polyanskiy responded. “Soldiers do not use phones, especially with internet access, during combat actions. Nor do they carry passports which is common in other fakes on allegedly killed or captured Russian servicemen,” the diplomat wrote.

In a second tweet, Polyanskiy posted a link to an “anti-fake guide” on China’s WeChat “for our Chinese friends who are also actively targeted by #Ukraine fake-makers.” The guide dissects dozens upon dozens of images posted by Western media and authorities in recent days about the Ukraine crisis turning out to have nothing to do with the crisis.

The tremendous amount of fake information being generated online in connection with the Russian military operation in Ukraine has prompted even traditional mainstream US media to create guides for spotting fakes.

On Monday, Russian ambassador to the UN Vassily Nebenzia addressed the spread of “fake news” related to the Russian operation in Ukraine, including claims that troops were deliberately targeting civilians.

Emergency Release of Crude Oil From U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve

U.S. announces emergency release of 30 mln barrels of crude oil from strategic petroleum reserve.

The move follows a joint International Energy Agency (IEA) meeting in which the US and 30 other member-nations agreed on the release of 60 million barrels of oil from the nation’s emergency reserves. Sanctions-related disruptions to Russian oil trade have created a market “under threat” that demands global attention, the group says.

U.S. President Joe Biden has authorized Washington to release 30 million barrels of oil from strategic petroleum reserves in an effort to stabilize global energy markets disrupted by the military attacks in Ukraine, US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a Tuesday evening statement.

“Today, I chaired an emergency ministerial meeting of the [IEA] … where the United States and 30 other member countries, supported by the European Commission, agreed to collectively release an initial 60 million barrels of oil from strategic petroleum reserves,” Granholm wrote. “This decision reflects our common commitment to address significant market and supply disruptions related to President Putin’s war on Ukraine.”

The IEA reportedly considered releasing up to 70 million barrels of oil during the emergency discussions.

In line with this decision, President Biden authorized me to make an initial commitment on behalf of the United States of 30 million barrels of oil to be released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve,” Granholm said.

Washington is committed to blocking Putin from “attempts to weaponize energy supplies” and will continue the advancement of “ongoing efforts to accelerate Europe’s diversification of energy supplies away from” Moscow, the U.S. energy secretary noted.

The U.S. announcement comes shortly after the Paris-based IEA approved the release via an emergency meeting, amounting to the fourth instance the group has moved to tap into its emergency stockpiles. This particular release comes second to the IEA’s release amid the first Gulf War in 1991.

A hike in oil prices, as well as a commercial inventory drought rivaling the lows of 2014, comes as the U.S., Japan, and European IEA countries seek to send a “unified message” to oil producer Russia regarding what they refer to as its “special operation” in Ukraine.

US Stocks Fall by 597 Points as Oil Prices Skyrocket

Crude oil traded above $100 a barrel on Tuesday, with price spikes that represented eight-year highs. Per the Wall Street Journal, prices were sitting at $106 a barrel (up 8.1% that day) following the IEA announcement.

Indices at the New York Stock Exchange fell sharply on Tuesday, driven down by a sharp spike in petroleum prices caused by Western sanctions against Russia for the latter’s special operation in Ukraine.

At the closing bell on Tuesday, the Dow Jones was down by 597.65 points, a 1.76% decline, bringing it to 33,294.95. The S&P 500 fell by 67.68 points, a 1.55% decline, putting it at 4,306.26. The Nasdaq also fell by 1.59%, declining by 218.94 points, to finish at 13,532.46.

Crude oil prices crossed $100 a barrel on Tuesday, driven upward by expectations of lost supply from Russia, which has seen its economy targeted by punishing economic sanctions from NATO powers and their allies in recent days. Russia is the world’s largest exporter of fossil fuel products and the second-largest exporter of crude oil, after Saudi Arabia.

That price spike came despite a release of 30 million barrels from the US Strategic Petroleum Reserve by US President Joe Biden. On Tuesday, White House National Economic Council Deputy Director Bharat Ramamurti leaned on US oil producers to increase production.

The prices of other major Russian export commodities also spiked on Tuesday, including wheat futures, which hit the maximum 5.4% increase allowed by the Chicago Board of Trade, reaching $9.84 a bushel. According to CNBC, that is its highest price since 2008.

Other economic forces are also at play as US investors remain wary of rising inflation and the Federal Reserve’s anticipated response of increasing interest rates. The price of gold rose by 1.9% on Tuesday, and the yield on the 10-year US Treasury note fell to 1.726% on Tuesday from 1.836% a day prior, due to investors expecting a weak response from the Fed, according to the Wall Street Journal.


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