Ismail Sabri Yaakob

Vietnam and Malaysia did not support the anti-Russian sanctions and agreed to remain neutral towards the Ukraine crisis, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob told reporters Tuesday after his visit to Hanoi.

“We discussed the Russian-Ukrainian conflict and agreed that Malaysia and Vietnam will remain neutral on this issue,” he said according to the Bernama news agency. “As for sanctions against Russia, we do not support them.”

“The sides do not support unilateral sanctions; we recognize restrictions that could be imposed only by the UN Security Council,” the Prime Minister underscored.

He noted that the two countries “do not support such aggression against a sovereign state,” underscoring that their “position is non-interference.”

“We expect a diplomatic resolution of the crisis in Ukraine,” the Prime Minister added.

EU Splits Over Energy Sanctions

Hungary’s top diplomat has indicated that his country will not support new economic sanctions on Russian energy firms, arguing the move could backfire. Peter Szijjarto also warned that no-fly zone proposals for Ukraine risk sparking a larger regional conflict.

Speaking to reporters following a meeting with fellow European Union members in Brussels on Monday, the Hungarian foreign minister said Budapest is unlikely to back penalties targeting Russian gas and oil, as they are liable to harm its own interests.

“An agreement on possible EU sanctions against Russian energy supplies or their interruption will most likely not be reached,” he said, adding that “We will not support any sanctions that could pose a risk to energy supplies to Hungary.” “Some countries are dependent on Russian energy supplies. We do not do this for fun. Energy supply is not a philosophical or ideological question, but a physical, mathematical one.”

The FM’s comments follow reports that the EU would meet to consider an all-out embargo on Russian energy, though the body was “split” on the issue after Monday’s summit, according to Reuters.

While Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney argued that it’s “very hard to make the case that we shouldn’t be moving in on [Russia’s] energy sector” given “the extent of the destruction in Ukraine,” he faced pushback from not only Hungary, but Germany and the Netherlands as well.

“The question of an oil embargo is not a question of whether we want or don’t want [it], but a question of how much we depend on oil,” Berlin’s foreign minister, Annalena Baerbock, told reporters, noting that some EU states cannot simply “stop the oil imports from one day to the other.”

Szijjarto also voiced concerns over other plans floated by EU and NATO members in recent weeks, including calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine and an armed ‘peacekeeping’ mission to end fighting there, saying those issues must be discussed “clearly” as there is a “new war risk.”

“We must avoid that. Hungary’s interest is clear: Hungary wants to stay out of this war, we will stick to NATO’s common position and reject proposals that risk either an air war or an extended war on the ground,” he added.

The FM stated that while Hungary would not attempt to block other EU members from shipping additional weapons to Ukrainian forces, it also would not take part in such transfers itself, nor allow arms to cross its territory.

Though the Hungarian government has condemned Moscow’s attack on Ukraine and agreed to some sanctions, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has insisted that his country must “stay out” of the conflict and has repeatedly refused to support weapons shipments.

Serbia Will Not Ban Russian Media

Serbia will never join the anti-Russian hysteria and will not ban Russian media, Serbian Minister of the Interior Aleksandar Vulin said during a meeting with Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko Tuesday.

“Serbia will never be a part of the anti-Russian hysteria, when property of Russian citizens and the Russian Federation itself is being confiscated, and it will not ban Russian media, expel Russian students from schools and remove Russian writers and scientists from textbooks. A civilization that cancels Russian writers, scientists, freedom fighters, a civilization that rejects everything that the Russian people gave the world would be a very poor civilization. Those who would like to cancel Dostoyevsky have never read that the entire world is not worth [even] one tear of a child, and thus they are able to call for murder of Russian children,” the Minister said.

Vulin underscored that Serbia is an independent and self-reliant country who can choose its friends.

“Serbia will never forget that, in 2015, Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution that would have declared Serbian people the first people in history guilty of genocide,” Vulin said.

The Minister noted that Serbian police cooperate with Russian law enforcement agencies – police, National Guard and Ministry of Emergency Situations – very successfully. He expressed his certainty that the cooperation between the two countries will be mutually beneficial and thanked Russia for its consistent support of Serbia in its fight for territorial integrity.

Previously, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic called Western attempts to “cancel” Yuri Gagarin and Fyodor Dostoyevsky a consequence of hysteria and insanity that engulfed the world. He made this remark in response to Space Foundation’s decision to cancel the annual “Yuri’s Night,” dedicated to the Cosmonautics Day.

Earlier, the University of Milan cancelled lectures about Fyodor Dostoyevsky read by Paolo Nori, a renowned Slav culture researcher, writer and translator. Social media users attacked writer Nikolay Lilin, who currently lives in Italy – author of the “Siberian upbringing” novel, filmed by Italian director Gabriele Salvatores. The La Scala Theater fired director Valery Gergiyev, while Anna Netrebko left the Milan Theater herself.

Russia Sanctions To Hit UK Poorest The Hardest, Warn MPs

Sanctions against Russia will come at a cost to the UK, with the poorest households to be hit hardest by higher energy costs.

A report by the UK’s Treasury select committee said that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will have a significant economic impact on the cost of living in the UK.

“There will be a cost to the UK economy of the economic sanctions imposed on Russia. It is not possible yet to quantify that cost. But we believe that, on the information currently available, it is most definitely a cost worth bearing in order to aid Ukraine in opposing Russian aggression,” the report said.

“However, that cost, combined with the already present pressures in the UK on the cost of living, will impact the whole country, and will be felt particularly by low income households”, MPs said in a report.

The UK government hiked tariffs on imports from vodka to steel, and banned exports of luxury goods.

It had previously severed ties with Russian banks, grounded planes and stopped ships from using its ports, and announced plans to phase out Russian oil imports by the year-end.

Mel Stride, chairman of the Treasury committee, said: “This war will also have economic consequences here at home.”

Gas and electricity bills will increase by a record-breaking 54% in April. The average household will see bills increase from £1,277 to £1,971.

With wholesale rates at record levels following structural shifts in the market due to the pandemic, as well as the impact of the Ukraine war, that could rise to £2500 in October, according to personal finance expert Martin Lewis.

Ukraine Accuses Hungary Of Having Designs On Its Land

Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk has questioned, what she has described as, Hungary’s “pro-Russian” rhetoric, suggesting that the desire for “cheap Russian gas” or even a potential land grab could be behind Budapest’s policy over the conflict between Moscow and Kiev.

In a lengthy Facebook post, the official claimed that “not even all Russian satellites from the former Soviet Union behave the way Hungary’s authorities do.”

She said that Hungary does not support sanctions against Russia, refuses to provide Ukraine with weapons, and even “does not allow weapons from other countries to pass via their territory.”

“In fact, they say ‘no’ to everything. A bit more – and Budapest’s official rhetoric will be totally pro-Russian. What is this? Want some cheap Russian gas? Or maybe want our Transcarpathia?” Vereshchuk wrote before calling on Budapest to “join the civilized world” and “not to repeat the mistakes of World War II when Hungary made a wrong choice.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said that his country would not support anti-Russia sanctions which would cause harm to its own interests, including the penalties targeting Russian gas and oil.

He also reiterated that Hungary was against any proposals involving sending NATO soldiers to Ukraine or creating a no-fly zone over the country, explaining that such actions would raise the risk of a larger-scale war.

Russia Sees Ties With U.S. On Verge Of Breakdown

The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned US Ambassador John Sullivan following U.S. President Joe Biden’s caustic remarks about Russian leader Vladimir Putin. The envoy was handed a note of protest. Moscow also warned that hostile actions against Russia would be met with a robust response.

Biden on March 17 called Putin a “murderous dictator” and a “pure thug” who “is waging an immoral war against the people of Ukraine.” In response to a reporter’s question the day before, Biden claimed that Putin was a “war criminal.” The first scandal over the US president’s insulting statements about his Russian counterpart erupted in March 2021, when Biden agreed with an ABC News interviewer’s remark that Putin was “a killer.”

Russia Bans Facebook And Instagram

A Russian court’s decision to designate Meta Platforms as an extremist organization will change little for Russian users, they won’t be held accountable for using Meta’s social media networks as long as the content that they post does not violate Russian laws, said experts interviewed by Izvestia. However, bloggers and advertisers may face liability.

Using VPN services and other tools to circumvent the ban is legal for now, an attorney from the Rustam Kurmayev and Partners firm Yaroslav Shitsle told Kommersant. According to him, simply browsing Facebook and Instagram feeds is not fraught with serious risks. It is users who promote businesses on Facebook and Instagram that are in danger, lawyers insist. Paying for Facebook’s advertising tools or trading Meta’s stocks may be classified as funding extremist activities, said Yevgenia Savelyeva, a lawyer with Kosenkov and Suvorov. Companies will have to either remove links to Meta apps from their websites or add notes indicating that the organization is outlawed, otherwise it would be viewed as an abuse of freedom of the media, she added.

The designation of Meta as an extremist organization is an unprecedented move because until recently, only certain communities had been labeled as such rather than entire social media networks, Maxim Strilchenko, a lawyer from the S&K Vertikal law office, told Izvestia. Holding users who monetize their content accountable will require proving that they had a malicious intent to fund an extremist organization, Strilchenko pointed out.

As for ordinary users, they won’t face a penalty for posting photos on Facebook or Instagram, provided that their content does not violate Russian laws, Head of the Content Review project Sergey Polovnikov explained.

Western Brands May Quietly Return To Russia

Western brands that earlier suspended their activities in Russia may soon resume operations, albeit quietly, said experts interviewed by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Western companies are unwilling to knuckle under to their Russian competitors just like that. The Spanish retailer Inditex, which owns brands such as Zara and Bershka, has announced plans to return to the Russian market at the earliest opportunity.

The companies were forced to make such a demarche under the pressure of their governments but no one has plans to offset the losses they are suffering from withdrawing from Russia, which is the largest European country in terms of population size. After all, Western businesses don’t serve governments but their shareholders who have the right to demand corporate management explain lost profits, the expert emphasized. So a quiet return of these companies to the Russian market is the most likely scenario for the coming months, expert emphasized.

Meanwhile, as soon as foreign companies closed their cafes and shops, Russian producers stepped up their activities because there is now a real chance for them to grab the spotlight, Editor-in-Chief of the Marketing and Logistics magazine Olga Zhiltsova pointed out.

No Plans To Set Up Structure To Reshape Local Authorities In Ukraine, Says Russia

Russia is not looking at establishing a structure that would reshape or reorganize local authorities in Ukraine’s liberated territories, Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.

“No structures are being set up on this matter,” he told reporters when asked a corresponding question.

Kiev Hopes For China’s Role In resolving Ukrainian Crisis

Kiev hopes that China would play a more active role in resolving the current crisis in Ukraine, and is looking forward to a possible phone conversation between the leaders of Ukraine and China, Head of the Office of the Ukrainian President Andrey Yermak said.

“Kyiv is hopeful Beijing will play a more prominent role,” he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “We are looking forward to Zelensky and [Chinese President Xi] Jinping talk.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba earlier called upon Beijing to play an important role in resolving the situation in Ukraine.

Western Arms Deliveries To Ukraine Threaten Global Security, Says Russian diplomat

Sending weapons and mercenaries to Ukraine are extremely dangerous policies that pose a direct threat to European and global security, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said.

“Pumping the Kiev regime with weapons and sending foreign mercenaries to the territory of Ukraine is irresponsible and extremely dangerous. Militarization of Ukraine directly threatens European and global security,” the embassy’s press service quoted the ambassador as saying in its Telegram channel.

Special Operation In Ukraine Proceeds According To Plan, Claims Kremlin

Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine proceeds in accordance with previously set goals and plans, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with CNN on Tuesday.

“It [the special operation] is going on strictly in accordance with the plans and with purposes that were established beforehand,” he said, adding that from the very beginning, no one was expecting it to take “a couple of days.”

Peskov added that the operation in Ukraine was “a serious operation with serious purposes.”

In his words, the operation’s goals have not been achieved yet.

“Not yet, we are speaking about a special military operation that is going on,” the Kremlin spokesman added.

It was perfectly clear for Russia that Kiev was preparing to launch a military operation against the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (DPR and LPR), Peskov said.

According to the official, Russia was “hoping that Ukraine will never get prepared for a strike against Donbass,” and Moscow was counting on progress in the Normandy Format talks.

“After that, in a couple of days, it was perfectly clear for us, for our military specialists, that Ukraine was going to launch an offensive against Donbass,” the spokesman said, adding that by that time, Ukraine had amassed approximately 120,000 servicemen along the line of contact.

“There were clear signs that an offensive was going to start,” Peskov added.

In his words, “no one would listen to our concerns” until the Russian operation began.

“No one would warn Ukrainians not to do that [launch an offensive in Donbass]. No one would push Ukrainians towards the solution within a framework of Normandy process. No one did,” he said.

Western countries have been turning a deaf ear to Russia’s security concerns for decades, Peskov said.

“President Putin’s intents are to make the world listen to and understand our concerns,” he said in an interview with CNN. “We’ve been trying to convey our concerns to the world, first to Europe, to the United States for a couple of decades, but no one would listen to us.”

“And before it is too late, it was a decision to start, to launch a special military operation to get rid of anti-Russia that was created next our border,” he stressed.

Talks Are ‘Confrontational’, Says Zelensky

Ukraine President Zelensky has said peace talks with Russia to end the month-long war were tough and sometimes confrontational, but he insisted that “step by step we are moving forward”.

Although Russian and Ukrainian negotiators have been talking regularly, both sides say any deal is far off.

“We are continuing to work at different levels to encourage Russia to move towards peace,” Zelensky said.

“Ukrainian representatives are participating in talks that are taking place virtually every day. It is very difficult, sometimes confrontational but step by step we are moving forward.”

Macron Under Fire As Renault Resumes Russian Production

Emmanuel Macron’s government has come under fire for backing Renault’s decision to buck a Western boycott of Russia.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said the French car maker’s decision to restart manufacturing in Moscow would only “cushion” the Russian economy from the impact of Western sanctions.

The company behind the Clio and Kadjar models was forced to halt production last month over logistical problems caused by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Zelensky Invited To Address Special NATO Summit

Zelensky, the Ukrainian President, has been invited to address a special NATO summit Thursday discussing the Russian invasion of his country, an official said.

“President Zelensky is invited to address the NATO summit via video link,” a NATO official said Tuesday.

Biden ‘Seeking To Reinforce’ Western Unity

U.S. President Joe Biden is seeking to reinforce Western unity at a series of summits in Europe this week where new sanctions will be announced against Russia over its war in Ukraine, a top US official said Tuesday.

Biden leaves Wednesday for Brussels a day ahead of summits with NATO and the European Council, then a trip to Poland on Friday for a meeting with President Andrzej Duda the following day.

The intense diplomacy marks a crucial moment in the dangerous standoff between a newly reinvigorated transatlantic alliance and President Vladimir Putin, who a month ago sent the Russian army pouring into pro-Western Ukraine to try and upend the balance of European power.

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters that Biden will seek to “reinforce the incredible unity we built with allies and partners.”

U.S. Says It Has Not Yet Seen Chinese Arms Shipments To Russia

The U.S. has not seen evidence of any recent Chinese weapons shipments to its ally Russia as Moscow wages its war in Ukraine, a top US official said today.

“We have not seen the provision of military equipment by China to Russia. But of course, this is something we are monitoring closely,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said.

Putin ‘Unlikely’ To Use Chemical Weapons, Says Former British Ambassador To Russia

Sir Tony Brenton, a former British ambassador to Russia, said he doubts the danger of Vladimir Putin using chemical weapons against Ukraine is “as high as people have said”.

“What I’m hearing is that it’s unlikely because if you’ve got troops on the ground, then using gas could as easily turn against your troops as for them,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM program.

“So I doubt that the danger of him using chemical weapons is as high as people have said, including, I’m afraid, the President of the United States.”

India Is ‘Somewhat Shaky’ In Quad Bloc, Says Biden

Joe Biden has said that among the Quad security alliance, only India is “somewhat shaky” in acting against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, as the country attempts to balance its ties with Russia and the West.

While the other Quad countries – the United States, Japan and Australia – have sanctioned Russian entities or people, India has not imposed sanction or even condemned Russia, its biggest supplier of military hardware.

“In response to his aggression, we have presented a united front throughout the NATO and in the Pacific,” the U.S. president told a business forum on Monday, referring to the Russian president Vladimir Putin.

“The Quad – with the possible exception of India being somewhat shaky on some of these – but Japan has been extremely strong, so is Australia in terms of dealing with Putin’s aggression.”

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