Ukraine Latest: US Building War Crime Cases, Merrick Garland Says in Lviv

President Vladimir Putin will hold a regular meeting of the Russian Security Council on Friday, a day after scrapping a trip to southern Russia after an attack in a village near the border with Ukraine.

Ukrainian artillerymen arm shells before firing on Russian positions on March 2.
Ukrainian artillerymen arm shells before firing on Russian positions on March 2.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland  made an unannounced visit to Ukraine, meeting President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Lviv, along with top prosecutors from several European nations, to discuss criminal investigations regarding Russia’s actions during the war   

Ukraine’s ground forces commander visited Bakhmut troops after Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, released a video saying his units had “practically surrounded” the eastern Ukrainian city. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin met with members of his Security Council to discuss strengthening what he called antiterrorism measures, a day after scrapping a trip to southern Russia following an incident near the border with Ukraine. 

In neighboring Belarus, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Ales Bialiatski, was sentenced to a decade in a penal colony as the authorities continue to crack down on dissent. 

Key Developments

  • Biden Lauds Germany’s Military Aid to Ukraine in Scholz Meeting
  • US Announces $400 Million in Ammunition and Supplies for Ukraine
  • Blinken Presses Lavrov on Ukraine in Unexpected Chat at G-20 
  • Russia’s Revenue From Oil and Gas Almost Halved in February
  • Abramovich’s Billionaire Ally Takes On UK in Sanctions Challenge
  • Russian Grain Exports Boom as Buyers Snap Up Cheap Cargoes

(All times CET)

Garland Says US Has Identified War Crimes Suspects (1 a.m.)

Garland and the other prosecutors took part in the United for Justice Conference in Lviv, according to a Justice Department statement released Friday evening.

The attorney general said the US had opened investigations into war crimes “that may violate US law.” 

“Although we are still building our cases, interviewing witnesses, and collecting evidence, we have already identified specific suspects,” Garland added in the statement. Zelenskiy’s office issued a statement saying Garland was joined by top prosecutors from Spain, the UK and other European nations, as well as senior officials from the International Criminal Court and the United Nations.

Biden Praises Germany’s Assistance in Meeting With Scholz (1 a.m.)

President Joe Biden lauded Germany’s commitment to providing military and other support to Ukraine as he met with Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House on Friday. “Ammunition, artillery, armored tanks, air defense systems — We’ve been together throughout this,” Biden said. 

Both leaders are pushing to produce arms and ammunition for Ukraine as Russia’s invasion enters its second year. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has urged allies to address shortages of ammunition, particularly for tanks and air defense weapons supplied by Germany.

The US on Friday was prepared to announce a new military aid package for Ukraine worth around $400 million, including rockets for mobile launchers, ammunition for armored fighting vehicles, and demolition munitions.

US Announces $400 Million in Ammunition and Supplies for Ukraine (8 p.m.)

The Biden administration announced a new $400 million military assistance package for Ukraine, including ammunition for its howitzers and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, the US said Friday.

The assistance was primarily aimed at replacing the vast quantity of shells and missiles that Ukraine has fired as it seeks to repel Russian forces, and included no new weapons systems. Among the items were 155mm artillery rounds, 25mm ammunition and demolition munitions, as well as armored-vehicle launched bridges and spare parts, the Pentagon said.

Hungary Committed to NATO Enlargement, Lawmaker Says (4:12 p.m.)

Zsolt Nemeth, the head of the foreign affairs committee in Hungary’s legislature, said he’s “confident” parliament will ratify the applications of Sweden and Finland to join NATO and hopes the assembly will sign off on the alliance’s expansion in a vote later this month. 

Of the organization’s 30 members, Hungary and Turkey are the sole remaining countries to yet ratify the Nordic bids.

Read More: Hungary Committed to NATO Enlargement, Lawmaker Says

Ukraine’s Ground Commander Visits Bakhmut Troops (3:33 p.m.)

Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander in charge of Ukraine’s ground forces, visited troops defending Bakhmut, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. Fighting continues inside and around the city with Russia massing troops seeking to take it over, the ministry said on Telegram.

Addressing Ukraine’s president in a video released on Friday, Prigozhin said that “the pincers are closing” around Kyiv’s troops still in the area, with only one road out of the city still open. Controlling Bakhmut is thought to be a stepping stone for Russian forces to advance further west and north. 

The video was “disinformation” aimed at sowing panic and filmed near a village that Russian forces claimed to have seized Feb. 20, the Ukrainian government’s center of strategic communications said on Telegram. 

Latvia to Help Rebuild Ukraine’s Chernihiv Region (2:58 p.m.)

Latvia will pass its budget next week and there is a “special line” on support for the northern Ukrainian region of Chernihiv, Latvian President Egils Levits told journalists at a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. Chernihiv was occupied by Russia in the first month of its invasion last year.

Levits, who was visiting Ukraine for the third time since the invasion began, also said he was urging allies to increase and speed up weapons supply to Ukraine as “next month there will be a decisive battle.”

Ukraine Says Almost 10,000 Russians Flagged Wish to Surrender (2:25 p.m.)

A total of 9,836 Russian servicemen have applied to surrender in advance via a special contact line set up by Ukraine in September, according to the country’s military center dealing with prisoners of war.

The project allows Russian servicemen to inform Ukrainian authorities via a website or Telegram channel about their plan to surrender. This also includes those in Russia who fear mobilization and want to ensure safe passage to Ukrainian prisoner camps if they are sent to fight. 

Russian prisoners of war can choose between returning home or applying for asylum in Ukraine or some European Union countries, the center said, without specifying how many of those who applied to surrender have done so.

Putin Holds Security Council Meeting (2:05 p.m.)

Putin opened the regular meeting with top officials, including the head of the Interior Ministry, a day after denouncing an attack in a village near Russia’s border with Ukraine as “a terrorist act.” 

Russia said Ukrainian fighters crossed the border in the Bryansk region, an allegation officials in Kyiv dismissed as a set-up aimed at building public support for Putin’s invasion.

Russia’s Oil and Gas Revenue Plunged 46% in February (1:31 p.m.)

Russia’s oil and gas revenue fell last month to 521 billion rubles ($6.91 billion), according to the Finance Ministry. Proceeds from crude oil and petroleum products — which accounted for over two thirds of energy tax revenue last month — fell by 48% from a year ago to 361 billion rubles, according to Bloomberg calculations.

The drop comes after the price of Urals crude — Russia’s key export blend — trades at a significant discount to Brent. The EU banned most seaborne imports of crude and petroleum products from Russia, and the Group of Seven industrialized nations imposed a price cap.

Ukraine Latest: US Building War Crime Cases, Merrick Garland Says in Lviv

Raiffeisen Suspends Opening New Accounts for Russian Firms (1:23 p.m.)

Raiffeisen Bank International AG said it stopped opening accounts for new corporate clients at its Russian business and is limiting new foreign-currency services for existing customers in a temporary measure due to increased demand for services and a heavier administrative burden.

The Austrian bank is one of the few Western lenders to still do business in Russia, where it handles about a quarter of all euro and dollar transactions in and out of the country, according to its own estimates. US authorities have been reviewing whether the business has complied with sanctions. 

Putin Orders New Rules for Defense Firms Under Martial Law (1:17 p.m.)

Putin signed a decree laying out new rules for tightening control of companies that fail to fulfill defense contracts in the event martial law is imposed.

Under the presidential decree, the state would get the power to take over firms that fail to meet their obligations under military contracts, suspending the rights of owners and shareholders. The Kremlin has imposed martial law in the regions of Ukraine its forces currently occupy, except Crimea. Officials have said there are no plans at present to enact it more widely despite periodic calls over the last year to do so.

OECD Chief: Russia Will ‘Ultimately’ Pay Reparations  (12:10 p.m.) 

WATCH: The OECD says Russia will have to pay reparations “for the harm and the damage they have done” to Ukraine.Source: Bloomberg
WATCH: The OECD says Russia will have to pay reparations “for the harm and the damage they have done” to Ukraine.Source: Bloomberg

OECD Secretary General Mathias Cormann tells Bloomberg TV that Russia will ultimately have to pay reparations “for the harm and the damage they have done” to Ukraine. 

Belarus Sentences Nobel Peace Prize Winner to 10 Years (11:35 a.m.)

Ales Bialiatski, 60, who won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize while in a Belarusian prison, was sentenced to 10 years as his country’s authoritarian government continues to crack down on opponents.  

Two other members of the Bialiatski-led Viasna Human Rights center were sentenced to nine and seven years each, according to state-owned news agency Belta.  

All were convicted on charges of financing anti-government protests and “smuggling cash” in an organized group. They have denied wrongdoing.

(See RSAN on the Bloomberg Terminal for the Russian Sanctions Dashboard.) 

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