Fri, 03 Feb 2023

The Kremlin on Saturday said it would not accept a price cap on Russian oil agreed by the EU, G7 and Australia. The agreement caps Russian seaborne crude oil at $60 per barrel and is aimed at limiting Moscow's funds for the Ukraine war. Read FRANCE 24's liveblog below to see how the day's events unfolded. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

8:54pm: US defence secretary accuses Russia of 'deliberate cruelty' in Ukraine

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday accused Russia of "deliberate cruelty" in its war in Ukraine, saying Moscow was intentionally targeting civilians.

"With deliberate cruelty, Russia is putting civilians and civilian targets in its gunsights," Austin told the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, California.

"Russian attacks have left children dead, schools shattered, and hospitals smashed," he said.

8:27pm: Putin not sincere about peace talks now, top US diplomat says

Russian President Vladimir Putin is not sincere about peace talks with Ukraine at this time, a top US diplomat said on Saturday after meeting President Volodymyr Zelensky and other senior Ukrainian officials in Kyiv.

US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland visited Ukraine to show support at a time when Russia is trying to destroy the country's energy infrastructure.

"Diplomacy is obviously everyone's objective but you have to have a willing partner," she told reporters. "And it's very clear, whether it's the energy attacks, whether it's the rhetoric out of the Kremlin and the general attitude, that Putin is not sincere or ready for that."

7:44pm: Price cap level on Russian oil 'not serious', Zelensky says

A $60 price cap set on Russian oil agreed by the EU, G7 and Australia is not "serious" because it is "quite comfortable" for Moscow, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday.

It is "only a matter of time when stronger tools will have to be used anyway", Zelensky argued, adding: "It is a pity that this time will be lost."

5pm: All EU governments complete approval of Russian oil price cap

All European Union governments completed on Saturday the written approval of a $60 per barrel price cap on Russian seaborne oil, the European Commission said, paving the way for its publication in the EU's Official Journal and entry into force on December 5.

The measure, an idea of the G7, comes on top of the EU's embargo on imports of Russian seaborne crude that also kicks in on Dec. 5, and is meant to allow oil-related services to third countries only for those cargoes below the cap.

"The G7 and all EU Member States have taken a decision that will hit Russia's revenues even harder and reduce its ability to wage war in Ukraine," EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.

4:02pm: Russia, Belarus defence ministers hold talks in Minsk

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu held talks with his Belarusian counterpart Viktor Khrenin, the state-run Belta news agency said on Saturday.

The two sides discussed bilateral military cooperation and amended an agreement on the "joint provision of regional security", it said, without providing further detail.

Belarus has said it will not enter the war in Ukraine, but President Alexander Lukashenko has in the past ordered troops to deploy with Russian forces near the Ukrainian border, citing threats to Belarus from Kyiv and the West.

3:57pm: Kremlin says Putin will visit east Ukraine 'in due time'

Russian President Vladimir Putin will "in due time" visit east Ukraine's Donbas region, which he claims to have annexed, the Kremlin told Russian news agencies Saturday.

"In due time this will happen, of course. This is a region of the Russian Federation," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, without indicating when this could happen.

3:02pm: Russia will 'not accept' oil price cap, says Kremlin

Russia "will not accept" a price cap imposed by the G7 and its allies on Russian oil, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

"We will not accept this ceiling," Russian news agencies quoted Peskov as saying. He added that Moscow was "analysing" the move and would then reveal how it intends to respond.

A coalition of Western countries led by the G7 group of nations agreed on Friday to cap the price of Russian seaborne oil at $60 a barrel in a bid to limit Moscow's revenues and curb its ability to finance its invasion of Ukraine.

2:29pm: 'Points of invincibility' are 'symbols' of Ukraine's resistance

"The noise you can hear behind me is from a generator, which is supplying heat and electricity for this tent behind me in the centre of Kherson, which has been without electricity for three weeks now," FRANCE 24 Chief Foreign Editor Robert Parsons reported. "People can come here, keep warm, grab a cup of coffee, charge up their mobile phones, go online. And they're called 'points of invincibility'; there are some 4,000 of them across the country.

"They've become symbols of Ukrainians' resistance to Russian efforts to destroy their morale and crush their electricity system."

2:10pm: UK crime agency arrests 'wealthy Russian' over money laundering

Britain's National Crime Agency said on Saturday it had arrested a "wealthy Russian businessman" on suspicion of money laundering and other offences as part of a crackdown on corrupt oligarchs.

The unidentified 58-year-old was among three men arrested by officers from the Combatting Kleptocracy Cell (CKC) on Thursday at a "multi-million pound residence" in London, the NCA said.

He was detained on suspicion of money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the Home Office (interior ministry) and conspiracy to commit perjury, the NCA said.

1:07pm: Estonia to buy HIMARS rocket launchers amid Russia fears

Estonia has agreed to buy six HIMARS rocket systems from the United States worth over $200 million, the state defence investment agency said on Saturday. It is the largest arms purchase in the country's history.

Estonia, which neighbours Russia, has increased defence spending since Moscow's invasion of Ukraine, as has its Baltic neighbours, Latvia and Lithuania.

The HIMARS systems delivered to Ukraine are widely seen as one of the most effective tools in its arsenal, as the pro-Western country fights back against Russian troops.

10:36am: Kherson officials ease river crossings from Russian-held territory

Officials in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson announced on Saturday they would help citizens evacuate from parts of Russian-occupied territory on the east bank of the Dnipro River amid fears of intensified fighting.

Yaroslav Yanushevych, the regional governor, said officials were temporarily lifting a ban on crossings to allow Ukrainians living in villages across the river to traverse the Dnipro during daylight hours and to a designated point.

"Evacuation is necessary due to the possible intensification of hostilities in this area," he wrote on the Telegram messaging app. Ukrainian troops liberated the city of Kherson, which sits on the west bank of the Dnipro, from Russian occupation on November 11 but Moscow's forces still control the rest of the region on the east bank.

10:25am: Oil price cap 'will destroy' Russia's economy, Ukraine says

Ukraine's presidency on Saturday said a $60 price cap on Russian oil agreed by the EU, G7 and Australia "will destroy" Russia's economy.

"We always achieve our goal and Russia's economy will be destroyed, and it will pay and be responsible for all its crimes," Ukraine's presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak said on Telegram. But a cap of "$30 would have destroyed it more quickly", he added.

9:46am: Russia: price cap is 'dangerous' and will not curb demand for our oil

Russia said on Saturday it would continue to find buyers for its oil, despite what it said was a "dangerous" attempt by Western governments to introduce a price cap on its oil exports.

A coalition of Western countries led by the G7 group of nations agreed on Friday to cap the price of Russian seaborne oil at $60 a barrel, as they aim to limit Moscow's revenues and curb its ability to finance its invasion of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin and high-ranking Kremlin officials have repeatedly said that they will not supply oil to countries that implement the price cap.

In comments published on Telegram, Russia's embassy in the US criticised what it said was the "reshaping" of free market principles and reiterated that its oil would continue to be in demand despite the measures. "Steps like these will inevitably result in increasing uncertainty and imposing higher costs for raw materials' consumers," it said.

"Regardless of the current flirtations with the dangerous and illegitimate instrument, we are confident that Russian oil will continue to be in demand".

9:00am: Situation 'pretty bleak', says FRANCE24's Parsons reporting from Mykolaiv

Reporting from Mykolaiv, FRANCE24's Rob Parsons says the situation in the southern Ukrainian city is dire after constant Russian shelling and an almost complete absence of electricity due to Russian attacks on Ukraine's power infrastructure.

8:02am: Russia likely planning to encircle Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast, UK says

Russia is likely planning to encircle the Donetsk Oblast town of Bakhmut with tactical advances to the north and south, Britain's defence ministry said on Saturday. The capture of the town would have limited operational value but it can potentially allow Russia to threaten Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, the ministry added in a daily intelligence update.

"There is a realistic possibility that Bakhmut's capture has become primarily a symbolic, political objective for Russia," the ministry said in the update posted on Twitter.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

Originally published on France24

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