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Ukraine Latest: Biden Encourages Sweden, Finland on NATO in Call

·9 min read
Ukraine Latest: Biden Encourages Sweden, Finland on NATO in Call

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden told the leaders of Sweden and Finland that he supports their right to decide whether to join NATO and underscored his backing for the alliance’s open door policy, according to the White House.

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Sweden has received no indication that Turkey would oppose it joining NATO, and will raise the issue at a meeting this weekend in Berlin, Foreign Minister Ann Linde said. Earlier Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed concern about Sweden and Finland potentially becoming members of the military alliance. NATO foreign ministers are set to meet on Saturday, when the issue of enlargement is likely to dominate.

The US and Russian defense chiefs had their first call since the invasion of Ukraine began. A US defense official said the call lasted about an hour and the tone was professional.

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

Key Developments

  • Adeyemo Warns Foreign Banks on Helping Russia Evade Sanctions

  • Wheat Hits Highest Since 2008 With Drought Cutting Yields

  • EU Plans Joint Investment Tools to Boost Defense Spending

  • Detained WNBA Star Griner Spoke With US Diplomats at Hearing

  • EU, US Seek to Cooperate on Ensuring Food, Fertilizer Security

All times CET:

India Prohibits Wheat Exports With Immediate Effect (5 a.m.)

India prohibited wheat exports that the world was counting on to alleviate supply constraints sparked by the war in Ukraine. Bloomberg News reported earlier this month that a record-shattering heat wave has damaged wheat yields across the South Asian nation, prompting the government to consider export restrictions.

US, Southeast Asian Nations Stop Short of Russia Condemnation (3:35 a.m.)

A summit with Southeast Asian leaders organized and hosted by Biden concluded with a group statement that omitted any condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They called for the “immediate cessation of hostilities” in Ukraine and the countries said they “reaffirm our respect for sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity.”

But the statement did not use the words “Russia,” “war” or “invasion.” The Southeast Asian region includes nations that are wary of directly criticizing Russia. Indonesia, which will host the Group of 20 summit later this year, has refused to exclude Putin from the gathering and is instead extending invitations to both the Russian leader and Zelenskiy. Much of the summit was conducted behind closed doors, so it wasn’t clear to what extent the Ukraine portion of the joint statement was debated.

Adeyemo Warns Banks on Russia and Sanctions (2:40 a.m.)

Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Wally Adeyemo warned representatives from several foreign banks Friday about risks to their institutions should they assist Russia in evading sanctions imposed by the US and its allies after the invasion of Ukraine.

Adeyemo met with representatives from several foreign financial institutions and “conveyed the risks of facilitating sanctions evasions,” including the risk of falling under US sanctions if the banks provided material support to a person or entity that the US has already penalized, according to a Treasury Department press release about the meeting.

Biden Cites NATO’s Open Door in Call to Leaders (7:19 p.m.)

Biden told the leaders of Sweden and Finland that he supports their right to decide whether to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and underscored his support for the alliance’s open door policy, the White House said in a statement.

The White House stopped short of saying that Biden urged the countries to join the military alliance. In their Friday morning phone conversation, the leaders also discussed continuing support for Ukraine against Russia’s invasion, according to the statement.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that “we are working to clarify Turkey’s position” toward expanding NATO to include Sweden and Finland. She said “there is broad support from NATO member countries” for the idea.

Artillery Battle for the Donbas Fully Joined, U.S. Says (7:12 p.m.)

The artillery battle for Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region is fully underway, a U.S. defense official told reporters, estimating that Ukraine has managed to push back planned Russian advances by at least two weeks.

All but one of the 90 M777 howitzers the U.S. has given Ukraine are now in the country and most are engaged in battle, the official said.

US-Russian Defense Chiefs Talk After Long Wait (5:59 p.m.)

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, for first time since Feb. 18, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

Pentagon officials have complained that requests for a conversation have gone unanswered. Austin “urged an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine and emphasized the importance of maintaining lines of communications,” according to Kirby.

Sweden Says No Previous Sign of Concern from Turkey on NATO (4:42 p.m.)

“The Turkish government hasn’t conveyed any message of this sort directly to us, and it hasn’t done so in the North Atlantic Council,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde said in emailed comments. She said she’d address the issue at an informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers that starts Saturday.

Nations Seek to Stop Russia Profiting Off Stolen Ukraine Grain (4:36 p.m.)

The aim would be to prevent Russia selling it in international markets or gaining goodwill through international aid donations, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

“We need to do everything we can to make sure Russia cannot shop or ship this stolen grain.” Vilsack said by phone after G-7 agriculture ministers met. The US and EU will “keep an eye” on Russian grain sales to see if they are disproportionate for the time of year or Russia makes “a rather generous contribution” to a developing nation, Vilsack said.

Italy can End Russia Gas Imports in 2H 2024 (3:35 p.m.)

That’s as long as the international situation doesn’t deteriorate further, Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani said. Prime Minister Mario Draghi has secured deals to replace 25 billion cubic meters of gas -- out of the 29bcm Italy imported from Russia in 2021 -- over the next 6 months, Cingolani said.

Zelenskiy to Give Virtual Address at WEF (3:15 p.m.)

The meeting takes place in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland from May 22 to 26.

Russian Soldier Accused of War Crimes on Trial in Kyiv (3:01 p.m.)

The first war crimes trial since Russia’s invasion opened on Friday, with a soldier accusing of killing a Ukrainian civilian appearing in a packed courtroom in Kyiv, the Associated Press reported.

Sergeant Vadim Shyshimarin, 21, allegedly shot a man in the head in a northeastern village five days into the conflict. In a video posted by the Security Service of Ukraine, Shyshimarin said he was “ordered to shoot” the 62-year-old. He faces as long as life in prison if convicted, the AP said.

Russian Power Exports to Finland to Stop (2:30 p.m)

There will be no commercial flows of power between Russia and Finland on Saturday, according to data from grid manager Fingrid. That means the sole importer of power from Russia to Finland, Russian-owned RAO Nordic, has opted to not use any of the available capacity, according to Reima Paivinen, head of power system operations at Fingrid.

Turkey Doesn’t Favor Sweden, Finland Joining NATO, Erdogan Says (1:46 p.m.)

Erdogan cited concerns over activities in both countries by supporters of separatist Kurdish militants who have been fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast for decades. Any enlargement of NATO requires unanimous approval by members.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has repeatedly said he expects all allies would welcome the two countries applying and that the accession process would be swift. Spokespeople for the alliance didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Turkey wants Sweden and Finland to take a clear stance against supporters of separatist Kurdish militants fighting for autonomy in Turkey’s southeast, a senior Turkish official said. Ankara will hold negotiations over their membership in the alliance, he added.

G-7 Plans $31 Billion Ukraine Aid Package: Der Spiegel (1 p.m.)

The financial assistance would Group of Seven industrialized nations is preparing a financial aid package for Ukraine worth about 30 billion euros ($31 billion) to help it through to the end of this year, according to a Germany magazine report.

G-7 finance ministers meeting next week in Bonn will discuss the plan, and the aid would be a mixture of loans and grants, Der Spiegel reported Friday, citing people involved in the talks that it didn’t identify.

Kuleba Says Asked G-7 to Seize Russian Assets, Reallocate to Kyiv (12:41 p.m.)

“I have asked the G-7 countries to adopt legislation and put in place all necessary procedures needed to seize Russian sovereign assets and give them to Ukraine,” said Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. “To use this money to rebuild our country after all the damage inflicted on us.”

Speaking after a meeting with foreign ministers of the Group of Seven in Germany, Kuleba said he had feeling that the G-7 would reach that point “rather sooner than later.”

UK Goes After Putin ‘Luxury Lifestyle’ Abettors (12:20 p.m.)

The UK ramped up sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s financial network, targeting the Russian leader’s family members and associates.

The new names include Putin’s relatives Igor Putin, Mikhail Putin, Roman Putin and Mikhail Shelomov, as well as retired Olympic gymnast Alina Kabaeva, the gymnast’s grandmother, and Putin’s ex-wife.

EU Plans Joint Investment Tools For Defense Spending (12:13 p.m.)

The EU is working on new investment instruments to fund the bloc’s military spending as part of an overhauled defense strategy, according to a draft report seen by Bloomberg.

The instruments -- collectively dubbed Defend-EU -- would enable the bloc “to map, coordinate and incentivize joint development, procurement and ownership across the full life cycle of defense equipment,” the document says.

Ukrainian Minister Asks for Help With Grain Exports (10:30 a.m.)

Agriculture Minister Mykola Solskyi said Ukraine is sitting on about 20 million tons of grain from previous harvests and appealed to international partners to help export it. He said he expects an additional volume of 30 million and 40 million tons of grain which need to be exported even with most of Ukraine’s ports out of action.

Wheat production in Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest growers, will fall by one-third this year compared to last season, the US Department of Agriculture forecast on Thursday. Smaller global harvests and a slow start to the US planting season are threatening more food inflation at a time hunger is on the rise in many countries.

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