Welcome to Friday, where Russian forces halt Mariupol evacuation, Sri Lanka protests turn violent, and Australian police win this year’s April Fools’. Meanwhile, in Ukrainian news website Livy Bereg, Oleksandr Decyk argues that Putin’s gas-for-rubles ploy will amount to another failed attempt to blackmail the West.
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• Aid for Mariupol blocked, Russians leave Chernobyl, negotiations resume: A Mariupol city official says Russian forces have been preventing any humanitarian supplies from reaching trapped residents. Russian troops withdraw from Chernobyl and return control to Ukraine due to alleged exposure to radiation. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warns that Russia has only left the north in order to execute new attacks in the southeast. Negotiations resume today amid doubts of Russia’s commitments to talks.
• Standoff over Putin demands that Russian gas must be paid for in rubles: European leaders have rejected demands by Russian President Vladimir Putin that Russian gas must be purchased in rubles. After speaking with Putin late Thursday, Prime Minister Mario Draghi indicated that Russia may have stepped back from its original demand.
• Hungarian and Serbian elections: Right-wing incumbent Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is expected to prevail over six other candidates, following his promises to keep Hungary out of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and preserve energy security. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic is also expected to win another presidential term, extending his 10-year grip on the country. Both Orban and Vucic have close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and are using the conflict to their advantage. Polls open Sunday morning for both elections.
• Protests in Sri Lanka turn violent: Thousands of protesters near President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s home in Sri Lanka demanded he resign amid the worst economic crisis. The protest, which turned violent when police fired tear gas and a water cannon at protesters, resulted in 54 arrests, many injuries and several burned vehicles.
• Shanghai extends lockdown: Shanghai extends its COVID lockdown for the eastern side of the city, as the western side also starts a lockdown. Those who have tested positive will be quarantined for another 10 days, and surrounding residential areas without cases will be in lockdown for another three days.
• French fashion photographer Patrick Demarchelier dies: Famed French photographer Patrick Demarchelier, who took iconic pictures of Princess Diana, Madonna and Beyonce, has died at the age of 78.
• We have a hunch this is a prank: Australia’s Victoria Police trolled its social media followers on April Fools’ by introducing its new Mounted Camel Division, “helping the organization address both climate change and fuel price hikes.”
“Looking for peace,” titles Italian news magazine Internazionale, as the number of people who have fled Ukraine has surpassed 4 million this week, exceeding the United Nations’ worst-case predictions made at the start of Russia’s invasion. According to Unicef, half of the refugees from Ukraine are children.
$7 billionFIFA President Gianni Infantino announced the international soccer governing body was on its way to earn record revenues of $7 billion this year, as it expects “television broadcasting rights to have set a new record” during the World Cup, which is set to take place in Qatar in November 2022.
Ruble or nothing: How Russia is trying to blackmail the West again
In an attempt to shore up its failing economy, Russia is trying to blackmail the West and asking to be paid in rubles for its natural gas. However, such a move is unlikely to help Moscow in the long term. And the important question still remains of how the EU will manage without Russian gas, writes Oleksandr Decyk in Ukrainian news website Livy Bereg.
💰 Every day, Europeans import gas from Russia for about $800 million. According to Reuters, at the end of 2021, Gazprom sold 58% of its exports to Europe in euros, 39% in U.S. dollars, and 3% in pounds. Russian gas was also actively purchased in Asia: For example, Japan imports 7.2% of the total exports of Russian gas. Russia expects that the ruble surge will be able to disrupt the arrangements for joint gas purchases and cause discord in the EU, because it is well aware that, unlike oil, gas is very difficult to replace in the short term.
❌ Head of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen called Putin's statements blackmail. "Such a decision would be a unilateral decision, which is a violation of the terms of the agreement,” she explained, “This is an actual attempt to bypass the sanctions. We did not impose sanctions for them to be canceled.” This very position was voiced by representatives of practically all EU countries. In Germany, the largest consumer of Russian gas in the EU, the minister for economic affairs stated it even more bluntly: Payment for gas in rubles means violating the contract.
📉 The Russian Federation has already harmed its image as a reliable partner. The EU and other markets will be forced to look for an alternative to the inadequate "partner" more quickly. Such political steps therefore only have one consequence for the aggressor: the loss of markets and revenues. According to ECONtribute research, a sharp halt in imports of energy from Russia to the Netherlands could lead to a 3% decline in German GDP. At the same time, the economy of the Russian Federation will fall by 25%.
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“ will fight until the last ball.
— In a live address to the nation, Pakistan’s embattled prime minister (and former cricket player) Imran Khan rejected calls to resign ahead of a no-confidence vote expected Sunday. Khan, who has been accused of corruption and economic mismanagement, also used his speech to point fingers at the United States who he said is conspiring with Pakistan’s opposition to force him out.
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