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Russian drone attack takes out power supplies in Kyiv; Ruble tumbles

Moldova fears a Russian offensive in the country’s east next year, spy chief says

Flags of Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniestria and Russia flutter in central Tiraspol, in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transdniestria May 5, 2022. 

Vladislav Bachev | Reuters

Moldova’s spy chief warned of a “very high” risk of a new Russian offensive towards his country’s east next year and said Moscow still aimed to secure a land corridor through Ukraine to the breakaway Moldovan region of Transdniestria.

The comments by Alexandru Musteata, head of the Information and Security Service, echo recent messages out of Ukraine where top army generals have warned in recent days of the threat of a major new Russian offensive early next year.

“The question is not whether the Russian Federation will undertake a new advance towards Moldova’s territory, but when it will do so,” Musteata told the TVR-Moldova television channel.

He said his agency believed Russia was looking at several scenarios to reach Moldova and that it was possible an offensive would be launched in January-February or later in March-April.

— Reuters

Kremlin slams EU price cap measure on natural gas as “unacceptable”

A worker walks past gas pipes that connect a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit ship with the main land in Wilhelmshaven, northern Germany on December 17, 2022. EU energy ministers are wrangling over a proposed price cap on gas.

Michael Sohn | Afp | Getty Images

Moscow lashed out in response to the European Union’s natural gas price capping measure, an agreement which the bloc reached after months of negotiations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the measure was an attack on market pricing and “unacceptable,” Reuters reported, citing Russia’s Interfax news agency.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a subsequent rush by the EU to end its heavy reliance on Russian gas has contributed to an energy crunch that has sent prices sharply higher and led to market volatility.

— Natasha Turak

EU approves price cap measure for natural gas in effort to combat energy crisis

European Union energy ministers agreed to a “dynamic” cap on natural gas prices Monday after two months of intense negotiations.

Introducing a limit on gas prices has been controversial for European officials. While many EU member states have argued that the measure is essential to bring down sky-high energy costs for consumers, others have worried about the potential market implications of the policy.

“We did our job, we have the deal. Another mission impossible accomplished,” Jozef Sikela, industry minister of the Czech Republic, which holds the presidency of the Council of the EU, said in a press conference.

Energy ministers overcame their differences and agreed to what they’re calling a market correction mechanism. It will be automatically activated under two conditions: If front-month gas contracts exceed 180 euros ($191) per megawatt hour on the Dutch Title Transfer Facility — Europe’s main benchmark for natural gas prices — for three working days in a row; and the price is 35 euros higher than a reference price for liquid natural gas on global markets for the same period.

The measure will apply from Feb. 15. When applied, it will set a “dynamic bidding limit” on natural gas futures transactions for 20 working days.

Read the full story here.

—Jenni Reid

Shareholders of energy company Uniper clear way for German nationalization

Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy and climate minister, left, Olaf Scholz, Germany’s chancellor and Christian Lindner, Germany’s finance minister, on the Jetty during the inauguration of the Hoegh Esperanza LNG floating storage regasification unit (FSRU) at the Wilhelmshaven LNG Terminal, operated by sniper SE, in Wilhelmshaven, Germany, on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2022. Germany opened its first state-chartered liquefied natural gas vessel as Europes largest economy races to replace Russian gas amid an energy crunch and freezing temperatures. Photographer: Liesa Johannssen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Liesa Johansson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shareholders of German energy company Uniper approved a rescue package for the gas supplier, clearing the way for its nationalization.

The government announced its plan to nationalize Uniper in September, expanding state intervention in the power sector to prevent an energy shortage resulting from Russia’s war in Ukraine. The deal built on an initial rescue package agreed to in July and features a capital increase of 8 billion euros ($8.5 billion) that Germany will finance.

As part of the agreement, the government will gain a nearly 99% stake in the energy supplier, which before now was controlled by Finland-based Fortum. The Finnish government has the largest stake in Fortum.

Uniper said its shareholders “approved the proposed capital measures by a large majority” at an extraordinary general meeting on Monday.

The European Commission’s approval under state aid law “is expected in the near future,” it said.

— Associated Press

Putin arrives in Belarus for talks with Lukashenko

MINSK, BELARUS – DECEMBER 19: (RUSSIA OUT) Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko (R) seen during the welcoming ceremony at the Palace of Independence on December 19, 2022, in Minsk, Belarus.

Contributor | Getty Images News | Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Minsk for talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Russian state media reported Monday afternoon.

The meeting, Putin’s first to the Belarusian capital since 2019, comes amid increasing fears that Moscow may be pushing its ally to increase its military involvement in the war.

Speaking to Russian news agencies earlier Monday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov called Belarus Russia’s “number one ally,” but said that suggestions that Moscow wanted to pressure Minsk into joining the conflict were “stupid and unfounded fabrications.”

—Karen Gilchrist

UK’s Rishi Sunak in Latvia for meeting with allies to discuss Ukraine

U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is in the Latvian capital of Riga to meet with other members of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), a U.K.-led alliance of European militaries that share tactical knowledge and conduct joint training exercises to increase interoperability.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (L) attends a bilateral meeting with Latvian Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (R) at the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) countries leaders’ meeting in Riga, Latvia December 19, 2022.

Henry Nicholls | AFP | Getty Images

He is set to announce a new artillery package for Ukraine and urge other member nations to continue their support for Ukraine. He will meet British troops in neighboring Estonia later in the day.

Ahead of the visit, Sunak said in a statement: “From the Arctic Circle to the Isle of Wight, the U.K. and our European allies have been in lockstep in our response to the invasion of Ukraine, and we remain steadfast in our ambition for peace in Europe once again … I know this Joint Expeditionary Force summit will only underline our close friendships and unwavering support for Ukraine.”

The JEF includes the U.K., Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.

— Natasha Turak

Kremlin dismisses reports that Belarus is to join conflict

The Kremlin on Monday rejected suggestions that President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Belarus signals a ramping up of Minsk’s involvement in the war.

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government via a video link at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia, December 14, 2022. 

Sputnik | Reuters

Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency reported Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying the reports were “groundless” and “stupid,” hours before Putin was due to arrive in the Belarusian capital.

Putin’s visit Monday afternoon marks his first to the ex-Soviet ally in more than three years, and comes as Belarus’ defense ministry said it had finalized a series of inspections of its armed forces’ military preparedness.

—Karen Gilchrist

Zelenskyy asks West for weapons systems

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday called on Western leaders meeting in Latvia to provide a wide range of weapons systems in Kyiv’s ongoing war with Russia, Reuters reported.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is displayed on a screen as he speaks via video link during a Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) plenary session in Riga, Latvia December 19, 2022.

Henry Nicholls | Afp | Getty Images

“I ask you to increase the possibility of supplying air defense systems to our country, and to help speed up the relevant decisions to be taken by our partners,” Zelenskyy asked during his speech via video link to the leaders meeting in Riga.

Western allies, including Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden, are meeting in the Baltic nation for the British-led grouping Monday.

—Karen Gilchrist

Belarus says military checks completed ahead of Putin visit

Belarus’ defense ministry said Monday it had finalized a series of inspections of its armed forces’ military preparedness, signaling a potential shift to a more active role in the conflict, Reuters reported.

Russian ally Belarus, which acted as a staging post for Moscow to launch its invasion of Ukraine in February, has been undertaking a string of military maneuvers over recent weeks.

It comes as Russian President Vladimir Putin heads for Minsk Monday, heightening fears that he may pressure his ex-Soviet ally to join a new offensive on Ukraine.

—Karen Gilchrist

Russian ruble dips to six-month low

The Russian ruble plunged to a more than six-month low against the dollar Monday, as low oil prices and mounting sanctions fears threatened to hit the country’s export revenues.

The rouble was 2.4% weaker against the dollar, trading at 66.22 as of around 9:00 GMT Monday. The dip marks the rouble’s lowest level since May 30.

—Karen Gilchrist

‘Fairly serious’ damage caused by Russian drone attack

This photograph shows an object of a critical power infrastructure as it burns after a drone attack to Kyiv, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Sergei Supinsky | AFP | Getty Images

A Russian drone attack caused “fairly serious” damage in the Kyiv region Monday, Governor Oleksiy Kubela said, according to Reuters.

Three areas in the region were left without power supply, the governor said, after Russia unleashed 35 “kamikaze” drones on Ukraine in the early hours of Monday morning.

The assault, which took out critical infrastructure, marks Moscow’s third air attack on Ukraine’s capital in six days, Reuters reported.

—Karen Gilchrist

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