European Union officials set a $60 per barrel cap on the price of Russian oil Friday, in their latest effort to try to choke off funding sources for Moscow's war in Ukraine.
Meanwhile, between 10,000 and 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the war with Russia so far, according to a reported estimate from Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak.
It is thought to be the first estimated death toll of Ukrainian armed forces by a top official since Ukraine's military chief said in late August that close to 9,000 soldiers had died.
Ukraine's regional heads said in an update that Russian forces launched a missile attack on an infrastructure facility in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia. Separately, almost 40 shells were said to have been fired in Ukraine's eastern Dnipro region overnight.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov reportedly said Russian President Vladimir Putin remains open to talks over a possible settlement deal. That comes shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden said he would be prepared to meet Putin if he was looking for a way to end the war.
Russia oil price cap could be implemented in the coming days
The G-7 countries and Australia reached a consensus to set the maximum price of seaborne Russian crude oil at $60 per barrel, according to a joint statement. The announcement followed the European Union's agreement to cap the price of Russian oil at the same price.
"With this decision today, we deliver on the commitment of G-7 Leaders at their summit in Elmau to prevent Russia from profiting from its war of aggression against Ukraine, to support stability in global energy markets and to minimise negative economic spillovers of Russia's war of aggression, especially on low- and middle-income countries, who have felt the impacts of Putin's war disproportionately," the announcement said.
The joint statement said the cap will be implemented on Dec. 5 "or very soon thereafter." A separate plan for a price limit on Russian-origin petroleum products is expected to go into place on Feb. 5.
Maximum prices for high-value and low-value refined products will be announced separately.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen praises G-7's $60 price cap on Russian oil
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen applauded the joint decision by the European Union, Australia and G-7 countries to cap the price of Russian seaborne oil at $60.
"Today's announcement is the culmination of months of effort by our coalition, and I commend the hard work of our partners in achieving this outcome," Yellen said in a statement.
The "Price Cap Coalition" of countries announced plans in September to limit the price of Russian oil to deny Russian President Vladimir Putin a funding source for his ongoing invasion of Ukraine. The cap is also designed to maintain the flow of oil on the market.
Yellen said the cap "will particularly benefit low- and medium-income countries who have already borne the brunt of elevated energy and food prices exacerbated by Putin's war" and "enable them to bargain for steeper discounts on Russian oil and benefit from greater stability in global energy markets."
Russia was earning more than $100 per barrel after the Ukraine invasion, according to a senior Treasury official.
"This is going to exacerbate Russia's already poor economic and fiscal outlook," the official told reporters. "Russia has gone from a projected $10 billion surplus in 2022 to a deficit five times that size."
An EU embargo on Russian crude oil will take effect on Dec. 5.
IAEA says deal over Ukrainian nuke plant 'almost there'
A deal aimed at safeguarding Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is close at hand, the head of the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency said.
Europe's largest power plant, which was seized by Russia shortly after its invasion of Ukraine, has since come under repeated shelling, drawing condemnation from the IAEA, which has called for a safety zone to be created around the site.
"We are almost there. Believe me. .. Now we have a proposal on the table which simply put is aiming to stop the folly of bombing the largest nuclear power plant in Europe," IAEA chief Rafael Grossi told a conference in Rome.
U.S. targets Russian mercenary group over religious freedom
The Biden administration placed a well-known Russian paramilitary organization on a list of religious freedom violators alongside a number of notorious terrorist organizations.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced he had designated the Wagner Group as an "entity of particular concern" for its activities in the Central African Republic. Also on the list are Afghanistan's Taliban, Nigeria's Boko Haram, Somalia's al-Shabab and two factions of the Islamic State group.
"Our announcement of these designations is in keeping with our values and interests to protect national security and to advance human rights around the globe," Blinken said. "Countries that effectively safeguard this and other human rights are more peaceful, stable, prosperous and more reliable partners of the United States than those that do not."
The Wagner Group is run by a confidant of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Yevgeny Prigozhin, and its mercenaries are accused by Western countries and UN experts of numerous human rights abuses throughout Africa, including in the Central African Republic, Libya and Mali.
— Associated Press
Backlog of 73 ships waiting to transport crops from Ukraine
The organization overseeing the export of Ukrainian crops said there is a backlog of 73 vessels waiting to be loaded with cargo.
The U.N.-led Joint Coordination Center also said that about 97 loaded vessels are waiting for inspection in Turkish territorial waters.
The Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered in July among Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the United Nations, eased Russia's naval blockade and saw the reopening of three key Ukrainian ports.
Since the deal was signed, more than 510 ships carrying 12.7 million metric tons of grain and other food products have left for destinations around the world.
Kyiv has previously blamed Moscow for holding up inspections and delaying vessel movements.
— Amanda Macias
European Union caps price of Russian oil at $60 a barrel
The European Union agreed to cap the price of Russian seaborne oil prices at $60 a barrel, ending days of negotiations and months of speculation after G-7 finance officials announced the price cap in September. A formal announcement is expected Sunday.
The cap will be regularly reviewed to monitor market ramifications but should remain "at least 5% below the average market price," according to an EU document.
The G-7 devised the price cap to deprive Russia of a valuable income source amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. But energy experts warned that its effectiveness relies on support from other major buyers, such as China and India. Both countries increased their oil purchases from Russia in the wake of the Ukraine invasion to take advantage of discounted rates.
Russian attacks seek ‘erasure’ of Ukrainian culture, writers' organization says
Russian troops in Ukraine are deliberately attacking the country's museums, libraries and other cultural institutions, according to a report issued Friday by the U.S. and Ukrainian chapters of the international writers' organization PEN.
"Culture is not collateral damage in the war against Ukraine; it's a target, a central pillar of Russian President Vladimir Putin's justification for the war," the report stated. "Putin has repeatedly claimed that Ukrainian culture and language simply don't exist. By targeting art museums, music halls, libraries, theaters and historical sites, he attempts to make it so."
PEN cited Ukraine's Ministry of Culture as saying that 529 "cultural heritage and cultural institutions" have been destroyed or damaged since the war started on Feb. 24. The figure includes both sites of national importance and cultural venues in towns and villages, the report said.
The list includes one of the war's most notorious incidents - the bombing in March of the main drama theater in the city of Mariupol, where hundreds of people were sheltering from the city's siege. Some 600 people died in the attack, according to an Associated Press investigation.
Two large inscriptions reading "children" on the ground adjacent to the theater indicated that Russian forces knew civilians were inside and "it seems likely that the theater was targeted for its cultural significance," the report said.
Russian attacks on Ukrainian culture and the language predate the start of the war and began in 2014, when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula and supported separatist fighters in the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces of eastern Ukraine, PEN said.
PEN Ukraine said it has documented 31 civilian writers, artists and other cultural workers killed in Russian attacks this year, and that some other cultural figures have died while fighting with Ukrainian forces.
— Associated Press
Three vessels to depart Ukraine carrying 106,500 metric tons of agricultural products
The organization overseeing the export of agricultural products from Ukraine said it has approved three vessels to leave the besieged country.
The Joint Coordination Center, an initiative of Ukraine, Russia, the United Nations and Turkey, said that the vessels are carrying a total of 106,500 metric tons of grain and other food products.
Two ships from Odesa are destined for China and Italy and are carrying corn. Another ship will depart from Ukraine's Yuzhny-Pivdennyi port for Bulgaria and is carrying sunflower seeds.
— Amanda Macias
Army awards Lockheed Martin $431 million contract for HIMARS
The U.S. Army awarded defense giant Lockheed Martin a $431 million contract for the production of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, M142 launchers.
"This award will enable us to replenish our own inventory while providing critical capabilities for our allies and international partners," Douglas Bush, the Army's assistant secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology, said in a release. "We remain committed to getting things on contract as quickly as possible to ensure our stocks are rapidly replenished."
The HIMARS is designed to shoot a variety of missiles from a mobile 5-ton truck.
— Amanda Macias
Ukrainian engineers scramble to keep mobile phones working
With Ukraine scrambling to keep communication lines open during the war, an army of engineers from the country's phone companies has mobilized to help the public and policymakers stay in touch during repeated Russian missile and drone strikes.
The engineers, who typically go unseen and unsung in peacetime, often work around the clock to maintain or restore phone service, sometimes braving minefields to do so. After Russian strikes took out the electricity that cellphone towers usually run on, they revved up generators to keep the towers on.
"I know our guys — my colleagues — are very exhausted, but they're motivated by the fact that we are doing an important thing," Yuriy Dugnist, an engineer with Ukrainian telecommunications company Kyivstar, said after crunching through a half-foot (15 centimeters) of fresh snow to reach a fenced-in mobile phone tower on the western fringe of Kyiv, the capital.
Dugrist and his co-workers offered a glimpse of their new daily routines, which involve using an app on their own phones to monitor which of the scores of phone towers in the capital area were receiving electricity, either during breaks from the controlled blackouts being used to conserve energy or from the generators that kick in to provide backup power.
— Associated Press
Lion cubs orphaned in Ukraine find new home in Minnesota
Four orphaned lion cubs that survived bombing and drone attacks in Ukraine arrived safely at The Wildcat Sanctuary in Sandstone, Minn. this week.
Three female cubs, Stefania, Lesya and Prada, and a boy named Taras took a 36-hour journey from Ukraine to the Poznan Zoo in Poland where they spent about a month recovering and waiting for clearance to fly to the U.S.
The cubs then took a nine-hour flight from Warsaw, Poland to Chicago on Tuesday, arriving in the U.S. around noon. After clearing customs and making an 8-hour drive from Chicago, the cubs arrived after midnight at The Wildcat Sanctuary, according to Melanie Mahoney, a spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which partnered with the sanctuary on the rescue.
Three of the cubs — Taras, Stefania and Lesya — were reportedly found in a cardboard box at a train station in Odesa, Ukraine, according to rescue workers. The fourth cub, Prada, was surrendered in a cardboard box to a wild animal rescue group in Kyiv. The conditions of their surrenders are murky as they are believed to have been trafficked through the illegal exotic pet trade in Europe, Mahoney said.
"Nearly every species of big cat must overcome a growing list of threats to their wild existence, in particular, the increasing demand of the exotic pet trade," said Meredith Whitney, Wildlife Rescue Program manager at the international fund. "We are working with the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance and organizations like The Wildcat Sanctuary to stop the exploitation of big cats in the US and around the world."
The sanctuary, which has cared for about 300 big cats, and the international fund worked with the Andrew Sabin Family Foundation, which found a company that could fly the cubs to the U.S. and helped pay for the flight.
— Dawn Kopecki
Germany's Scholz urges Putin to find a diplomatic solution to Ukraine war
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pushed for Russian President Vladimir Putin to find a diplomatic solution to the Kremlin's war in Ukraine as soon as possible, a German government spokesperson said in a statement.
During an hour-long conversation, Scholz was said to have condemned the Russian airstrikes against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine and reaffirmed Berlin's determination to support Kyiv in ensuring its defensive capability against Moscow.
Scholz's spokesperson said the political leaders also discussed the "particularly tense" global food situation and agreed to stay in contact.
The Kremlin's readout of the telephone call, meanwhile, said the discussion was held at the initiative of Germany and Putin "once again explained in detail" Russia's approach to what it describes as its "special military operation."
Putin was said to have drawn attention "to the destructive line of Western states, including Germany, pumping up the Kyiv regime with weapons, training the Ukrainian military."
Russia's leader was also said to have urged the German government to reconsider its approach to the Ukraine war.
— Sam Meredith
Ukrainian embassies and consulates receiving 'bloody packages' — some containing animal parts
Ukraine's foreign ministry said Ukrainian embassies and consulates in multiple countries are receiving "bloody packages" — some with animal parts — as part of what appears to be a "well-planned campaign of terror and intimidation."
Following a spate of explosive letters sent to locations throughout Spain in recent days, Ukraine's foreign ministry said that bloody packages arrived at embassies in Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Croatia, Italy and Austria, as well as the consulates general in Naples, Italy and Krakow, Poland and the consulate in Brno, Czech Republic.
The ministry said in a Facebook post that the packages contained animal eyes and "were soaked in a liquid of a characteristic color and had a corresponding smell."
"Not being able to stop Ukraine on the diplomatic front, they are trying to intimidate us," Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said, according to a translation. "However, I can immediately say that these attempts are useless. We will continue to work effectively for the victory of Ukraine."
The ministry said all Ukrainian embassies and consulates had been placed under heightened security measures.
— Sam Meredith
Kremlin says Putin open to talks on Ukraine war
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Russian President Vladimir Putin would be open to talks on a possible settlement to the war in Ukraine.
His comments to reporters came shortly after U.S. President Joe Biden said he would be prepared to meet with Putin if the Russian leader was prepared to end the war.
— Sam Meredith
Finnish prime minister warns Russia would not be the only one to 'feel empowered' by Ukraine victory
Finland's Prime Minister Sanna Marin warned Russia would not be the only one to "feel empowered" if the Kremlin wins its war in Ukraine.
Speaking on a visit to Australia, Marin said China has an important role to play in bringing the war to an end, urged Europe to do more to strengthen its defensive capabilities and said the region would not be strong enough to cope without the support of key allies.
"We should make sure that we are stronger. And now I must be very honest, brutally honest with you, Europe isn't strong enough right now," Marin said.
"We would be in trouble without the United States ... in the war in Ukraine. The United States have given a lot of weapons, a lot of financial aid, a lot of humanitarian aid to Ukraine and Europe isn't strong enough yet," she added.
— Sam Meredith
Ukraine presidential aide says up to 13,000 military personnel killed in war
Ukraine's forces have lost somewhere between 10,000 and 13,000 soldiers so far in the war against Russia, according to a Reuters report, which cited comments from Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak.
It is thought to be the first estimated death toll of Ukrainian military personnel by a top official since Ukraine's military chief said close to 9,000 soldiers had died as of late August.
— Sam Meredith
Member states will have to decide on EU proposal to create a court to investigate Russian war crimes, UN says
The U.N. said it will let member states decide whether to set up a court to investigate possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
Earlier in the day, the European Union proposed to set up a U.N.-backed court to investigate possible war crimes in Ukraine. The EU also proposed using frozen Russian assets to rebuild Ukraine.
"The decision to establish a tribunal, with or without the involvement of the United Nations, is a decision that will rest with the [U.N.] member states," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said during a daily press briefing.
"The Secretary‑General is definitely aware that there've been discussions in various forums concerning the possibility of the establishment of an international tribunal in regards to what's going on in Ukraine and in particular, on the issue of the crime of aggression," he said, adding that any further comment on the matter would only be speculation.
— Amanda Macias
Ukrainian defense official speaks next to dud warhead
Deputy Minister of Defense of Ukraine Hanna Maliar speaks standing next to a dud warhead imitating a nuclear part of a Kh-55SM strategic cruise missile, which was used by Russian troops during a recent missile attacks on Ukraine.
The Kh-55SM strategic cruise missile can carry nuclear warheads, speakers at the briefing said.
— STR | NurPhoto | Getty Images
Biden, Macron vow to continue to support Ukraine against Russia
U.S. President Joe Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron in a joint press conference at the White House reaffirmed their commitment to supporting Ukraine against Russia.
"Having the U.S. strongly support the Ukrainians at this time is very important not just for the Ukrainians, but for the Europeans, who we are. This is why we do thank you for the solidarity, for the stability of our world today," Macron said. "Because if we consider that we can abandon the country and abandon the full respect of its principles, it means there is no possible stability in this world."
Macron is visiting the U.S. as a visitor for Biden's first state dinner as president.
Biden said he does not intend to speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin any time soon, but he would be willing to if Putin is genuinely interested in ending the war.
"I'm prepared to speak with Mr. Putin if in fact there is an interest in him deciding he's looking for a way to end the war. He hasn't done that yet," Biden said.
"In the meantime, I think it's absolutely critical, what Emmanuel said: we must support the Ukrainian people," Biden said. "The idea that Putin is ever going to defeat Ukraine is beyond comprehension."
- Emma Kinery