Daily: 18/03/2023

В ООН підтвердили продовження «зернової угоди»

Від початку дії угоди близько 25 мільйонів тонн агропродукції було доставлено до 45 країн світу, що сприяло зниженню світових цін на продовольство та стабілізації ринків, нагадали в ООН

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Зеленський щодо нових санкцій: «це частина глобального тиску на Росію»

«Є лише один суб’єкт, який руйнує життя: це Росія. Є лише один спосіб захистити життя: треба вигнати російську армію з української землі. І ми це зробимо»

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UBS Mulls Credit Suisse Takeover with Swiss Government Assurances

UBS AG was mulling a takeover of its embattled Swiss peer Credit Suisse Saturday, sources said, which could allay fears that an unfolding crisis at the bank might destabilize the global financial system.

The 167-year-old Credit Suisse is the biggest name ensnared in the turmoil unleashed by the collapse of U.S. lenders Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank over the past week, spurring a broad-based loss in investor confidence globally.

Both U.S. and European banking executives and regulators have taken extraordinary measures to shore up the industry to try to restore confidence. The Biden Administration moved to backstop consumer deposits while the Swiss central bank lent billions to Credit Suisse to stabilize its shaky balance sheet.

UBS was under pressure from the Swiss authorities to carry out a takeover of its local rival to get the crisis under control, two people with knowledge of the matter said. The plan could see the Swiss government offer a guarantee against the risks involved, while Credit Suisse’s Swiss business could be spun off.

UBS, Credit Suisse and Switzerland’s financial regulator FINMA declined to comment.

The Financial Times said the three were rushing to finalize a merger deal as soon as Saturday evening, citing people familiar with the matter.

U.S. authorities are involved, working with their Swiss counterparts to help broker a deal, Bloomberg News reported, also citing those familiar with the matter.

Credit Suisse shares lost a quarter of their value in the last week. It was forced to tap $54 billion in central bank funding as it tries to recover from a string of scandals that have undermined the confidence of investors and clients. This made it the first major global bank to take up an emergency lifeline since the 2008 financial crisis.

The company ranks among the world’s largest wealth managers and is considered one of 30 global systemically important banks whose failure would ripple throughout the entire financial system.

The banking sector’s fundamentals are stronger, and the global systemic linkages are weaker than during the 2008 global financial crisis, Goldman analyst Lotfi Karoui wrote in a late Friday note to clients. That limits the risk of a “potential vicious circle of counterparty credit losses,” Karoui said.

“However, a more forceful policy response is likely needed to bring some stability,” Karoui said. The bank said the lack of clarity on Credit Suisse’s future will pressure the broader European banking sector.

A senior official at China’s central bank said Saturday that high interest rates in the major developed economies could continue to cause problems for the financial system.

There were multiple reports of interest for Credit Suisse from other rivals. Bloomberg reported that Deutsche Bank was looking at the possibility of buying some of its assets, while U.S. financial giant BlackRock denied a report that it was participating in a rival bid for the bank.

Interest rate risk

The failure of California-based Silicon Valley Bank brought into focus how a relentless campaign of interest rate hikes by the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks — including the European Central Bank this week — was pressuring the banking sector.

SVB and Signature’s collapses are the second- and third-largest bank failures in U.S. history behind the demise of Washington Mutual during the global financial crisis in 2008.

Banking stocks globally have been battered since SVB collapsed, with the S&P Banks index falling 22%, its largest two weeks of losses since the pandemic shook markets in March 2020.

Big U.S. banks threw a $30 billion lifeline to smaller lender First Republic, and U.S. banks altogether have sought a record $153 billion in emergency liquidity from the Federal Reserve in recent days.

This reflects “funding and liquidity strains on banks, driven by weakening depositor confidence,” said ratings agency Moody’s, which this week downgraded its outlook on the U.S. banking system to negative.

While support from some of the titans of U.S. banking prevented First Republic’s collapse, investors were startled by disclosures on its cash position and how much emergency liquidity it needed.

In Washington, focus has turned to greater oversight to ensure that banks and their executives are held accountable.

U.S. President Joe Biden called on Congress to give regulators greater power over the sector, including imposing higher fines, clawing back funds, and barring officials from failed banks.

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«Зернову угоду» продовжили ще на 120 днів

Український міністр Олександр Кубраков наголосив, що завдяки спільним зусиллям України партнерів на світові ринки поставлено 25 млн тонн українського зерна

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Словаччина підписала угоду з Україною про передачу МіГ-29

Ярослав Надь каже: завдяки словацькій техніці Україна зможе захистити якнайбільше людських життів

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Україна запровадила санкції проти президента Сирії Асада і низки осіб

Нещодавно у Москві Башар Асад заявив про повну підтримку дій Володимира Путіна, назвавши війну РФ проти України боротьбою «зі «старими і новими нацистами»

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Шмигаль анонсував низку кадрових перестановок у Кабміні

«Віце-прем’єр-міністр Михайло Федоров займатиметься ще низкою напрямків, крім диджиталізації. Його майбутня посада – віце-прем’єр-міністр з інновацій, розвитку освіти, науки та технологій – міністр цифрової трансформації України»

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British Defense Ministry: Russia Likely Preparing for Wider Conscription

Russia is “likely” gearing up to cast a wider net to increase its military forces, according to the British Defense Ministry’s daily Intelligence update on Ukraine.

Earlier in the week, the report says, Russian Duma deputies introduced a bill changing the age requirement for conscription to men 21 years of age to 30 years.  Currently, the age bracket is 18 to 27.

The law will “likely” pass, the ministry said, and would go into effect in January. “Russia continues to officially bar conscripts from operations in Ukraine, though at least hundreds have probably served through administrative mix ups or after being coerced to sign contracts,” the ministry said in the update.

The report said many 18- to 21-year-old men are claiming exemptions to continue their education.

The International Monetary Fund said Friday its executive board has approved changes to its financing policy aimed at countries facing “exceptionally high uncertainty.”

The measure is widely viewed as a way to open a new loan program for Ukraine as it enters the second year of fighting back a Russian invasion.

The IMF said in a statement, “The changes apply in situations of exceptionally high uncertainty, involving exogenous shocks that are beyond the control of country authorities and the reach of their economic policies, and which generate larger than usual tail risks.”

Meanwhile, Florida-based app developer and sleep research company DreamApp recently conducted a sleep quality research study on 745 Ukrainians and how the Russian invasion has affected their sleep, dreams and mental health.

A little more than 82% of the participants said they remembered their dreams, which is an indication, DreamApp said, of “superficial sleep that does not provide a full rest.”

“When the brain does not receive enough sleep, traumatic experiences cannot be processed adequately, causing further strain on mental health,” according to Jesse Lyon, DreamApp’s chief dream scientist.  “It effectively traps these experiences in the brain causing a state of constant tension and heightened fight-or-flight response.” 

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Before Xi Visit, Russia Says It Held Naval Drills With China and Iran in Arabian Sea

Russia, China and Iran have completed three-way naval exercises in the Arabian Sea that included artillery fire at targets on the sea and in the air, the Russian defense ministry said on Saturday.

The exercises, off the Iranian port of Chabahar, took place as Russian President Vladimir Putin prepares to host his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in Moscow for a three-day state visit starting on Monday.

Russia has continued to stage military exercises with partners, especially China, despite the strain on its armed forces from the year-long war in Ukraine, where it has failed to achieve any major advance since last summer.

The Russian frigate Admiral Gorshkov and the Chinese destroyer Nanjing were involved in the drills that took place on Thursday and Friday, the defense ministry said.

The Gorshkov, which is equipped with Russia’s latest-generation Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles, also took part in joint naval exercises last month with China and South Africa.

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Путін підписав закон про покарання за «дискредитацію» всіх учасників війни в Україні, у тому числі вагнерівців

«Брехнею» та «провокацією» влада Росії після початку війни в Україні визнає будь-яку інформацію, яка відрізняється від повідомлень Міноборони Росії

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У ISW припускають, що мета зустрічі Путіна і Сі – обговорення схеми ухиляння від санкцій

Лідер Китаю Сі Цзіньпін відвідає Москву з офіційним візитом 20–22 березня

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Reuters: російський бізнес просить Казахстан допомогти з обходом санкцій

Останніми тижнями російські компанії більш активно просять своїх казахстанських партнерів допомогти з обходом західних санкцій та імпортом необхідних товарів, повідомляє Reuters із посиланням на сім джерел.

Два співрозмовники агентства пов’язують зростання інтересу з повідомленнями про плани Анкари припинити транзит санкційних товарів. Продавці та покупці багато в чому покладалися на Туреччину в обході обмежень, створивши складну мережу ланцюжків постачання через треті країни.

За даними джерел, збільшилася кількість запитів із Росії щодо допомоги у доставці багатьох товарів через сухопутний кордон Казахстану з Росією. Її протяжність становить понад сім тисяч кілометрів.

Reuters наводить приклад казахстанського підприємця, який розповів, що йому запропонували один мільйон доларів за допомогу у перевезенні вантажівки з рідкісноземельними металами з Австралії.

Уряд Казахстану на запит агентства про коментарі не відповів.

Reuters зазначає, що Москва залишається для Астани найбільшим торговим партнером.

Експорт із Казахстану торік зріс на чверть і наблизився до дев’яти мільярдів доларів. Наприклад, експорт підшипників зріс удвічі – до 111 мільйонів доларів.

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Авіакомпанії США просять заборонити польоти конкурентів над Росією

Американські авіакомпанії скаржаться, що вони опинилися у вкрай невигідному становищі порівняно з азійськими конкурентами

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IMF Changes Seen Opening Path for New Ukraine Loan

The International Monetary Fund said Friday its executive board has approved changes to its financing policy aimed at countries facing “exceptionally high uncertainty.”

The measure is widely viewed as a way to open a new loan program for Ukraine as it enters the second year of fighting back a Russian invasion.

The IMF said in a statement, “The changes apply in situations of exceptionally high uncertainty, involving exogenous shocks that are beyond the control of country authorities and the reach of their economic policies, and which generate larger than usual tail risks.”

Meanwhile, DreamApp recently conducted a sleep quality research study on 745 Ukrainians and how the Russian invasion has affected their sleep, dreams and mental health.

A little more than 82% of the participants said they remembered their dreams, which is an indication, DreamApp said, of “superficial sleep that does not provide a full rest.”

“When the brain does not receive enough sleep, traumatic experiences cannot be processed adequately, causing further strain on mental health,” according to Jesse Lyon, Dream App’s chief dream scientist. “It effectively traps these experiences in the brain causing a state of constant tension and heightened fight-or-flight response.”

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Wagner’s Convicts Tell of Horrors of Ukraine War and Loyalty to Their Leader

In October last year, a Russian news site published a short video of Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner Group, the Russian mercenary army, sitting with four men on a rooftop terrace in the resort town of Gelendzhik, on Russia’s Black Sea coast. Two are missing parts of a leg. A third has lost an arm. They are identified as pardoned former convicts, returned from the front in Ukraine after joining Wagner from prison.

“You were an offender, now you’re a war hero,” Prigozhin tells one man in the clip. It was the first video to depict the return of some of the thousands of convicts who joined Wagner in return for the promise of a pardon if they survived six months of war.

Reuters used facial recognition software to examine this video and more than a dozen other videos and photographs of homecoming convict fighters, published between October 2022 and February 2023. Reporters were able to identify more than 30 of the men by cross-checking the images with social media and Russian court documents.

In their ranks are murderers, thieves and a self-declared “Satanist.” Several are in hospital recovering from wounds sustained in the fighting. Reuters managed to make contact with 11 of these men. Five agreed to be interviewed by phone and messaging app. What follows is the most detailed insider account yet of Wagner’s convict army: the fighters’ recruitment and training, the combat they saw in Ukraine, and their uncertain future in a Russia turned upside down by war with its neighbor.

Four of the men said they were personally recruited by Yevgeny Prigozhin as he toured Russia’s prison system to bolster his private army. Some of the men were deployed to Ukraine’s eastern Bakhmut region, site of some of the most intense fighting of the one-year-old conflict, where one man described the “utter hell” of the battlefield. Thousands have been killed on both sides. The battle for the city of Bakhmut now hangs in the balance. A former Wagner commander who fled to Norway in January has said he witnessed members of Wagner’s internal security administering brutal treatment to prisoner recruits, including executions for desertion.

Combat training, some conducted by veterans of Russia’s special forces, was short but intensive, according to the men. Ukrainian and Western officials say Wagner is sending poorly prepared fighters to certain death in eastern Ukraine. Mike Kofman, an expert in the Russian military at the Arlington County, Virginia-based CNA think tank, told Reuters the two to three weeks of training received by the convict recruits would be unlikely to bring them up to speed, even if some of the men had prior military experience.

“It takes time to learn combat basics, receive individual training, and you also need some collective training as a unit on top of it – a couple of weeks alone isn’t going to do that much for you,” Kofman told Reuters. A more rigorous training scheme would last several months.

All five ex-prisoners expressed a fierce loyalty to Prigozhin for giving them a second chance at life. Though Reuters could not independently confirm the men’s accounts of their service, many of the details were consistent with one another. Russia’s Defense Ministry and penal service did not respond to detailed questions for this article, nor did Prigozhin and Wagner. Prigozhin has previously described Wagner as “probably the most experienced army that exists in the world today” and said its casualty rate is comparable with other Russian units.

From jail to the Ukraine front

When Prigozhin began touring Russia’s sprawling penal system in summer 2022 offering pardons to those who agreed to fight in Ukraine, word quickly spread among prisoners.

Rustam Borovkov, from the small town of Porkhov, near Russia’s border with Estonia, was one of the four men filmed on the rooftop terrace. Court records show that the 31-year-old was six years into a 13-year term for manslaughter and theft in late July when Prigozhin reached his prison, Penal Colony No. 6 in Russia’s western Pskov region. Borovkov and two friends had broken into a house to steal homebrewed alcohol, according to the court papers. One of them struck the homeowner, who died as a result.

Borovkov had heard from inmates in St Petersburg that Prigozhin was traveling from prison to prison in search of recruits. “I knew right away that I would go,” he told Reuters, “even before he came to us.”

Borovkov said he stood with several hundred other prisoners to hear Prigozhin speak. They were given three days to decide whether to join Wagner in return for freedom. About 40 signed up and after three days and a polygraph test, aimed at rooting out drug addicts, they were on their way to war.

Two months later, in September, as a Ukrainian counter-offensive gathered pace, a film emerged on social media of Prigozhin telling convicts in the Volga River region of Mari El that they had only five minutes to make a decision – and those who changed their minds after joining would be shot as deserters.

In another video, published in February this year, Prigozhin tells convicts that fighters are paid 100,000 rubles ($1,300) monthly, with the possibility of additional bonuses. That’s far above Russia’s average monthly wage of around 65,000 rubles . But Borovkov told Reuters his only motivation for joining Wagner was the promise of a pardon. “I have a small child. I wanted to get back to my family.” He said prison officers tried to persuade him not to go because he played an important role as head of his cellblock’s medical unit.

Six-time convicted thief Yevgeny Kuzhelev said a sense of patriotic duty drew him to Wagner. The 29-year-old was serving time in Russia’s southwestern Samara region for stealing cognac, beer and instant coffee from supermarkets in the Volga car-making city of Togliatti, according to court papers.

“I was sentenced to 3 years and 7 months and I’d already served two years. So I didn’t have long left. But I went anyway. Why? I thought about it, and I am sure that if I had been free at the time, I would have one hundred percent gone to fight. I would have gone as a volunteer,” he said. “I remember how from February, when it all started, I called my aunt from time to time from prison. She kept telling me that this friend of yours went [to Ukraine], then another one, then a third, a fourth … And I knew that I would have done the same.”

Kuzhelev said the recruitment process took about two weeks, and during this time inmates were free to back out without consequence. Those who enlisted were moved to separate accommodation in the prison, where they encountered a new respect from the prison officers.

“Among us there was a man who was serving a 25 year sentence,” Kuzhelev said. “He had a few months left of his term and he signed up. The prison officers asked him: ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ And he told them: ‘Everything is fine, I’m going.’ How can you not respect such a decision?”

Reuters was unable to establish the identity of the prisoner or what happened to him.

‘It was clear they were going to die’

Prigozhin has said previously that Wagner’s convict fighters spend a month undergoing rigorous combat drills, sleeping for only four hours a day. The fighters who spoke to Reuters said they received two to three weeks of intensive and well-organized training. Some credited it with saving their lives.

The war in Ukraine is straining Russia’s military capacity. Late last year, Putin announced the mobilization of reservists into the army. They would receive just 10 to 20 days’ training before deployment to the front. Basic training for infantrymen in the U.S. and British armies is around 22 weeks.

One of the convict recruits told Reuters he traveled to a Wagner training camp in the Russian-controlled part of eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region. Borovkov said training was conducted by former members of Russia’s special forces. “Everything was organized at the highest level,” said Borovkov, who previously served with the military force that secures Russia’s railways. “It wasn’t that they gave me a machine gun, showed me how to shoot and that’s it. No, they explained everything, and in great detail. Mining, demining, tactics, shooting, physical training. Everything.”

The men who spoke to Reuters said that most of the inmates who joined Wagner had some kind of military experience. They had previously served as conscripts under Russia’s one-year military draft or as professional soldiers. The convicts with the most military experience were appointed squad commanders, two of the men said.

“When we got to training, we were asked in detail who knew what, who had served, where they served,” said 38-year-old Dmitry Yermakov, who joined Wagner 10 years into a 14-year sentence for kidnapping. He declined to discuss his criminal record. “And then, when we had been divided into units, they let the lads choose their own commanders. By that time I had already earned some kind of authority, so I was chosen.”

Yermakov said the recruits who realized the gravity of the situation and asked instructors to repeat drills were the best prepared for what was to come. “Those were the men who were genuinely ready to go to war,” he said. Others hoped merely to run down the clock on their six-month stints, hoping that they would receive their pardon having seen as little combat as possible. Of these men, Yermakov said: “It was absolutely clear they were going to die.”

Paralyzing fear and adrenaline

Of the five men who spoke to Reuters, three said that they had fought in the area around the eastern city of Bakhmut, where intense fighting has cost thousands of lives on both sides. Wagner is spearheading Russia’s months-long push to take the city, which had a pre-war population of 75,000 but is now in ruins. Prigozhin has referred to Bakhmut as a “meat grinder,” and said his men’s task there is to bleed the Ukrainian army dry.

Ukrainian and Western officials have compared the battles around Bakhmut to the First World War, and accused Wagner of using convicts in human wave attacks. According to the United States, by mid-February Wagner had suffered more than 30,000 casualties in Ukraine, including 9,000 dead, almost all of them convicts. Prigozhin has insisted, however, that the casualty rate among convict fighters is comparable to other Russian units.

Yermakov, the convicted kidnapper, said that some fighters lost their nerves in the first hours of battle. “What do they see there? Corpses ripped to shreds. And what do they do? Some of them vomit, some of them cry, and some of them don’t want to climb out of the trench. Fear takes over.”

Other fighters recalled only the thrill of combat.

“It was amazing,” said Andrei Yastrebov, a 22-year-old native of St Petersburg, who was serving time for car theft when he joined Wagner. Yastrebov also goes by the name Andrei Kiriyenko on social media. “So much adrenalin. I wish all real men would join Wagner. You can write that. The Ukies ran and Wagner fucked them up.”

Four of the men interviewed by Reuters were seriously injured and invalided out of Ukraine long before completing their stints. They said Wagner had told them that time spent in hospital and rehabilitation would be counted towards their six-month terms and they would receive clemency regardless. Two said they have already got their pardons.

Yermakov lasted only four days before receiving a serious wound to his arm and groin in mid December while dragging a wounded comrade to safety. He said his squad had been tasked with taking and holding a road junction near the village of Pokrovske, on the eastern approach to Bakhmut. He described his final day on the front as “utter hell,” lying flat on the ground for 24 hours as Ukrainian tanks and mortars shelled his squad’s position and drones flew overhead.

“In a war, you’re almost always lying flat on the ground. It’s the only way to survive,” said Kuzhelev, the convicted thief. He told Reuters he spent two months at the front before receiving a shrapnel wound to his arm. “We always wish people ‘Happy Birthday’ after they have been wounded” because they have dodged death. “That’s what they said to me,” he added.

A new start

Now free years ahead of schedule, whether at home or facing long periods of treatment and rehabilitation, the surviving fighters are returning to a country where their actions on the frontline are lionized by many. Prigozhin has previously said that he is giving convicts who join Wagner a “second chance” at life, and an opportunity to redeem themselves.

Earlier this month the State Duma passed a law making it a crime to “discredit” Wagner fighters. The law, which previously applied more narrowly to Russia’s armed forces, was extended at Prigozhin’s request.

Prigozhin’s growing power has not been greeted warmly by all sections of the Russian elite. In February, a long-running feud between the Wagner leader and Russia’s military chiefs exploded into open hostility. Prigozhin accused Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov of “treason,” saying they were starving Wagner of munitions out of personal animosity towards him. Shoigu and Gerasimov could not immediately be reached for comment. Earlier the same month, Prigozhin said he had ended Wagner’s recruitment of prisoners, hinting in an interview that he was forced to do so by unnamed officials.

The five fighters interviewed by Reuters felt a deep personal gratitude to Prigozhin for recruiting them and wiping their criminal records.

“We’re better than ordinary citizens,” said Yastrebov, the car thief, now at home in his native St Petersburg. “We are not ex-convicts now, thanks to Wagner.”

In a January video, Prigozhin is shown telling injured convict fighters: “The police must treat you with respect. Everything has already been agreed at various levels, so that there is no nit-picking… If necessary, I myself will call and talk to the governors and so on, and we will find a solution.”

For Kuzhelev, who as of February had been in a Krasnodar region hospital for four months, Prigozhin had given him a new lease on life. Court documents show he spent almost seven of his 29 years in prison for six separate convictions. “The last time I was sent to prison, I was thinking: ‘Well, here I am again, what’s next?'” he said. “I’ll serve a year, another, a third, and then what? I’ll go out, and what am I going to do on the outside? What am I going to do with myself, given my background?”

“Well, now I’m clean. I have some money. I can think about the future. Think about getting a mortgage to buy an apartment … I have all this thanks to our esteemed Yevgeny Viktorovich,” Kuzhelev added, using Prigozhin’s patronymic as a sign of respect.

All five of the men who spoke to Reuters said either that they would remain with Wagner after their six month service, or were seriously considering doing so.

Some said they wanted to get back to the frontlines as soon as they were able to. Nikita Lyubimov, a native of the Volga city of Cheboksary who had been serving a four and a half year sentence for grievous bodily harm, said his first priority was “to support the lads, to recover as soon as possible, and get back to the front line.” The 23-year-old had received a shrapnel wound two months into his initial stint in Ukraine, and was invalided out.

The men said that the able-bodied among them were offered the chance to sign on as professional full-time mercenaries, while the injured were offered supporting roles. Borovkov, who is getting a prosthetic arm after amputation, said that he had been offered a job at a Wagner hospital in Luhansk when he recovers.

Yermakov said he hoped to recover sufficiently to re-enroll as a contract mercenary, and hoped to be deployed in future to Libya, Syria or the Central African Republic, where Wagner operations predate the group’s present campaign in Ukraine. He cited limited prospects available in Russia’s civilian economy as pushing him towards returning to Wagner.

“People work hard without days off for 12-14 hours a day, and at best they earn 50-60,000 rubles ($672-$806) a month,” said Yermakov, who told Reuters he has two small daughters. “I will return to the (Wagner) company and I will definitely be able to earn 150,000 rubles ($2,000) a month.”

For others, a return to Wagner offers an alternative to sinking back into a life of crime. Kuzhelev, who has spent almost seven of his 29 years in prison, told Reuters that he hoped that service in Wagner would enable his young daughter to build a career in future, without the stigma of her father’s criminal past.

“My daughter, when she grows up, can go on to study banking, or attend the police academy,” said Kuzhelev. “And she will not have problems because her father was in prison. Isn’t that motivation? Of course it is.”

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Байден: ордер МКС на арешт Путіна є виправданим

Цей крок «є дуже сильною позицією», сказав президент США журналістам у Білому домі

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Офіційні особи США підтвердили підтримку в розмові з українськими колегами

До розмови приєднався президент Володимир Зеленський, йдеться у повідомленні

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Q&A: White House ‘Concerned’ About Xi-Putin Meeting, ‘Supports’ Xi-Zelenskyy Meeting

John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, speaks with VOA Chinese Service White House correspondent Paris Huang, March 17, 2023.

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US Opposes Chinese Cease-Fire Proposal in Ukraine

The White House is rejecting Beijing’s proposal for a truce in Ukraine, ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow next week and a subsequent phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“We’d be concerned if coming out of this meeting there was some sort of call for a cease-fire,” said John Kirby, National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications in an interview with VOA on Friday. “While a cease-fire sounds good, it actually ratifies Russia’s gains on the ground.”

Putin’s foreign policy adviser, Yuri Ushakov, earlier Friday said the talks with Xi could yield new approaches to the war in Ukraine.

“I’m sure that our leader and the Chinese leader will exchange their assessments of the situation there,” he said. “We shall see what ideas will emerge after that.”

Kirby suggested that a cease-fire could provide Moscow with the opportunity to prepare for a more effective assault on Ukraine in the future. A cease-fire at this point, he added, “doesn’t serve Ukraine’s interest” and “would be a violation of the U.N. Charter” as it would take away from the recognition that Russia is illegally inside Ukraine.

Cautiously welcoming Beijing’s involvement, Zelenskyy said success would depend on actions not words.

Last month Beijing released its 12-point framework for a political settlement in Ukraine, calling for a “direct dialogue as quickly as possible” to reach a “comprehensive cease-fire.”

The document lacked specifics about resolving Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territory or security guarantees for Ukraine. It did not call for the withdrawal of Russian forces.

Chinese motives

By proposing a cease-fire, the Chinese appear to be trying to “salvage something for Putin,” said David Kramer, executive director of the George W. Bush Institute.

“The Russian forces are not doing well,” he told VOA. “And we don’t need the Chinese intervention at this point.”

Not all observers are quick to dismiss Beijing’s diplomatic overtures. Given that Putin has burned his bridges with the West and become more dependent on China, Xi may have a decent chance of brokering peace, said George Beebe, director of Grand Strategy at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a think tank that advocates restraint in U.S. foreign policy.

“He has limited room for maneuver[ing] in rejecting the Chinese involvement altogether,” Beebe told VOA.

On the Ukrainian side, Beebe noted that while they are not dependent on Beijing, they realize that China is potentially an important wild card. Zelenskyy would want to engage with Xi if only to prevent Beijing from supporting Putin militarily, which could alter the war’s outcome.

Slim prospects

The prospects for a cease-fire acceptable to the warring parties at this point are slim.

Recent polls show that 85% of Ukrainians believe no territorial concessions are acceptable even if that means a longer war. Kyiv is demanding that Russia pull back from areas taken since its February 2022 invasion as well as from the Crimean Peninsula, which Putin illegally annexed in 2014.

Meanwhile, Moscow would oppose any truce that would require it to withdraw from newly annexed Ukrainian territories, said James Acton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. It is even less likely to agree to withdraw from Crimea.

“It’s held it since 2014,” Acton told VOA. “It is a crowning achievement of Putin’s reign.”

Even with no prospects of a concrete outcome, the announcement of the meeting with Xi provided a diplomatic boost to Putin on the same day the International Criminal Court announced it wants to put the Russian leader on trial for alleged war crimes.

Because of the warrant, should Putin travel to a country that is party to the ICC, that country has the legal obligation to arrest and surrender him to the court, ICC President Piotr Hofmanski told VOA.

Growing diplomatic ambition

Xi’s plan to visit Moscow is the latest sign of the Chinese leader’s growing diplomatic ambition, following last week’s announcement of a Beijing-brokered deal that allowed Iran and Saudi Arabia to reestablish diplomatic relations after seven years of hostility.

China is signaling that it wants to be involved in a future peace process, said Moritz Rudolf, a fellow at Yale Law School’s Paul Tsai China Center.

“Part of it is to be perceived as an ‘international responsible great power,’” he told VOA.

This makes Washington uncomfortable. “I don’t think the United States wants to be in a situation where China develops a reputation around the world for being a peacemaker,” Beebe said.

Kirby insisted that the administration’s opposition to the cease-fire is not because it was proposed by China.

“I’ve been very clear. It’s about the principle of a cease-fire called for right now, which would essentially just ratify Russia’s gains,” he said.

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Президент Зеленський підписав закон 7198 про компенсації за зруйноване майно

Основні новації закону 7198, який 17 березня 2023 року підписав Президент України Володимир Зеленський:

– Компенсації надаватимуть виключно за майно (пошкоджене/зруйноване) з 24 лютого 2022 року;

– Закон діє протягом трьох років після припинення або скасування воєнного стану на території, де такий об’єкт знаходиться (знаходився);

– Закон не поширюватиметься на об’єкти, що на дату введення воєнного стану були на тимчасово окупованій території;

– Компенсацію надаватимуться виключно за пошкоджену або знищену житлову нерухомість: квартири, інші житлові приміщення (наприклад, кімнати у гуртожитках), будинки садибного типу, садові та дачні будинки, об’єкти будівництва, у яких зведені опорні та зовнішні конструкції;

– Право на компенсацію отримають фізичні особи – громадяни України, які є власниками пошкодженого/зруйнованого майна;

– Не зможуть отримати компенсації особи із санкційних списків, із судимістю за вчинення злочинів проти основ національної безпеки та їхні спадкоємці;

– За пошкоджене майно отримати грошову компенсацію буде неможливо – для таких випадків пропонують виключно відновлення через будівельні роботи та/або надання будівельних матеріалів для них;

– Власники знищених квартир та інших житлових приміщень одержать житловий сертифікат — документ, що підтверджує гарантії держави профінансувати придбання квартири або іншого житлового приміщення (у тому числі такого, що буде споруджене в майбутньому) в обсязі визначеної грошової суми;

– У власників приватних будинків буде вибір — отримати житловий сертифікат на купівлю квартири чи будинку або грошову компенсацію, яку будуть перераховувати на рахунок зі спеціальним режимом використання для фінансування будівництва;

– Граничний розмір компенсації — і грошової, і у вигляді житлового сертифіката — відсутній, як і обмеження щодо місцезнаходження, типу та площі нового житла, будівництво якого буде профінансоване через сертифікат;

– Використати сертифікат можна протягом п’яти років з дня його видачі, а відчужувати протягом 5 років, окрім успадкування, заборонено;

– Якщо ціна житла буде вищою за суму, зазначену в сертифікаті, недоотриману частину компенсації будуть сплачувати отримувачу лише за рахунок грошових коштів, отриманих від рф для відшкодування збитків;

– Строк подання заяви про надання компенсації за знищене житлове майно збільшили до другого читання — її можна подати під час дії воєнного стану та протягом одного року з дня його припинення;

– До заяви необхідно буде додати копію документа, що підтверджує право власності або придбання нерухомості та, за наявності, матеріали фото- і відеофіксації до або після знищення;

– Розглядати заяви та приймати рішення про надання або відмову в наданні компенсації за знищене майно буде Комісія з розгляду питань щодо надання компенсації. Такі комісії створюватимуться виконавчими органами місцевих рад, військовими або військово-цивільними адміністраціями населених пунктів.

Джерелами фінансування компенсації за пошкоджене та знищене майно будуть:

1. кошти державного та місцевих бюджетів;

2. кошти міжнародних фінансових організацій, інших кредиторів та інвесторів;

3. міжнародна технічна та/або поворотна чи безповоротна фінансова допомога;

4. репарації або інші стягнення з російської федерації;

5. інші джерела, не заборонені законодавством України, в тому числі місцеві фонди, створені з метою надання компенсації та відновлення пошкоджених/знищених (зруйнованих) об’єктів нерухомого майна.

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