Biden orders record oil release
US President Joe Biden has ordered the largest release ever from the US emergency oil reserve and challenged oil companies to drill more in an attempt to bring down gasoline prices that have soared during Russia’s war with Ukraine. Starting next month, the United States will release one million barrels a day of crude oil for six months from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve. “This is a moment of consequence and peril for the world, and pain at the pump for American families,” Biden said at an event at the White House. “It’s also a moment of patriotism,” he said, as he asked oil company executives to serve their customers and American families, instead of the investors they have rewarded with billions of dollars in dividends. In New York, oil prices lost 6.22% to $101.11 a barrel after Biden’s announcement.
France, Germany scream ‘blackmail’ to Putin demands
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Thursday that all EU purchases of Russian gas must be made in roubles starting today, April 1 – a demand immediately rejected by French and German officials who said they were preparing for a possible halt in Russian supplies. Europe will not be “blackmailed” by Putin, Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck said, describing the demand as “an unacceptable breach of contract”. Putin warned “unfriendly” countries, including all EU members, they would be cut off from Russian gas unless they opened an account in roubles to pay for deliveries.
OPEC + confirms ‘modest’ increase in production
OPEC +, which also includes Russia, has confirmed the strategy of gradual and modest increases in crude oil production despite the strong pressure on prices triggered by the invasion of Russia in Ukraine. OPEC and its allies have agreed to increase oil production by only 432,000 barrels a day, thus sticking to the plan already established months ago in view of the post-Covid recovery. The next meeting is scheduled for May 5.
Russians preparing for mighty attacks – Zelensky
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Russian forces were regrouping and were ready to launch “mighty attacks” against Donbass and southern Ukraine, including Mariupol. According to anSOS he launched in a video posted overnight, Zelensky said this was “part of their tactic”, adding that the Russians had “moved away from the areas where they were beaten to focus on other very important ones, where it can be more difficult for us”.
14 tons of humanitarian aid confiscated
Fourteen tons of food and medicines destined for civilians in Melitopol, halfway between Mariupol and Crimea, have been confiscated by Russian forces. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said the aid had been transported by bus, made available to evacuate civilians to Zaporizhzhia.
6.5 million internally displaced people in Ukraine
UNHCR has said that after five weeks of war, over four million refugees have fled Ukraine, and 6.5 million Ukrainian civilians have been internally displaced – 90% of whom are women and children. The UN agency recalls this is the worst humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II, a crisis that “is growing every second”.
Biden’s son implicated in pathogens – Moscow
The Russian Defence Ministry has correspondence between US President Biden’s son, Hunter, with employees of the American Defence Threat Reduction Agency and Pentagon contractors, confirming his crucial role in providing funding for work with pathogens in Ukraine. Last month, Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova repeated a longstanding claim that the United States operates a biowarfare lab in Ukraine – an accusation that has been repeatedly denied by Washington and Kyiv. Zakharova said that documents unearthed by Russian forces in Ukraine showed “an emergency attempt to erase evidence of military biological programmes” by destroying lab samples.
EU to pressure China over Russia-Ukraine war stance
The goal of today’s virtual summit between Brussels and Beijing is “ensuring, in a way, the neutrality of China so they don’t help Russia”, an EU official has told CNBC. The comments come after different heads of state urged China last week to use its influence to stop the war in Ukraine. The Chinese authorities have so far refused to fully denounce Russia’s unprovoked invasion of its neighbour – having abstained during a vote for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Moscow. China has also supported Moscow’s complaints about NATO expansion and US officials have also said that Russia has asked China for military and economic support – something that the Kremlin and Beijing have both denied. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Council President Charles Michel will be speaking with China’s Prime Minister Li Keqiang this morning and then with Chinese President Xi Jinping in the afternoon. EU-China economic links and recent trade disputes might be brought up during the conversations.
FIFA World Cup Draw today
The draw for the group matches of the FIFA World Cup 2022 will take place at 6pm (Malta time) today at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre in Qatar. Twenty-nine nations have already qualified, with three teams set to be confirmed by June. The 32 qualified teams will be split into four pots based on the current FIFA rankings: Pot 1 (seeded teams): Qatar, Brazil, Belgium, France, Argentina, England, Spain and Portugal; Pot 2: Mexico, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Uruguay, Switzerland, USA and Croatia; Pot 3: Senegal, Iran, Japan, Morocco, Serbia, Poland, South Korea andTunisia; and Pot 4: Cameroon, Canada, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, Ghana, Wales/Scotland/Ukraine, Costa Rica/New Zealand and UAE/Australia/Peru. Hosts Qatar play in the opening game on Monday,November 21. The draw will be screened direct on TVM+.