‘High food and energy prices for three years’
The war in Ukraine will result in expensive food and energy for the next three years, the World Bank has warned, intensifying fears that there was a risk that persistently high commodity costs lasting until the end of 2024 would lead to stagflation – sluggish activity combined with strong cost of living pressures. The Bank’s latest commodity markets outlook said that over the past two years the world had seen the biggest increase in energy prices since the 1973 oil crisis and the biggest jump in food and fertiliser prices since 2008 and were forecast still to be above the average for the past five years at the end of 2024. As a result of trade and production disruptions caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Bank is forecasting a 50% rise in energy prices this year. It expects the price of Brent crude oil to average $100 a barrel in 2022, its highest level since 2013 and an increase of more than 40% compared with 2021. Prices are expected to fall back to $92 in 2023 but will remain well above the five-year average of $60 a barrel. In another development, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said while the US did not expect to encounter any food shortages as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the administration was working to “bolster food security around the globe” both independently and with allies.
UN ready to evacuate people from Mariupol
UN Secretary General António Guterres has told Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov he is ready to fully mobilise the UN’s resources to evacuate people from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol. “Thousands of civilians are in dire need of life-saving humanitarian assistance, and many have to be evacuated,” he said. Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, Iryna Vereschuk, said there was “no point” in the UN if there is no real humanitarian corridor from Mariupol.
Guterres scolds Russia for war
Speaking at a news conference with Lavrov, he upbraided Russia for the war, saying he understood that Moscow had many grievances, but the UN charter had many mechanisms whereby such grievances could be addressed, including the International Court of Justice. Lavrov said Moscow was ready to collaborate with the United Nations to “alleviate the plight of the civilian population”.
Concerns over reports of war crimes
Guterres, who also met President Putin, at a later meeting, said he was concerned by reports of war crimes in Ukraine and that they required an independent investigation, but not by the UN. Putin repeated his earlier claims that Moscow was not involved in alleged atrocities in Bucha. “Russia was faced with provocation in Bucha, something the Russian side had nothing to do with.” He also told Guterres that peace talks with Ukraine are continuing via a video link, blamed Ukraine for stalling the negotiation process, and said he would not sign a security guarantee agreement with Ukraine without the territorial questions of Crimea and Donbas being resolved.
In other developments…
- An ammunition depot is on fire near the village of Staraya Nelidovka in the Belgorod region, in western Russia, near the border with Ukraine. The governor of the region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, wrotes this on his canal Telegram, no damage to residential buildings or civilian casualties wer reported.
- Russia’s defence ministry has warned of an immediate “proportional response” if Britain continues its “direct provocation” of the Kyiv regime, after UK armed forces minister James Heappey described Ukrainian strikes on Russian soil that hit supplies and disrupt logistics as “completely legitimate”. Responding on Facebook, Maria Zacharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, also said Russia could deem it equally legitimate to target Ukrainian supply lines “in depth” as far as “into those countries which transfer weapons to Ukraine” which also produce “death and destruction”.
- British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he did not expect President Putin to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. He told Britain’s Talk TV, Putin “has a lot of room for manoeuvre” and could back down.
- President Zelensky has said the “free world has the right to self-defence” after predicting that Russia intends to not only seize the territory of Ukraine but to “dismember the entire centre and east of Europe” and “deal a global blow to democracy”.
- A Russian minister refused to rule out Moldova’s breakaway region Transnistria being drawn into the Ukraine war, in a potential escalation of the conflict to another European country. Deputy foreign minister Andrey Rudenko said Moscow “was concerned” over the string of recent explosions in Transnistria, saying Russia “would like to avoid a scenario” in which Transnistria would be dragged into the war.
- Poland and Bulgaria have been told that their gas supply from Russia will stop as of today, Wednesday, following their refusal to pay its supplier, Gazprom, in roubles.
- The head of the UN’s atomic watchdog, IAEA director general Rafael Grossi, has condemned the Russian occupation of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, describing the situation as “absolutely abnormal and very, very dangerous”.
- The United States has vowed to move “heaven and earth” to help Ukraine win its battle against Russia’s invasion as it hosted defence talks in Germany with allies from 40 nations. The gathering is being led by the US Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin, following his meeting with President Zelenskiy last Sunday.
- Germany will authorise the delivery of anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine. German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said her government had agreed to sign off the delivery of around 50 Gepard anti-aircraft weapons systems.
North Korea: ‘accelerated development for nuclear weapons’
North Korea “will strengthen and develop” its nuclear weapons faster, leader Kim Jong-un assured during the high-profile military parade in Pyongyang to celebrate the 90 years of the founding of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army (Kpra). “We will continue to take steps to strengthen and develop our nation’s nuclear capabilities at a faster pace,” Kim waas quoted as saying in the official KCNA report.
Worsening gap for EU female employment
Eurostat notes the gap in the EU female employment average is worsening: in 2021, 49.4% of women between the ages of 15 and 64 were employed compared to 63.4% of the EU average with a gap of 14 points. In 2019, the gap was 12.7 points (62.9 the European average) while in 2020 it was 13.6 points (62% in the EU). The female employment rate in Italy in 2021 was the worst in the EU after Greece (48.2% recovering in both 2019 and 2020). In Germany, 72.2% of women aged 15 to 64 were employed in 2021. In 2021 the average employment rate of both men and women in the EU recovered over 2019 reaching 68.4% (compared to 68.1%). Italy has the lowest employment rate in Europe after Greece which, however, in 2021 recovered 1.1 points on 2019.
Champions League: Manchester City seize narrow advantage
Manchester City have the advantage in the Champions League semi-finals after edging out Real Madrid 4-3 in a thrilling first leg at the Etihad Stadium. Pep Guardiola’s side made a stunning start, striking twice in the opening 11 minutes through Kevin De Bruyne and Gabriel Jesus. The recently-crowned LaLiga champions responded with Karim Benzema and Vinicius Junior sandwiching Phil Foden’s header. The hosts hit back through Bernardo Silva’s stellar strike, but Benzema’s nonchalant late penalty cut the gap to a single goal ahead of the second leg at the Santiago Bernabeu next Wednesday. In the other semi-final, Liverpool meet Villareal at Anfield this evening.