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Russia and West at odds over gas payments in roubles

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(Last Updated On: March 29, 2022)

Russia said on Monday it will not supply gas to Europe for free as it works out methods for accepting payments for its gas exports in roubles but G7 nations refused the demand.

At a meeting of European Union leaders on Friday, no common position emerged on Russia’s demand last week that “unfriendly” countries must pay in roubles, not euros, for its gas in the wake of the United States and European allies teaming up on a series of sanctions aimed at Russia, Reuters reported.

Concerns over security of supply were enhanced after the demand, with companies and EU nations scrambling to understand the ramifications.

The Russian central bank, the government and Gazprom (GAZP.MM), which accounts for 40% of European gas imports, should present their proposals for rouble gas payments to President Vladimir Putin by March 31.

“We are not going to supply gas for free, this is clear,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told a conference call. “In our situation, this is hardly possible and appropriate to engage in charity (with European customers).”

In a interview aired later on Monday with the American public broadcaster PBS, when asked whether gas would be turned off for non-payers, Peskov replied: “No payment – no gas.”

But he added that Russia is yet to take a final decision on how to respond should European countries refuse to pay in the Russian currency.

Meanwhile, energy ministers from the Group of Seven industrialized nations rejected the rouble payment demands, Germany economy and climate protection minister Robert Habeck said after talks with his counterparts, Reuters reported.

“All G7 ministers have agreed that this is a unilateral and clear breach of existing contracts,” he told reporters after a virtual conference with G7 energy ministers.

The ministers “underlined once again that the concluded contracts are valid and the companies should and must respect them … payment in roubles is unacceptable, and we call on the companies concerned not to comply with Putin’s demand,” he said.

Dutch and British wholesale gas prices rose by up to 20% on Monday on concerns about Russian gas supply.

The EU aims to cut its dependency on Russian gas by two-thirds this year and end Russian fossil fuel imports by 2027. Russian gas exports to the EU were around 155 billion cubic metres (bcm) last year.

On Friday, the United States said it will work to supply 15 bcm of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the European Union this year.

However, the EU would struggle to replace all Russian gas exports in a short period of time, experts said.

Russian gas deliveries to Europe on three main pipeline routes were stable on Monday, with the Yamal-Europe pipeline continuing to flow eastwards from Germany into Poland, operator data showed.

Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM) said it that it was continuing to supply natural gas to Europe via Ukraine in line with requests from European consumers.

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NATO’s Stoltenberg says Russia’s Ukraine offensive not going to plan

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(Last Updated On: May 16, 2022)

Russia’s offensive in Ukraine is failing and its operation in the Donbass region has stalled, NATO’s secretary general said on Sunday, Reuters reported.

“Russia’s war in Ukraine is not going as Moscow had planned. They failed to take Kyiv,” Jens Stoltenberg told reporters by video link. “They are pulling back from Kharkiv and their major offensive in Donbass has stalled.”

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Churchgoers hog-tie gunman after shooting in California kills one

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(Last Updated On: May 16, 2022)

A gunman opened fire in a Southern California church during a lunch banquet on Sunday, killing one person and wounding five, before churchgoers detained the suspect and hog-tied his legs with an electrical cord, authorities said.

Police responded to the incident that unfolded at about 1:30 p.m. local time (2039 GMT) at the Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods and arrested an unidentified suspect in his 60s, Orange County Undersheriff Jeff Hallock told a news conference.

“That group of churchgoers displayed … exceptional heroism and bravery in intervening to stop the suspect. They undoubtedly prevented additional injuries and fatalities,” he said.

One person died at the scene while four other victims were critically wounded. Another person suffered minor injuries, he said. All of the injured were taken to hospitals.

About 30 to 40 people were in the church when the shooting occurred, Hallock said.

“At this time, we do not know what the suspect’s motive may be or whether he had an intended target, or whether this is even a hate-related incident,” Hallock said, adding that authorities believe the suspect does not live in the area.

Two handguns were found at the scene.

“No one should have to fear going to their place of worship. Our thoughts are with the victims, community, and all those impacted by this tragic event,” Governor Gavin Newsom’s office said on Twitter.

It was at least the second mass shooting of the weekend in the United States, which has been plagued with gun violence in recent years. In Buffalo, New York, on Saturday, a white 18-year-old man opened fire at a supermarket in a mostly Black neighborhood, killing 10 and wounding three in what authorities described as a purely racist attack.

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Britain says Russia has lost a third of its forces in Ukraine

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(Last Updated On: May 15, 2022)

Russia has probably lost around a third of the ground forces it deployed to Ukraine and its offensive in the Donbas region “has lost momentum and fallen significantly behind schedule”, British military intelligence said on Sunday.

“Despite small-scale initial advances, Russia has failed to achieve substantial territorial gains over the past month whilst sustaining consistently high levels of attrition,” the British defence ministry said on Twitter.

“Russia has now likely suffered losses of one third of the ground combat force it committed in February.”

It said Russia was unlikely to dramatically accelerate its rate of advance over the next 30 days, Reuters reported.

Since Russia’s invasion on February 24, Ukraine’s military has forced Russia’s commanders to abandon an advance on the capital Kyiv, before making rapid gains in the northeast and driving them away from the second biggest city of Kharkiv.

A Ukrainian counteroffensive has been under way near the Russian-held town of Izium, though Ukraine’s military reported on Sunday that Russian forces were advancing elsewhere in the Donbas region, the main theatre of war over the past month.

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