Negotiations between the foreign ministers of Russia and Ukraine have begun in Turkey. The talks failed to produce anything except another chance for both sides to reiterate their opening positions. According to a Bloomberg report, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov indicated that his country will “continue attacks until its goals are met”:
The broad narrative he conveyed to me is that they will continue their aggression until Ukraine meets their demands, and the least of these demands is surrender.
Ukraine’s Kuleba said before the meeting that his country has made three demands of the Russians: a cease-fire, an improvement in humanitarian conditions in Ukraine’s besieged cities, and a Russian withdrawal from the country. Lavrov continued to insist that Russia has not invaded Ukraine and is “carrying out … a ‘special military operation’ there.” Lavrov said:
We want a Ukraine that’s friendly and demilitarized, a Ukraine in which there isn’t a risk of the creation of another Nazi state, a Ukraine where there won’t be a ban on the Russian language, on Russian culture.
Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovitch has been added to the list of sanctioned Russian oligarchs, halting the proposed sale of one of the top teams in England’s Premier League. Abramovitch has been hit with a U.K. freeze on all his assets and a travel ban by the British government. Among other issues, the U.K. Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation has accused Abramovitch of being involved in “providing financial services, or making available funds, economic resources, goods or technology that could contribute to destabilizing Ukraine [by] potentially supplying steel to the Russian military which may have been used in the production of tanks.”
A Russian airstrike Wednesday on a maternity hospital in the southern Ukraine city of Mariupol killed three people, including one child, and injured 17 others, according to a BBC report. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky called the attack a war crime. A Russian government spokesperson said that the Kremlin “will definitely ask our military because, of course, we don’t have clear information on what happened there.”
The U.S. House approved a $1.5 trillion federal spending bill last night that includes a provision for $13.6 billion in assistance to Ukraine. Of that assistance, $6.5 billion is headed to the U.S. Department of Defense to add to support more U.S. troops in Europe ($3 billion) and $3.5 billion to replace weapons that have been given to Ukraine. Bloomberg News has more details on the spending bill, which still needs to be approved by the Senate.
Crude oil prices were rising in early trading Thursday morning. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude settled at $108.70 on Wednesday, a drop of $15 a barrel, but opened higher Thursday morning at $110.41. At last look, WTI traded up about 4.2% at $113.12. The lack of progress from the foreign ministers’ meeting in Turkey has dampened hopes for a solution to Putin’s war.
The lack of progress in the negotiations also weighed on the U.S. equity futures. All three major indexes were lower by at least one percentage point Thursday morning. Later in the morning, the consumer price index (CPI) for February will be released, and no one is expecting good news on the inflation front. Economists expect the index to have risen 7.8% year over year in February, up from a 7.5% year-over-year increase in January. Core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, is expected to rise by 6.4%, compared to a rise of 6.0% in January.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that gasoline price prices rose by 7.1% in February. According to GasBuddy, a gallon of regular gas costs an average of $4.33 a gallon Thursday morning, a penny higher than Wednesday’s average, 56 cents more than last week’s average, nearly 85 cents more than the average one month ago and $1.50 more than a year ago.
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