1. Biden rejects Putin talks as EU, G7 back crude oil price cap
US President Joe Biden does not intend to talk to his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, about ending the war in Ukraine because the conditions for such talks do not currently exist, the White House said on Friday.
“We’re just not at a point where the talks seem like a fruitful avenue to pursue at this time,” national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters.
His comment highlighted the chasm between Ukraine and its main backer and Russia over negotiations more than nine months into the war sparked by Putin’s invasion that has killed tens of thousands, uprooted millions and destroyed towns and villages.
As part of a multi-pronged international campaign to limit Russia’s ability to wage war, the Group of Seven (G7) nations and Australia said on Friday they had agreed on a price ceiling of 60 dollars (56.9 euros) per barrel of Russian crude oil transported by sea.
The G7 and Australia said in a statement that the cap would come into effect on December 5 or very soon after. It aims to reduce Russia’s revenue from the sale of oil while preventing a spike in world prices.
EU governments, who have resolved their differences and agreed on the cap, will now have to formally approve it over the weekend.
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2. Putin calls out Scholz and says Western approach to war in Ukraine is ‘destructive’
Russian President Vladimir Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a phone call on Friday that the German and Western line on Ukraine was “destructive” and urged Berlin to rethink its approach, the Kremlin said.
His reading of the call highlighted the rift between Russia and Western governments over Ukraine, even though Moscow and Washington have both said in the past 24 hours that they are open to talks in principle. .
“Attention has been drawn to the destructive line of Western states, including Germany, who are pumping the Kyiv regime with weapons and training the Ukrainian army,” the Kremlin said.
“All this, together with overall political and financial support for Ukraine, leads to the fact that Kyiv completely rejects the idea of any negotiations.”
Kyiv says peace talks are only possible if Russia stops attacking Ukrainian territory and withdraws its troops from Ukrainian soil.
After Putin proclaimed the annexation of Ukrainian territory in September, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the talks would not be possible as long as Putin remained in power, although Ukraine has not stressed this condition in recent weeks.
Putin “called on the German side to reconsider its approaches in the context of the Ukrainian events,” the Kremlin added.
He said Putin defended Russian missile strikes on targets in Ukraine as a forced response to Ukrainian attacks on Russian infrastructure, including a key bridge between Russia and Crimea.
He also said Russia should be allowed to participate in investigations into what it called “terrorist” attacks on Nord Stream gas pipelines under the Baltic Sea.
3. Russia is preparing to besiege Bakhmut, according to the British Ministry of Defense
Russia is likely planning to encircle the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast with tactical advances north and south, the British Ministry of Defense said on Saturday.
Capturing the city would have limited operational value, but it could potentially allow Russia to threaten Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, the ministry added in a daily intelligence update.
“There is a realistic possibility that capturing Bakhmut has become primarily a symbolic political objective for Russia,” the ministry said in the update posted on Twitter.
Russian forces continued rocket attacks on infrastructure and airstrikes on Ukrainian troop positions along the line of contact, the Ukrainian General Staff said on Friday, adding that Moscow’s military push has is concentrated in a dozen towns, including Bakhmut and Avdiivka – key Russian targets in the beleaguered east. .
Troops from Moscow have been bombing critical infrastructure in Ukraine since October, leaving millions without power in a cold winter.
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4. Russian TV-in-Exile operating in Latvia was investigated for aiding Russian troops
Statements by the independent Russian television channel Dozhd raised suspicions that it was helping Moscow troops take part in the war in Ukraine and sparked an investigation by the Latvian state security services on Friday.
Dozhd, or TV Rain, broadcasts from Latvia and elsewhere after Russian authorities forced the closure of its Moscow studio on the grounds that it deliberately broadcast false information about the actions of Russian troops in Ukraine.
The state security service said a host of a Dozhd news program on Thursday expressed hope that the station had already helped provide many Russian soldiers with basic equipment and amenities.
It is not clear whether the statement meant that the television station had helped to improve their conditions through their reporting or whether it had been actively involved in the purchase of said equipment.
“The statements (…) arouse suspicion on the television channel providing assistance to the soldiers of the Russian occupation forces,” he said in a press release.
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5. Estonia to buy US-made HIMARS rocket system
Estonia, a NATO member and neighbor of Russia, is boosting its defense capabilities by acquiring an advanced US rocket artillery system in the Baltic country’s largest-ever arms acquisition project , defense officials said on Saturday.
A deal signed on Friday for the high-mobility artillery rocket system is worth more than $200 million (189.8 million euros) and includes equipment such as ammunition and rockets as well as training.
The package includes HIMARS rockets with a range of 70 to 300 kilometers, the Estonian Defense Investment Center said in a statement. Lockheed Martin Corp. should make the first deliveries in 2024.
“The HIMARS multiple rocket launchers are another important step in the development of Estonia’s defense capabilities,” said Lt. Col. Kaarel Mäesalu, head of the Estonian Defense Force’s capability development department.
“This allows us to decisively influence the enemy even before coming into contact with our infantry units.”
Estonia’s Baltic neighbours, Latvia and Lithuania, have or are in the process of acquiring their own HIMARS.
Washington supplied Ukraine with the rocket launchers during Russia’s invasion of the country.
The Estonian Ministry of Defense said that HIMARS systems “helped destroy Russian military ammunition warehouses, transport nodes and command and control centers with extreme precision beyond the range of howitzers that ‘Ukraine uses’.