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Ukraine forces thwart Russian armoured column crossing river

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© Reuters. A satellite image shows a closer view of a barge, a Serna-class landing craft and a sunken Serna craft in Snake Island, Ukraine May 12, 2022. Satellite image 2022 Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

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By Jonathan Landay

KHARKIV, Ukraine (Reuters) -Ukrainian forces destroyed a pontoon bridge and parts of Russian armoured column as it tried to cross a river in the Donbas region, video footage released by Ukraine’s military showed on Friday, and a Russian naval ship was set afire in the Black Sea.

Russia has suffered setbacks on the battlefield as Ukraine drives its troops out of the region around the second-largest city of Kharkiv, the fastest advance since forcing the Kremlin’s forces from Kyiv and the northeast over a month ago.

Reuters journalists have confirmed Ukraine is now in control of territory stretching to the banks of the Siverskiy Donets River, around 40 km (25 miles) east of Kharkiv.

Footage released by Ukrainian Airborne Forces Command appeared to show several burnt out military vehicles and segments of a bridge partially submerged in the river. The images showed many more damaged or abandoned vehicles, including tanks, in the woods and on the track leading to the river.

Delivering a daily intelligence update on Friday, Britain’s defence ministry said the images suggested that Russia had lost armoured manoeuvre elements of at least one battalion tactical group and the pontoon bridging equipment depolyed while crossing the Siverskyi Donets river west of Severodonetsk.

Reuters could not immediately verify the report, or when or where the clash took place.

The British defence ministry said Russia was investing significant military effort further south from Kharkiv, near Izium and Severodonetsk, and was attempting a breakthrough towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

The Kremlin calls its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to demilitarise a neighbour threatening its security. It denies targeting civilians.

Ukraine says it poses no threat to Russia and that the deaths of thousands of civilians and destruction of cities and towns show that Russia is waging a war of aggression.

In the capital Kyiv, wives and relatives of Ukrainian fighters holed up in the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port of Mariupol marched and chanted for their rescue.

Russian forces have been bombarding the steelworks, the last bastion of Ukrainian defenders in a city almost completely controlled by Russia after a siege of more than two months.

“I want all the defenders who are there to return home so that they can live a normal life with their children and relatives,” said Maria Zimareva, whose brother is inside the steelworks. “They have earned it. Why the others can walk in the streets with their loved ones and they cannot? Why nobody helps them?”

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told 1+1 television that negotiations were under way for an evacuation, starting with the most badly wounded.

In Kyiv, a court is due on Friday to begin hearing the first war crime case since the war began in February. A Russian soldier is due to go on trial accused of murdering a civilian in Chupakhivka, in northeastern Ukraine, on Feb. 28.

RUSSIAN SHIP SET ALIGHT

Renewed fighting around Snake Island in recent days may become a battle for control of the western Black Sea coast, according to some defence officials, as Russian forces struggle to make headway in Ukraine’s north and east.

Ukraine said it had damaged a Russian navy logistics ship near the island, a small but strategic outpost, and set it on fire.

“Thanks to the actions of our naval seamen, the support vessel Vsevolod Bobrov caught fire – it is one of the newest in the Russian fleet,” said Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa regional military administration.

Reuters could not independently verify the details. Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Satellite imagery provided by Maxar, a private U.S.-based company, showed the aftermath of what it said were probable missile attacks on a Russian Serna-class landing craft near the island, close to Ukraine’s sea border with Romania.

Images also showed recent damage to buildings on the island, which became famous for the foul-mouthed defiance of its Ukrainian defenders early in the invasion.

NATO EXPANSION

As fighting continued around the country, wider diplomatic moves dialled up pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Foreign ministers from the G7 group of rich nations aim to give what Germany called a “powerful sign of unity” as they meet on Friday to discuss the conflict and fears that it could spill over into Moldova.

Finland’s plan to apply for NATO membership, announced on Thursday, and the expectation that Sweden will follow suit, would bring about the expansion of the Western military alliance that Putin aimed to prevent.

Abandoning the neutrality they maintained throughout the Cold War would be one of the biggest shifts in European security in decades.

Moscow called Finland’s announcement hostile and threatened retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical” measures.

“Helsinki must be aware of the responsibility and consequences of such a move,” said the foreign ministry.

Finland’s 1,300-km (800-mile) border will more than double the length of the frontier between the U.S.-led alliance and Russia, putting NATO guards a few hours’ drive from the northern outskirts of St Petersburg.

Putin cited NATO’s potential expansion as one of the main reasons he sent forces into Ukraine.

Thursday also saw an intensification of disputes over Russian supplies of energy to Europe – still Moscow’s biggest source of funds and Europe’s biggest source of heat and power.

Moscow said it would halt gas flows to Germany through the main pipeline over Poland, while Kyiv said it would not reopen a pipeline route it shut this week unless it regains control of areas from pro-Russian fighters. Prices for gas in Europe surged.

Commodities

China lifts curbs on Canadian canola, demand seen muted

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Canola seeds ready for shipping off the Sterling Hilton farm are seen near Strathmore, Alberta, Canada, April 12, 2019. REUTERS/Todd Korol

(Reuters) -China has removed a three-year restriction on imports of Canadian canola seed, Canadian officials said in a statement on Wednesday that didn’t provide a reason for the lifting of curbs, but trade is likely to be limited by low stocks and high prices.

China, the world’s top oilseed buyer, suspended two Canadian canola exporters in March 2019, alleging that pests had been detected in shipments.

Customs officials in Beijing didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

China’s claims, disputed by Canada at the time, came amid political and trade tensions between the two countries following the arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver for extradition to the United States.

“We welcome this decision to remove the restrictions and immediately reinstate the two companies to allow them to export Canadian canola seeds,” said Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng and Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau in a statement.

Low stockpiles of canola, which is crushed into meal to feed animals and oil for cooking, are expected to curb flows of the oilseed to China however.

Canada, the world’s biggest producer and exporter of canola, produced its smallest canola crop in 13 years in 2021, pushing buyers to look elsewhere for supplies, and supporting record global edible oil prices.

“This will improve the current shortage of rapeseed domestically. China’s two major import sources for rapeseed are Canada and Russia, and there are great supply risks for Russia now,” said Haitong Futures analyst Kong Lingqi.

“With the lifting of restrictions, there should be some trade flows but import volumes are not expected to be large because Canada’s canola inventory is not high this season. Maybe there will be a larger number of imports after September,” she added, as Canada’s new crop reaches the market.

China’s own canola crop might also keep trade flows from increasingly rapidly, said Johnny Huang, co-founder of Sitonia Consulting.

“China is expected to produce a record volume of canola this year. Soybean production is also estimated to rise this year,” said Huang.

Global edible oil prices, from palm oil to soybean oil, surged to milestone highs this year on tight supplies as production slumped and key producers curbed shipments.

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Commodities

Gold Down, Weighed Down by Aggressive Fed

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© Reuters.

By Gina Lee

Investing.com – Gold was down on Thursday morning in Asia, with a steady dollar and elevated Treasury yields weighing on the greenback-priced bullion, whose outlook has already been dampened by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s aggressive stance on inflation.

Gold futures edged down 0.20% to $1,812.34 by 1:31 AM ET (5:31 AM GMT). The dollar, which normally moves inversely to gold, edged down on Thursday.

Gold’s daily closing price is effectively hugging the trendline projected from its March 2020 low, and intraday volatile spikes on either side of that key trendline have lacked conviction to prompt a sustainable move, City Index senior market analyst Matt Simpson told Reuters.

The yellow metal has largely seemed to track daily moves in both the dollar and benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yields in recent weeks. A greenback near 20-year highs pushed gold to its lowest in well over three months on Monday.

Gold’s performance and outlook have also been impacted as the Fed adopts a more hawkish monetary policy stance on interest rate hikes.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Tuesday said that the U.S. central bank would hike its interest rates as needed to curb inflation which he said threatened the foundation of the economy.

“ETF (Exchange traded fund) flows peaked on the 27th of April, and we’ve since seen a net outflow as investors have lost confidence in the yellow metal… and the rout in stock markets simply added another reason for some investors to convert their gold to cash,” said Simpson.

In Asia Pacific, Japanese trade data for April 2022 showing that exports rose 12.5% year-on-year and imports rose 28.2% year-on-year. The trade balance contracted to -¥839.2 billion (-$6.51 billion).

In other precious metals, silver inched up 0.1%, while platinum fell 0.9% and palladium was down 0.6%.

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Commodities

Oil Up as Economic Growth Worries Continue

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© Reuters.

By Gina Lee

Investing.com – Oil was up on Thursday morning in Asia, recovering from early losses as concerns over tight global supplies outweighed fears over slower economic growth.

Brent oil futures jumped 1.45% to $110.69 by 12:58 AM ET (5:58 AM GMT), after falling by more than $1 earlier in the session. WTI futures rose 1.07% to $108.18 recovering from an earlier loss of more than $2 and were up 56 cents, or 0.5%, at $107.60 a barrel for July 2022.

Both Brent and WTI benchmarks fell about 2.5% on Wednesday.

“A slump in Wall Street soured sentiment in early trade as it underlined concerns over weakening consumption and fuel demand,” Rakuten Securities commodity analyst Satoru Yoshida told Reuters.

Asian stocks on Thursday followed a steep Wall Street selloff, as rising global inflation, China’s zero-COVID policy, and the Ukraine war led to fears of an economic recession.

“Still, oil markets are keeping a bullish trend as a pending import ban by the European Union on Russian crude is expected to further tighten global supply,” said Yoshida.

The European Union earlier in the month proposed a new package of sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. The package includes a total ban on Russian oil imports in six months’ time, but the measures have not yet been adopted amid continued resistance to the plan from member countries including Hungary.

On Wednesday, the European Commission unveiled a €210 billion ($220.65 billion) plan for Europe to end its reliance on Russian fossil fuels by 2027.

Meanwhile, Wednesday’s U.S. crude oil supply data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed a draw of 3.394 million barrels for the week to May 13. Forecasts prepared by Investing.com predicted a build of 1.383 million barrels, while an 8.487-million-barrel build was reported during the previous week.

Crude oil supply data from the American Petroleum Institute released the day before, showed a draw of 2.445 million barrels. Capacity use on both the East Coast and Gulf Coast was above 95%, with those refineries near their highest possible running rates.

 

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