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Ukrainian Americans try many ways to bring in relatives

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© Reuters. Yuliya Day poses for a picture in front of a blended United States/Ukraine flag that hangs in front of her home in Fullerton, California, U.S., April 21, 2022. Picture taken April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Mike Blake

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By Deborah Bloom

(Reuters) – Twice daily, Yuliya Day reaches out by phone from Los Angeles to see how her mother and aunt are doing in the attic they’ve rented in Warsaw. The sisters, 68 and 70 years old, crossed the Polish-Ukrainian border with two cats and few belongings after fleeing Kharkiv.

Between calls, Day resumes her months-long effort to bring her mom and aunt out of Europe and into the United States. The 42-year-old special needs instructor is among six Ukrainian Americans who spoke to Reuters about navigating any route they can find through what they described as the difficult and confusing legal process of bringing in loved ones fleeing war.

The Biden administration expects most Ukrainians whose lives have been upended by Russia’s invasion to stay in Europe. But it said in March it would accept up to 100,000 using existing legal pathways. On April 25, a “Uniting for Ukraine” website went live allowing Ukrainians with American financial sponsors to apply to stay and work in the United States for up to two years under a humanitarian parole program that does not offer a path to citizenship.

As of mid-last week, around 14,500 Uniting for Ukraine applications had been filed, according to the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency (USCIS).

Potential sponsors must upload details about their employment and assets. Applicants must pass identity and security checks before they can travel to the United States and be considered for parole.

The program has given Iryna Bashynskyy of Portland, Oregon, hope. Since February, Bashynskyy has been looking for ways to get her niece, Yana, out of Ukraine. Now, Bashynskyy is gathering documents, including her tax returns and bank statements.

“It’s a hustle,” Bashynskyy said. “But I’ll try to accomplish it.”

Yana asked to only be identified by her first name out of safety concerns.

“It is necessary to somehow escape from here,” Yana, 23, said through a translator from her apartment in Kyiv. “I’m scared about my life, about my future. Because you don’t know where a bomb will drop, at what time, and what will happen.”

New York-based attorney Marina Shepelsky has been receiving hundreds of calls from people with relatives in Ukraine. For the first month and-a-half of the Russian invasion, Shepelsky – a Ukrainian refugee herself whose family fled the Soviet Union in 1989 – was advising them to apply for tourist visas.

“Now I’m kind of discouraging it,” Shepelsky said, saying Uniting for Ukraine offers “a better status.”

Nearly 3,500 Ukrainians were issued temporary U.S. visas for tourism or business in March, up sharply from about 900 in February, according to U.S. State Department statistics. A State Department spokesperson told Reuters tourist visas must be used for temporary stays and are not appropriate for beginning an immigrant or refugee process. The spokesperson did not explain why more Ukrainians got tourist visas in March, but said applications are evaluated case-by-case.

WAITING IN MEXICO

Leonard Mogul is seeking a spousal immigration visa for the woman he married in a non-denominational, 30-minute Zoom wedding in early March. Her wedding band was a ring he had bought her during a New Year’s vacation in Cancun. He had tried earlier for a tourist visa, and was given a visa interview appointment in late September.

“I didn’t want her to be alone in Europe by herself for that long,” said Mogul, who is pursuing the spousal visa and does not plan to apply for Uniting for Ukraine.

Artem Plakhotnyi, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based dance teacher, had been trying for weeks to book an emergency visa appointment for his sister-in-law and her four-year-old twins. Four days after Russian soldiers invaded Ukraine, his cousin and his cousin’s nine-year-old daughter died trying to flee Kharkiv, he said. After repeated attempts, he boarded a flight to Warsaw and then flew with his relatives to Tijuana, where requested and received humanitarian parole last month.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said as of April 25, when Uniting for Ukraine went live, Ukrainians at the southwest border who did not have valid visas or pre-authorization to travel to the United States through Uniting for Ukraine may be denied entry.

A Mexican government source told Reuters last week around 530 Ukrainians were at a shelter outside Mexico City, looking for sponsors in the United States. Most had been flown by the Mexican navy from Tijuana. Mexico’s navy confirmed the Ukrainians, among them almost 200 minors, were at the shelter.

Ilona Dluzhynska, a Ukrainian advocate in Mexico, said other Ukrainians have traveled to Mexico City from the border on their own and are in hotels awaiting immigration processing.

Back in Los Angeles, Day is working through the Uniting for Ukraine process, and remotely booking accommodations for her mother and aunt and coordinating veterinary appointments for their cats.

“My mom and aunt don’t speak other languages” than Ukrainian, she said. “They’ve never left Ukraine. They’ve never even been on a plane.”

She said she’s considering flying to Poland.

“Honestly, I just want to be able to hug my mother and cry with her, and not being able to do this – they feel totally lost over there.”

Commodities

Oil falls 2.5% as U.S. refiners ramp up output, equities retreat

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows an oil factory of Idemitsu Kosan Co. in Ichihara, east of Tokyo, Japan November 12, 2021, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Arathy Somasekhar

HOUSTON (Reuters) -Oil prices fell 2.5% on Wednesday, reversing early gains as traders grew less worried about a supply crunch after government data showed U.S. refiners ramped up output, and as crude futures followed Wall Street lower.

Brent crude settled down $2.82, or 2.5%, at $109.11 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell $2.81, or 2.5%, to $109.59 a barrel.

Both benchmarks gave up early gains of $2-$3 a barrel following a change in risk sentiment as equity markets fell, said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

Brent remained at an unusual discount to WTI a day after settling below the U.S. benchmark for the first time since May 2020. Traders and analysts cited strong export demand and tightening U.S. crude stockpiles.

U.S. crude inventories fell by 3.4 million barrels last week, government data showed, an unexpected drawdown, as refiners ramped up output in response to tight product inventories and near-record exports that have forced U.S. diesel and gasoline prices to record levels. [EIA/S]

U.S. gasoline prices fell 5%, two days after touching a record high.

Capacity use on both the East Coast and Gulf Coast was above 95%, putting those refineries close to their highest possible running rates.

“While on the face of it, the report was extraordinarily bullish, they (refiners) are racing to put more refined product on the market… there’s obviously a refiners response,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC.

The dollar strengthened and global stocks retreated on concerns about economic growth and rising inflation.

Bearish sentiment also followed reports that the United States is planning to relax sanctions against Venezuela and allow Chevron Corp (NYSE:CVX) to negotiate oil licenses with state producer PDVSA.

“The perception that we could see some more supply coming Venezuela coming into the market, along with the equity markets, it’s causing some profit taking in a much-needed technical correction in the crude,” said Dennis Kissler, senior vice president for trading at BOK Financial.

The European Union’s failure to persuade Hungary to lift its veto on a proposed embargo on Russian oil was adding price pressure, although some diplomats expect agreement on a phased ban at a summit at the end of May.

Ongoing supply concerns remained supportive. Russian crude output in April fell by nearly 9% from the previous month, an internal OPEC+ report showed on Tuesday, as Western sanctions on Moscow curbed exports.

On the demand side, hopes of further lockdown easing in China boosted expectations of a recovery. Authorities allowed 864 of Shanghai’s financial institutions to resume work, sources said, and China has relaxed some COVID test rules for U.S. and other travelers.

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Commodities

U.S. extends application deadline for nuclear power rescue program

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Spent fuel storage is seen at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station near San Clemente, California, U.S., April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Nichola Groom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Energy said on Wednesday it has extended a deadline by 47 days, to July 5, for nuclear power plants to apply for federal funding to keep them running.

The first stage of the program is aimed at saving two plants, one in California and one in Michigan. The Biden administration wants to keep nuclear generators online because the industry generates more than half the country’s carbon-free electricity.

The DOE statement came two days after two industry trade groups, Edison Electric Institute and Nuclear Energy Institute, sent a letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm requesting the extension on behalf of their members.

“We received a request to extend the application period, which could keep at-risk reactors online, delivering much needed clean energy to the grid,” DOE’s assistant secretary for nuclear energy, Kathryn Huff, said in the statement.

Under the program, which was launched last month, owners of nuclear reactors that are scheduled to retire can apply for a portion of $6 billion in available funding.

Entergy Corp (NYSE:ETR)’s Palisades plant in Michigan, which may be eligible for the funding, is due to shut down on May 31. The Diablo Canyon facility in California, owned by PG&E (NYSE:PCG) Corp, is scheduled to retire in 2025.

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Commodities

Oil falls 2% as U.S. refiners ramp up output, equities retreat

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows an oil factory of Idemitsu Kosan Co. in Ichihara, east of Tokyo, Japan November 12, 2021, in this photo taken by Kyodo. Mandatory credit Kyodo/via REUTERS

By Arathy Somasekhar

HOUSTON (Reuters) -Oil prices reversed course and fell over 2% on Wednesday after government data showed U.S. refiners ramped up output, easing worries of a supply crunch, and as traders took cues from a drop in equities market.

Brent crude was down $2.41 cents, or 2.4%, at $109.52 a barrel at 12:05 a.m. ET (1605 GMT), while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude fell $2.5 cents, or 2.2%, to $1 09.85 a barrel.

Brent settled below WTI on Tuesday – the first time since May 2020 – and was still unusually trading at a discount due to strong export demand and tightening U.S. crude stockpiles.

U.S. crude inventories fell by 3.4 million barrels last week, government data said, an unexpected drawdown as refiners ramped up output in response to tight product inventories and near-record exports that have forced diesel and gasoline prices to record levels in the United States. [EIA/S]

Capacity use on both the East Coast and Gulf Coast was above 95%, putting those refineries close to their highest possible running rates.

“While on the face of it, the report was extraordinarily bullish, they (refiners) are racing to put more refined product on the market… there’s obviously a refiners response,” said John Kilduff, a partner at Again Capital LLC.

Both benchmarks also gave up earlier gains of $2-$3 a barrel following a change in risk sentiment as equity markets fell, said UBS analyst Giovanni Staunovo.

The dollar strengthened and global stocks retreated on Wednesday as concerns about economic growth and rising inflation soured sentiment.

Bearish sentiment also followed reports that the United States is planning to relax sanctions against Venezuela and allow Chevron Corp (NYSE:CVX) to negotiate oil licences with state producer PDVSA.

“The perception that we could see some more supply coming Venezuela coming into the market, along with the equity markets, it’s causing some profit taking in a much needed technical correction in the crude,” Dennis Kissler, senior vice president for trading at BOK Financial said.

The European Union’s failure to persuade Hungary to lift its veto on a proposed embargo on Russian oil was adding price pressure, although some diplomats expect agreement on a phased ban at a summit at the end of May.

Ongoing supply concerns, however, were still supportive. Russian crude output in April fell by nearly 9% from the previous month, an internal OPEC+ report showed on Tuesday, as Western sanctions on Moscow curbed exports.

On the demand side, hopes of further lockdown easing in China have boosted expectations of a recovery. Authorities allowed 864 of Shanghai’s financial institutions to resume work, sources said on Wednesday, and China has relaxed some COVID test rules for U.S. and other travellers.

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