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Ukrainian forces thwart Russian river crossing, hit naval ship




© 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


By Jonathan Landay

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

Ukraine has driven Russian troops back from the second-largest city of Kharkiv in the fastest advance since Kremlin forces pulled away 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 Siverskyi Donets River, around 40 km (25 miles) east of Kharkiv. The city, which had been under fierce bombardment, has been quiet for at least two weeks but fighting continued to the north.

Firefighters doused the smouldering wreckage of the House of Culture in Dergachi, 10 km (six miles) north of Kharkiv, after what local officials said was an overnight Russian missile attack on the building used to distribute aid. Volunteers inside were trying to salvage packages of baby diapers and formula.

“I can’t call it anything but a terrorist act,” the mayor, Vyacheslav Zadorenko, told Reuters. “They wanted to hit the base where we store provisions and create a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Another missile had slammed into the building on Thursday and Russian shelling had wounded a staff member at a clinic and killed a young couple in their home, he said.

Russia, which denies targeting civilians, said its forces had shot down a Ukrainian Su-27 aircraft in the Kharkiv region and disabled the Kremenchuk oil refinery in central Ukraine.

It was not immediately possible to verify the reports.

Southeast of Kharkiv, Britain said Ukraine had stopped Russian forces crossing the Siverskyi Donets river west of Severodonetsk. 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 and many other damaged or abandoned vehicles, including tanks, nearby.

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 near Severodonetsk and Izium, and trying to break through towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk to complete their takeover of Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region.

Russian-backed separatists said they had taken the Zarya chemical plant in Rubizne near Severodonetsk.

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


Ukraine accused Russia of forcibly deporting more than 210,000 children since its invasion on Feb. 24, saying they were among 1.2 million Ukrainians transferred against their will.

The Kremlin says people have come to Russia to escape fighting.

In Kyiv, a court began hearing the first case of what Ukraine says are more than 10,000 possible war crimes; a Russian soldier is accused of murdering a civilian soon after the invasion. Moscow has accused Kyiv of staging such crimes.

In the southern port of Mariupol, Russian forces intensified their bombardment of the Azovstal steelworks, the last bastion of Ukrainian defenders in a city almost completely controlled by Russia after a siege of more than two months.

Reuters video showed explosions and thick smoke on Thursday and Ukrainian fighters released footage showing gunbattles. Some of the civilians evacuated recently from tunnels under the plant where they had taken shelter described terrifying conditions.

“Every second was hellish,” 51-year-old nurse Valentyna Demyanchuk told Reuters.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told 1+1 television negotiations were underway for the evacuation of wounded troops.


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 close to Ukraine’s sea border with Romania.

“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 from 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, which became famous for the foul-mouthed defiance of its Ukrainian defenders early in the invasion.


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 met to discuss a planned EU embargo on Russian oil as well as fears the conflict could spill over into Moldova.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who attended the meeting in Germany, said he hoped EU holdout Hungary would agree to the oil embargo and asked the G7 to hand over Russian assets to help Ukraine rebuild.

“We are talking about hundreds of billions of dollars. Russia must pay,” he told reporters.

A day after Russia’s northeastern neighbour Finland committed to applying to join NATO, Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde (NYSE:LIN) said membership for her country would have a stabilising effect and benefit countries around the Baltic sea.

Joining the 30-nation Western military alliance would end the neutrality the two states maintained throughout the Cold War and further the expansion of NATO that Putin said his invasion of Ukraine aimed to prevent.

Moscow called Finland’s announcement hostile and threatened retaliation, including unspecified “military-technical” measures, but said a newspaper report the Kremlin might cut gas supplies to Finland was mostly likely a “hoax”.

Russian supplies of energy to Europe remain Moscow’s biggest source of funds and Europe’s biggest source of heat and power.


Exclusive-Petrobras warned of diesel shortages before CEO ouster




© Reuters. A worker paints a tank of Brazil’s state-run Petrobras oil company in Brasilia, Brazil September 30, 2015. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo


By Sabrina Valle

(Reuters) -Brazil’s Petrobras alerted the government last week that diesel pumps could run dry this year if the oil company does not sell fuels at market prices, according to four people close to discussions and an internal presentation seen by Reuters.

Just days later, President Jair Bolsonaro fired the chief executive of Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the state-controlled company is formally known.

Bolsonaro’s chief of staff said the president is “anguished” by rising fuel prices and the pricing policy at Petrobras needs to be more aligned with the government’s thinking.

As Brazil enters a crucial window to secure diesel supplies, Petrobras management warned last week that the firm and other importers would struggle to secure diesel amid the most severe shortage of the fuel in 14 years, the sources said.

Analysts, private importers and officials at oil regulator ANP have echoed those concerns, said people familiar with the talks, who requested anonymity to discuss the politically sensitive matter.

The Petrobras presentation flagged the risk of shortage in the third quarter, when diesel demand surges seasonally in both the United States and Brazil, a major grains exporter expected to start shipping a bumper corn crop in August.

“If there is no signal of market prices ahead, there is material risk of a diesel shortage during the peak of demand during the harvest season, affecting Brazil’s GDP,” Petrobras said in the presentation titled “Fuels: challenges and solutions” and dated May 2022.

Petrobras did not respond to a request for comment.

Diesel supply has become a global concern since sanctions against Russia reshaped fuel trade and sent international inventories to historic lows. Importing countries are sizing up the risk of both rising costs and supply running short, as the industry shuts refineries for repairs or to cut carbon emissions.

Concerns in Brazil about diesel imports in the second half of the year rose after U.S. Gulf refiners, its major suppliers, started redirecting cargoes to Europe, two of the sources said.

“Global diesel inventories are far below the historic average,” Petrobras said in the presentation shared with the Ministry of Mines and Energy. “Petrobras alone cannot solve the global rise of energy prices.”

Energy Minister Adolfo Sachsida on Friday called oil analysts to ask about diesel shortages in the second half of the year, said a person directly involved in the matter. The ministry did not respond to a comment request.

“If Petrobras stops selling diesel at international prices for more than two or three weeks, there is a chance pumps will run dry,” a top executive from a large diesel producer said.


Executives at Petrobras, whose bylaws bar it from selling fuel at a loss without compensation, suggested in the presentation that Brazil could cut taxes or otherwise subsidize fuels to consumers, citing the example of several European Union nations.

Fuel subsidies cost Brazil about 7.5 billion reais ($1.6 billion) in 2018, when former President Michel Temer implemented them for a few months to halt a national trucker protest.

The cost of a similar measure this year could surpass 60 billion reais, estimated one of the people close to the discussions.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent crude oil prices to a 14-year high. This month, global shortages led diesel traders to pay a premium of more than $50 per barrel.

At their maximum, Brazilian diesel inventories can cover about a month of national demand. At Petrobras, supplies are at about half capacity, according to two sources.

Brazil books cargoes in June for the August-October harvest season, when most grains reach port via long trucking routes.

The company has begun turning to more distant providers in Western Africa and India, one of the sources said. But while a Gulf diesel cargo takes two to three weeks to arrive in Brazil, a ship from India could take 45-60 days.

“If refineries in the U.S. get damaged during the hurricane season, or anything else contributes to a tighter market, we could be in real trouble,” a Petrobras executive said on condition of anonymity.

($1 = 4.79 reais)

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Oil rises as tight supply counters economy fears and China curbs



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A maze of crude oil pipes and valves is pictured during a tour by the Department of Energy at the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in Freeport, Texas, U.S. June 9, 2016. REUTERS/Richard Carson

By Alex Lawler

LONDON (Reuters) -Oil rose on Tuesday, recovering earlier losses, as tight global supply and an expected pick-up in fuel demand during the U.S. summer driving season balanced concerns over a possible recession and China’s COVID-19 curbs.

In a step that analysts say will further tighten the market, the European Union is moving closer to agreeing a ban on Russian oil imports. Such an embargo is likely to be agreed “within days”, Germany’s economy minister said on Monday.

Another source of support is U.S. gasoline demand. U.S. Memorial Day weekend travel is expected to be the busiest in two years as more drivers hit the road and shake off coronavirus lockdowns despite high pump prices.

“The oil market remains caught between fears of recession and the consequences of the zero-COVID policy in China on the one hand, and tight supply, especially of oil products,” Commerzbank (ETR:CBKG) analyst Carsten Fritsch said in a report.

Brent crude rose 44 cents, or 0.4%, to $113.86 a barrel by 1110 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude added 36 cents, or 0.3%, to $110.65.

Oil has surged this year, with Brent crude hitting $139 a barrel in March for its highest since 2008 after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbated supply concerns.

Even so, worries about threats to the global economy – a main theme of the Davos meeting taking place this week – limited gains and were behind price falls earlier on Tuesday.

“Global economic growth is declining precipitously under the collective impact of rising interest rates, Chinese COVID flare-ups and the European war,” said Tamas Varga of oil broker PVM.

Beijing is stepping up quarantine efforts to end its month-old outbreak while Shanghai’s prolonged lockdown is due to be lifted in a little more than a week.

Weekly U.S. inventory reports will be in focus later for a read on the strength of demand. Analysts expect gasoline and crude inventories to drop. The first report is from the American Petroleum Institute at 2030 GMT. [EIA/S]

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Indian oil minister says oil at $110 a barrel not sustainable



© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: India’s Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri speaks during an interview with Reuters in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, November 15, 2021. REUTERS/Abdel Hadi Ramahi

DAVOS, Switzerland (Reuters) – India’s Oil Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday that a crude oil price of $110 a barrel was not sustainable, as the world faces an energy price crisis which is contributing to rising global inflation.

Oil prices have surged this year, with Brent crude hitting $139 a barrel in March for its highest price since 2008, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbated supply concerns. [O/R]

As countries around the world struggle with the impact of inflation on disposable income, India’s Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal said on the same WEF panel that food inflation in the South Asian country was at a “manageable level”.

Goyal also said that India was producing enough wheat for domestic consumption, as some countries face shortages due to price rises and problems in getting the grain from major producer Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.

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