Ukraine Latest: Russian Tourists to Face Hurdles to EU Entry

·9 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Russian tourists will probably face tougher hurdles entering the European Union after the bloc’s foreign ministers agreed to suspend a visa-facilitation agreement in response to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Although new rules would fall short of a full ban on visas called for by some member states, Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, said the measures would “significantly reduce” the number of entry visas issued to Russian nationals.

Group of Seven finance ministers will hold talks this week on allowing global purchases of Russian oil at a capped price -- a gambit that the US hopes will ease energy market pressures and slash overall Russian revenues from crude. Elsewhere, United Nations monitors intend to visit the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant on Thursday to help evaluate the safety of one of the most-watched flashpoints of the war. It’s the first inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency since the facility was seized by Russian troops soon the February in invasion.

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Key Developments

  • G-7 to Discuss Cap on Price of Russian Oil in Bid to Ease Prices

  • EU Members Back Tougher Visa Rules for Russian Tourists

  • Why Ukraine’s Big Nuclear Plant Raises Worries Again: QuickTake

  • IAEA Team Leaves Kyiv to Inspect Nuclear Plant in War Zone

  • Putin, Who Mourned USSR Loss, Offers Gorbachev Faint Praise

  • Ukraine Counterattacks in South, Leaves World Guessing on Scale

On the Ground

As Ukrainian forces push forward with a counteroffensive in the south, the situation in the Russian-occupied region of Kherson remains difficult because of heavy fighting, regional authorities said on their website. The Ukrainian military’s southern command said Kyiv forces continued to destroy Russian logistics and command points, as well as munitions depots, in the region as Russian forces shelled military and civilian objects along the front line. According to the UK’s latest intelligence update, Ukrainian forces have pushed the front line back some distance in places, exploiting relatively thinly held Russian defenses.

(All times CET)

Russia Scholar Doubts Gorbachev Would Have Cheered War in Ukraine (8:52 p.m.)

Although Mikhail Gorbachev, the former leader of the Soviet Union whose death was announced on Tuesday, supported Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, “I doubt he would have applauded the war that is now going on” in which “so many Russians and Ukrainians have died,” Angela Stent, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power.”

Stent predicted “a very cruel and a very difficult winter” for Ukraine and said the US needs to “keep on sending the weapons” Ukraine needs.

Solutions Sought to ‘Reduce the Flows’ of Russian Tourists (7:49 p.m.)

The Baltic states will aim to impose regional restrictions for Russian visitors entering the European Union by land, as will Poland and Finland, according to two EU diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity. Officials from these countries intend to meet and discuss the measures as soon as next week, the diplomats said.

The countries “will aim to find solutions in coming weeks that would allow to significantly reduce the flows of the Russian tourists,” Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said in a statement.

Ukrainian Forces Restrict Russia’s Moves: NATO Official (7:44 p.m.)

Recent action by Ukrainian forces in the south of the country has affected Russia’s ability to move north and south across the Dnipro River, but it’s not yet possible to confirm the extent of the Ukrainian advances, a senior NATO official said.

Ukrainian troops have conducted focused strikes on lines of communication, bridges and railroads, targeting components the Russians would need to provide additional forces to join those that moved into the western Kherson region to be the front line of defense, said the official, who asked not to be identified discussing the military situation.

Russian supply lines are being disrupted, if not severely challenged, as a result of the stepped-up Ukrainian operations, the official said.

Inspectors Poised to Enter Nuclear Plant, Ukraine Says (6:29 p.m.)

International Atomic Energy Agency Dniinspectors are poised to enter the grounds of the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Ukraine’s president, said on Ukrainian television.

“They will now be discussing their mandate with the Russian side,” he said.

Ukraine expects a precise report from the inspectors on what is going on with the plant’s reactors and whether the remaining Ukrainian staff is sufficient to operate it safely, Podolyak said. He said the staff members are effectively Russian hostages, putting them under great psychological pressure.

US Dedicated to Helping Ease European Energy Shortage (5:19 p.m.)

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters the US is “going to keep looking for ways to increase gas stockpiles in Europe or to bolster other sources of energy where it’s possible.”

Kirby said Group of Seven finance ministers will discuss a plan that would cap the price of Russia’s oil at a meeting Friday. He again accused Putin of “weaponizing energy.”

Russia Visa Restrictions to Address ‘Security Risk’ (3:53 p.m.)

An increasing number of border crossings from Russia since mid-July “has become a security risk,” Borrell told reporters after the meeting in Prague. Many Russians were traveling to the EU for shopping “as if no war was raging in Ukraine,” he said, adding that member states “considered it cannot be business as usual.”

The Baltic countries and Poland threatened unilateral action if the EU failed to agree to ban Russian tourists, but other envoys including from Germany and France pushed for more caution.

Hungary Agrees With Gazprom on Slight Boost to Gas Supplies (3:52 p.m.)

Hungary has sealed an agreement with Russia’s Gazprom PJSC to slightly boost natural gas supplies for September and October, easing the country’s energy-security concerns for winter, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said.

Hungary has secured from Gazprom a daily maximum of 5.8 million cubic meters of gas through the end of October, in addition to volumes set in its long-term contract, Szijjarto said in a briefing broadcast on Facebook on Wednesday.

IAEA Mission Makes Progress to Nuclear Plant (3:43 p.m.)

The IAEA delegation, which departed Kyiv just before sunrise in a convoy of white trucks marked with the organization’s logo, arrived at the city of Zaporizhzhia -- still a drive of more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) from the plant -- at about 3 p.m. local time.

The convoy still had to cross into Russian-held territory, as IAEA Director General Mariano Grossi, who is leading the mission, told reporters the team has security guarantees and aims to reach the plant on Thursday.

This visit “is not something that is going to be risk-free but it’s something we have to do,” Grossi said earlier Wednesday. The agency’s team will stay at the nuclear plant for at least a few days, long enough to give inspectors “a pretty good idea of what’s going on,” the Argentina diplomat said, adding that he’s working to establish a permanent presence at the plant following the current visit.

Gazprom’s Daily Gas Output Rises for First Time Since January (2:03 p.m.)

Gazprom’s daily natural gas production rose in August for the first time in seven months, rebounding from a multi-year low in July.

Russia’s biggest producer of the fuel pumped 829 million cubic of meters a day this month, up 7.1% from July, according to Bloomberg calculations based on preliminary data announced Wednesday by Chief Executive Officer Alexey Miller. Output so far this year reached 288.1 billion cubic meters, he said in an address published on the company’s Telegram channel.

European Gas Prices Slump as Rising Stocks Counter Risks (1:35 p.m.)

European natural gas erased earlier gains, with traders weighing risks to Russian supplies against the continent’s drastic efforts to curb the energy crisis.

Benchmark Dutch futures for October declined as much as 9.6%, with the market volatile amid thin trading and much uncertainty.

Ukraine Seeks to Sanction Russian Patriarch Kirill for 10 Years (1:30 p.m.)

The Ukrainian government called for imposing sanctions for ten years on Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church and other top Russian church officials. Kirill “justified the Russian invasion in Ukraine,” the cabinet said in a resolution that proposes a complete ban for all activities and involvement of Kirill and his subordinates in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church gained independence from the Russian church in 2019, but some believers had deserted the Moscow-led organization before that, especially after the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of war in Donbas by Russia in 2014. After the invasion began, some local governments in Ukraine banned churches subordinated to the Russian Patriarchate, but the pro-Russian church still plays a significant role and has many parishes and monasteries.

Russian Crude Shipments to Asia Decline (11:45 a.m.)

Russia’s seaborne crude shipments to Asia have fallen by more than 500,000 barrels a day in the past three months, with flows to the region hitting their lowest levels since late March.

Shipments to Asia, where India stepped in to provide a market for crude shunned by European buyers after the invasion of Ukraine, have drifted lower since June. The region, which also includes Russia’s single biggest customer, China, is now the destination for about half of Russia’s seaborne crude exports, down from about 60% in April. Prior to the invasion, Asia received about a third of the shipments.

Germany ‘Probing Alleged Spying for Russia’ (11:30 a.m.)

Germany’s domestic intelligence agency is investigating whether two senior officials working on energy policy at the economy ministry were spying for Russia, Die Zeit newspaper reported, without identifying the source if its information.

While officials at the agency, which is responsible for counter-espionage, uncovered some suspect details which pointed to “an emotional attachment to Russia,” they have yet to find hard evidence of spying, the paper said. The economy ministry and the domestic intelligence agency declined to comment, it added.

Estonia Urges Tougher Sanctions on Russia (10 a.m.)

“We need to immediately ramp up the price of aggression to Putin’s regime,” Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting with EU counterparts in Prague. He called for trade sanctions including on energy, more limits on individuals and entities, and a full shutdown of electronic banking.

Dutch Foreign Minister Wopke Hoekstra told reporters that his government remains “open to sanctions as long as we can do this together.” He added: “We have seen that this is something we managed to do very well particularly in the first half of the war.”

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