Live blog | Gas supply Nord Stream 1 down to 20 percent of capacity; Biden and Xi discuss Ukraine and the economy on Thursday

New Ukrainian chief prosecutor for Russian war crimes

13:42 | Andrej Kostin is the new Attorney General of Ukraine, who is charged with prosecuting Russian soldiers who have committed war crimes. He was nominated this morning by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, and a few hours later the parliament had approved his nomination.

Out of 450 MPs, 299 voted in favor of his appointment. Kostin, 49, is a parliamentarian from Zelensky’s party. He has been a lawyer and last year was in the race to become head of anti-corruption. That appointment was blocked by an integrity committee because he was not politically independent. The party’s employment of his own wife and not giving up the profits from his two sold houses were also questioned.

Kostin replaces Irina Venediktova as chief prosecutor of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. She led the investigation, which currently counts more than 25,000 alleged Russian war crimes. Venediktova was fired by Zelensky last week because she had not acted adequately against court officials who allegedly collaborated with the Russian occupier.

Moscow: For grain trade, obstacles to Russian exports must go quickly

13:18 | A Russian deputy minister has warned that the agreement to resume the export of Ukrainian grain is based on agreements that were also supposed to remove the barrier to the export of Russian agricultural products. Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said the grain deal would be a “fiasco” if sanctions hampering Russia’s food exports were not lifted.

A Ukrainian official expected a cargo ship with wheat to leave the port of Chernomorsk, near Odessa, as early as today. However, a Turkish spokesman said ‘possibly this week’. The Ukrainian authorities have confirmed that work is underway at the ports in preparation for the shipment of grain.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with a Turkish television station that the agreement should allow for the lifting of sanctions against Russia that hinder food exports. According to the minister, if the mechanism fails, a big problem will arise. He said he was concerned about the recent missile attacks on the Odessa port area, but the work has not stopped there.

Kremlin: Gazprom supplies as much gas to Europe as possible

12:51 | Gazprom delivers as much gas to Europe as is technically possible. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov reiterated this today after Russia’s state gas company cut gas supplies via the key Nord Stream 1 pipeline by 20 percent of its total capacity. “Gazprom has been and remains a reliable party for all its obligations, but cannot guarantee deliveries if foreign equipment cannot be serviced due to European sanctions,” he stressed.

Today, 33 million cubic meters of gas per day still flows through Nord Stream 1. Gazprom cited the maintenance of a turbine as the reason. The pipeline between Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea was just reopened last week after ten days of maintenance work.

But one turbine had been brought to Canada for maintenance and has since been banned from returning due to sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. The Kremlin has previously indicated that once the turbine is back in Russia, it will be installed immediately.

Meanwhile, European gas prices have been rising sharply for a few days due to concerns about Russian supplies. The price rose to over 200 euros per megawatt hour on the leading gas exchange in Amsterdam on Tuesday, the highest level in months. On Wednesday, the price even peaked at around 227 euros per megawatt-hour, only to fall back a little afterwards.

‘Kremlin broadcaster’ RT France loses case over EU broadcast ban

12:30 | The temporary broadcast ban in the EU for ‘Kremlin broadcaster’ RT France will not be annulled, the European Court of Justice has ruled. RT France demands the cancellation of the sanction that the EU countries imposed at the beginning of March over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

According to RT France, among other things, freedom of expression and information are at stake, and the EU member states are not competent to introduce punitive measures. But the Court of Justice of the European Union, which is part of the European Court of Justice, finds the complaints ‘unfounded’. Member States are free to take measures in response to “the serious threat to peace on the European borders”. This also includes sanctions against media used by Russia for propaganda campaigns in, among other places, the EU.

On March 2, less than a week after the Russian invasion, the European Union immediately banned five channels from the Russian state-linked television network RT and the Sputnik news agency. RT refers to the channels Russia Today English, Russia Today UK and the RT channels in French, German and Spanish. The measure applies to transmission and distribution via satellite, cable, online video channels and both new and existing apps.

A Kremlin spokesman immediately reacted to the “extremely negative” statement, saying Moscow will take similar measures against Western media in response. RT France has already announced that it will appeal the verdict.

Turkey opens the UN coordination center for the implementation of the grain agreement

07:40 | Following the closure of the grain agreement between Ukraine and Russia, Turkey today opens a coordination center in Istanbul to oversee the safe transportation of Ukrainian grain by sea. The coordination center, also known as the ‘grain bureau’, opens with a small ceremony around 12:00.

According to Turkish media, the coordination center will be located on the campus of the National Defense University, about 7 kilometers north of downtown Istanbul. The center is said to be headed by a Turkish admiral. A total of twenty delegates would be employed. Contact will only be necessary in emergency situations between Ukrainians and Russians who are working separately from each other.

According to the authorities in Ukraine, the first shipment of Ukrainian grain can already sail today from the port of Chernomorsk, on the southern outskirts of the Ukrainian city of Odessa.

Gas supply Nord Stream 1 down to 20 percent of capacity

03:32 | The Russian state gas company Gazprom is reducing gas supply via the important Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 20 percent of its total capacity. The company cited the maintenance of a mill as the reason. The gas supply between Russia and Germany via the Baltic Sea previously did not reach full capacity, Moscow says, due to other maintenance. Part of the Dutch industry will be affected by the downscaling, expects the entrepreneurial organization FME.

From Wednesday, 33 million cubic meters of gas per day will flow through Nord Stream 1, Gazprom said. The pipeline was put back into service last week after ten days of maintenance work. One turbine had been brought to Canada for maintenance and has since been banned from returning due to sanctions imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin has previously indicated that once the turbine is back in Russia, it will be installed immediately. The German government already said further cuts in gas supplies from Nord Stream 1 could not be justified. Berlin has repeatedly said Moscow is using gas supplies as a means of blackmail over German support for Ukraine.

In the Netherlands, metal companies will suffer the most from scaling back capacity for gas deliveries in the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, expects the entrepreneur organization for the technology industry FME. “About a quarter of a product’s cost price consists of energy. If that cost item increases, it will of course have enormous consequences’, says the organisation. FME has not yet received signals that companies are already in trouble.

According to gas transporter Gasunie, the reduced capacity has ‘no effect at the moment’. Gasunie refers to a previous report in which the shipping company calculated that the Netherlands could do without Russian gas for a year. Hans Grünfeld, chairman of VEMW, which represents the interests of business energy and water users, is concerned about the reduced capacity. “We need the pipeline to prepare for the winter season. President Putin is using the pipeline to pressure the West.’

Biden and Xi discuss Taiwan, Ukraine and the economy on Thursday

01:53 | US President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to meet on Thursday, the White House said. Tensions over Taiwan, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and economic competition between the two superpowers are on the agenda, White House spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday.

It will be the fifth meeting between the two world leaders, which, according to insiders, was also prompted by the possible upcoming visit of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, to Taiwan. With her visit, Pelosi wants to show her support for Taiwan, as the self-governing island is under increasing pressure from China. Beijing considers Taiwan a renegade province and has already indicated that a visit by Pelosi will lead to “resolute and strong” measures, including the establishment of a no-fly zone around the island.

Biden is also unhappy with Pelosi’s planned visit to Taiwan, which is scheduled for early August. He called it “not a good idea at the moment.”

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