Water Cuts Hit Kyiv

Million Homes In Kyiv Without Electricity Due To Russian Attacks

Following massive Russian strikes on Ukraine as the tension between the two countries continues to escalate, almost half a million homes in Kyiv were without electricity on Friday, Al Jazeera reported citing Kyiv’s mayor Vitali Klitschko.

“4,50,000 consumers, that is households in Kyiv, are out of power this morning. It is one and a half times more than the recent days,” Klitschko said on Telegram, as he condemned the Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian cities and civilians.
Moreover, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also attacks infrastructure in the regions of Kyiv, Cherkasy, Kharkiv, and Zaporizhzhia leaving numerous locals without electricity with about 4.5 million Ukrainian consumers dealing with massive power outages as of Thursday evening, Al Jazeera reported.

“The fact that Russia has resorted to terror against the energy sector indicates the enemy’s weakness. They cannot defeat Ukraine on the battlefield and therefore they are trying to break our people in this way,” Zelensky said.

Ukraine is under massive blackouts and the residents are under severe water shortages as one of the strikes hit an energy facility that powered 350,000 apartments in the capital, CNN reported citing Klitschko who further added that emergency services are making every effort to stabilize the situation.

Moreover, strikes were also reported in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia as well. Power outages caused by Russian attacks continued in Kyiv over the weekend. Klitschko said earlier it will take weeks to repair electrical systems.

Ukrainian officials believe Russia’s countrywide drone and cruise missile attacks are being carefully orchestrated to target important infrastructure as Ukraine heads into winter, reported CNN. By hitting thermal power stations, electricity substations, transformers, and pipelines, Russian forces have been directly impacting Ukrainians’ ability to access power, water, and the internet.

Russia suspended its participation in an UN-brokered grain deal viewed as key to addressing the global food shortage, according to the country’s defence ministry.

Moscow announced it was leaving the deal after blaming Ukraine for a drone attack on Crimea Saturday. Kyiv accused Russia of inventing “fictitious terrorist attacks” and using the deal as “blackmail.”

By Sunday, more than 200 vessels had been blocked from making shipments, Ukraine said. A growing number of Kyiv’s allies condemned Moscow’s move. (ANI)

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Kashmir At UNGA Vote On Russia

India Slams Pak’s Remarks On Kashmir At UNGA Vote On Russia

India on Wednesday gave a befitting response to Pakistan after it raked up the Kashmir issue during the United Nations General Assembly debate on Russia.

In his explanation of the vote at the UNGA concerning the Russia-Ukraine war, Pakistani diplomat Munir Akram brought up the issue of Kashmir, in an attempt to draw parallels between the two situations.
In a strongly worded response, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ruchira Kamboj said, “We have witnessed, unsurprisingly, yet again, an attempt by one delegation to misuse this forum and make frivolous and pointless remarks against my country.”

The Indian diplomat said such a statement deserves collective contempt from a mindset that repeatedly utters falsehoods.

To set the record straight, Kamboj said, “entire territory of Jammu and Kashmir is and will always be an integral part of India… We call on Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism so our citizens can enjoy their right to life and liberty.”

Earlier, the UNGA adopted a resolution condemning the Russian annexation of the four Ukrainian regions. 143 members voted in favor of the resolution while five voted against it. A total of 35 countries abstained from the resolution, including India.

After abstaining on the UNGA resolution condemning Russia, India on Wednesday expressed deep concern at the escalation of the conflict in Ukraine, including the targeting of civilian infrastructure and deaths of civilians.

The latest resolution, which comes after Russia vetoed a similar proposal in Security Council, condemns Russia’s “attempted illegal annexations” of the four Ukrainian regions following “so-called referendums”.

Delivering her explanation of the vote before the member states, ambassador Kamboj said India has consistently advocated that no solution can be reached at human cost and escalation of hostilities is in no one’s interest.

“We have urged that all efforts be made for an immediate cessation of hostilities and an urgent return to the path of dialogue and diplomacy,” she said. (ANI)

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Russia Appoints New General To Command Forces In Ukraine War

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu on Saturday appointed Army General Sergey Surovikin to command the joint group of forces involved in the Ukraine war.

“Army General Sergey Surovikin has been appointed to command the joint group of forces in the area of the special military operation in Ukraine based on the Russian defense minister’s decision,” reported TASS quoting Defense Ministry Spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashekov telling reporters.

He earlier served as Commander of Russia’s Eastern Military District and led Russian troops in Syria, reported TASS.

Notably, Russia recently annexed four regions of Ukraine – Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions.

The war between Russia and Ukraine appears to be entering a new phase after Kyiv dealt a big blow to Moscow’s grip after it recaptured 2,400 square kilometers of territory in the Kherson region in the south of the country “since the beginning of the full-scale war,” a senior Ukrainian official said Friday, reported CNN.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of the president’s office said six settlements had been liberated in the Kherson district as well as 61 in the Beryslav district.

Tymoshenko said the evacuation of civilians continued amid massive destruction to critical infrastructure in towns like Arkhanhelske, Vysokopillia, and Osokorivka, all of which saw weeks of heavy fighting and indirect fire. Demining is in progress, he added.

Ukrainian forces have been making steady progress in Kherson since beginning an offensive at the end of last month, and their successes have sparked rare criticism of Moscow’s war effort among pro-Russian figures.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised his forces’ counteroffensive in his evening address on Tuesday. “The Ukrainian army is making a rather fast and powerful advance in the south of our country in the course of the ongoing defensive operation,” Zelenskyy said in his evening address.

“Our warriors do not stop. And it is only a matter of time before we will expel the occupier from all our land.” (ANI)

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Indian Foreign Minister

India’s Strategic Success On Ukraine

Seven months into the Ukraine conflict, Russia has annexed much of the Donbass region and more or less achieved what it set out to do. The fall-out of this conflict is far reaching which could fundamentally change the nature of international institutions, the balance of power and the broad camps. Russia has annexed land before. This time the West decided to make a stand. Led by the United States, it attempted to impose its idea of World Order, otherwise known as Pax American. Countries like India have been caught in a very difficult situation. India does not want to be a push over or be caught on the wrong side of the flux taking place nor be tied to one camp.

Foreign Minister S Jaishankar summed up the new mood in India in its international relations when he said, “…Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.” That statement oozed confidence. Not only did it gain respect for India but many developing and underdeveloped countries found a champion to remain neutral in the resurging cold war.

India has stood aside in the Ukraine war, officially refusing to back US sanctions or condemn the Russian State. In recent years, the Indian Government has been inching closer to the United States than Russia. The USA habitually calls favours from friends to support its global strategies. In the Ukraine war, the US has expected all NATO countries to toe its line. It has also called on Japan, and other countries who it considers to be in its axis.

India was expected by the United States to fall in line, condemn Russia and endorse sanctions. That didn’t happen. This shocked the Americans a bit. After all it does a lot of trade with India and has taken in a lot of professional Indians on H1B visas. India is a democracy, hence the US and other western countries like to think of it as part of their family.

India however had other priorities. Its official and get-out clause was simple. Its defence arsenal is largely Russian made and needs Russian parts. It does not want to compromise its defence. The West has not been a willing partner to sell India advanced defence equipment. Moreover the USA has armed India’s enemy neighbour, Pakistan, with powerful weapons.

US foreign policy is simple and tends to discard complexities of international theory. It is a case of ‘you are with us or against us. If you dither, we will quietly work on you to be in our orbit. But don’t ask us to be with you in your hour of need unless it serves US interests.’ There is usually a one-way price to pay for friendship with the United States. It is not the fault of the USA. Its democratic political structure is constructed in that way.

Europe and what is called the West, are beholden to the US. While Americans will sleep in warm homes and drive cars without worrying too much about the price of gas, Europeans are already trembling at the prospect of cold nights as gas prices become unaffordable. Many don’t drive cars now to save money on pricey petrol. Some of the countries going through this sacrifice were not keen to make a stand against Russia. But they had no choice with American demands. In Europe, what America wants, America gets. Macron, president of France is no Chirac and despite his attempts to present himself as a deal maker, could not stand up to bellicose British taunts or American expectations.

The US imposed sanctions isolated Russia at the UN, treated it as a third world country and tried to enforce no-fly zones across the world against any Russian travel outside the country. Apart from China, most countries were scared of going against the US but at the same time did not agree with it. They had no champion.

It is India that has given them strength and means to stand up as neutral in the conflict. India took a sophisticated approach. It didn’t want another dispute on the India-China border or with Pakistan currently. It knew that the Americans would not come to its aid unless it served them to do so. The Americans didn’t physically come to the aid of Ukraine, so neither did the European states. The question in India would be: Will the United States physically come to the aid of India if China and Pakistan invaded concurrently? The obvious answer is NO, unless United States saw tactical benefit in it.

India continues to buy oil from Russia. It has not supported Russia at the UN. However it has not voted against Russia much to the dismay of US. India hasn’t imposed sanctions or no-fly zone against Russia. It is even trading in Russian currency since dollars have been cut off from Russia. Extraordinarily, India has been selling Russian oil to the United States.

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India’s strong position on neutrality and refusal to be dragged into this war against Russia has in fact strengthened its hand in its relations with the US. The US needs India more than India needs the US. The US feels threatened by growing Chinese influence around the world. It feels it will lose its eminent place in the world and the Dollar could suffer. It relies on India to be its partner against China. India on the other hand has the option of improving its relations with China if the latter reciprocates and let the US fight its own battle.

India’s stand encouraged many middle east countries to remain almost neutral. Even Israel sat on the fence. Saudi Arabia has refused to condemn Russia. While these countries may have remained neutral anyway, India’s stand gave them that extra courage to gently rebuff the USA.

African countries have in fact quietly praised the leadership of India in this dispute. Many are too weak to refuse the US. But once India did, they felt they could fall behind India’s position.

India has thus gained respect and prestige as a result of refusing to be pushed around by the United States. Currently it appears that actually it is the West which has been isolated in the Ukraine situation rather than Russia. Europe unfortunately had no choice as it is heavily indebted to the US.

A positive result of India’s position is that China seems to have reviewed its entrenched hostility towards India. It was of the opinion that India would jump when the US asked and felt that India was doing America’s bidding in geo-politics. India joining the QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) with United States, Japan and Australian had heightened China’s suspicions. Now, China may soften its position against India. It may lead to better regional relations if it understands that its own posturing may be pushing India into the US camp.

Given the complexity of the Ukraine situation, it seems India has not only retained an independent position, it has gained respect around the world and may well achieve regional peace. India’s fine-tuned foreign policy on Ukraine has also left it room to tilt towards the USA if the conflict goes against Russia.

Ukraine Crisis, Inflation Unlikely To Impact India Growth: Moody’s

The impact of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, higher inflation, and the tough financial conditions on the back of ongoing monetary policy tightening are unlikely to derail India’s current economic recovery from the pandemic in the year 2022 and 2023, global rating agency Moody’s said on Tuesday.

“The credit profile of India reflects key strengths including its large and diversified economy with high growth potential, a relatively strong external position, and a stable domestic financing base for government debt,” the rating agency said in a report.

However, India’s principal credit challenges include low per capita income, high general government debt, low debt affordability and limited government effectiveness, it said.

The rating agency retained its sovereign rating on India at Baa3 with a stable outlook, the report showed.

“The stable outlook reflects our view that the risks from negative feedback between the economy and financial system are receding,” it said

On the contrary, the report said the rating agency considers India’s legislative and executive institutions, civil society and judiciary to be relatively strong.

“However, in our view, policy effectiveness has been lower than some international surveys, including the Worldwide Governance Indicators, suggest. While ongoing government efforts to reduce corruption, formalize economic activity and bolster tax collection and administration should further strengthen institutions over the medium term, there are increasing risks to their efficacy.”

About India’s monetary policy, it said macroeconomic effectiveness has increased materially over the past decade because of the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) formal and flexible inflation-targeting regime since 2015 and a monetary policy committee since 2016.

“Macroeconomic policy has also strengthened India’s external position, resulting in narrower current account deficits and higher foreign exchange reserves that mitigate external shocks,” the report went on to say.

Earlier this month, the rating agency, though, lowered India’s economic growth forecast for 2022 to 7.7 per cent from its earlier estimate of 8.8 per cent.

It attributed the lowering of the growth estimate to rising interest rates, uneven distribution of monsoons, and slowing global growth. (ANI)

Iraq-Kurd Oil Controversy Spills Over

There are reports that international oil firms operating in Kurdistan have asked the US to help defuse an upsurge in tension between Iraq’s central government and the Kurd Autonomous Region or Kurdistan regional government (KRG), according to a letter seen by Reuters.

Kurdistan had been supplying oil to Turkey and in the present circumstances they say intervention is needed to ensure oil continues to flow from the north of Iraq to Turkey to prevent Ankara having to increase oil shipments from Iran and Russia.

Besides this, to a large extent the economy of the Kurdistan region depends on oil export, as the monetary support from Baghdad is not enough to cover its developmental projects, and shutting the oil export could pose a gave threat to its economy and it may even collapse.

Earlier in February this year, Iraq’s Federal Court deemed that an oil and gas law regulating the oil industry in Iraqi Kurdistan was unconstitutional. Following the ruling, Iraq’s federal government, which has long opposed allowing the KRG to independently export oil, has increased its efforts to control export revenues from Kurdistan.

Reuters reports that it has copies of letters which shows that some oil multinationals even approached US ambassadors in Baghdad and Ankara in January 2022, seeking mediation in a separate case dating back to 2014 concerning the Iraq-Turkey Pipeline (ITP).

Baghdad claims that Turkey violated the ITP agreement by oil from Kurdistan – which it deems illegal – through the pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan.

According to Iraq’s oil ministry the final hearing in the case took place in Paris in July, and the International Chamber of Commerce will issue a final decision in the coming months.

Apart from requiring Turkey to get more crude oil from Iran and Russia, a cessation of oil flows through the ITP, would cause the KRG’s economy to collapse, oil companies’ letter to US representatives said.

Iraq is already getting benefit of high oil prices, which leapt to 14-year-highs after major oil exporter Russia invaded Ukraine in February and they remain close to $100 a barrel.

The ITP has the capacity to pump up to 900,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, roughly one percent of daily world oil demand, from Iraqi state-owned oil marketer State Oil Marketing Organisation (SOMO) as well as the KRG. For now it is pumping 500,000 bpd from northern Iraqi fields.

The multinational oil companies have also lobbied US congress members to write letters to the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in August. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on 16 August that disputes between Baghdad and Erbil were between the two sides, but the US could encourage dialogue.

Al Arabiya TV channel reporting on the matter quoted Raad Alkadiri, managing director for energy, climate, and sustainability at Eurasia Group, as saying that the US has become disengaged from Iraq over the past decade. And thus, no pressure from Washington or other governments will resolve the issues between Baghdad and the Kurds.

To make matters further complicated last week, SOMO threatened legal action against international buyers of Kurdish crude, only adding to the risks associated with investing in the region. This is the latest step by Baghdad in the escalating dispute with the KRG over who should control Kurdistan’s oil.

Experts say that Kurdistan could see its oil production and exports halved within five years, further depleting the already drained coffers of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). 

The investment climate in Kurdistan is currently not conducive to major oil industry investments – despite Kurdistan officials’ claims to the contrary – amid a bitter dispute between the KRG and the federal government of Iraq over who has the right to control the oil resources and revenues in the semi-autonomous region. A Kurdish official has described the dispute as the worst fallout between Baghdad and Erbil in nearly 20 years. 

Oil exports account for over 80% of the KRG budget, and without revenues from oil, the region faces even more hardships, on top of the limited budget allocations from the federal government in Iraq, which itself is a caretaker cabinet as politicians have been unable to form a regular government for nearly a year after the October 2021 general election.

Without new investment in oil, Kurdistan risks losing half of its current oil production by 2027, according to government documents seen by Reuters. But attracting investment to Kurdistan again is much easier said than done.

Throughout the 20th century, Kurds in Iraq oscillated between fighting for autonomy and for independence. Kurds experienced Arabisation and genocide at the hands of Ba’athist Iraq.

The Iraqi no-fly zones over most of Iraqi Kurdistan after March 1991 gave the Kurds a chance to experiment with self-governance and the autonomous region was de-facto established.

The Baghdad government only recognised the autonomy of the Kurdistan Region after the fall of Saddam Hussein, with a new Iraqi constitution in 2005. A non-binding independence referendum was passed in September 2017, to mixed reactions internationally.

The Kurdistan Region largely escaped the privations of the last years of Saddam Hussein’s rule and the chaos that followed his ousting in 2003, and built a parliamentary democracy with a growing economy.

It seems that now perhaps the time is ripe for the international community to step-in to ensure Kurdistan’s independence once and for all, from Iraq and let the country embark on its route to democracy and prosperity.

Indo-Russia Oil Trade: What Is At Stake?

In order to shield the economy from the negative impact of the recent surge in crude oil prices, India is exploring the possibility of importing additional oil at discounted rates from Russia, which is facing sanctions and global backlash due to the Ukraine conflict.

According to commodities data and analytics firm Kpler, India’s import of crude oil from Russia in March this year so far is nearly four times higher when compared with the corresponding period of last year. India’s import of crude oil from Russia stood at around an average of nearly 360,000 barrels a day in the first half of this month. As per the current shipment schedules, the average oil trade between the two countries is estimated to be around 203,000 barrels per day.

“Already committed oil cargoes from Russia that can’t find buyers in Europe are being bought by India,” Financial Times quoted Alex Booth, head of research at Kpler, as saying.

“Exports to India surged in March before any official announcement by New Delhi,” Booth said.

There is no government-to-government (G2G) arrangement for oil trade between India and Russia. The majority of the crude oil purchase from Russia for India has been done by Indian Oil Corporation.

Although the United States has acknowledged that crude oil purchases by India would not violate US sanctions, it has warned that it would put India on the wrong side of history.

The US has been putting increasing pressure on India to distance itself from Russia.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday in Washington that the United States is in touch with the Indian leaders at various levels over the issue of India’s decision to buy oil from Russia at discounted rates.

“We will project and convey to any leader around the world is that the rest of the world is watching, where you are going to stand, as it relates to this conflict, (and) whether it is support for Russia, in any form as they are illegally invading Ukraine,” Psaki said.

India has so far adopted a neutral approach in the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It is among the few countries that have not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. India also abstained from voting on a US-sponsored UN Security Council resolution deploring Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

India’s decision to increase crude oil trade and economic engagements with Russia would have huge diplomatic and economic ramifications.

It is important to note that India is heavily dependent on imports to meet its oil requirements. Nearly 85 per cent of the country’s average daily crude oil requirement of around 5 million barrels is met through imports.

The rise in crude oil prices put huge pressure on the Indian economy. High crude oil prices pose inflationary, fiscal, and external sector risks. India’s budget calculations for the financial year 2022-23 have been made with an assumption of crude oil price of $70 to $75 per barrel.

Crude oil prices have surged due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. It soared to near $140 a barrel earlier this month.

Being a major importer India has to keep exploring competitive prices. A heavy discount offered by Russia is an opportunity. It is extremely important from the perspective of the Indian economy.

Commenting on the India-Russia oil trade, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs Arindam Bagchi said being a major importer of oil India looks at all options at all points of time. “India does import most of its oil requirements, it’s met by imports. So we are always exploring all possibilities in global energy markets because of this situation that we face importing our oil requirements,” Bagchi said.

Russia is the second-largest exporter of crude oil behind Saudi Arabia. Nearly three-fourth of Russia’s crude oil exports go to OECD member countries. Major European countries like Germany, France and Italy, who are also members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), are heavily dependent on the Russian oil supply. If the NATO member countries continue to import Russian oil due to economic reasons, India must also give primacy to the economic interest.

One major challenge in the India-Russia oil trade is the payment system. According to sources, the two countries have been exploring the possibility of setting up a rupee-rouble trade mechanism for paying for oil and other goods.

Apart from the payment mechanism, there are several other issues that need to be worked out. It includes insurance and freight. In the time of military conflict, the insurance cost goes up substantially. India’s import of oil from Russia has traditionally been low due to high freight costs.

Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri said in the Rajya Sabha recently that the Indian government was evaluating the Russian offer of crude oil import at discounted rates.

“Discussions are currently underway. Several issues are required to be gone into, like how much oil is available either in Russia or in new markets or with new suppliers that may be coming into the market. Also, there are issues relating to insurance, freight, and a host of other issues, including the payment arrangements,” the minister had said.

Russia has been among the closest and most reliable allies of India. It is by far its biggest arms supplier to India. According to data available with the Ministry of External Affairs, Russian Investments in India stand at $18 billion while the Indian investments in Russia stand at $13 billion. The trade balance is in favour of Russia. India’s imports from Russia stood at $7.75 billion while India’s exports to Russia stood at $3.22 billion in 2018.

Despite the threats of US sanctions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi government in 2018 entered into a $5.43 billion deal with Russia to buy S-400 defence system. The delivery of the missile system began in 2021.

However, India needs to make a cautious move. The United States and other western allies are also crucially important. (ANI)