Ukraine-Russia tensions: Oil surges on supply fears
Oil and gas prices climbed on Tuesday on fears the Ukraine-Russia crisis will disrupt supplies across the world.
The price of Brent crude oil, an international benchmark, touched a seven-year high of more than $99 (£73) a barrel after President Vladimir Putin ordered troops into Ukraine’s east.
But prices later modrated, despite Western countries responding with economic sanctions and moves to block a key Russian gas pipeline.
Shares also stemmed early losses.
After falling more than 1.5% in early trade on Tuesday, Wall Street turned up following remarks by US President Joe Biden outlining the US response. The Dow closed down 1.4%, however, while the wider S&P 500 slumped 1% and the Nasdaq fell 1.2%.
Earlier, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index closed 1.7% lower, and the Shanghai Composite fell nearly 1%, but share indexes in Europe and the UK ended roughly flat, with the FTSE 100 closing up 0.1%.
“The West at the moment is treading fairly carefully,” said Russ Mould, investment director at the brokers AJ Bell.
Pain at the pump
Russia is the second-largest oil exporter after Saudi Arabia and the world’s top producer of natural gas.
Measures forcing the country to supply less crude or natural gas would have “substantial implications” on oil prices and the global economy, said Sue Trinh of Manulife Investment Management.
The RAC warned the crisis would push up UK petrol prices further, after they hit a record 149.12p a litre on Sunday.
“Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine is already causing oil prices to rise and will undoubtedly send fuel prices inexorably higher towards the grim milestone of £1.50 a litre [of unleaded petrol],” said RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams.
“This spells bad news for drivers in the UK struggling to afford to put fuel in their cars.”
But the steps announced by the US, UK and Europe so far fall short of what had been threatened in the event of invasion.
The sanctions target financial institutions, elites and other government entities in Russia, in part aiming to restrict the Russian government’s ability to raise money on Western financial markets.
On Tuesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also took the significant step of blocking the certification of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would have supplied gas directly from Russia to Germany.
“If Russian goes further with this invasion, we stand prepared to go further,” US President Joe Biden said in remarks at the White House.
He also warned that defending Nato territory could come at a cost to the public in the form of higher energy prices.
Since the start of February, already-rising oil prices have jumped more than 10% amid the tensions.
Maike Currie, an investment director at Fidelity International, said oil could go above $100 a barrel due to a combination of the Ukraine crisis, a cold winter in the US, and a lack of investment in oil and gas supplies around the world.
“Russia accounts for one in every 10 barrels of oil consumed globally, so it is a major player when it comes to the price of oil, and of course, it’s really going to hurt consumers at the petrol pumps,” she said.
Most of the oil and gas that the UK imports does not come from Russia, but it would nonetheless be affected by a rise in global prices.
Average diesel prices in the UK hit 152.51p a litre on Monday, just below Sunday’s record of 152.58p, the RAC said.
UK wholesale gas prices have also jumped, with the UK price for April delivery up 9% and the cost for May up 10% to 191p per therm.
However, that remained lower than the highs seen in December last year, when it peaked at over 400p per therm.
The economic inter-dependence between Russia and Europe is likely to limit Western actions going forward, said Shaistah Akhtar, an expert on sanctions law from the UK law firm Mishcon de Reya. But some of the restraint so far is deliberate, she added.
“They needed to allow some room to manoeuvre,” she said.
Edward Gardner, commodities economist at Capital Economics said the tensions are likely to keep oil prices elevated, even if the West does not take more aggressive action.
“It is not in the economic interests of either Russia or the West to use trade in energy as a weapon against each other, but that is not to say it won’t happen,” he wrote in a note on Tuesday.
“Even if the West does not implement direct sanctions on Russia’s energy exports, tensions with Russia could keep oil prices higher for longer.”
Illegal Immigrants Building Paris 2024 Olympics Amidst Political and Social Tension
Gaye Sarambounou is used to toiling long days for a pittance. He’s a Malian living in France with no working papers, but it’s a situation that occurs around the world. The difference here is that Sarambounou is one of an army of construction workers preparing next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.
Aliku Ogorchukwu: Wife of Nigerian killed in Italy demands justice
The wife of a Nigerian street trader who was killed in Italy has told the BBC she is seeking justice following his “painful death”.
Aliku Ogorchukwu, 39, was reportedly selling handkerchiefs in the seaside town of Civitanova Marche on Friday when he was chased and beaten to death.
A 32-year-old Italian has been arrested on suspicion of murder and robbery.
A video circulating online shows a man on top of Ogorchukwu, punching him with his bare hands.
None of those who witnessed the broad daylight attack appeared to intervene.
“This is a form of wickedness I don’t know,” Ogorchukwu’s wife, Charity Oriachi, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa.
Ms Oriachi said she had received help in coming to terms with her husband’s death but was tired of “talk”. Now, she was only interested in justice, she insisted.
Her family had lived in Italy for a long time, she said, stressing that her husband had never sought any trouble.
The killing has sparked outrage in the local community, including Nigerians, who took to the streets over the weekend and are planning another demonstration soon.
The Nigerian government has asked Italian authorities to quickly “bring the perpetrator of the heinous act” to justice.
Suspect not released
The suspect – a white man named as Filippo Claudio Giuseppe Ferlazzo – has been ordered to remain in jail as the investigation continues.
His defence lawyer told the media the suspect had said he was sorry and that there was “no racial element” involved.
A police investigator said Ogorchukwu was attacked after the trader’s “insistent” requests to the suspect and his partner for spare change.
The partner, identified as Elena D, told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that Ogorchukwu had touched her arm, but that did not bother her.
Ms Oriachi now wants to see the suspect “face to face”, to understand why he killed her husband, the family’s lawyer told the Associated Press.
Ukrainian widow confronts Russian soldier accused of killing her husband
In the very first days of this invasion a 62-year-old unarmed civilian was shot dead on a village street outside his Ukrainian home. His name was Oleksandr Shelipov.
Three months later and the captured Russian soldier accused of killing him is in Kyiv being tried for a war crime.
Standing up in court to confront the 21-year-old defendant on Thursday was Kateryna Shelipova, the widow of the man killed.
Did he repent his crime, she asked?
The Russian tank commander, Vadim Shishimarin, replied that he admitted his guilt and asked for her forgiveness. “But I understand you won’t be able to forgive me,” he added.
Kateryna Shelipova hadn’t finished. “Tell me please, why did you [Russians] come here? To protect us?” she asked, citing Vladimir Putin’s justification for the invasion of Ukraine.
“Protect us from whom? Did you protect me from my husband, whom you killed?”
The soldier had no answer to that.
This landmark trial marks the first time a Russian serviceman has been put on the stand for war crimes since the invasion of Ukraine was launched in February.
And perhaps such raw encounters are what such trials are about, at least in part. Forcing a soldier – who ignored all the rules of war – to face up to exactly what he has done and the suffering he has caused.
Sgt Shishimarin has pleaded guilty and Ukrainian prosecutors are asking for him to be sentenced to life imprisonment.
On Wednesday, Ms Shelipova told me she actually felt sorry for the soldier, but she could not forgive him for this crime.
She heard the shots that killed her husband, then saw Sgt Shishimarin through her gate – holding his weapon.
Five minutes later she says she saw her husband’s body: “He was dead with a shot in his head. I started screaming very loudly.”
“The loss of my husband is everything for me,” Ms Shelipova said, adding: “He was my protector.”
‘It killed him’
Recalling the events of 28 February, Vadim Shishimarin said he and a small group of other Russian soldiers had become separated from their unit and hijacked a car in order to return to it.
“As we were driving, we saw a man. He was talking on the phone,” the defendant said.
He claimed that he hadn’t wanted to fire the fatal shots, that he was following orders – threatened by another soldier if he refused to do as he was told.
“He said I would be putting us in danger if I didn’t. I shot him at short range. It killed him,” the 21-year-old tank commander told the court.
Interestingly, his defence lawyer – appointed by the state – told me that no Russian official has been in touch with him, including from its defence ministry.
There is no Russian embassy in Kyiv these days, so no contact from there either.
President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman yesterday told the BBC that the Kremlin has “no information” about this case.
All in all, it feels rather like the young soldier has been abandoned to his fate by the commanders who sent him to war and continue to deny that their forces commit crimes here.
We also heard from a second Russian soldier who witnessed the killing in February and later surrendered to Ukrainian forces.
Ivan Maltysev, another slight and young-looking 21-year-old, told the court how the Russian soldiers spotted Oleksandr Shelipov while they were driving the stolen car.
Mr Maltysev claimed that Vadim Shishimarin was then ordered to shoot the victim because he was on the phone.
“Vadim didn’t do it. So the soldier, whose name I don’t know, turned round in the car and shouted that Vadim had to carry out the order, or we would be informed on.
“At this point, we were almost alongside the civilian and, under pressure, Vadim fired. He fired three or four rounds.”
Ukraine has so far identified more than 11,000 possible war crimes committed by Russia.
Moscow has denied its troops have targeted civilians, but investigators have been collecting evidence of possible war crimes to bring before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
This trial is Ukraine’s chance to prove, beyond doubt, that a Russian soldier killed a civilian with no regard for the rules of war.
Its prosecutors know they are in the spotlight, proceeding so quickly, and in the middle of a war.
That is why they are keen to be as transparent and thorough as possible – so that this is not seen as a show trial, but part of a vital quest for justice.
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