Russia claims it will hold fire in 4 Ukrainian cities; U.S. crude soars

Russia trying to cut Ukrainians off from reliable news and information, UK says

Damage caused by a Russian missile attack on a TV tower in Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 2, 2022.

Marcus Yam | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

In a daily intelligence update on Monday, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said there were reports of Russian forces targeting television towers in Ukrainian cities.

“Russia is probably targeting Ukraine’s communications infrastructure in order to reduce Ukrainian citizens’ access to reliable news and information,” the ministry said.

It added that internet access in Ukraine was likely to be disrupted following attacks on infrastructure, with outages already reported in the cities of Mariupol, Sumy, Kyiv and Kharkiv over the last week.

Within its own borders, Russia has taken steps in recent days to clamp down on news coverage of the conflict in Ukraine. Lawmakers approved a bill on Friday that will make it a criminal offence to call for the introduction of foreign sanctions on Russia, while spreading so-called “fake” information about Russia’s military could soon carry prison sentences of up to 15 years.

The Kremlin’s official line is that its invasion of Ukraine is a “special operation” aimed at liberating Ukrainians from their own government, but the West has rejected this stance, calling Russia’s invasion of Ukraine unprovoked warfare. The International Criminal Court has opened an investigation into alleged Russian war crimes.

— Chloe Taylor

Russia claims it will hold fire to allow civilians to leave 4 Ukrainian cities

A view of damaged building after a shelling in Ukraine’s second-biggest city of Kharkiv on March 3, 2022.

Sergey Bobok | AFP | Getty Images

Moscow claimed Monday that it will stop attacks in four Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv, to allow the evacuation of civilians.

Evacuation attempts were halted over the weekend after Russian forces were accused of violating a cease-fire in the cities of Mariupol and Volnovakha.

Russian state-affiliated news agencies reported Monday that the latest cease-fire would begin at 10 a.m. Moscow time (9 a.m. Ukraine, 2 a.m. ET) in the cities of Kyiv, Mariupol, Kharkiv, and Sumy.

Russian humanitarian staff in Ukraine said the decision was a result of the “disastrous humanitarian situation” in the country and “French President Emmanuel Macron’s personal request [for a cease-fire] to Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Russian news agency Interfax reported.

The Russian government said it has informed the U.N., Red Cross and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe of its cease-fire plans.

Over the weekend, evacuations from Mariupol were aborted on both Saturday and Sunday as Ukrainian officials said Russian troops continued to attack both the city and the planned route out of it.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities said around 400 civilians fleeing Volnovakha came under Russian fire on Sunday despite promises of a safe exit, according to Reuters.

— Chloe Taylor

Economist Stephen Roach says Xi Jinping is the only person with ‘leverage’ over Putin now

China has so far said it won’t participate in sanctions against Russia and also abstained from a United Nations vote to rebuke Russia for invading Ukraine.

— Weizhen Tan

Putin’s ‘endgame’ is to ‘cut off the head’ of the Ukrainian government, says professor emeritus

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “endgame” in Russia’s war against Ukraine is to “replace the Zelenskyy government” with someone of his “own choosing,” said Graeme Gill, professor emeritus at the University of Sydney.

What Putin “really wants is to cut off the head” of the Ukrainian government and put in place a government of his own, he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday.

United States and European officials have begun discussing the possibility of a government in exile led by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the event that he and his aides are forced to flee Ukraine and establish a new government while in Poland.

However, if Russia succeeds in taking over Ukraine, it would prefer it not to be headed by Zelenskyy as he has proved to be “an effective figurehead of the opposition to the Russians in their invasion of Ukraine,” he said.

Zelenskyy is reported to have escaped three assassination attempts by Russian-backed special forces, but can “expect there to be further ones,” Gill said.

“It’s not surprising that there have been attempts on Zelenskyy’s life,” he added.

Charmaine Jacob

Heightened security fears in the Baltic states following Russia’s Ukraine invasion

CNBC’s Steve Sedgwick reports from Vilnius, the capital and the largest city of Lithuania, where he explains the geography and history of the region, and why it’s so concerned regarding recent Russian military aggression and the invasion of Ukraine.

Three-way talks underway to send fighter jets to Ukraine

Poland, Ukraine and the United States are in talks on a deal that would get more MiG fighter jets into the hands of Ukraine.

NBC News reported that the deal would involve Poland giving MiG fighter planes to Ukraine, and the United States in turn replacing Poland’s fighters with U.S.-made F-16s.

Two Polish MiG-29s sit at an airbase in Malbork, Poland, in this file photo from August 2021.

Anadolu Agency | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Neither Ukraine nor Russia has established air superiority in their 11-day old war, and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made an urgent request for fighter aircraft during a call with 300 members of Congress on Saturday.

Ukrainian pilots are not trained to fly U.S.-made warplanes. However, Poland and Ukraine both operate MiGs — aircraft designed and made in Russia — that are left over from the days of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba over the weekend said warplanes and air-defense systems are his country’s “highest demand” as Ukraine faces almost 200,000 Russian troops and their vehicles.

The F-16 is manufactured by General Dynamics, a unit of Lockheed Martin.

—Ted Kemp

No-fly zone over Ukraine would increase risk of a U.S.-Russia war, defense analyst says

A no-fly zone over Ukraine would “greatly increase” the risk of a war between the U.S. and Russia, according to Ted Galen Carpenter, senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute.

“It’s absolutely imperative that the United States resist Zelenskyy’s call for a no-fly zone over Ukraine,” he told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Monday.

The Ukrainian president has repeatedly asked NATO to establish a no-fly zone over his country, but the U.S. and its allies have so far rejected that request. Setting up a no-fly zone would mean the alliance would have to shoot down Russian aircraft over Ukraine.

“That would greatly increase the danger of a war between the United States and Russia, and we are talking about a war with nuclear implications at that point,” Carpenter said.

“I don’t think anyone in the United States thinks that Ukraine’s security is worth taking that level of risk,” he added.

Putin previously said he would consider a third-party declaration of a no-fly zone over Ukraine as “participation of that country in the military action.”

— Abigail Ng

U.S. House ‘exploring strong legislation’ to ban Russian oil

In a letter to Democratic colleagues, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the U.S. House of Representatives is “exploring strong legislation” to ban imports of Russian oil.

The legislation would “further isolate Russia from the global economy,” she wrote.

“Our bill would ban the import of Russian oil and energy products into the United States, repeal normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, and take the first step to deny Russia access to the World Trade Organization. We would also empower the Executive branch to raise tariffs on Russian imports,” she said.

The House will vote on aid to Ukraine this week totaling $10 billion in humanitarian, military and economic support.

—Ted Kemp

U.S. crude oil spikes above $125 per barrel on possible Western ban of Russian oil

The crude oil tanker, Chemtrans Cancale, is seen anchored off shore as it waits to dock at Port Everglades on April 20, 2020 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

U.S. crude oil jumped above $125 per barrel in early trading Sunday evening, as the market continued to react to supply disruptions stemming from the war between Russia and Ukraine and the possibility that the U.S. and its allies and partners could institute a ban on Russian oil and natural gas.

West Texas Intermediate crude futures, the U.S. oil benchmark, surged 8%, at one point topping $130 a barrel, to reach its highest level since mid-2008. Brent crude, the international benchmark, traded 9% higher to $128.60, also the highest price seen since 2008.

“Oil is rising on the prospect for a full embargo of Russian oil and products,” said John Kilduff, founding partner of Again Capital. “Already high gasoline prices are going to keep going up in a jarring fashion. Prices in some states will be pushing $5 pretty quickly.”

— Tanaya Macheel

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