Leading gas producers will meet in Qatar from Sunday to discuss how to meet frantic world demand, but Russian president Vladimir Putin is expected to stay away as Ukraine tensions escalate.
Here is a report from AFP on the developments:
The 11-member Gas Exporting Countries Forum will hold its annual summit as the Ukraine crisis sends prices ever higher, and Europe fears for its supplies from Russia.
The group that includes Russia, Qatar, Iran, Libya, Algeria and Nigeria – accounting for more than 70% of proven gas reserves – has faced mounting pressure as Europe has sought alternative suppliers to Russia.
But most say they are already at or near maximum production and can only send short term relief supplies to Europe if existing customers agree.
Diplomats who took part in preparatory meetings said the group – which does not include key producers Australia and the United States – will discuss ways to increase production in the medium term.
“But their hands are tied, there is next to no spare gas,” said one, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Putin is not expected to take up his invitation to attend despite his country’s importance, diplomats said.
Thierry Bros, a professor at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris who specialises in the gas industry, said Russia has a dominant role in the industry as its Gazprom giant is the only enterprise with spare capacity.
“So it is Putin who decides and he decides at the Kremlin.”
More than 40% of Russian forces on Ukraine border in attack position – US official
More than 40 percent of the Russian forces on the Ukraine border are now in position for attack and Moscow has begun a campaign of destabilization, a US defense official said on Friday, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.
The official, who spoke to reporters anonymously, said the US had observed significant movements since Wednesday. The US estimates that Russia has stationed more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine’s borders.
“Forty to fifty percent are in an attack position. They have uncoiled in tactical assembly in the last 48 hours,” the official told reporters.
Here is some further detail from AFP’s report:
Tactical assembly points are areas next to the border where military units are set up in advance of an attack.
The official said Moscow had massed 125 battalion tactical groups close to the Ukraine border, compared to 60 in normal times and up from 80 at the beginning of February.
The increase in clashes between pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine government forces in the southeastern Donbas region of Ukraine, and inflammatory claims by officials in Russia and Donbas, show that “the destabilization campaign has begun,” the official said.
Washington has warned for weeks that Russia could provoke or fabricate an incident in the area to serve as a pretext for invading Ukraine.
Hello everyone. I’m Rebecca Ratcliffe and welcome to our rolling coverage of the Ukraine crisis.
Vladimir Putin is expected to personally oversee major military drills along Ukraine’s borders on Saturday, amid intensifying fears of an looming Russian invasion.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy is reportedly considering travelling to Germany for talks with Western leaders – though Joe Biden has cautioned that it “may not” be wise for Zelenskiy to leave his country.
Here is a recap of the key events so far:
- Biden warned in a speech late on Friday that he is “convinced” Putin has decided to invade Ukraine and target its capital, Kyiv, which he said would be a “catastrophic and needless war of choice”. Biden said that until the attack began “diplomacy is always a possibility”. The invasion could come in the next days or week, he said.
- Biden said that the US and its European allies were ready to impose “severe” economic sanctions on Russia in response to an attack, but that it would not send troops to fight in Ukraine. His comments on Friday evening followed a day of fast-moving events in and around Ukraine.
- Leaders of Russian-backed breakaway regions of Luhansk and Donetsk claimed to be under attack from Ukraine and ordered the mass evacuation of civilians.
- As the US and its allies warned of “false flags” that would give a pretext for a Russian attack, a gas pipeline in Luhansk caught fire after explosions, and a second blast hit the city about 40 minutes later. Earlier on Friday, a car bomb detonated in an empty lot in Donetsk.
- Biden called out Russian “disinformation” and said that claims in the Russian media that Ukraine was the aggressor and planning a major attack “defies basic logic” of what a country would do with over 150,000 troops arrayed at its borders.
- Satellite imagery showed new Russian military movements, with helicopters and tanks moving closer to the border in multiple sites around the Ukraine border.
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