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Blinken: Western Sanctions Taking Toll on Russia  


FILE - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken gestures during a press conference held as part of a NATO foreign ministers meeting in Bucharest, Romania, Nov. 30, 2022.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday that the cost of Western sanctions on Russia is mounting daily, making it more difficult for Moscow to replenish its weaponry to advance its ongoing war with Ukraine.

With trade controls imposed by the United States and its allies, Blinken said Russia cannot import the parts it needs to build more weapons to replace the ones that have been destroyed on the battlefields in Ukraine or sometimes abandoned as Moscow’s forces have retreated in the face of Ukrainian advances.

The top U.S. diplomat told CNN’s “State of the Union” show, “The costs are accumulating every day. The burden on Russia gets heavier every day.”

He said Western allies “are constantly looking” at various ways to tighten the sanctions even further to undermine the Russian economy and its war effort.

Blinken accused Russia of “trying to weaponize winter” with its barrage of airstrikes in recent weeks targeting Ukrainian power and water supplies to undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people. “This is indeed barbaric.”

The British Defense Ministry says a recent poll shows Russian public support for the war is dropping.

In its Sunday morning intelligence update, the ministry said an independent Russian media outlet has claimed that access to data collected by Russia’s Federal Protective Service indicates 55% of Russians favor peace talks with Ukraine, while only 25% say they support continuing the war. In April, some 80% of Russians were reported as supporting the invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the Russian energy chief, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, said Sunday that Moscow will not sell oil that is subject to a Western price cap even if it has to cut production.

Novak called the $60-a-barrel price cap imposed Friday by the Group of Seven leading industrialized countries and Australia a gross interference in world energy trade, an action that could lead to a supply shortage.

"We are working on mechanisms to prohibit the use of a price cap instrument, regardless of what level is set, because such interference could further destabilize the market," Novak said.

"We will sell oil and petroleum products only to those countries that will work with us under market conditions, even if we have to reduce production a little," he added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the price cap too little, but the U.S. defended it.

“We think the number at $60 a barrel is appropriate” to balance limiting Moscow’s ability to profit and ensuring supply meets demand, John Kirby, the U.S. National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said on Friday, adding that the cap can be adjusted.

The cap proposed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen aims to reduce Russia’s oil earnings, which support its military and the invasion of Ukraine.

The price cap takes effect on Monday, which coincides with the European Union’s embargo on most Russian oil shipments. It’s uncertain how all of this will affect oil markets, which are moving between fears of lost Russian supply and weakening demand caused by the lagging global economy. Russia could retaliate by halting shipments, and Europe may struggle to replace imports of Russian diesel fuel.

OPEC+, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, was meeting Sunday to review its production targets. The Reuters news agency says four OPEC+ sources have told it there will be no change in planned oil supplies.

For its part, Russia rejected the price cap and threatened to turn off the oil spigot on the coalition of Western countries that endorsed the cap.

The Russian embassy in Washington said Saturday it will continue to find buyers for its oil, despite what it called “dangerous” attempts by the West to introduce a price cap on its oil exports.

"Steps like these will inevitably result in increasing uncertainty and imposing higher costs for raw materials to consumers," it said.

Shelling resumes

Russia meanwhile resumed shelling of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson. And officials have warned of a tough winter as Russian strikes target energy infrastructure.

"Russian invaders shelled Kherson — damaged power grids. The city was left without electricity again," Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said on Telegram, adding that technicians were already working to restore power to the recently liberated city on the west bank of the Dnipro River.

Officials in Kherson have announced they will help citizens evacuate parts of Russian-occupied territory on the east bank of the river amid concerns of intensified fighting in the area.

FILE - Residents check the damage of a shop destroyed a day earlier during a Russian attack in Kherson, southern Ukraine, Nov. 25, 2022.
FILE - Residents check the damage of a shop destroyed a day earlier during a Russian attack in Kherson, southern Ukraine, Nov. 25, 2022.

Since Russia’s retreat from Kherson, Ukrainian forces could advance south through the fields of the Zaporizhzhia region to recapture occupied territory and repel the invaders, according to The Washington Post.

Their aim would be to control the land bridge that connects Russia to Crimea. Their counteroffensive must wait, though, until the cold sets in and the muddy ground freezes.

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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