Ukraine update: West begins Russian oil cap; Kherson hospital staff risked lives to save orphans from deportation

by Chris Lange

Chris Lange, FISM News


A $60-per-barrel price cap on Russian oil began on Monday despite condemnation from Russia and fears of energy interruptions across Europe. The cap was agreed upon last Thursday between members of the European Union, the U.S., Japan, Australia, and Canada as a means of putting further pressure on the Kremlin to stop its assault on Ukraine by depleting Russia’s war chest.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak, who oversees the country’s energy issues, warned in televised comments on Sunday that Russia will refuse to sell any of its oil to countries that try to enforce the cap.

“We will only sell oil and oil products to the countries that will work with us on market terms, even if we have to reduce output to some extent,” Novak said in televised remarks.

FISM reported Sunday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the $60 cap isn’t enough to make a dent in the Russian war machine and urged allies to lower the cap to $30 per barrel.

Russia is the world’s third-leading oil producer after the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, according to a March 2022 Nasdaq report, and relies on the sale of oil and gas to underpin its economy.

News of the cap has created uncertainty about how it will affect market prices. U.S. benchmark crude on Monday traded up 90 cents to $80.88.

The Association of European Energy Exchanges wrote in a joint letter that the oil cap could have a “potentially irrevocable negative effect” on the energy markets and could have the “opposite effect” of what leaders are hoping for.

Some experts have expressed concern that the instability could lead to lapses in energy supplies for many Europeans as winter approaches.

Kherson hospital staff risked own lives to shield orphans from Russian deportation

A Kherson ICU doctor recently revealed that the healthcare staff at a children’s hospital began devising ways to secretly protect orphaned babies in their care from Russian deportation within hours of Russia’s invasion.

Dr. Olga Pilyarska, head of the Intensive Care Unit of the children’s regional hospital in Kherson city, said staff quickly decided to begin altering the orphans’ medical records to make it appear that they were too ill to be moved, The Associated Press reported.

“We deliberately wrote false information that the children were sick and could not be transported,” she said. “We were scared that [the Russians] would find out … [but] we decided that we would save the children at any cost.”

Pilyarska said staff members added illnesses like “pulmonary bleeding” and “uncontrollable convulsions” to children’s records, even falsely stating that some required breathing ventilators.

Moscow has faced numerous accusations that it deports Ukrainian children to Russia to raise them as their own. In Kherson alone, at least 1,000 children are estimated to have been seized from schools and orphanages. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

Kherson city locals credit the hospital staff and other community members with preventing additional seizures at great risk to themselves by contriving ways to hide children from Russian soldiers. 

Ukraine, UAE announce plans to discuss bilateral trade deal

Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates on Monday announced plans to launch negotiations on a bilateral trade agreement both countries hope to wrap up by the middle of 2023, the UAE economy ministry said.

Ukraine’s economy minister, Yulia Svyrydenko, and the UAE’s minister of state for foreign trade, Thani Al Zeyoudi, each signed a joint statement on negotiations towards a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), the ministry said.

The trade deal would represent the UAE’s first with a European country. The news come less than a year after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the Gulf State, where he received over $3 billion dollars worth of trade and investment pledges. 

Al Zeyoudi called Ukraine “a key trade partner” in a statement provided to Reuters.

“The growth and investment potential was high before the whole geopolitical situation,” Zeyoudi said, adding that the UAE feels that “it’s time to push things forward.” 

The UAE state has endeavored to remain neutral in the Russia-Ukraine war, resisting pressure from Western nations who want Gulf oil producers to shut out Russia, a fellow OPEC+ member.  Ukraine is a major supplier of grain to the Middle East.

“This is not only going to bring added value to the UAE but also to Ukraine as well,” Al Zeyoudi told Reuters.

Finnish parliament to hold formal NATO vote

Finland’s government announced Monday that it has asked parliament to formally vote on the country’s pending NATO membership, despite the stalled approval of members Hungary and Turkey. All 30 members of the international military alliance agreed to accept Finnish and Swedish bids to join NATO. Still, each must undertake a formal vote in order for the memberships to take effect. Turkey and Hungary remain the only two holdouts.

“Our NATO membership moving forward is important for us Finns but also for NATO members,” Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told a news conference.

Hungary has said that it expects to give approval in February; however, Turkey continues to insist that the Nordic countries harbor Kurdish militants it considers to be terrorists. 

One killed, four wounded in Donetsk attacks

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported Monday that, over the past 48 hours, Russia had targeted Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure and its military positions once again, with nearly 30 airstrikes and 44 shelling attacks.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of President Zelenskyy’s office, said that one civilian was killed as a result of the attacks, and four others were wounded in the Donetsk region in Ukraine’s east. 

Meanwhile, Kherson continued to suffer heavy shelling that tore power lines apart and left residents without water, with embedded reporters stating that some were spotted trying to scoop water out of puddles in the streets.

“When we start to repair [electricity networks], the shelling starts immediately,” said Oleksandr Kravchenko, who is in charge of high-voltage networks in Kherson. “We just repair electric lines and on the next day we have to repair lines again.”

Ukrainian authorities also reported heavy fighting in Luhansk and said the Kharkiv region in the northeast was subjected to shelling.