Ukraine live briefing: E.U. agrees to $60 price cap on Russian oil; Scholz speaks with Putin

Ukrainian soldiers warm up next to their tank at a position near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region on Wednesday. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

After lengthy negotiations in Brussels, European diplomats proposed a limit on the price of Russian oil Friday, a move lauded by the Biden administration that has long sought to hit the Kremlin’s energy revenue without wreaking additional havoc on markets. If the Group of Seven nations and Australia concur, it will take effect Monday — the same day the European Union’s embargo on Russian seaborne crude goes into force. It remains unclear whether the move will hit Moscow’s finances, since the $60-per-barrel cap is so close to current prices.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, who pushed to create the global price cap, said in a statement that it will “help further constrain Putin’s finances and limit the revenues he’s using to fund his brutal invasion.”

Russia has warned that if a price cap is implemented, it will retaliate.

In Washington, John Kirby, strategic coordinator for the National Security Council, called the agreement “welcome news” after President Biden had pushed for the price cap. “We still believe that a price cap will help limit Mr. Putin’s ability to profiteer” with oil sales, Kirby told reporters.

Also Friday, the Kremlin responded to Biden’s comment that he would meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin if Moscow was willing to end the invasion, saying that Russia would not give up the Ukrainian territory it has declared to be Russian land. “The special military operation is continuing,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Friday. Peskov added that while Putin remains open to negotiations, the United States’ refusal to recognize territories annexed by Russia “complicates the search for the ground for mutual discussion.”

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

1. Key developments

  • A half-dozen Ukrainian embassies across Europe, as well as several consulates, have received “bloody packages” containing animal eyes, in what Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said Friday was a “well-planned” campaign of intimidation and terror. Those packages, combined with a spate of letter bombs detected in Spain, have raised suspicion about links to Russia, while prompting Kyiv to ask for increased security at its overseas offices. One of the letter bombs injured a staffer at the Ukrainian Embassy in Madrid.
  • Putin told German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a phone call Friday that “Western states, including Germany,” were to blame for Kyiv’s refusal to negotiate with Russia, charging that they are “pumping up the Kyiv regime with weapons and training the Ukrainian military,” according to a Kremlin readout of the call — the first conversation between an E.U. leader and the Russian president since Russia’s recent attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure and its string of battlefield defeats this fall. Putin called for Germany to “reconsider its approaches” to the conflict and defended Russian missile strikes on “certain targets” in Ukraine.
  • As many as 13,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed in the war so far, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told state television. “We have official figures from the General Staff, we have official figures from the top command, and they amount to [between] 10,000 and 12,500 to 13,000 killed,” Podolyak told Kanal 24. The figures could not be independently verified by The Washington Post.
  • American Paul Whelan, imprisoned in Russia for espionage, called his family Friday after a break in communication that led the Biden administration to express concern about his well-being. Whelan, who had missed a scheduled call home, told U.S. Embassy officers Friday that he had been transferred to a prison hospital on Thanksgiving Day and returned to his penal colony Friday, according to a senior State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The U.S. has sought to secure the release of Whelan and WNBA star Brittney Griner.
  • Senior U.S. defense officials are considering a major expansion in military training for Ukraine. The move could involve thousands of Kyiv’s fighters training with the U.S. military in Grafenwöhr, Germany, where the United States has instructed smaller numbers of Ukrainian troops for years.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for “spiritual independence” in Ukraine as he lambasted churches with Russian links. He said in his nightly address that he met with national security and defense officials regarding the “connections of certain religious circles in Ukraine with the aggressor state.” A draft law is also being prepared, he added, to make it “impossible for religious organizations affiliated with centers of influence in the Russian Federation to operate in Ukraine.”
  • The United States and France “deplore Russia’s deliberate escalatory steps,” Biden and Macron said in a joint statement after their meeting in Washington. The statement highlighted Russia’s “irresponsible nuclear rhetoric” and misinformation about weapons of mass destruction. The leaders committed to providing “significant resources” to support Ukraine through the winter and pledged to hold Russia accountable for atrocities and war crimes.

2. Global impact

  • Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden swore allegiance to Moscow and received his Russian passport, his lawyer told state media Friday. Snowden, 39, is wanted by Washington on espionage charges for his role in disclosing the existence of the NSA’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone records. Snowden was granted asylum in Russia in 2013 and became a citizen in September. Under Russia’s Constitution, he cannot be extradited to another country.
  • Finland’s prime minister says Europe “would be in trouble without the United States” in dealing with the Ukraine war. On a visit to Australia, Sanna Marin said she had to be “brutally honest” that “Europe isn’t strong enough right now,” Agence France-Presse reported. She called for the development of a European defense industry. “We should have listened to our Baltic and Polish friends much sooner,” she said. Finland, which shares a large land border with Russia, is in the midst of trying to join the NATO alliance.
  • European Council President Charles Michel urged Chinese President Xi Jinping to use Beijing’s influence over Russia to work for peace. Michel also told reporters that the leaders had agreed during a meeting that the use of nuclear weapons was not acceptable. Xi expressed support for preventing escalation or expansion of the war, Chinese state media reported.
  • The Disney Channel will stop broadcasting in Russia after Dec. 14, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported Friday. It will be replaced by a new channel for children called “Sun,” according to Kommersant. Disney did not respond to a request for comment.

3. Battleground updates

  • Russian authorities are calling on residents in some occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia to register with authorities, potentially for “possible evacuation,” Ivan Fedorov, the exiled Ukrainian mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol, said Friday. Separately, pro-Kremlin Telegram channels reported Friday that preparations were underway to begin evacuating residents from a town in Kherson, where Ukraine has waged a counteroffensive.
  • Russia’s army is suffering a “shortage of munitions,” according to a daily update Friday from Britain’s Defense Ministry. In part, this is due to relocating supply lines and changing rail transfer points in the south and east, it said, with the shortages being “exacerbated” by logistical challenges on the ground. As a result, the shortages are “likely one of the main factors currently limiting Russia’s potential to restart effective, large scale offensive ground operations,” it added.
  • The United States could redeploy some air defense weapons from the Middle East to Ukraine in coming months, Raytheon Technologies chief executive Greg Hayes said in an interview with Politico. Washington would then replace the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems used in partner countries. The U.S. Army said this week that Raytheon has signed a $1.2 billion contract to deliver six such systems to Ukraine’s military.

4. From our correspondents

Russia and Ukraine are fighting the first full-scale drone war: In the battle between Russia and Ukraine, drones are integrated into every phase of fighting, with extensive fleets, air defenses and jamming systems on each side, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Mary Ilyushina and Kostiantyn Khudov write from Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Drones have become so critical to battlefield success that at times they are used to take out other drones, they report. In past conflicts, drones were typically used by one side over largely uncontested airspace to locate and hit targets.

“Two main developments are going to impact future war,” said Samuel Bendett, a military analyst at the Virginia-based research group CNA. “The proliferation and availability of combat drones for longer-ranged, more-sophisticated operations, and the absolute necessity to have cheap tactical drones for close-support operations.”

Natalia Abbakumova, Karen DeYoung, Robyn Dixon, Chico Harlan, Stefano Pitrelli, Emily Rauhala and Beatriz Rios contributed to this report.

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