(Bloomberg) --

In its latest shakeup, Russia’s defense ministry named General Sergey Surovikin as commander of all its troops fighting in Ukraine, a week after Moscow’s forces withdrew from a key Donetsk town and faced losses on the southern front, and as the military prepares to integrate some 300,000 new conscripts. 

The 19-kilometer Kerch Strait Bridge, a key link between annexed Crimea and the Russian mainland, was damaged in an explosion and fire that caused the partial collapse of the roadway. President Vladimir Putin has ordered an investigation into the incident, which one official called a “terrorist act.” 

The International Monetary Fund’s executive board approved $1.3 billion to help Ukraine with its financing. European Union leaders edged closer to a Russian gas-price cap as a further measure to punish President Vladimir Putin for his invasion of Ukraine, as Kremlin forces intensified strikes on the southern city of Zaporizhzhia.  

(See RSAN on the Bloomberg Terminal for the Russian Sanctions Dashboard.) 

Key Developments

  • Russia Races to Reopen Key Crimea Bridge Damaged in Fiery Blast
  • Putin Orders Sakhalin-1 Project Transferred to Russian Entity
  • Human Rights Champions Win Nobel Peace Prize as War Rages
  • For Europe, Biden’s ‘Armageddon’ Warning Can’t Be Dismissed
  • NATO Once Feared a Putin Victory; Now It Worries Over His Defeat
  • Russia Escalates Strike on Southeast City as Ukrainians Advance

On the Ground

Ukraine’s General Staff reports that Russia is trying to hold the temporarily captured territories, at the same time is conducting offensive actions in the Bakhmut and Avdiyivka directions. According to its regular update on Facebook, Russia is shelling the positions of Ukraine’s troops along the entire contact line, with more than 20 settlements under fire. As of Saturday morning, seven missile strikes, twelve aviation strikes and near 80 multiple launch rocket systems attacks were delivered by Russian forces. Russia also used seven Iranian-made “Shahed-136” unmanned aerial vehicles to strike, three of which were shot down. Kyiv’s troops repelled attacks in 17 localities, including north and northwest of the occupied city of Kherson.

(All times CET)

Russia Says Train Crossed Crimea Bridge (6:55 p.m.)

A 15-car train crossed the damaged Kerch Strait bridge after the first stage of repair work, Russia’s Tass news agency reported. Cargo trains are crossing the bridge, with passenger trains to follow, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said on his Telegram channel.

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to strengthen bridge security with measures to be coordinated by the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

IAEA Plans Shuttle Diplomacy on Zaporizhzhia Plant (4:30 p.m.)

The head of the UN’s nuclear agency once again deplored “tremendously irresponsible” shelling around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, Europe’s largest, which has taken out the facility’s external power. 

Rafael Mariano Grossi says he plans to travel “soon” to Russia and then back to Ukraine “to agree on a protection zone” around the plant, which Vladimir Putin seized last week by decree. 

Annexation Authorities Plan to Move Kids, Elders From Kherson to Russia (3:10 p.m.)

Russia’s annexation authorities plan to temporarily move children, their parents,and elderly people from the Kherson region to Crimea, Rostov and Krasnodar in Russia, a top official said. 

Kirill Stremousov, appointed by Russian President Vladimir Putin as head of the Kherson area, said the people would be “invited” to Russia for “several weeks” while the region undergoes a “cleansing of the perimeter.” 

Russia’s Military Shake-Up a Week After Lyman Retreat (2:30 p.m.)

General Sergey Surovikin has been named the commander of Moscow’s forces in Ukraine, Russia’s defence ministry announced, according to Interfax. 

The latest shake-up to the military’s top ranks comes a week after Kremlin troops retreated from the key town of Lyman in the Donetsk region.  

Surovikin, 55, commanded the forces’ Southern branch earlier in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He was previously a commander-in-chief of Russia’s aerospace forces, commanded Russian forces in Syria, and had combat experience in Tajikistan and Chechnya. Surovikin was sanctioned by the European Union in February. 

Russia Says Crimea Bridge to be Partly Operational as Soon as Saturday (2:30 p.m.)

Russia will resume automobile traffic on damaged Kerch Strait Bridge between Crimea and the mainland late Saturday afternoon, Interfax reported, citing the transport ministry. 

Authorities said the registered owner of the truck involved in the bombing was a resident of Russia’s Krasnodar region, and that an investigation has started. 

Three people died in the incident, Russia’s investigative committee said. Two bodies have been recovered.  

EU Condemns Russian Seizure of Nuclear Plant (2:20 p.m.)

The European Union condemns “in the strongest possible terms” Moscow’s decree on the seizure of the Zaporizhzhia atomic power plant, its foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in a statement. 

It was the first official EU statement since Putin’s move on Wednesday to take control of the nuclear facility, located in one of four areas of Ukraine seized in a Russian land grab.  

The move is “illegal, and legally null and void,” Borrell said, demanding that Russia fully withdraw its military forces. The EU doesn’t recognize Russia’s illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.

Putin Orders Sakhalin-1 Project Transferred to Russian Entity (11:20 a.m.)

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to transfer operations of the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project to Russia, a move that could lead to the final withdrawal of Exxon Mobil Corp. from the nation’s Far East.

A new Russian legal entity will take over the rights and responsibilities of the current investor consortium and the operator, Exxon Neftegas Limited, according to Friday’s notice.

Crimea Authorities Announce, Quickly Reverse Order to Limit Grocery Sales (10:34 a.m.)

Crimean authorities announced, and quickly reversed, an order to limit grocery and gasoline sales, saying they can supply the region via annexed southern Ukraine. 

The damaged Kerch Strait Bridge is the only road link between Crimea and Russia’s mainland. The region can instead access goods through the “new territories,” Sevastopol governor Mikhail Razvozhaev said on Telegram. Moscow’s annexation of four regions of Ukraine has been called illegal by Kyiv and its allies.  

Nuclear Plant Reverts to Diesel After Power Line Damage (9:26 a.m.)

The only power line feeding electricity to maintain the non-operational nuclear generators at the Zaporizhzhia power plant in southeastern Ukraine was damaged by Russian shelling overnight, nuclear operator Energoatom said on Telegram. 

The plant is now relying on diesel fuel for cooling the reactors and other maintenance. Diesel stocks are enough to power the station for 10 days. The national grid operator Ukrenergo is working with Energoatom to restore the line. 

Russia Calls Crimea Bridge Blast ‘Terrorist Act’ (9:23 a.m.) 

The explosion on the Kerch Strait Bridge looks like a “terrorist act” and there will “definitely” be a Russian response, said Alexei Mukhin, head of the Moscow-based Center for Political Information, which provides consultancy services for Putin’s administration.

The span connects annexed Crimea to Russia’s Krasnodar region and is a key supply route for Moscow’s military campaign in southern Ukraine.  

Only Bridge From Russia to Crimea Closed After Blast (8 a.m.)

President Vladimir Putin’s flagship Kerch Strait Bridge to Crimea was damaged in an explosion on a fuel train that also caused the partial collapse of the road running to the peninsula.

Traffic on the span is closed, and authorities are preparing to start the ferry line, according to Tass. The bridge has been the only connection to Russia after flights to Crimea were canceled following Russia’s invasion into Ukraine in February.

It’s unclear so far what caused the explosion and there’s been no claim of responsibility. Photos and videos on social media showed the train on fire and a section of the road bridge collapsed into the sea. Russian officials blamed Ukraine for the incident and Putin has ordered an investigation.  

IMF Approves $1.3 Billion in Assistance (2:50 a.m.)

The International Monetary Fund’s executive board agreed to provide $1.3 billion to help with Ukraine’s balance of payment obligations.

“More than seven months after the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the humanitarian and economic toll remains massive, resulting in large and urgent fiscal and external financing needs,” the IMF said in a press release.

“Amid massive population displacement and destruction of housing and key infrastructure, real GDP is projected to contract by 3% in 2022 relative to 2021 and financing needs remain very large,” the IMF added.  


©2022 Bloomberg L.P.