(Bloomberg) --

Russian forces made advances in eastern Ukraine as the Pentagon said Moscow has learned from mistakes it made earlier in the war. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Moscow’s troops are trying to show progress by the war’s looming 100-day mark. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged more military support for Kyiv, including long-range missiles that could hit Russian artillery, and dismissed calls for a negotiated settlement that would involve Ukraine ceding territory.   

Russian oil exports loaded onto tankers have reached a record, with most shipments headed to India or China as other nations impose restrictions. But the country’s prospects of avoiding a debt default are receding, with investors due about $100 million in interest payments on Friday. 

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

Key Developments

  • Europe’s Push to Punish Putin Is Falling Short of the Rhetoric
  • Russian Wins in Eastern Ukraine Spark Debate Over Course of War
  • EU Leans Toward Delaying a Pipeline Ban to Clinch Oil Deal 
  • Johnson Urges More Missiles for Ukraine to Hit ‘Crocodile’ Putin
  • Russia Faces Biggest Debt Test Yet After US Ban on Payments 

All times CET: 

Zelenskiy Says Russia Wants to Show Progress by 100-Day Mark (9:01 a.m.)

Russia is “trying to achieve in at least 100 days of war the goals they hoped to achieve in the first days after February 24,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address. 

Moscow has concentrated “maximum artillery, maximum reserves” in the Donbas region, he said, adding that Kyiv’s forces are doing all they can with their current defenses. Zelenskiy and other top officials have put out urgent calls for offensive weapons to push Russia back in the east. 

Governor Serhiy Haiday said on Telegram that the city of Sievierodonetsk in western Luhansk had been “very heavily” shelled, and that here’s been street fighting in places. A bridge between the city and the neighboring town of Lysychansk was damaged. Russian troops suffered significant losses and have retreated for now, he said. 

Russia Wins in Eastern Ukraine Spark Debate Over Course of War (8:00 a.m.)

Russian troops are making steady progress in Ukraine’s east on the back of more-concentrated artillery and air power, now controlling almost all of the Luhansk region and threatening to encircle thousands of Ukraine’s most experienced troops.

That’s sparking fears that Russia could be poised for a bigger breakthrough, and is leading to increasingly panicked calls from Kyiv for even more powerful offensive weapons.

Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk described the change in the Russian approach to the war as “colossal” at a briefing this week. A sense that the tide of the war could be turning comes as some call for Ukraine to consider trading territory for a cease-fire. 

Europe’s Push to Punish Putin Is Falling Short of the Rhetoric (6 a.m.)

Diplomats and officials are getting increasingly frustrated the EU may be reaching the limits of the short-term pain it can inflict on Russia already three months after its invasion of Ukraine. 

Member states are failing to deliver on promises to hit Putin where it hurts: the lucrative energy industry. The focus has been on Hungary’s refusal to back sanctions, but other countries are yielding to Putin’s demands for gas payments in rubles.

The unflattering optics highlight the limits of the EU’s strategy to back tough rhetoric with action that requires unanimity among all its 27 members. Ahead of a two-day summit starting Monday, some leaders are now leaning toward a diluted agreement that would allow deliveries through a key pipeline to continue for Hungary and others.  

Komatsu Restarts Parts Supplies to Ukraine, Nikkei Says (4:30 a.m)

Komatsu Ltd. has resumed supplying Ukraine with construction machinery parts, its chief executive officer told the Nikkei, noting reduced transportation risks in some areas of the war-torn nation. The Japanese manufacturer is also preparing to restart exporting finished products to Ukraine, Hiroyuki Ogawa was quoted as saying. 

Komatsu has no plans to withdraw from Russia, where it has continued to offer parts replacement and other services through agencies to ensure safety at construction and mining sites, he said. 

Greylock’s Humes Says He Isn’t Comfortable Investing in Russia (11:50 p.m.)

There are plenty of better opportunities than Russia in distressed emerging markets, said the head of Greylock Capital Management. It’s a matter of not feeling comfortable in Russia, said Hans Humes, chief executive officer of Greylock, which has been involved in most emerging-market restructurings over the past quarter-century. He pointed to opportunities in debt from the likes of Venezuela, Lebanon and Ukraine.

“Investing in a post-Putin Russia is more appetizing to me than going in currently,” he said on Bloomberg TV. “The politics and, obviously, the invasion have gotten a number of investors to be a little shy about jumping fully in right now.”

Ukraine Credit Rating Cut by S&P on ‘Protracted’ War Risk (10:35 p.m.)

S&P Global Ratings cut Ukraine’s rating by one notch, citing a more protracted conflict than originally forecast when Russia invaded the nation in February, and said the government’s ability to keep making debt payments is “contingent on the flow of donor support.” 

The foreign-currency rating was reduced to CCC+, only five notches above default. S&P also assigned a negative outlook to the country. 

Ukraine Branch of Russia’s Church Separates from Moscow (9:08 p.m)

The Ukrainian unit of the Russian Orthodox Church said it would break away from Moscow, signaling a rift between the Kremlin and its ally, which has served as Russia’s agent of influence in the neighboring country for decades. The church that has the largest number of parishioners in Ukraine proclaimed its independence in a council meeting in Kyiv on Friday, condemning the war that entered its fourth month.

It also urged Russia and Ukraine to renew peace talks.

Finland Calls Turkey-NATO Talks ‘Constructive’ (8:45 p.m.)

Finland is in “open, constructive” talks with Turkey regarding the questions raised over the Nordic nation’s application to join the NATO alliance, Finnish Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto told reporters in Washington, D.C.

“It’s understandable that different issues may be raised by different allies along the process,” Haavisto said, speaking in a joint news conference with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. “We take every NATO member’s concerns seriously. With Turkey we are now in an open, direct and constructive dialogue process to clarify all issues. This is important.”

Blinken said he was confident NATO “will work swiftly” through the admission process of Finland and Sweden. “The most important thing is that Finland and Sweden are speaking directly with Turkey” and “working through some of the concerns that Turkey has raised,” Blinken said.

Pentagon Sees Russia Learning From Mistakes (7:12 p.m.)

Russia has learned from previous mistakes on the battlefield, even if its progress in Ukraine remains “incremental,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday.

Russia has attempted to remedy some of the challenges it faced in “logistics and sustainment,” which left Putin’s troops without crucial supplies in the early days of the war, Kirby said. Part of the improvement stems from the fact that the Donbas region is closer to Russia and part comes from a higher degree of caution about “getting too far ahead,” he added.

The Russian military has had only limited success in its attempts to improve the integration of its air and ground operations. “They’re using smaller units now in smaller places and smaller movements,” Kirby said. Russia also continues to face problems with the “command and control” of its troops in the field, he added.

Ukraine Spring Planting Is Down by 22%, Ministry Says (5:45 p.m.)

Ukraine’s Agriculture Ministry said farmers are nearing the completion of the spring planting season for grains and legumes, with the area sown for plants such as wheat and corn down by 22% from last year in wartime conditions.

The total area, including oilseed crops such as sunflower and soybeans, is expected to fall by about 16% this year. The main challenge for producers is shipping the harvest to foreign markets given the maritime blockade of Black Sea ports crucial to Ukrainian exports.  

Russians Take Rail Hub in Donbas as Kherson Sealed Off (2:37 p.m.) 

Russian forces have seized most of the strategically important city of Lyman in the Donbas region, according to Russian and Ukrainian authorities. The capture of the rail hub north of the Siverskyi Donets river is part of the Kremlin’s ambition to take territory and potentially enclose Ukrainian positions to the east.

Meanwhile, Russian occupying forces in the Kherson region in the south have blocked passage for civilians to leave for Ukrainian-controlled territory, Serhiy Lahuta, the military administrator there, told reporters in Kyiv. Producers are unable to ship grain, fruit and vegetables from Kherson, with deliveries rerouted to Russian-held Crimea, he said. 

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.