Day: February 19, 2022

U.S. VP Harris will meet Ukraine’s Zelenskiy, urge Putin to pull back

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World17 hours ago (Feb 19, 2022 02:15AM ET)

U.S. VP Harris will meet Ukraine's Zelenskiy, urge Putin to pull back© Reuters. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a meeting with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Latvian President Egils Levits, and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany February 18, 2022. Andrew Har

By Nandita Bose

MUNICH (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to meet Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy in Munich on Saturday, in what is likely to be a powerful display of diplomatic support for the European nation, a day after President Joe Biden said he is “convinced” Russia had made a decision to invade Ukraine.

Harris will also deliver a highly anticipated address warning Russia that an invasion would likely lead to an even bigger NATO footprint on its doorstep and that it will face huge financial costs if it invades Ukraine, according to a senior U.S. administration official who spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity.

Her message will, however, make clear the United States remains open to diplomacy “even at this late hour,” the official said, even as Biden and other administration officials have given dire warnings that the window for diplomacy is narrow.

On Friday, Harris met NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and leaders from three Baltic nations and said Russia must show it is open to diplomacy, while heralding unity in the 30-member NATO alliance and warning Moscow of severe consequences if it invades Ukraine.

President Biden, who spoke later in the day, said Putin has decided to invade Ukraine, and that he continues to spread false information to try to build a pretext for a military strike that could happen in days.

Russia, which has said it has no plans to invade, wants to stop Kyiv from joining NATO and accuses the West of hysteria. On Friday, separatists backed by Moscow told civilians to leave breakaway regions on buses, a move the West fears is part of a pretext for an attack.

The Russian defense ministry said on Friday that Putin would oversee exercises by Russia’s nuclear forces involving the launch of ballistic and cruise missiles. The senior U.S. administration official called the decision “escalatory and unfortunate.”

Asked if the United States is concerned about whether Zelenskiy should travel to Munich for meetings tomorrow, the senior administration official said, “No. That’s really his call. It’s really up to him to decide where he needs to be.”

Biden, when asked the same question, said “that’s a judgment for him to make.”

Zelenskiy has long said that, while he believes Russia is threatening to attack his country, the likelihood of an imminent invasion has been overstated by Western allies, responding to Moscow’s efforts to intimidate Ukraine and sow panic.

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How a Russia-Ukraine conflict might hit global markets

How a Russia-Ukraine conflict might hit global markets© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A member of the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service patrols the area near the frontier with Russia in the Chernihiv region, Ukraine February 16, 2022. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

By Karin Strohecker

LONDON (Reuters) – A potential invasion of Ukraine by neighbouring Russia would be felt across a number of markets, from wheat and energy prices and the region’s sovereign dollar bonds to safe-haven assets and stock markets.

Below are five charts showing where a potential escalation of tensions could be felt across global markets:

1/SAFE HAVENS

A major risk event usually sees investors rushing back to bonds, generally seen as the safest assets, and this time may not be different, even if a Russian invasion of Ukraine risks further fanning oil prices — and therefore inflation.

Inflation at multi-decade highs and impending interest rate rises have made for a tetchy start to the year for bond markets, with U.S. 10-year rates still hovering close to the key 2% level and German 10-year yields above 0% for the first time since 2019.

But an outright Russia-Ukraine conflict could change that.

In forex markets, the euro/Swiss franc exchange rate is seen as the biggest indicator of geopolitical risk in the euro zone as the Swiss currency has long been viewed by investors a safe haven. It hit its strongest levels since May 2015 in late January.

Gold, also seen as a shelter in times of conflict or economic strife, is clinging to 13 month peaks.

(Graphic: Safe haven prices as Ukraine tensions build – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/byprjxggmpe/Global%20markets%20and%20Ukraine%20tensions.PNG)

2/ GRAINS AND WHEAT

Any interruption to the flow of grain out of the Black Sea region is likely to have a major impact on prices and further fuel food inflation at a time when affordability is a major concern across the globe following the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Four major exporters – Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan and Romania – ship grain from ports in the Black Sea which could face disruptions from any military action or sanctions.

Ukraine is projected to be the world’s third largest exporter of corn in the 2021/22 season and fourth largest exporter of wheat, according to International Grains Council data. Russia is the world’s top wheat exporter.

(Graphic: Rising food prices fuel inflation pressures – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/lbpgnwkkwvq/Rising%20food%20prices%20fuel%20inflation%20pressures.PNG)

3/ NATURAL GAS & OIL

Energy markets are likely to be hit if tensions turn into conflict. Europe relies on Russia for around 35% of its , mostly coming through pipelines which cross Belarus and Poland to Germany, Nord Stream 1 which goes directly to Germany, and others through Ukraine.

In 2020 volumes of gas from Russia to Europe fell after lockdowns suppressed demand and did not recover fully last year when consumption surged, helping to send prices to record highs.

As part of possible sanctions should Russia invade Ukraine, Germany has said it could halt the new Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia. The pipeline is projected to increase gas imports to Europe but also underlines its energy dependence on Moscow.

Analysts expect natural gas exports from Russia to Western Europe to be significantly reduced through both Ukraine and Belarus in the event of sanctions, saying gas prices could revisit Q4 levels.

Oil markets could also be affected through curbs or disruption. Ukraine moves Russian oil to Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic. Ukraine’s transit of Russian crude for export to the bloc was 11.9 million metric tonnes in 2021, down from 12.3 million metric tonnes in 2020, S&P Global (NYSE:) Platts said in a note.

JPMorgan (NYSE:) said the tensions risked a “material spike” in oil prices and noted that a rise to $150 a barrel would reduce global GDP growth to just 0.9% annualised in the first half of the year, while more than doubling inflation to 7.2%.

(Graphic: European gas prices hit record highs in December – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/lbpgnwqrwvq/European%20gas%20prices%20hit%20record%20highs%20in%20December%20Updated.PNG)

4/COMPANY EXPOSURE

Listed western firms could also feel the consequences from a Russian invasion, though for energy firms any blow to revenues or profits might be somewhat offset by a potential oil price jump.

Britain’s BP (NYSE:) owns a 19.75% stake in Rosneft, which makes up a third of its production, and also has a number of joint ventures with Russia’s largest oil producer.

Shell (LON:) holds a 27.5% stake in Russia’s first LNG plant, Sakhalin 2, accounting for a third of the country’s total LNG exports, as well as a number of joint ventures with state energy giant Gazprom (MCX:).

U.S. energy firm Exxon (NYSE:) operates through a subsidiary, the Sakhalin-1 oil and gas project, in which India’s state-run explorer Oil and Natural Gas Corp also holds a stake. Norway’s Equinor is also active in the country.

In the financial sector, the risk is concentrated in Europe.

Austria’s Raiffeisen Bank International derived 39% of its estimated net profit last year from its Russian subsidiary, Hungary’s OTP and UniCredit around 7% from theirs, while Societe Generale (OTC:) was seen generating 6% of group net profits through its Rosbank retail operations. Dutch financial company ING also has a footprint in Russia though that accounts for less than 1% of net profit, according to calculations by JPMorgan.

Looking at loan exposure to Russia, French and Austrian banks have the largest among Western lenders at $24.2 billion and $17.2 billion, respectively. They are followed by U.S. lenders at $16 billion, Japanese at $9.6 billion and German banks at $8.8 billion, data from the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) shows.

Other sectors also have exposure: Renault (PA:) generates 8% of its EBIT in Russia. Germany’s Metro AG’s 93 Russian stores generate just under 10% of its sales and 17% of its core profit while Danish brewer Carlsberg (OTC:) owns Baltika, Russia’s largest brewer with market share of almost 40%.

(Graphic: European banks most at risk from Ukraine crisis – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/zdpxoaldyvx/European%20banks%20most%20at%20risk%20from%20Ukraine%20crisis.PNG)

5/ REGIONAL DOLLAR BONDS AND CURRENCIES

Russian and Ukrainian assets will be at the forefront of any markets fallout from potential military action.

Both countries’ dollar bonds have underperformed their peers in recent months as investors have trimmed exposure amid escalating tensions between Washington and its allies and Moscow.

Ukraine’s fixed income markets are chiefly the remit of emerging market investors, while Russia’s overall standing on capital markets has shrunk in recent years amid sanctions and geopolitical tensions, somewhat cushioning any threat of contagion through those channels.

However, Ukrainian and Russian currencies have also suffered, with the hryvnia the worst-performing emerging markets currency year-to-date and the rouble at number five.

The Ukraine-Russia situation presents “substantial uncertainties” for foreign currency markets, said Chris Turner, global head of markets at ING.

“The events of late 2014 remind us of the liquidity gaps and U.S. dollar hoarding that led to a substantial drop in the rouble at that time,” said Turner.

(Graphic: Russia and Ukraine bonds are feeling the heat – https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/gkplgjrgnvb/Russia%20and%20Ukraine%20bonds%20are%20feeling%20the%20heat.PNG)

(Reporting and graphics by Karin Strohecker, Sujata Rao, Danilo Masoni, Mike Dolan, Nigel Hunt and Susanna Twidale; Writing by Karin Strohecker; Editing by Alison Williams, Catherine Evans and Christina Fincher)

U.S. FDA considers approving a second COVID-19 booster shot -WSJ

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Stock Markets14 hours ago (Feb 19, 2022 05:55PM ET)

U.S. FDA considers approving a second COVID-19 booster shot -WSJ© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A worker from Chicago Family Health Center prepares a booster shot for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a McDonald’s, as the Omicron coronavirus variant spreads through the country, in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., December 21, 2021. REUTERS/J

(Reuters) -U.S. health regulators are looking at authorizing a potential fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in the fall, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The Food and Drug Administration has been reviewing data to authorize a second booster dose of the messenger RNA vaccines from Pfizer Inc (NYSE:) and partner BioNTech SE (NASDAQ:) and vaccines from Moderna (NASDAQ:) Inc, the report added.

The FDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The agency last month cut the interval to get a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech as well as from Moderna, in a bid to provide better protection sooner against the Omicron variant.

The planning is still in early stages, and authorization would depend on determinations as to whether the second booster should be authorized for all adults or particular age groups, and whether it should target the Omicron variant or be formulated differently, the report said.

It added that no decision was final and that it could be necessary to make booster shots available earlier if a new variant appears.

The United States reported 2,323 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing the total count to 936,523.

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Ukraine president says will not respond to Russian provocations

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World3 hours ago (Feb 19, 2022 01:01PM ET)

Ukraine president says will not respond to Russian provocations© Reuters. U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy during the Munich Security Conference, in Munich, Germany, February 19, 2022. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTERS

By Sabine Siebold and Matthias Williams

MUNICH/KYIV (Reuters) -Reports that Ukraine has been shelling regions controlled by Moscow-backed separatists and inside the Russian border are “pure lies”, Ukraine’s president said on Saturday, adding that his country would not respond to provocations.

President Voldymyr Zelenskiy was addressing senior Western security officials at the annual Munich Security Conference amid reports of explosions inside Russian territory to Ukraine’s east, and in breakaway regions of Ukraine.

“What was shown yesterday in the temporarily occupied territories, some shells allegedly flying from our side, some flying all the way to Rostov, these are pure lies,” he said. “They are blowing up something on their side.”

He urged Western countries not to wait for a possible Russian invasion to impose sanctions on Russia.

Russia, which has massed some 150,000 troops along Ukraine’s eastern borders, has said that for its own long-term security it needs a commitment that Kyiv will never join the NATO military alliance.

But leaders of Western countries, which believe Russia is preparing a possible invasion of Ukraine, said Russia would face severe consequences if it attacked, warning Moscow against attempts to redraw Europe’s borders.

“National borders should not be changed by force,” U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said.

“We have prepared economic measures that will be swift, severe, and united,” she said. “We will target Russia’s financial institutions and key industries.”

Both Ukraine and NATO members have refused to rule out Kyiv one day joining the alliance, though few expect that soon.

But, referring to an explosion at a kindergarten in the occupied east, Zelenskiy urged delegates not to let the rhetoric obscure the plight of ordinary people.

“Those kids aren’t heading towards NATO. They are heading to their classrooms,” he said.

‘DABBLING IN HISTORY’

Many delegates at the conference called for a de-escalation by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who on Saturday presided over a nuclear preparedness exercise involving firing ballistic missiles.

“History has not yet been written: there is an exit that the Russian government can choose at any time,” said German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock after a meeting of Western foreign ministers.

“Our common message to them is very clear: Don’t make this fatal mistake. Withdraw your troops … Let’s talk.”

She said Western countries had agreed tailor-made sanctions packages that were ready to go in the case of various scenarios, including if Russia created a pretext for an invasion by accusing Ukraine of aggression.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Putin appeared to be guided by a particular understanding of history in his approach to Ukraine, but warned that down that path lay endless conflict.

“Putin has clearly been dabbling lately in Russian history,” Scholz said, pointing to Putin’s published texts lamenting the collapse of the Soviet Union and demise of “historical Russia” as well as his talks with the Russian leader this week.

He also dismissed Putin’s talk of a genocide in east Ukraine as “ridiculous”.

The Russian foreign ministry retorted that Scholz’s remark was “unacceptable”, according to Interfax news agency.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, whose country and Russia are diplomatically aligned, had harsh words for all sides in the dispute, seeing a revived “Cold War mentality” in the confrontation.

He said no country, not even a superpower, should replace international norms with its own will.

But British Prime Minister Boris Johnson drew a parallel between Russia’s intentions towards Ukraine and China’s towards Taiwan, arguing that Western leaders had a duty to be firm. [L8N2UU0AS]

“If Ukraine is invaded, the shock will echo around the world. And those echoes will be heard in east Asia and will be heard in Taiwan,” he said. “People would draw the conclusion that aggression pays, and that might is right.”

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

World Bank readies $350 million Ukraine disbursement, pledges more support

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Economy18 hours ago (Feb 19, 2022 02:05PM ET)

World Bank readies $350 million Ukraine disbursement, pledges more support© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A participant stands near a logo of World Bank at the International Monetary Fund – World Bank Annual Meeting 2018 in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, October 12, 2018. REUTERS/Johannes P. Christo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The World Bank Group on Saturday said it is readying a $350 million disbursement to Ukraine that the group’s board will consider by the end of March as part of a plan for short- and long-term financing for the country.

In a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday, World Bank President David Malpass said the group will continue to support the Ukrainian people and economy for short- and long-term financing needs, the group said in a statement.

The leaders met in Munich as Russia’s strategic nuclear forces held exercises overseen by President Vladimir Putin and Washington accused Russian troops near Ukraine’s border’s of being “poised to strike”.

The initial funds from the World Bank would be followed by further budget support and more reforms, including in the energy and climate areas, the statement said. Malpass and Zelenskiy also discussed a pipeline of projects for Ukraine, including energy efficiency, infrastructure, railways, and strengthening the economy and job opportunities in eastern Ukraine.

On Monday, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund said they had temporarily relocated some staff from Ukraine amid rising concerns about a potential Russian invasion, even as their lending to and support work for the country continued.

Over the last year, the World Bank has suspended operations with several countries where coups were staged, including Myanmar and Sudan.

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Canadian police arrest dozens to sweep protesters from parliament area

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Coronavirus6 hours ago (Feb 19, 2022 08:37PM ET)

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Canadian police arrest dozens to sweep protesters from parliament area© Reuters. A truck leaves the Parliament Hill area, as truckers and their supporters continue to protest against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine mandates, in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, February 18, 2022. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

2/5

By Steve Scherer and Carlos Osorio

OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canadian police on Saturday used pepper spray and stun grenades, and made dozens of arrests as they cleared demonstrators from the street in front of parliament, where they have been camping for more than three weeks to protest against pandemic restrictions.

A total of 170 arrests have been made in two days, Ottawa’s interim police chief, Steve Bell, told reporters. Police by afternoon had dispersed the main portion of the blockade in front of parliament and the prime minister’s office.

After nightfall, police sent a message on Twitter (NYSE:) to demonstrators saying: “Get out of the cold and cease further unlawful activity” or risk arrest.

City crews were now engaged in cleaning up and towing away remaining vehicles, Bell told a news conference. But other pockets around the city had yet to be cleared, and there was a risk that demonstrators might change location, he said.

“We are aware of protesters leaving the parliamentary precinct moving to surrounding neighborhoods. We are not going anywhere until you have your streets back,” Bell said, addressing Ottawa citizens.

Using bullhorns, police warned the crowd to disperse or face arrest. For a second day, police also urged protesters to remove young children from the area.

“This is dangerous and is putting young children at risk,” Bell said.

Protest organizers for the so-called Freedom Convoy said they had asked trucks to withdraw because of what they called heavy-handed police tactics, and many trucks did exit the downtown core on Saturday. Fifty-three vehicles have been towed, police said.

Officers smashed vehicle windows to arrest people locked inside. Some of those arrested on Saturday wore body armor and had smoke grenades and other fireworks in their bags and vehicles, police said.

Police confirmed the use of stun grenades and pepper spray. Protesters threw smoke canisters, but no tear gas has been used, police said.

As part of the ongoing protests, several border blockades had been put in place in recent weeks, but all had reopened until Saturday, when demonstrators again closed the Pacific Coast Highway border crossing south of Vancouver.

Many of the main organizers in Ottawa have been taken into custody, and some have reportedly left. On Saturday, organizers said on Twitter they were “shocked at the abuses of power by the law enforcement in Ottawa” and so had “asked our truckers to move from Parliament Hill to avoid further brutality.”

The protest organizers said protesters had been “horse-trampled” on Friday, which police deny.

“We hear your concern for people on the ground after the horses dispersed a crowd. Anyone who fell got up and walked away. We’re unaware of any injuries,” police said on Twitter.

The protesters initially wanted an end to cross-border COVID-19 vaccine mandates for truck drivers, but the blockade has gradually turned into a demonstration against the government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“This is our final stand. … When it ends, it ends and it’s in God’s hands,” said Jeremy Glass, a protester from Shelburne, Ontario.

Trudeau on Monday invoked emergency powers to give his government wider authority to stop the protests. He authorized banks and financial institutions to temporarily freeze the accounts of those suspected of supporting the blockades, without obtaining a court order.

“An ongoing effort to blockade that port of entry (south of Vancouver) really shows why the Emergencies Act continues to be a necessity,” Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp on Saturday.

Financial services providers have used the emergency powers to freeze at least 76 accounts with a total of C$3.2 million ($2.5 million), Mendicino told reporters earlier in the day.

The federal government said on Saturday it would provide up to C$20 million to Ottawa businesses that have suffered losses due to the blockades.

Debate in parliament over the emergency powers resumed on Saturday, and a final vote is scheduled for Monday. Trudeau’s Liberals and opposition New Democrats have indicated their support, which should ensure its passage.

Protesters, who have been filmed by police, will be held accountable, Bell said.

“If you are involved in this protest, we will actively look to identify you and follow up with financial sanctions and criminal charges. … This investigation will go on for months to come.”

($1 = 1.2749 Canadian dollars)

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Putin oversees nuclear drills, U.S. says Russian forces ‘poised to strike’ Ukraine

6/6

Putin oversees nuclear drills, U.S. says Russian forces 'poised to strike' Ukraine© Reuters. A satellite image shows new helicopter and su25 aircraft deployments, in Millerovo, Russia February 18, 2022. Maxar Technologies/Handout via REUTERS

2/6

By Polina Nikolskaya and Tom Balmforth

DONETSK, Ukraine/MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia’s strategic nuclear forces held exercises overseen by President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, and Washington accused Russian troops massed near Ukraine’s border of advancing and being “poised to strike”.

With Western fears of war rising, the White House said U.S President Joe Biden’s national security team told him they still believed Russia could launch an attack in Ukraine “at any time” and he planned to convene his top advisers on Sunday to discuss the crisis.

Foreign ministers from the G7 group of rich nations said they had seen no evidence Russia is reducing its military activity in the area and remained “gravely concerned” about the situation.

After Kyiv and Moscow traded accusations over new shelling near the border, France and Germany urged all or some of their citizens in Ukraine to leave. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Russian forces were beginning to “uncoil and move closer” to the border.

“We hope he (Putin) steps back from the brink of conflict,” Austin told a news conference in Lithuania, saying an invasion of Ukraine was not inevitable.

Russia ordered the military build-up while demanding NATO prevent Ukraine from ever joining the alliance but says Western warnings that it is planning to invade Ukraine are hysterical and dangerous. Moscow says it is pulling back, but Washington and allies say the build-up is mounting.

Washington and NATO say Moscow’s main demands are non-starters, but in Ukraine fears are growing over Putin’s plans.

Venting his frustration at a security conference in Munich, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the global security architecture was “almost broken”. He urged the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Germany and Turkey to meet to draw up new security guarantees for his country.

“The rules that the world agreed on decades ago no longer work,” Zelenskiy said. “They do not keep up with new threats … This is a cough syrup when you need a coronavirus vaccine.”

World Bank President David Malpass told Zelenskiy on Saturday the bank was readying funding to Ukraine of up to $350 million.

HYPERSONIC AND CRUISE MISSILES

The Kremlin said Russia successfully test-launched hypersonic and cruise missiles at sea during the nuclear forces drills. Putin observed the exercises on screens with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko from a “situation centre”.

In his most pointed prediction so far, Biden said on Friday he was convinced that Putin has made the decision to invade Ukraine in the coming days, and Austin said on Saturday the nuclear forces exercises were stoking concerns around the world.

“President Biden continues to monitor the evolving situation in Ukraine, and is being updated regularly about events on the ground by his national security team,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “They reaffirmed that Russia could launch an attack against Ukraine at any time.”

G7 foreign ministers called on Russia to choose the path of diplomacy. “As a first step, we expect Russia to implement theannounced reduction of its military activities along Ukraine’sborders. We have seen no evidence of this reduction,” they said in a statement.

Zelenskiy said he had an “urgent” phone conversation with French President Emmanuel Macron and discussed possible ways of immediate de-escalation and political-diplomatic settlement. Macron is due to speak with Putin on Sunday.

The nuclear drills follow manoeuvres by Russia’s armed forces in the past four months that have included a build-up of troops — estimated by the West to number 150,000 or more — to the north, east and south of Ukraine.

New helicopters and a battle group deployment of tanks, armoured personnel carriers and support equipment have been moved to sites in Russia near the border, according to U.S.-based Maxar Technologies (NYSE:), which tracks developments with satellite imagery.

Moscow-based analysts said Saturday’s exercises were aimed at sending a message to take Russia’s demands seriously.

“Ignoring Russia’s legitimate rights in this area adversely affects the stability not only on the European continent, but also in the world,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted by his ministry as telling his French counterpart by phone.

A NATO official said the alliance relocated staff from Kyiv to the western city of Lviv and to Brussels for safety reasons. The United States and other countries have moved diplomats to Lviv.

SHELLING ALLEGATIONS

Russian-backed rebels seized a swathe of eastern Ukraine and Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Kyiv says more than 14,000 people have been killed in the conflict in the east.

Separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine have declared a full military mobilisation after ordering women and children to evacuate to Russia, citing the threat of an imminent attack by Ukrainian forces, which Kyiv denied.

Kyiv and Western leaders say the mobilisation, evacuation and increased shelling are part of a Russian plan to create a pretext for an invasion.

Russia’s FSB security service said two shells landed on Russian territory near the border, Russia’s Tass news agency reported.

Ukraine’s military accused Russia of faking pictures of shells to make out they were Ukrainian, and said mercenaries had arrived in separatist-held eastern Ukraine to stage provocations in collaboration with Russian special forces.

Ukraine’s foreign minister demanded an independent international investigation of the alleged incidents and the military said two soldiers had been killed in shelling by pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine.

The two Russian-backed, self-proclaimed republics in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions were hit by more than 1,400 explosions on Friday, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said. And almost 2,000 ceasefire violations were registered in the area by OSCE monitors on Saturday, a diplomatic source told Reuters.

Multiple explosions were heard overnight into Sunday in the centre of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, a Reuters reporter said. The blasts’ origin was not clear. There was no immediate comment from separatist authorities or Kyiv.

“It’s really scary. I’ve taken everything I could carry,” said Tatyana, 30, who was boarding a bus with her 4-year-old daughter.

Russian news agencies said 10,000 evacuees had arrived in Russia. Separatist leaders say they aim to evacuate 700,000 people.

White House says Russia could launch an attack against Ukraine at any time

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World6 hours ago (Feb 19, 2022 06:40PM ET)

White House says Russia could launch an attack against Ukraine at any time© Reuters. Reservists take part in a tactical training and individual combat skills conducted by the Territorial Defense of the Capital in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 19, 2022. REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House on Saturday said that Russia could launch an attack against Ukraine at any time and said U.S. President Joe Biden will convene a National Security Council meeting on Sunday to discuss the situation.

Russia’s strategic nuclear forces held exercises overseen by President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, and Washington accused Russian troops massed near Ukraine’s border of advancing and being “poised to strike.”

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Helicopter crashes into waves off crowded Miami beach

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World13 hours ago (Feb 19, 2022 07:15PM ET)

Helicopter crashes into waves off crowded Miami beach© Reuters. A view of a helicopter crashing into the ocean in Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, U.S., February 19, 2022, in this still image obtained from social media video. Courtesy of Miami Beach Police Department/@MiamiBeachPD/via REUTERS

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Federal agencies are investigating the crash of a helicopter with three passengers into the Atlantic Ocean close to swimmers and sun bathers in Miami Beach, Florida, on Saturday.

A Robinson R44 helicopter plunged into the ocean close to a crowded beach at 1:20 p.m. local time, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The agency is investigating the cause of the crash with the National Transportation Safety Board.

The Miami Beach police and fire departments responded to the scene and said on Twitter (NYSE:) that two of the passengers were transported to a local hospital “in stable condition.”

Video footage of the crash showed the helicopter diving into an area that was full of swimmers.

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

Exclusive-Trump’s Truth Social app set for release Monday in Apple App Store, per executive

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Stock Markets17 hours ago (Feb 20, 2022 11:00AM ET)

Exclusive-Trump's Truth Social app set for release Monday in Apple App Store, per executive© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., November 4, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

By Julia Love and Helen Coster

(Reuters) -Donald Trump’s new social media venture, Truth Social, appears set to launch in Apple (NASDAQ:)’s App Store on Monday, according to posts from an executive on a test version viewed by Reuters, potentially marking the return of the former president to social media on the U.S. Presidents Day holiday.

In a series of posts late on Friday, a verified account for the network’s chief product officer, listed as Billy B., answered questions on the app from people invited to use it during its test phase. One user asked him when the app, which has been available this week for beta testers, would be released to the public, according to screenshots viewed by Reuters.

“We’re currently set for release in the Apple App store for Monday Feb. 21,” the executive responded.

The launch would restore Trump’s presence on social media more than a year after he was banned from Twitter Inc (NYSE:), Facebook (NASDAQ:) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:) Inc’s YouTube following the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters, after he was accused of posting messages inciting violence.

On Feb. 15 Trump’s eldest son Donald Jr. posted on Twitter a screenshot of his father’s verified @realDonaldTrump Truth Social account with one post, or “truth,” that he uploaded on Feb. 14: “Get Ready! Your favorite President will see you soon!”

Led by former Republican U.S. Representative Devin Nunes, Trump Media & Technology Group (TMTG), the venture behind Truth Social, will join a growing portfolio of technology companies that are positioning themselves as champions of free speech and hope to draw users who feel their views are suppressed on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. So far none of the companies, which include Twitter competitors Gettr and Parler and video site Rumble, have come close to matching the popularity of their mainstream counterparts.

“This week we will begin to roll out on the Apple App Store. That’s going to be awesome, because we’re going to get so many more people that are going to be on the platform,” Nunes said in a Sunday appearance on Fox News’ ‘Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo’.

“Our goal is, I think we’re going to hit it, I think by the by the end of March we’re going to be fully operational at least within the United States,” he added.

In addition to the post disclosing Monday’s launch date, the screenshots seen by Reuters show the app is now at version 1.0, suggesting it has reached a level ready for public release. As late as Wednesday, it was at version 0.9, according to two people with access to that version.

A representative for TMTG did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple’s App Store listing indicates that Truth Social is expected to be released on Feb. 21, a date that a source familiar with the venture confirmed in January. But in recent weeks Nunes had said publicly that the app would launch by the end of March.

On Friday, Nunes was on the app urging users to follow more accounts, share photos and videos and participate in conversations, in an apparent attempt to drum up activity, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

Among Nunes’ posts, he welcomed a new user who appeared to be a Catholic priest and encouraged him to invite more priests to join, according to the person with knowledge of the matter.

NO WAY TO EDIT ‘TRUTHS’

The chief product officer’s other responses during Friday’s question-and-answer session suggested the startup’s features would resemble those of Twitter.

Asked whether users would be able to edit their “truths,” the executive replied “not yet.” The ability to edit posts after publication is something Twitter users have long sought.

The next significant feature released on the platform will be direct messages, or DMs, between users, the executive wrote.

The company is also considering allowing users to sign up to receive notifications when others post content, the executive said. He signaled that the ability to block other users would be an important component.

“There will always be block functionality in the app,” he wrote.

Truth Social will issue a policy on verified accounts “in the coming weeks,” the executive added.

Even as details of the app begin trickling out, TMTG remains mostly shrouded in secrecy and is regarded with skepticism by some in tech and media circles. It is unclear, for example, how the company is funding its current growth.

TMTG is planning to list in New York through a merger with blank-check firm Digital World Acquisition Corp (DWAC), and stands to receive $293 million in cash that DWAC holds in a trust, assuming no DWAC shareholder redeems their shares, TMTG said in an Oct. 21 press release.

Additionally, in December TMTG raised $1 billion committed financing from private investors; that money also will not be available until the DWAC deal closes.

Digital World’s activities have come under scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, according to a regulatory filing, and the deal is likely months away from closing.

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Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.

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