Toll on civilians and global economy grows as war enters 6th week
By Megan Specia
Despite Russia’s promises to scale back its offensive in parts of Ukraine, the war ground on into its sixth week Thursday with no end in sight — and worrisome signs that its consequences for Ukrainian civilians and global economies were widening.
With most of the largest oil producers, including Russia, expected to take little action to increase production when they meet by teleconference Thursday, President Joe Biden is considering a plan to release 1 million barrels of oil a day for the next six months, a move that would ease global supply concerns and helped send oil prices lower Thursday morning.
The war’s ripple effects are continuing to spread. Diesel prices are soaring, Germany is taking steps toward rationing natural gas in anticipation of a potential cutoff of Russian deliveries, and the United Nations is forecasting the worst global hunger crisis in decades as the conflict constrains Ukrainian and Russian grain exports. The number of Ukrainian refugees has surpassed 4 million, half of them children.
Still, even as fighting rages, Ukrainian and Russian officials have signaled a willingness to keep negotiating. A member of Ukraine’s negotiating team said discussions between the two sides would resume via video link Friday, and the foreign minister of Turkey, which hosted talks this week, said that his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts could meet within weeks.
But mixed signals from Moscow about the prospects for a peace deal fed uncertainty about President Vladimir Putin’s willingness to end the war. The Kremlin’s spokesman Thursday played down expectations that Putin and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine would hold talks anytime soon, a meeting seen as a precursor to adopting any agreement.
Here are some other major developments:
— Ukrainian and U.S. officials said some Russian troops were moving away from Kyiv and Chernihiv, the two regions where Moscow vowed this week to sharply reduce attacks. But the officials suggested that Russian forces were repositioning or resupplying, not withdrawing from Ukraine.
— The International Committee of the Red Cross said a humanitarian corridor to allow residents to escape Mariupol could open Friday, after an announcement by Russia’s Defense Ministry that a cease-fire in the besieged southern city would start Thursday. Previous cease-fires have collapsed in the city, where thousands of residents are stuck with little access to food, water or electricity.
— A Russian attack Wednesday night destroyed an oil terminal in Dnipro, a local official said. The central city has become a hub for humanitarian aid to other parts of Ukraine.
— The Kremlin dismissed U.S. claims of intelligence suggesting that Putin’s aides have given him overly optimistic battlefield reports, describing it as a “complete misunderstanding.”