1. Russia’s Defense Ministry announced the start of a pullback of some forces after drills that raised U.S. and European alarm about a possible military assault on Ukraine. The Kremlin has consistently denied it plans an attack. Units of the Western and Southern military districts on Tuesday will begin returning to permanent bases after completing exercises, the Interfax news service reported, citing the Defense Ministry in Moscow. (Source: bloomberg.com)
2. U.S. officials said that the Russian forces near Ukraine had grown to 105 battalion tactical groups, up from 83 groups earlier this month. Russia has also moved about 500 combat aircraft within range of Ukraine and has 40 combat ships in the Black Sea, said U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports. In a carefully choreographed scene broadcast on Russian television, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told President Vladimir Putin that the West was ignoring the Kremlin’s core security demands, but that Moscow should continue negotiations. “It seems to me that our possibilities are far from exhausted,” Mr. Lavrov told the Russian leader. “I would propose continuing and intensifying them.” “Good,” Mr. Putin replied. (Source: wsj.com)
3. Russian legislators today will consider proposals urging President Vladimir Putin to formally recognize the separatist-controlled regions of eastern Ukraine as independent states, in a move that could justify Moscow’s incursion into an area it no longer considers to be Ukrainian territory. The State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, yesterday said it would consider draft resolutions submitted by the ruling United Russia party and Russia’s Communist Party calling on Mr. Putin to acknowledge the sovereignty of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in Ukraine’s Donbas region. (Source: wsj.com)
4. While the Ukraine crisis was raising anxiety about Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas, something remarkable happened. Last month, for the first time ever, U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe exceeded Russia’s pipeline deliveries. Russian exports, which normally account for about 30% of Europe’s gas use, dropped substantially because of Russian pricing. And with European gas prices about four times as high as normal, U.S. exports surged to fill the gap. The extraordinary growth in U.S. oil and gas production is a geopolitical and economic asset for the U.S. that contributes to global energy security. As the domestic oil-and-gas industry continues to rebound from the spring 2020 price collapse caused by the onset of Covid, the U.S. is again the world’s top oil producer—almost 20% above the other two largest producers, Saudi Arabia and Russia—and the world’s top natural-gas producer. (Source: wsj.com)
5. Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik says he remains determined to defy the west and win greater autonomy for ethnic Serbs in Bosnia, reversing years of gradual centralization he insists outsiders have forced on the country since the postwar settlement of the 1990s. Such a move could destabilize the entire western Balkans and risk plunging it back into violence, according to regional and western leaders. Asked if he was prepared to make good on his threat to withdraw the Serb Republic — one of two ethnically based entities that make up Bosnia — from national-level institutions, Dodik told the Financial Times in an interview: “Of course. I don’t think we should be taken lightly. We are fully convinced we are right.” (Source: ft.com)
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