(Bloomberg) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited front-line positions near the besieged city of Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, a focus of fierce battles with the Russian army in recent months. Later he visited Kharkiv, his country’s second-largest city.
Zelenskiy earlier condemned what he called “murderous” Russian strikes on Ukraine overnight using Iranian drones, as well as fresh missile attacks and shelling. He dismissed any talk of a possible cease-fire coming from the Kremlin after President Vladimir Putin’s meeting in Moscow with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping.
“Every time someone tries to hear the word ‘peace’ in Moscow, another order is given there for such criminal strikes,” Zelenskiy said in a tweet. Ukraine’s General Staff said there had been a “massive” drone attack on the country, with the State Emergency Service reporting that a strike in Rzhyshchiv killed at least eight people and wounded nine.
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(All times CET)
US Wary of Fallout From China’s Peace Overture (5:30 a.m.)
Xi Jinping’s meetings in Moscow with Vladimir Putin put the Biden administration in an uncomfortable position: on the sidelines as two adversaries discuss a Ukraine peace proposal that the US has deemed unacceptable.
US officials have publicly expressed deep skepticism about the Chinese idea, saying its call for a cease-fire would reward Moscow’s invasion by cementing its territorial gains. Privately, though, the meetings and the proposal have provoked a sense of unease within the administration, leading in turn to questions about the broader US approach to the two countries.
According to one administration official, who asked not to be identified discussing internal deliberations, the US is worried about being backed into a corner over the Chinese proposal. Regardless of the US reservations, dismissing it outright could let China argue to other nations that are weary of the war — and of the economic damage it’s wreaking — that Washington isn’t interested in peace.
Zelenskiy Visits Kharkiv and Is Briefed on Rebuilding (7:09 p.m.)
Visiting Kharkiv in Ukraine’s northeast, Zelenskiy was briefed on the rebuilding of areas that had been partially occupied by Russian troops for more than six months last year. The city remains under constant shelling.
He was briefed on rebuilding of the de-occupied areas and construction of fortifications as well as discussing the restoration of power supplies to all of Kharkiv region’s locations, according to emailed statement from his office.
Drone Attack Kills at Least Seven in Kyiv Region (6:15 p.m.)
At least seven people were killed in night drone attack on Rzhyshchiv in the Kyiv region, Interfax-Ukraina reported, citing region Police chief Andriy Nebitov. Nine more people were injured. Dormitories and an educational institution were damaged. Rescue teams were on the scene, sorting out the rubble. Officials laster said the death toll had climbed to at least eight people.
World Bank Sees Ukraine’s Recovery Needs at $411 Billion (5:51 p.m.)
The World Bank has increased its estimate of how much Ukraine will need for its recovery and reconstruction to at least $411 billion, based on damages inflicted during the first year of Russia’s invasion.
The new figure, from a joint assessment by the bank, the government of Ukraine, the European Commission and the United Nations, is equivalent to 2.6 times Ukraine’s projected 2022 gross domestic product. The assessment also found that the invasion pushed 7.1 million people into poverty and reversed 15 years of development progress.
Blinken Cites ‘Acute’ Threat From Russia (4:20 p.m.)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told senators that the State Department needs its full budget request to tackle “the immediate, acute threat posed by Russia’s autocracy and aggression” and “the long-term challenge from the People’s Republic of China.”
But senators said the 11% budget increase sought for the department and the US Agency for International Development will be a tough sell, especially in the Republican-led House. The appearance before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee opened Blinken’s round of appearances before lawmakers to defend proposed spending for the year that begins Oct. 1.
Ukraine to Allow Foreign Investors to Repatriate Coupon Payments (3:15 p.m.)
Ukraine will allow foreign investors holding domestic government bonds to repatriate coupon payments abroad starting on April 1, the central bank said in a statement on its website.
The decision, discussed with the IMF, won’t put significant pressure on Ukraine’s reserves, the central bank said. A decision on repatriating principal payments has been postponed until there is “a significant easing of security and macroeconomic risks.”
Russia Says Gold Stash Grew During War (3:02 p.m.)
Russia’s gold holdings jumped by 1 million troy ounces over the last year as the central bank bought the metal amid sanctions on its reserves imposed by the US and its allies over the invasion of Ukraine.
The Bank of Russia said it held 74.9 million ounces of gold at the end of February, unchanged from the previous month and up from 73.9 million a year earlier. Over the same period, total holdings of foreign exchange and gold dropped to $574 billion from $617 billion.
Deadly Missile Strike Hits Apartment Building in Zaporizhzhia (2:23 p.m.)
Russian forces killed at least one civilian and wounded 17 more, including two children, in a missile strike on a multi-story residential building in the southwestern Ukrainian city, regional Governor Yuriy Malashko said on television. It was one of six rockets launched at Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday, he said.
Zelenskiy Thanks Troops Near Bakhmut (12:20 p.m.)
“I am honored to be here today, in the east of our country, in Donbas, and to reward our heroes, to thank you, to shake hands,” Zelenskiy told Ukrainian troops near Bakhmut, according to an emailed statement from his office.
He also posted a video on social media of what he said was the moment a Russian missile struck a residential building in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday. “Russia is shelling the city with bestial savagery,” Zelenskiy said.
Xi’s Moscow Visit Worries Poland (11:45 a.m.)
Xi’s visit to Moscow “makes us concerned,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said in Warsaw after meeting Fumio Kishida, his Japanese counterpart.
“This Chinese-Russian axis is dangerous,” Morawiecki said. “We’re trying to convince China not to support Russia in its aggressive international policy,” he said, adding that he discussed with Kishida how to convince “countries of the South” not to support the Kremlin.
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