(Bloomberg) -- Vladimir Makei, Belarus foreign minister since 2012 and a former chief of staff to President Alexander Lukashenko, died suddenly at the age of 64. No cause of death or further details were provided by the foreign ministry.   

European officials pledged renewed support for Ukraine on the 90th anniversary of the Holomodor, the famine orchestrated by Soviet leader Joseph Stalin that killed millions of Ukrainians. Several traveled to Kyiv for a “Grain from Ukraine” meeting, while others, including Germany’s Olaf Scholz and Italy’s Giorgia Meloni, offered messages backing Ukraine. 

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and other top Ukrainian officials drew a direct line between the 1930s famine and Russia’s month-long campaign to wreck Ukraine’s electricity and power operations. “Once they wanted to destroy us with hunger, now -- with darkness and cold,” he said in a video posted on social media. “We cannot be broken. Our fire will not go out.”   

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Key Developments

  • EU Postpones Talks on Oil Price Cap as Divisions Stick 
  • Russia Drafts Decree Banning Oil Sales to Price-Cap Participants
  • Team of ‘17 and a Dog’ Stands Between Moldova and Energy Chaos 
  • Germany Rejects Polish Call to Send Patriot Missiles to Ukraine
  • Russian Oil Is Already Trading Far Below Europe’s Proposed Cap

On the Ground

Russian forces launched two missile attacks on Dnipro city, as well as four attacks with multiple launch rocket systems on Ukrainian positions and civilian areaas elsewhere, according to Ukraine’s General Staff in an evening update. Seven residential buildings were damaged and at least 13 people injured in Dnipro, the regional governor said. Russia fired 11 missiles and conducted seven air strikes and multiple rounds of shelling in the past day, primarily in the Kharkiv, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions, according to Ukraine’s General Staff. Russian forces continue to establish defenses south of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast and around critical ground lines of communication connecting Kherson to Crimea, the Institute for the Study of War. 

(All times CET)

Belarus Foreign Minister, Ally of Lukashenko, Dies Suddenly (4:30 p.m.)

Vladimir Makei, Belarusian foreign minister since 2012 and one of the longest-service officials in the circle of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, died suddenly at the age of 64, the ministry said in social media posts with no further detail. 

Makei was shown receiving Vatican envoy Ante Jozic in Minsk on Friday. Earlier in the week he attended the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization meeting in Armenia. Makei and Lukashenko had been scheduled to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Minsk on Monday. 

Makei presided over the foreign ministry during unprecedented repression in 2020 and as Belarus became a staging ground for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine this year. Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova expressed “deep shock” at Makei’s death. 

EC Commits to Fund Two Ships Under Ukraine Grain Initiative (4 p.m.)

The European Commission will pay to transport a total of 40,000 tons of grain under Ukraine’s new humanitarian initiative, President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.  

France will provide $6.2 million to help Ukraine ship food to Yemen and Sunday, President Emmanuel Macron said. 

More Power Back On, With Rationing Continuing (2:30 p.m.)

Power output was back up to 75% of the nation’s needs on Saturday morning, said the grid operator Ukrenergo. Supplies will continue to be rationed for now. Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, after a scolding from Zelenskiy, said the heat was on in more than 90% of residential buildings and that water is running again. Some 73% of Ukraine’s mobile networks are back in operation.

Ukraine Formally Launches Food Initiative for Poorest Countries (2 p.m.)

“Grain From Ukraine. Bravery Feeds the Planet” aims to send grain and agrarian products to the poorest nations of Africa and Asia. It’s already attracted funding of about $150 million and support from over 20 countries.

Zelenskiy hosted an international food summit in Kyiv on Saturday attended by the prime ministers of Belgium, Lithuania and Poland, as well as the president of Hungary. Several other leaders joined via video. 

“Food security is one of the elements of the Ukrainian peace formula”, Zelenskiy said. Among the countries that will receive Ukrainian cargoes are Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Kenya and Yemen, he said, helping more than one million people. 

Russia, Ukraine Make Another Prisoner Swap (1:30 p.m.)

Another 12 Ukrainian service members were released by Russia, Andriy Yermak, a top presidential aide, said on Twitter. 

The soldiers included those who served in Mariupol, at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, and on Snake Island, he said. Over the past week, 98 Ukrainian POWs were returned, Yermak said. 

The Russian defense ministry said nine of its servicemen were released, according to Interfax. No further details were offered. 

Russia Hastens ‘Demographic Change’ in Occupied Areas, ISW Says (11 a.m.)

Russian officials are continuing efforts to “stimulate demographic change” in illegally annexed areas by forcibly deporting Ukrainians, including children, and importing Russians to replace them, according to the Institute for the Study of War, citing various sources. 

The US-based military analysts said Moscow is offering Russian students free education on the condition that they complete their training in institutions in occupied territories. Separately, children from Ukraine’s Donbas region have been sent to Dagestan, about 1,000 kilometers away, for “rehabilitation.” 

All apartment buildings in Mariupol in Ukraine’s south are now “subject to evacuation and resettlement with Russian citizens and occupation-affiliated elements,” ISW said, citing comments this week by city officials. 

Russia Likely Firing ‘Unarmed’ Nuclear Missiles at Ukraine, UK Says (10:50 a.m.)

Russia is “likely removing the nuclear warheads from aging nuclear cruise missiles and firing the unarmed munitions at Ukraine,” the UK defense ministry said, citing a review of open source imagery of missiles that had been shot down. 

“Whatever Russia’s intent, this improvisation highlights the level of depletion in Russia’s stock of long-range missiles,” the ministry said in a Twitter thread, adding that the projectiles are “unlikely to achieve reliable effects against intended targets.” 

Zelenskiy Meets With Belgium PM (10:30 a.m.)

Ukraine’s president met with Belgium Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in Kyiv to discuss issues including the continuation of Belgium military support, provision of energy equipment and financing of the “Grain from Ukraine” initiative to provide food for the most vulnerable nations. 

The pair also signed a declaration confirming Belgium’s support for Ukraine’s move toward membership of the EU and NATO. 

Ukraine Prime Minister Meets with Lithuanian, Polish Counterparts (10 a.m.) 

Denys Shmyhal met early Saturday with the prime ministers of Poland and Lithuania, and expressed gratitude “for their readiness to intensify discussion on inviting Ukraine to negotiate its joining NATO,” he said on Twitter. 

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki “honored the memory of the Holomodor victims” while in Kyiv, Ukraine’s border guard service said. 

Top Officials Flock to Kyiv on Holomodor Anniversary (9 a.m.)

The Belgian prime minister, Alexander De Croo, and Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib have arrived in Kyiv, their first visit to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion, now into its tenth month. 

They’re just the first of a stream of dignitaries expected in Ukraine’s capital on Saturday, including the presidents of Poland and Lithuania, and Hungary’s prime minister. 

Saturday is Ukraine’s remembrance day for the Holomodor, the brutal famine orchestrated by the Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin in the 1930s. More countries, including Germany, Ireland, Moldova and Romany, have officially recognized the Holomodor as a genocide. 

Zelenskiy Expects ‘Quality Work’ From Kyiv Mayor (8:30 a.m.)

Ukraine’s president rapped the government in Kyiv for not doing enough to help citizens during ongoing power outages, saying that he expects “quality work from the mayor’s office.” 

In a nightly video address, Zelenskiy said that “unfortunately, not in all cities the local government has done a good job. In particular, there are many complaints in Kyiv.”

So-called “points of invincibility” deployed in the capital “need to be improved, to put it mildly. Please pay attention. Kyiv residents need more protection.” 

EU Promises Another 500 Million Euros, Zelenskiy Says (9:35 p.m.)

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly address that he agreed in a conversation with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on an additional 500 million euros ($520 million) in EU aid for the remainder of this year. 

He said they also discussed a support package for 2023 as well as more steps to support his country’s energy sector as it’s under attack by Russia.  

Zelenskiy once again asked citizens to conserve electricity, saying that usage “spikes” are being recorded every evening: “Please, if you have electricity, this does not mean that you can turn on several powerful electrical appliances at once.”

EU Postpones Talks on Oil Price Cap to Monday (6:20 p.m.)

European Union diplomats won’t meet on Friday or over the weekend to discuss the oil-price cap as divisions within the bloc remain entrenched, according to people familiar with the matter. 

The bloc has been locked in a fight over how strict the Group of Seven-led price cap should be. Countries like Poland objected to the EU executive arm’s proposal to set a $65 per barrel limit, saying it was too generous to Russia. Other nations, including Greece, don’t want to go below that level.

“If you put the price cap too high, it doesn’t really bite,” European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said in an interview on Bloomberg TV. “Oil is the biggest source of revenue for Russian budget, so it’s very important get this right so it really has an impact on Russia’s ability to finance this war.”

Read more: Russian Oil Is Already Trading Far Below Europe’s Proposed Cap

More Power Equipment Pledged for Ukraine, Von Der Leyen Says (5 p.m.)

The EU’s Emergency Response Coordination Center is preparing to help Ukraine “restore and maintain power and heating,” EC President von der Leyen said in a statement after speaking with President Zelenskiy. 

The latest pledges include 200 medium-sized transformers and a large autotransformer from Lithuania; a medium-sized autotransformer from Latvia; and 40 heavy generators -- each capable of powering a small- to medium-sized hospital -- from the rescEU reserve in Romania.  The US also pledged more generators.

Ukraine continues to suffer widespread blackouts after more than a month of Russian missile attacks on critical civilian infrastructure. Zelenskiy tweeted his response to the call:

Read more: Kremlin Faces Rising Ire From Wives, Mothers of Mobilized Troops    

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