Russia battles floods as Ural river swells; Moscow hits ‘critical’ Ukrainian infrastructure

Russia battles floods as Ural river swells; Moscow hits ‘critical’ Ukrainian infrastructure

This was CNBC’s live blog tracking developments on the war in Ukraine. See below for the latest updates.

Overnight attacks by Russia on Ukraine damaged infrastructure and private homes, regional officials from several regions across Ukraine said Friday. The Ukrainian army said on Telegram that 16 of the 17 drones Russia used in nighttime attacks had been destroyed.

That follows Thursday’s widespread attacks on energy infrastructure in Ukraine that left over 200,000 people without electricity.

Meanwhile, Russian authorities said on Telegram that five Ukrainian drones had been destroyed overnight in southern Russia.

In other news, water levels of the Ural river continued to rise in some parts of Russia, with a mass evacuation taking place in the city of Orenburg as water levels topped 11 meters. Orenburg’s mayor said on Telegram that the situation was “extremely dangerous” and “critical.”

However, in other towns that have been hit hard by the flood, including Orsk, which was initially one of the most affected areas, water levels fell overnight.

The Russian Foreign Ministry on Friday said it had summoned the French Ambassador to Russia, Pierre Levy, over comments made by French Foreign Minister Stephane Sejourne about communication between the two countries.

“It is not in our interest currently to hold discussions with Russian officials because the statements and the summaries issued about them are lies,” Sejourne told French media earlier in the week.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it told Levy that such comments were unacceptable as they “have nothing to do with reality,” according to a Google translation of the ministry’s statement.

“We regard these statements by the head of the French Foreign Ministry as a conscious and thoughtful action of the French side, aimed at undermining the very possibility of any dialogue between the two countries,” the statement said.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Belgium is investigating alleged Russian interference with the European Union election that is set to take place in June of this year, Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in a press conference on Friday.

Belgian intelligence services have confirmed that “pro-Russian interferences networks” exist and are active in various countries across Europe, he said.

“The objective is to help elect more pro-Russian candidates to the European Parliament and reinforce a certain pro-Russian narrative in that institution,” De Croo explained.

“The goal is very clear. A weakened European support for Ukraine serves Russia on the battlefield.”

Belgium’s investigation comes after Czech authorities found that pro-Russia agents were trying to influence European lawmakers in Brussels, he said.

The Permanent Mission of Russia to the European Union did not immediately reply to CNBC’s request for comment.

— Sophie Kiderlin

An unsuccessful peace deal — drafted in early 2022 by Russia — could be the basis for conflict resolution negotiations, Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday, according to Russian state media.

However he added that things have changed since the agreement was drafted and there are now “new realities” to take into account, according to a Google translatation.

In the early months of the war, Russia and Ukraine met for peace negotiations several times with the support of their allies. The talks were unsuccessful, however, with neither side bowing to the other’s demands or accepting their proposals for peace agreements.

Peskov on Friday also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was ready for further talks: “The president confirmed the readiness for dialogue, the readiness for negotiations yesterday.”

— Sophie Kiderlin

A mass evacuation took place in Russian city Orenburg on Friday, as flooding from the Ural river intensified to “critical” levels, local mayor Sergei Salmin said on Telegram.

“The flood situation in Orenburg is extremely dangerous. Over the past 10 hours, the water level in the Urals has risen by 40 cm and is now 1143,” he said, according to a Google Translation.

Sirens were sounding and were not a drill, Salmin said, appealing to citizens to evacuate and take essential items like documents and medicine with them.

— Sophie Kiderlin

U.S. national Russell Bentley is missing in Russian-controlled eastern Ukraine, Reuters reported, citing local police. Bentley went missing on April 8, and a search for him is ongoing, police said.

Bentley, who was born in 1960 and is from Texas, became publicly known for talking about liberating Ukraine from Nazis online and has supported Russian-backed troops in Donetsk. Russian state media have described him as a war correspondent.

According to Reuters, police did not provide further details about the circumstances of his disappearance.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Russia has expelled Slovenia’s top envoy from the country following summons, after Ljubljana first ejected a Russian diplomat in March.

In a Google-translated statement, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it declared Slovenia’s Ambassador to Moscow Darja Bavdaz Kuret “persona non grata,” under the principle of reciprocity.

A host country that decrees a diplomat “persona non grata” is effectively asking that they be recalled by their home country.

“We consider this next openly unfriendly step in the context of Ljubljana’s general course towards the destruction of Russian-Slovenian ties. Responsibility for the consequences of such a destructive policy lies entirely with the Slovenian side,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

On March 21, Slovenia’s Foreign Ministry said it pronounced an unspecified Russian diplomat “persona non grata” for performing “activities inconsistent with his diplomatic status,” according to a Google-translated statement.

Ruxandra Iordache

Paris-based watchdog, the International Energy Agency, is closely monitoring Ukraine’s strikes against Russian energy infrastructure, Toril Bosoni, head of its oil industry and markets division, told CNBC’s “Street Signs Europe” on Friday.

When asked about global energy security, Bosoni said, “We are watching, obviously, the Middle East very closely. The continued tanker attacks in the Red Sea is of key concern, but also escalating tensions between Iran and Israel, and then we’re seeing tensions between Russia and Ukraine continue, with attacks on Russian refineries.”

Earlier on Friday, a Russian official said Moscow’s forces had downed Ukrainian drones targeting the town of Novoshakhtinsk, which is home to a refinery that was previously forced to temporarily shut down in the wake of an attack from Kyiv.

Russia is one of the world’s largest producers of hydrocarbons, although Western and Group of Seven nations can no longer access seaborne deliveries of its oil and oil products, following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ruxandra Iordache

Russian air defense forces took down four enemy drones, near Novoshakhtinsk in the Rostov region, regional governor Vasily Golubev said in a Google-translated Telegram post.

CNBC could not independently verify developments on the ground.

The town houses the Novoshakhtinsk refinery, which Russian officials in March said was struck by Ukrainian drones, resulting in a temporary shutdown of operations.

Russian and Ukrainian energy and power infrastructure has been increasingly targeted in recent weeks, adding to global concerns over broader energy flows. Moscow is one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers.

Ruxandra Iordache

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect the March timing of the attack against the Novoshakhtinsk refinery.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will raise concerns about Beijing’s assistance to Russia during his trip to China, Reuters reported, citing German officials.

A critical trade partner of Moscow, China has been facing international pressure not to assist the Russian war effort in Ukraine. Beijing claims it is not involved in such a capacity.

The U.S. has increasingly signaled its readiness to introduce sanctions against Chinese institutions that are found to be aiding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Ruxandra Iordache

Water levels of the Ural river reached 11 meters and 29 centimeters on Friday in Russia’s Orenburg, Denis Pasler, the regional governor, said on Telegram.

In the two hours to 8:00 local time alone, water levels had increased by 6 centimeters, Pasler said, calling the situation “difficult,” according to a Google translation of his statement.

The Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations said work to limit the impact of the flood and reduce water levels in towns — including Orsk, which was one of the first places to be flooded as the Ural’s water levels began rising last week — was ongoing. Overnight, water levels in Orsk fell by 30 cm, the ministry said on Telegram.

Meanwhile, state media reported that people in the southwestern Kurgan region were evacuated early on Friday as water levels there rose by 1.4 meters overnight.

The Ural is Europe’s third-longest river and flows through Russia and Kazakhstan. Snow melt last week caused water levels to rise quickly, and the river has since burst through dams and its banks, flooding cities alongside it.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Overnight attacks from Russia damaged infrastructure facilities and private houses across Ukraine, officials said Friday.

The Ukrainian army said on Telegram that it had shot down 16 of the 17 drones Russia used in strikes overnight. Russia also deployed a Kh-59 guided air missile, the Ukrainian army said.

Serhiy Lysak, governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region in the east of Ukraine, said on Telegram that debris from a drone fell onto a “critical” infrastructure facility, starting a fire. Reuters reported that this was an energy facility. Several private houses were also damaged in the region, Lysak said.

Elsewhere, Kherson Governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on Telegram that fresh strikes on infrastructure and homes were recorded in the southern Ukrainian region.

CNBC could not independently verify the information.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Japan wants any handling of frozen Russian assets to abide by international law, its finance minister said on Friday, adding that the topic will likely be discussed at next week’s meeting of his counterparts from G7 advanced economies.

“I don’t think there is consensus yet among the countries on what to do with the frozen Russian assets,” Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki told a press conference.

“Japan’s stance is that it must be handled in a way that does not violate international law,” he said, suggesting Tokyo is cautious over the idea, floated by Washington, of confiscating frozen Russian assets outright — a move some experts warn could lead to legal disputes.

Suzuki is expected to travel to Washington D.C. next week to attend the G7 and Group of 20 finance leaders’ gatherings, to be held on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund spring meeting.

— Reuters

Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday passed a controversial new law that will give the government more power to mobilize society for war as the country continues to battle Russia’s onslaught.

The vote in favor of the legislation follows months of delays and must now be signed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to take effect.

— Sam Meredith

Russia and the U.S. are discussing non-deployment of nuclear weapons in space, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said Thursday, according to Russian state media agency Tass.

“Our delegations at the relevant international platforms, and above all in New York, where Washington – the US Administration – is promoting the topic of accusations against Russia, are indeed in contact and discussing this issue,” Ryabkov said in Google-translated comments.

Ryabkov said space could be used for military purposes but there should not be strikes there and Russia would work to keep space peaceful.

“We will work with the world majority in the interests of guaranteeing that space will remain peaceful, to achieve a situation where there will be no threat to anyone from there,” he said.

Earlier this year, tensions flared between Washington and Moscow over the risk of potential nuclear attacks in space. Russia at the time denied claims from the U.S. that it was developing nuclear weapons that would target satellites in space.

— Sophie Kiderlin

Russia said it had carried out a “massive” drone and missile attack on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in response to Ukrainian attacks on its oil and gas industry.

“In response to attempts by the Kiev regime to inflict damage on the oil and gas industry and energy facilities of Russia, Armed Forces of the Russian Federation launched a massive overnight strike with high-precision long-range air and sea-based weapons, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles, against facilities of the fuel and energy complex of Ukraine,” Russia’s Ministry of Defense said Thursday, according to a Google translation.

“The goals of the strike were fulfilled. All targets were hit,” the ministry added.

Early-morning Russian missile and drone attacks on several regions across Ukraine left thousands of civilians without power and damaged energy infrastructure, officials said Thursday.

Russia’s defense ministry said that, as a result of the attacks, the “operation of Ukrainian military industry enterprises was disrupted, the transfer of reserves to combat areas was disrupted, and the supply of fuel to military units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was hampered.”

CNBC could not confirm developments on the ground.

— Holly Ellyatt

Russia claims it foiled British-led ‘sabotage’ plot; 200,000 left without power after ‘massive’ attack


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