Russia warns EU of soaring energy prices

The Ukrainian president's economic adviser also played down the risks of the hryvnia devaluating further, despite the Russian invasion of the country.

Russian flag (photo credit: REUTERS)
Russian flag
(photo credit: REUTERS)

The European Union faces soaring energy prices in the wake of sanctions imposed against Moscow over events in Ukraine, Interfax quoted a Russian foreign ministry official as saying on Saturday.

Nikolai Kobrinets said Russia was a reliable supplier of energy, but was ready for a tough confrontation in the sector if necessary. He did not provide details of what that confrontation might entail.

He said the situation on global energy markets would lead to the EU paying at least three times more for oil, gas and electricity.

"I believe the European Union would not benefit from this - we have more durable supplies and stronger nerves," Kobrinets told Interfax.

Italy seizes Russian oligarch Melnichenko's Sailing Yacht A

Italian police have seized a superyacht from Russian billionaire Andrey Igorevich Melnichenko, the prime minister's office said on Saturday, a few days after the businessman was placed on an EU sanctions list following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

 A member of the Ukrainian military walks, amid Russia's invasion in Ukraine, near Kyiv, Ukraine March 8, 2022. (credit: Anna Kudriavtseva/Reuters) A member of the Ukrainian military walks, amid Russia's invasion in Ukraine, near Kyiv, Ukraine March 8, 2022. (credit: Anna Kudriavtseva/Reuters)

The 143-meter (470-foot) Sailing Yacht A, which has a price tag of 530 million euros ($578 million), has been sequestered at the northern port of Trieste, the government said.

Designed by Philippe Starck and built by Nobiskrug in Germany, the vessel is the world's biggest sailing yacht, the government said.

Melnichenko owned major fertilizer producer EuroChem Group and coal company SUEK. The companies said in statements on Thursday that he had resigned as a member of the board in both companies and withdrawn as their beneficiary, effective Wednesday.

A spokesperson for Melnichenko, Alex Andreev, said the businessman had "no relation to the tragic events in Ukraine. He has no political affiliations."

"There is no justification whatsoever for placing him on the EU sanctions list," Andreev said. "We will be disputing these baseless and unjustified sanctions, and believe that the rule of law and common sense will prevail.

Last week Italian police seized villas and yachts worth 143 million euros ($156 million) from five high-profile Russians who have been placed on the sanctions list.

The police operations were part of a coordinated drive by Western states to penalize wealthy Russians they say are linked to President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine official plays down risks of hryvnia devaluating further

The Ukrainian president's economic adviser on Saturday played down the risks of the hryvnia devaluating further, despite the Russian invasion of the country.

Oleg Ustenko told local media that Ukraine's budget was fully funded and that the country's foreign exchange reserves of $27.5 billion would be replenished. Ukraine has secured emergency financing from the International Monetary Fund and other institutions to support its economy during the war.

Russian forces have shelled major Ukrainian cities, including Kyiv and Kharkiv, hit critical infrastructure and disrupted shipping routes through the Black Sea.

Ustenko has previously said that invading Russian forces have so far destroyed at least $100 billion worth of infrastructure, buildings and other physical assets.

Swiss banks giving hourly reports on frozen Russian assets

Swiss banks are giving hourly updates on progress in implementing sanctions against Russian individuals and companies, Economy Minister Guy Parmelin said, and the government intends to report soon on the amount frozen.

Switzerland has adopted sanctions imposed by the European Union on Russian people and firms in a sharp deviation from its traditional neutrality, ordering that assets be frozen in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"Every hour we get a lot of reports from banks, from financial intermediaries, from insurance companies, and we want to report very soon," Parmelin told SRF radio, adding that it was a "bit too early" to say how much had been frozen so far.

Russians held nearly 10.4 billion Swiss francs ($11.13 billion) in Switzerland in 2020, Swiss National Bank data show.

Bern has largely steered clear of imposing sanctions in previous crises, including when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

The exception until this year has been sanctions imposed by the UN Security Council, which Switzerland has to implement under international law.

Asked whether by imposing sanctions Switzerland had lost its political neutrality, Parmelin said: "We remain neutral."