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Russia-China move to evade sanctions

Russian banks bleed

Many attempts at peace-making seem to be on, without any obvious results. Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, setting aside the religious shabat, undertook a trip to Russia on Saturday where he met with Vladimir Putin for over three hours at the Kremlin. He has since spoken several times by phone with Ukrainian President Zelensky, a descendant of holocaust survivors, as well as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. At the outset, Bennett had declared his moral duty to try and play peacemaker, even though he himself wasn’t convinced of high possibilities of success. Israel has common cause with Russia on the Iran agreement, as Israel does not want the agreement signed and Russia, a long time Iran friend and supporter could be damaged if Iran is allowed to sell its oil and gas in the international markets while it is under strict sanctions. Turkish President Erdogan and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have also called for a ceasefire, which looks unlikely. “Even bigger miscalculation by the West was not China’s actions (the #Dragonbear) to support Russia, but India’s stance on Russia’s war against Ukraine. India is looking after its own geopolitical interests in the midst of the greatest recalibration of the global order since 1945.” tweeted Velina Tchakarova, Director of AIES. While its reported that Sberbank, Russia’s largest lender, is exploring the relaunch of the MIR card system in partnership with China’s UnionPay to replace Visa and Mastercard which stopped operating in Russia due to US sanctions.

Nilson estimate of Unionpay global marketshare

In 2015 Russia had created an alternative, the Mir (Мир = Peace) payment system. In 2021 52% of Russians own a MIRcard which has 32% of payment cards market share in Russia and 23 foreign banks are members of Mir system. Unionpay has 32% of the global payment market share and is already ahead of Mastercard in transactions. This move will no doubt benefit China, with Unionpay potentially overtaking Visa.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is now losing his patience with Western leaders. Zelensky renews his demand for Western powers to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent Russian attacks.

“We repeat every day: close the sky over Ukraine. Close for all Russian missiles, for Russian combat aircraft, for all their terrorists,” he says.

“If you don’t, if you don’t give us at least planes so we can protect ourselves, there’s only one thing to conclude: you want us to be killed very slowly.” This is while US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken says the United States is “working actively” on a deal with Poland to supply Ukraine with jets.

“Can’t speak to a timeline but I can just say we’re looking at it very, very actively,” he told reporters during a visit to Moldova. Blinken met his Ukrainian counterpart Dymytro Kuleba at the Polish-Ukrainian border yesterday, as a show of solidarity.

Blinken says the US is “in very active conversation with Ukrainian officials… to get an up-to-the-minute assessment of their needs.”

“As we get that assessment, we are working on seeing what we and allies and partners can deliver” to bolster Kyiv’s defences against the Russian invasion, he said.

“We are looking actively now at the question of airplanes that Poland may provide to Ukraine and looking at how we might be able to backfill should Poland decide to supply those planes.”

Multiple US news outlets reported yesterday that US officials told them of the possible deal, in which Poland would send Soviet-era aircraft to Ukraine in return for American F-16 fighter jets. Meanwhile gas and oil continued to skyrocket in Europe, with diesel and petrol crossing 2 euros/litre at the pump.