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U.S. says intel indicates pro-Ukrainian group sabotaged Nord Stream pipelines -NY Times



U.S. says intel indicates pro-Ukrainian group sabotaged Nord Stream pipelines -NY Times
© Reuters. A Ukrainian serviceman stands near a mortar on a front line, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, near the front line city of Bakhmut, Ukraine March 6, 2023. REUTERS/Anna Kudriavtseva


By Jonathan Landay, Simon Lewis and Olena Harmash

WASHINGTON/KYIV (Reuters) – New intelligence reviewed by U.S. officials indicates that a pro-Ukrainian group sabotaged the Nord Stream pipelines that carried from Russia to Europe, but they have found no evidence of Kyiv government involvement in the September 2022 attack, the New York Times reported on Tuesday.

The U.S. and NATO have called the attacks, which occurred seven months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and destroyed three of the four pipelines running under the Baltic Sea, “an act of sabotage”.

Moscow has blamed Ukraine’s Western supporters and has called on the U.N. Security Council to independently investigate. Neither side has provided evidence.

Citing U.S. officials, the New York Times said there was no evidence that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy or his top aides were involved in the operation or that the perpetrators were acting at the behest of any Ukrainian government officials.

White House spokesperson John Kirby (NYSE:) told reporters on Tuesday that Washington was waiting for ongoing investigations in Germany, Sweden and Denmark – all in the Baltic region – to conclude, “and only then should we be looking at what follow-on actions might or may not be appropriate”.

Responding to the report, senior Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told Reuters that the Kyiv government was “absolutely not involved” in the sabotage strike, and had no information about what had happened.

Russia’s deputy United Nations ambassador Dmitry Polyanskiy told Reuters the report proved Moscow’s push for the Security Council to set up an independent inquiry was “very timely” and it would seek a vote on a draft resolution by the end of March.

The Times wrote that the intelligence review suggested those behind the pipeline explosions, which spewed gas into the Baltic, were Ukrainian or Russian nationals, or a combination of the two, who opposed Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But the review did not specify the members of the group or who directed or paid for the operation, it said.

“U.S. officials declined to disclose the nature of the intelligence, how it was obtained or any details of the strength of the evidence. They have said that there were no firm conclusions about it,” the Times added.

Built by Russia’s state-controlled Gazprom (MCX:), the Nord Stream gas pipelines connected Russia and Germany. Nord Stream 1 was completed in 2011, and Nord Stream 2 in 2021 – over the objections of Ukraine and some of Germany’s allies including the U.S. who feared this would allow Moscow to blackmail Berlin by threatening to curb supplies.

Germany ended up halting certification of Nord Stream 2 amid signs that Russia was about to invade Ukraine, and since then Europe has drastically cut energy imports from Russia.

Gazprom representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the New York Times report.


In its invasion, which passed the one-year mark on Feb. 24, Moscow has sent thousands of troops in waves over recent weeks to try to capture the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut and secure its first battlefield victory in more than half a year. Ukrainian forces have dug trenches further west and in recent days had seemed to be preparing to pull out.

But Zelenskiy early on Tuesday publicly committed his troops to holding out in Bakhmut, apparently prolonging the war’s bloodiest battle in a bid to break Moscow’s assault force.

His remarks in an overnight address suggested Kyiv had elected not only to stay and fight on but to reinforce the city, apparently convinced that Russia’s losses in trying to storm it would be greater than those of the defenders.

“I told the commander-in-chief to find the appropriate forces to help our guys in Bakhmut,” Zelenskiy said.

Iryna Vereshchuk, a deputy Ukrainian premier, said on state TV that fewer than 4,000 civilians – including 38 children – out of a pre-war population of some 70,000 remained in bombed-out Bakhmut.

Russia, which claims to have annexed nearly 20% of Ukraine’s territory, says taking Bakhmut would be a step towards seizing the surrounding industrial Donbas region, a major war aim.

“The liberation of Artemovsk continues,” Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said in televised remarks, using the Soviet-era name for Bakhmut, re-adopted by the invading Russians.

“The city is an important hub for defending Ukrainian troops in the Donbas. Taking it under control will allow further offensive actions to be conducted deep into Ukraine’s defensive lines.”

Western strategists say the ruined city has limited value, and Russia’s assault may aim for a symbolic victory after a winter offensive involving hundreds of thousands of conscripted reservists and fighters from the Wagner private army.

Ukraine’s military command reported a record 1,600 Russians killed over the previous 24 hours. Moscow said Ukraine’s losses in February had risen 40% from January to 11,000.

Tolls of enemy dead cannot be confirmed and the sides do not release regular data on their own casualties, but past Ukrainian reports of spikes in Russian losses have corresponded with failed Russian assaults.

Reuters journalists have not been inside Bakhmut for a week and could not independently verify the situation there.

Russia calls it actions in Ukraine a “special military operation” to eliminate security threats arising from its fellow ex-Soviet republic’s ties to the West. Kyiv and its Western supporters call it an unprovoked land grab.

Tens of thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed as well as soldiers on both sides. Russia has bombarded Ukrainian cities and set millions of civilians to flight in what Kyiv and the West call an unprovoked war of conquest.

While Russia has made gains in recent weeks around Bakhmut, its winter offensive has otherwise been a failure, yielding no significant gains in major assaults further north and south.

Kyiv, which recaptured swathes of territory in the second half of 2022, has spent the last three months on the defensive, trying to exhaust the attacking Russians before an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive later this year.

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French climate investments to drive up national debt burden – think-tank




French climate investments to drive up national debt burden - think-tank
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron visits Institut Curie laboratory ahead of announcements on biomedical research in Saint-Cloud, France, May 16, 2023. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/Pool

PARIS (Reuters) – Investments that France needs to finance its transition to a low-carbon economy are set to add 25 percentage points to its debt burden by 2040, a report from the government-funded France Strategie think-tank said on Monday.

France will need to make additional annual investments of about 67 billion euros ($74 billion) – more than 2% of economic output – by 2030 to meet its objectives for reducing its dependence on fossil fuels, France Strategie calculated.

The think-tank, which is part of the prime minister’s office, said the financial effort would weigh heavily on public finances partly because the investments imply lower potential growth, which would cut tax revenues.

As a result, the debt burden would rise by 10 percentage points by 2030 and 25 percentage points by 2040, which France Strategie suggested might need to be financed in part by a temporary tax on wealthy households.

President Emmanuel Macron’s government has hoped to chip away in the coming years at France’s national debt, which currently stands at slightly more that 111% of gross domestic product after surging during the COVID crisis.

The report said the financial burden of investing in Europe’s energy transition also posed a risk in terms of international economic competition, as other major economies such as the United States and China were less concerned about budgetary constraints.

About 100 experts in French and European research groups as well as public French institutions participated in the report, which was led by economist Jean Pisani-Ferry, who previously helped Macron draft his economic programme.

($1 = 0.9084 euros)

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Crude oil largely flat; Caution ahead of debt ceiling meeting




Crude oil largely flat; Caution ahead of debt ceiling meeting
© Reuters — Oil prices traded largely unchanged Monday, with traders cautious ahead of the resumption of U.S. debt ceiling negotiations while supply concerns add support. 

By 09:30 ET (13:30 GMT), futures traded 0.1% lower at $71.59 a barrel, while the contract fell 0.1% to $75.52 a barrel.

U.S. President Joe Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are set to meet later this session to try and agree on a deal to raise the more than $31 trillion debt ceiling.

Concerns that a failure to come up with an acceptable compromise have weighed heavily on the market over the recent weeks, as this would result in the U.S. defaulting on its debt obligations, likely plunging the global economy into recession.

The U.S. Treasury has warned that the government could run out of money to pay its bills as soon as June 1.

That said, both crude benchmarks managed to post gains last week, ending four straight weeks of heavy declines, helped by the U.S. starting to refill its Strategic Petroleum Reserve as well as the supply disruptions in Canada, due to early wildfires in the crude-rich Alberta province. 

Additionally, the latest data from showed the U.S. oil rig count fell by 11 over the last week, to its lowest count since June 2022.

“A slowdown in U.S. drilling activity is a concern for the oil market, which is expected to see a sizable deficit over the second half of the year,” said analysts at ING, in a note. 

“Producers appear to be responding to the weaker price environment, rather than expectations for a tighter market later in the year.”

This brings the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies, known as OPEC+, firmly into focus, with its next meeting in early July. 

The cartel surprised the market with an output cut at the last meeting, which came into effect at the start of this month. However, this has done little to support crude prices, implying the members may be looking at a further reduction in production.

The fact U.S. producers are not increasing in number will be good news for OPEC+, ING added, “as it suggests that they will be able to continue supporting prices without the risk of losing market share to U.S. producers.”

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California grid operator signs off on $7.3 billion of power lines




California grid operator signs off on $7.3 billion of power lines
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman jogs by power lines, as California’s grid operator urged the state’s 40 million people to ratchet down the use of electricity in homes and businesses as a wave of extreme heat settled over much of the state, in Mountain View, Californi

(Reuters) – California’s electric grid operator has approved a plan expected to cost $7.3 billion for 45 new power transmission projects over the next decade and made it easier for new power plants in high-priority areas to connect to the grid.

The projects will support the development of more than 40 gigawatts (GW) of new generation resources, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) said on Thursday.

“With electrification increasing in other sectors of the economy, most notably transportation and the building industry, even more new power will be required in the years ahead,” the CAISO said.

The vast majority of the transmission projects will be built in California, with some in neighboring Arizona, it said.

The power lines recommended by CAISO’s 2022-2023 Transmission Plan will allow the state’s grid to add more than 17 GW of solar resources, 8 GW of wind generation, 1 GW of geothermal development, and battery storage projects.

CAISO will prioritize connecting power plants to the grid in specific geographical zones identified by its plan where developing new power lines and plants “make the most economic and operational sense.”

The grid operator also approved proposed reforms to account for “increasing levels of net load forecast uncertainty between day-ahead and real-time markets … as the generation fleet evolves towards a cleaner, but more variable, resource mix.”

It projected that its transmission plan next year could include the need to add 70 GW of new power to the grid by 2033, rising to 120 GW as the state seeks to meet its goal of a carbon-free power system by 2045.

Power supply in the U.S. West is vulnerable to extreme heat as it relies on regional energy transfers to meet demand at peak or when solar output is diminished, the North American Electric Reliability Corp (NERC) said in its summer outlook on Wednesday.

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