Russia–Ukraine War (April 2): Kremlin Says Talks With Ukraine Not Easy, Important That They Continue

Russia–Ukraine War (April 2): Kremlin Says Talks With Ukraine Not Easy, Important That They Continue
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R), accompanied by Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C) and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov (L) attends a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 24, 2016. (Alexander Nemenov/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

The latest on the Russia–Ukraine crisis, April 2. Click here for updates from April 1.

Kremlin Says Talks With Ukraine Not Easy, Important That They Continue

Russia’s talks with Ukraine have not been easy, but the main thing is that they are continuing, RIA news agency quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying on Saturday.

He also said Russia would like to continue talks with Ukraine in neighboring Belarus but Kyiv opposed the idea. Russia and Ukraine held several rounds of talks in Belarus last month before their delegation met in Istanbul last week.

RIA said Peskov had been speaking in an interview with Belarus television which is due to be shown later on Saturday.


Ukraine Regains Control of Whole Kyiv Region

The Ukrainian armed forces have retaken the whole Kyiv area, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said on Saturday.

“Irpin, Bucha, Gostomel, and the whole Kyiv region were liberated from the invader,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said earlier in the day that Russian armed forces are withdrawing from northern Ukraine in a “slow but noticeable” mode and being accumulated in Donbas, a disputed area.

The UK Ministry of Defense confirmed that Ukrainian forces are retaking territory on the outskirts of Kyiv.

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Breakaway Area Denies Russian Troops Massing

Authorities in the tiny breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova denied “absolutely untrue” claims Saturday by Ukraine that Russian troops based there are massing to conduct “provocations” along Ukraine’s border.

Earlier Saturday, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said that Russian troops already in Transnistria were preparing for “a demonstration of readiness for the offensive and, possibly, hostilities against Ukraine.”

“The information disseminated by the General Staff of Ukraine is absolutely untrue,” Transnistria’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding that leaders have repeatedly “declared the absence of any threat to Ukraine.”

Moldova’s Foreign Ministry also said Saturday there is “no information to confirm the mobilization of troops in the Transnistrian region” and that “state institutions are closely monitoring the security situation in the region.”

Transnistria is a Russia-backed region of Moldova that broke away after a short civil war in the early 1990s, and is unrecognized by most countries. An estimated 1,500 Russian soldiers are stationed there.


Anti-Russian Sanctions Don’t Work: Polish PM

The recovery of the Russian ruble indicates that the sanctions on Moscow are not serving their purpose, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Saturday. A large number of states, including EU members, imposed sanctions on Russia after it attacked Ukraine in late February.

“I must say this very clearly: the sanctions we have imposed so far don’t work. The best evidence is the ruble exchange rate,” Morawiecki said on Saturday.

“The ruble exchange rate, this litmus test, has returned to the level it was before the Russian aggression against Ukraine. What does it mean? It means that all economic, financial, budgetary, and monetary measures have not worked as some leaders wished. It needs to be said very loudly,” he added, speaking at a center for Ukrainian refugees in Otwock near Warsaw.


A Series of Explosions Took Place in Energodar Nearby Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

A series of blasts has torn through the Ukrainian city of Enerhodar nearby the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Ukraine’s state nuclear agency reported about Saturday’s attacks on its official Telegram channel.

Both the city and the plant, which generates over a fifth of Ukraine’s electricity and is one of the largest nuclear facilities in Europe, have been under Russian control since March 4, according to Interfax Ukraine.

A video clip accompanying the Telegram post by Ukraine’s Energoatom appeared to feature loud blasts and flying debris.

A second post on the state enterprise’s channel claimed that explosions and mortar bursts could be heard in the vicinity of the Sovremennik cultural center, where residents held a rally in support of Ukraine.

“As protesters began to disperse, the invaders arrived in police vehicles, and began to force local residents into them,” the post read. “A few minutes later, the city was rocked by massive explosions and shelling.”

The agency claimed that four people were injured and received medical assistance.

Energoatom also claimed that Russian forces began to jam phone and internet communications throughout Enerhodar. The agency’s claims could not be immediately verified.


Thousands Evacuated from Mariupol

Thousands of people were successfully evacuated by buses from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol on Friday, according to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who called the situation there a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

Zelenskyy said in a video address early Saturday that a humanitarian corridor was operational in Zaporizhzhia, allowing for the evacuation of 3,071 residents from Mariupol.

Tens of thousands of people have been trapped in the besieged city, with scant access to food and water.

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Finnish Government to Discuss Potential NATO Membership in Spring

Finland’s prime minister says her country should make a decision on NATO membership “during this spring” after the government and lawmakers have carefully assessed the pros and cons of joining the military alliance—a topical issue in the Nordic nation after Russia’s invasion to Ukraine.

Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Saturday that “both joining (NATO) and not joining are choices that have consequences. We need to assess both the short-term and long-term effects. At the same time, we must keep in mind our goal: ensuring the security of Finland and Finns in all situations.”

Marin said Finland’s relationship with neighboring Russia has changed irreversibly after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine last month, and “it takes a lot of time and work for confidence to be restored.”

Finland shares a 1,340-kilometer (830-mile) border with Russia, the longest by any European Union member.


Italian Foreign Minister Visits Azerbaijan Amid Energy Crisis

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, visiting Azerbaijan, has described his talks there as laying the bases for even stronger cooperation on energy, as Italy seeks to quickly reduce its heavy reliance on Russian gas.

In comments to reporters in Baku on Saturday, Di Maio described Azerbaijan, which is Italy’s largest supplier of oil and third-largest supplier of gas, as a “priority partner” in Italy’s quest to diversify its sources of energy.

Di Maio arrived in the South Caucasus country on Friday, following previous energy-focused missions to Algeria, Qatar, Angola, and Congo. Italy is eyeing the possibility of increasing the supply of natural gas from Azerbaijan through the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, or TAP, which transported its first gas in 2020.


Russian Troops Disperse Pro-Ukraine Rally in Occupied Town, Local Authorities Claim

Local authorities in the occupied Ukrainian town of Enerhodar claimed Russian forces had violently dispersed a pro-Ukrainian rally on Saturday and detained some participants.

Residents had gathered in the center of the town in the south of the country to talk and sing the Ukrainian national anthem when Russian soldiers arrived and bundled some into detention vans, the local administration claimed in an online post.

“The occupiers are dispersing the protesters with explosions,” it said in a separate post on Telegram, sharing a video of what appeared to be multiple stun grenades landing in a square and letting off bangs and clouds of white smoke next to the town’s main cultural center.

It also accused Russian forces of shelling another part of the town on Saturday and said as a result four people had been wounded and were being treated in hospital.

Reuters could not immediately verify the video or the local administration’s reports.

Enerhodar lies on the Dnipro river in southern Ukraine and is home to workers of the nearby Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Europe’s largest, which has also been occupied by Russian troops.


Ukrainian Journalist Killed in Combat Zone

A prominent Ukrainian photojournalist who went missing last month in a combat zone near the capital has been found dead.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s office claimed in a statement Saturday that Maks Levin was killed with two gunshots, fired allegedly by the Russian military. Levin’s body was found in the Huta Mezhyhirska village on Friday.

Levin, 40, worked as a photojournalist and videographer for many Ukrainian and international publications.

Levin has been missing since March 13, when he contacted his friend from Vyshhorod near Kyiv to report on the fighting in the region.

An investigation into his death has been launched.


Russian Missiles Strike Several Ukrainian Cities: Local Officials

Russian missiles hit two cities in central Ukraine early on Saturday, damaging infrastructure and residential buildings, the head of the Poltava region claimed.

“Poltava. A missile struck one of the infrastructure facilities overnight,” Dmitry Lunin wrote in an online post. “Kremenchuk. Many attacks on the city in the morning.”

Lunin later said at least four missiles hit two infrastructure objects in Poltava while, according to preliminary information, three enemy planes attacked the industrial facilities of Kremenchuk.

Poltava city is the capital of the Poltava region, east of Kyiv, and Kremenchuk is one of the area’s major cities.

There was no immediate information about possible casualties, Lunin said. Reuters could not immediately verify the report.

In the Dnipro region in southwestern Ukraine, missiles hit an infrastructure facility, wounding two people and causing significant damage, Valentyn Reznichenko, head of the region, claimed in an online post.

In the city of Kryvyi Rih a petrol station has been shelled, causing fire, he added.


UK Won’t Get Russian Gas: Moscow

British energy major Shell will not be able to buy Russian gas due to London’s anti-Russia sanctions, Dmitry Peskov, the press secretary of Russian President Vladimir Putin, told the media on Saturday.

“London wants to be the leader of everything anti-Russian. It even wants to be ahead of Washington! That’s the cost!” Peskov outlined.

He was referring to the fact that the UK is the only country to have imposed sanctions on Russia’s Gazprombank, through which payments for Russian natural gas are made. The measure effectively denies Britain the ability to pay for the commodity.


Ukraine Recaptures City of Brovary Near Capital Kyiv, Says Official

Ukrainian officials claim their forces have recaptured the city of Brovary, 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of the capital Kyiv.

Brovary’s mayor said during a televised address on Friday evening that “Russian occupants have now left practically all of the Brovary district.” He added that the Ukrainian forces would begin working to clear the region of remaining Russian soldiers there as well as “military hardware, and possibly from mines.”

The mayor claimed that many Brovary residents had already returned to the city, and that shops and businesses were reopening.

Earlier on Friday, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said that satellite towns northwest of Kyiv were being targeted after Ukrainian fighters pushed back Russian troops, and that fighting had also taken place in Brovary.


Turkey Offers to Evacuate Civilians From Ukraine’s Mariupol City

Turkey has offered to help evacuate civilians from the besieged Ukrainian port city of Mariupol by ship. The Turkish defense minister said Saturday that “we can provide ship support for the evacuation of civilians and injured Turkish and other countries’ citizens in Mariupol from the sea.”

State-run Anadolu Agency reported that Hulusi Akar said Turkey was coordinating possible evacuations with the authorities of the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Mariupol, on the Sea of Azov, has seen some of the worst suffering of the war. The International Committee for the Red Cross is attempting to remove some of the 100,000 people who are believed to remain in the city.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Friday that some 30 Turkish nationals were still in the city.


The Netherlands Urges Its People to Save Energy

The Dutch government has launched a campaign urging people to turn down their central warming and take showers to save energy amid spiraling energy costs and reduce the country’s dependence on Russian imports.

The government took the lead, announcing Saturday that it will turn down the temperature in 200 of its office blocks from 21 to 19 degrees Celsius (70–66 degrees Fahrenheit) in the winter and use less air conditioning in the summer.

The government also is setting aside 4 billion euros ($4.4 billion) to help fund moves by home owners, social housing corporations, and municipalities to improve insulation of houses in coming years.


Death Toll From Mykolaiv Strike Keeps Growing

At least 33 people have been killed and 34 injured in a Russian rocket strike on the regional government building in the southern Ukrainian port city of Mykolaiv, Ukrainian officials claimed in a statement Saturday, updating the numbers of the deadly strike that hit Mykolaiv on Tuesday.

Rescuers sent by the State Emergency Service have been searching the wreckage for survivors since Russian forces struck the building, which housed the office of regional governor Vitaliy Kim. The governor, who was not on the premises at the time of the attack, later posted social media images showing a gaping hole in the nine-story structure.

Mykolaiv, a strategically important city en route to Ukraine’s largest port of Odesa, has withstood weeks of shelling by the Russian forces.


Ukraine Says Seven Humanitarian Corridors Planned for Evacuations on Saturday

Seven humanitarian corridors to evacuate people from Ukraine’s besieged regions are planned for Saturday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said.

The planned corridors include one for people evacuating by private transport from the city of Mariupol and by buses for Mariupol residents out of the city of Berdyansk, Vereshchuk said.


Red Cross Plans Fresh Evacuation Effort From Ukraine’s Mariupol

A Red Cross convoy will try again to evacuate civilians from the besieged port of Mariupol on Saturday as Russian forces looked to be regrouping for new attacks in southeast Ukraine.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sent a team on Friday to lead a convoy of about 54 Ukrainian buses and other private vehicles out of the city, but they turned back, saying conditions made it impossible to proceed.

“They will try again on Saturday to facilitate the safe passage of civilians,” the ICRC said in a statement on Friday. A previous Red Cross evacuation attempt in early March failed.

An advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was hopeful about the Mariupol evacuations.

Russia and Ukraine have agreed to humanitarian corridors during the war to facilitate the evacuation of civilians from cities, but have often traded blame when the corridors have not been successful.

Seven such corridors were planned for Saturday, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said, including one for people evacuating by private transport from Mariupol and by buses for Mariupol residents out of the city of Berdyansk.

In an early morning video address, Zelenskyy said Russian troops had moved toward Donbass and the heavily bombarded northeastern city of Kharkiv.

“I hope there may still be solutions for the situation in Mariupol,” Zelenskyy said.

Before dawn on Saturday, as sirens sounded across Ukraine, the Ukrainian military reported Russian air strikes on the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Rubizhne in Luhansk.

In that eastern region and neighboring Donetsk, pro-Russian separatists declared breakaway republics that Moscow recognized just before its invasion.

The Ukrainian military also said defenders repulsed multiple attacks in Luhansk and Donetsk on Friday and that Russian units in Luhansk had lost 800 troops in the past week alone. Reuters was unable to verify those claims.


Russian Official Says Future of ISS Uncertain

Russia’s top space official says the future of the International Space Station hangs in the balance after the United States, the European Union, and Canadian space agencies missed a deadline to meet Russian demands for the lifting of sanctions on Russian enterprises and hardware.

The head of Russia’s Roscosmos state agency told reporters on Saturday morning that the agency was preparing a report on the prospects of international cooperation at the station, to be presented to federal authorities “after Roscosmos has completed its analysis.”

Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin implied on Russian state TV that the Western sanctions, some of which predate Russia’s military action in Ukraine, could disrupt the operation of Russian spacecraft servicing the ISS.

He stressed that the Western partners need the ISS and “cannot manage without Russia, because no one but us can deliver fuel to the station.”

Rogozin added that “only the engines of our cargo craft are able to correct the ISS’s orbit, keeping it safe from space debris.”

Later on Saturday, Rogozin wrote on his Telegram channel that he received responses from his Western counterparts vowing to promote “further cooperation on the ISS and its operations.”

He reiterated his view that “the restoration of normal relations between partners in the ISS and other joint (space) projects is possible only with the complete and unconditional lifting” of sanctions, which he referred to as illegal.

Responding to Western sanctions on Telegram last month, Rogozin warned at the time that without Russia’s help, the ISS could “fall down into the sea or onto land,” and claimed that the crash site was unlikely to be in Russia.

Space is one of the last remaining areas of cooperation between Moscow and Western nations. U.S.–Russian negotiations on the resumption of joint flights to the ISS were underway when Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine last month, prompting unprecedented sanctions on Russian state-linked entities.


Ukraine Expects Good News Over Weekend Regarding Mariupol Evacuations: Presidential Adviser

Ukraine expects good news over the weekend regarding evacuations of people from the besieged southeastern city of Mariupol, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelesnskyy said on Saturday.

“Our delegation has reached an agreement in Istanbul (during Ukraine-Russia peace talks) to provide evacuations,” Oleksiy Arestovych told Ukraine’s television.

“I think that today or maybe tomorrow we will hear good news regarding the evacuation of the inhabitants of Mariupol.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) sent a team on Friday to lead a convoy of about 54 Ukrainian buses and other private vehicles out of the city, but they turned back, saying conditions made it impossible to proceed. They were due to try again on Saturday.

Encircled since the early days of Russia’s five-week-old invasion, Mariupol has been Moscow’s main target in the southeastern region of Donbas. Tens of thousands of people are trapped in the city with scant access to food and water.


Ukraine Continues to Advance Against Russian Forces Near Kyiv, UK Claims

Ukrainian forces continue to advance against withdrawing Russian forces in the vicinity of Kyiv, British military intelligence claimed on Saturday.

Russian forces are also reported to have withdrawn from Hostomel airport near the capital, which has been subject to fighting since the first day of the conflict, Britain’s Ministry of Defence claimed in a regular bulletin.

“In the east of Ukraine, Ukrainian forces have secured a key route in eastern Kharkiv after heavy fighting,” the ministry added.

Reuters could not immediately verify the report.


Ukraine’s Economy Could Contract 40 Percent in 2022, Ministry Says

Ukraine’s economy shrank 16 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of this year and could contract 40 percent in 2022 as a result of Russia’s invasion, the economy ministry said in a statement on Saturday, citing preliminary estimates.

“Areas in which remote work is impossible have suffered the most,” it said.


US Cancels ICBM Test Due to Russia Nuclear Tensions

The U.S. military has canceled a test of its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile that it had initially aimed only to delay in a bid to lower nuclear tensions with Russia during the war in Ukraine, the Air Force told Reuters on Friday.

The Pentagon first announced a delay of the test on March 2 after Russia said it was putting its nuclear forces on high alert. Washington said at the time it was important both the United States and Russia “bear in mind the risk of miscalculation and take steps to reduce those risks.”

But it had publicly stated its intent only to delay the test “a little bit,” and not cancel it.

Air Force spokesperson Ann Stefanek said the decision to cancel the test of the LGM-30G Minuteman III missile was due to the same reasons as when it had been first delayed. The next Minuteman III test is scheduled to take place later this year.

Altering the test schedule for America’s ICBM force can be controversial. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, expressed disappointment in March at the delay of a test he said was critical to ensure America’s nuclear deterrent remains effective.

Jeffrey Lewis, a missile researcher at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), played down the impact of the cancelation.

“There’s a value to doing the tests but I don’t think missing one test in the grand scheme of things is a really big deal,” said Lewis, adding the Minuteman III was extremely reliable.

The nuclear-capable Minuteman III is a key part of the U.S. military’s strategic arsenal and has a range of 6,000-plus miles (9,660-plus km) and can travel at a speed of approximately 15,000 miles per hour (24,000 kph).

Russia and the United States have by far the biggest arsenals of nuclear warheads after the Cold War that divided the world for much of the 20th century, putting the West against the Soviet Union and its allies.


EU Says It Eyes Further Russia Sanctions That Will Not Affect Energy Sector

The European Union is working on further sanctions on Russia but any additional measures will not affect the energy sector, the EU’s Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni said in Cernobbio on Saturday.

The 27-nation bloc will be faced with a growth slowdown caused by the war in Ukraine but not a recession, he added, saying the 4 percent growth forecast was too optimistic and the EU would not reach it.


Japan Will Not Exit From Oil and Gas Project With Russia, Kishida Says

Japan will not pull out from the Sakhalin-2 liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Russia despite the withdrawal of other companies over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Thursday.

“It is an extremely important project in terms of energy security as it has contributed to the long-term, stable supply of inexpensive liquefied natural gas,” Kishida said in a parliamentary meeting, Kyodo News reported.

Kishida added that Japan would increase efforts to reduce reliance on Russian energy in coordination with the Group of Seven (G7) advanced countries’ plan.

Russia is Japan’s fifth-largest LNG supplier, accounting for about 8 percent of the country’s consumption. The Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project in the Russian Far East was one of Japan’s main LNG supply sources, with an annual capacity of 9.6 million tons.

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Russia Trades Accusations With Ukraine on Drifting Black Sea Mines

Russia accused Ukraine on Thursday of laying hundreds of mines near its coast and said some were drifting into open waters of the Black Sea and creating dangers for merchant shipping, a day after Kyiv said Moscow was responsible for planting mines.

The Black Sea is a major shipping route for grain, oil, and oil products. Its waters are shared by Bulgaria, Romania, Georgia, and Turkey as well as Ukraine and Russia, which have been at war since President Vladimir Putin invaded his southern neighbor on Feb. 24.

Ukraine’s foreign ministry claimed on Wednesday that Russia was planting naval mines in the Black Sea as “uncontrolled drifting ammunition,” turning them “into a de facto weapon of indiscriminate action.”

Russia’s defense ministry claimed on Thursday that from Feb. 24 to March 4, the remnants of the Ukrainian navy’s mine-sweeping forces had placed about 420 sea anchor mines—370 in the Black Sea and 50 in the Sea of Azov.

“As a result of storms in the Black Sea and due to unsatisfactory technical condition, cables with bottom anchors broke on about 10 Ukrainian mines,” the defense ministry said.

“Since then, under the influence of wind and surface currents, Ukrainian mines have drifted freely in the western part of the Black Sea in a southerly direction. … No one can know where the remaining Ukrainian mines are drifting today.”

Earlier this month Russia’s main intelligence agency accused Ukraine of laying mines to protect ports and said several hundred of the explosives had broken from cables and drifted away. Kyiv dismissed that account as disinformation.

In recent days Turkish and Romanian military diving teams have been involved in defusing stray mines around their waters.

Turkey’s defense ministry said it had not yet identified the source and number of drifting mines and had been in contact with Ukrainian and Russian counterparts over the issue.

Five merchant vessels have been hit by projectiles—with one of them sunk—off Ukraine’s coast, with two seafarers killed, shipping officials say.


Germany Looks to Buy Israeli or US Missile Defence System

Berlin is considering buying a missile defense system from Israel or the United States to defend against threats including Russian Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad, German weekly Welt am Sonntag reported on Saturday.

The Iskander missiles can reach almost all of western Europe and there is no missile shield in place to protect against this threat, Germany’s chief of defense Eberhard Zorn told Welt am Sonntag in an interview published on Saturday.

“The Israelis and the Americans possess such systems. Which one do we prefer? Will we manage to establish an overall [missile defense] system in NATO? These are the questions we need to answer now,” Zorn said.

He did not specify the names of the systems but was most likely referring to Arrow 3 built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) and the U.S. system THAAD produced by Raytheon.

Russia said in 2018 it had deployed Iskander missiles to its Kaliningrad exclave, a slice of Russia wedged between Poland and Lithuania. A mobile ballistic missile system, the Iskander replaced the Soviet Scud missile and its two guided missiles can carry either conventional or nuclear warheads.

In a landmark speech days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Berlin would hike its defense spending to more than 2 percent of its economic output by injecting 100 billion euros ($110 billion) into the military.

Zorn belongs to a group of high-ranking officials consulting with Scholz on how to spend this money.

“So far, only one thing is clear: We have neither the time nor the money to develop these [missile defense] systems on our own because the missile threat is known to already be there,” Zorn said.

Referring to Germany’s lack of a short-range missile defense, which can be used to protect troops on the move or under threat while deployed, he said Berlin had started looking into the purchase of such systems and it now had to make a decision.


US Investigators Find Evidence Russian Oligarchs Trying to Evade Sanctions: Official

U.S. prosecutors have found evidence that Russian oligarchs are trying to evade sanctions put in place to pressure Moscow to stop its invasion of Ukraine, the head of a new Justice Department task force claimed on Friday.

Andrew Adams, a veteran prosecutor tapped to lead the “KleptoCapture” task force established last month, told Reuters in an interview that in some cases, even oligarchs who have not yet had sanctions imposed on them are trying to move assets ahead of potential future sanctions.

But even as they try to hide yachts, planes, or other mobile property in countries they believe to be secretive, Adams claimed that oligarchs trying to evade sanctions are facing an “all-time high” level of international cooperation to track the ill-gotten gains of Russian elites.

The task force’s goal is to put the finances of Russian oligarchs under strain in a bid to pressure President Vladimir Putin to cease his weeks-long assault on Ukraine.

The United States and its allies have imposed several rounds of sanctions targeting Putin, many of his wealthy friends, and dozens of Russian businesses and government agencies.

Tracing oligarchs’ assets is often difficult because they are hidden behind “layers of shell companies scattered around the globe,” Adams said.

U.S. prosecutors are receiving information from places previously thought to be safe havens, Adams said.

He declined to provide details of specific jurisdictions that have provided the task force with information, or to name specific people under investigation.

He said targeting assets located overseas was a major component of the unit’s work, adding that the United States has not been an attractive country for supporters of Putin’s government since around 2014 due to a series of sanctions over Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

European countries have already found and detained the yachts of a number of wealthy Russian businessmen.

Adams said that criminal charges and asset seizure warrants could come in the “early days” of the unit, which was also prepared for lengthy legal battles by oligarchs seeking to prevent the United States from permanently confiscating their assets through civil forfeiture.

Those cases can allow the department to take ill-gotten property in cases where people are outside the country and cannot be extradited. Criminal forfeitures, meanwhile, can accompany an indictment against the property owner.


Allen Zhong, Tom Ozimek, Aldgra Fredly, Reuters, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.