- A number of allegedly “pro-Russian” Twitter accounts in India have been suspended for apparent “coordinated inauthentic behavior” after posting messages supportive of Moscow’s military offensive in Ukraine, the New York Times has reported. Twitter suspended more than 100 users following research published by Marc Owen Jones at Qatar’s Hamad bin Khalifa University and Graham Brookie of the Atlantic Council’s digital forensic research lab. The pro-NATO lobby group is funded by the US and British governments, as well as a number of Ukrainian oligarchs. The Times itself admitted, however, that “there was no hard evidence [the accounts] are part of a coordinated influence campaign aimed at shifting sentiment about the war” in Ukraine. The paper also pointed out that India’s government has maintained a neutral policy toward the war thus far – and a Twitter spokeswoman claimed the company was still investigating. The platform acknowledged in a recent blog post that it has deleted 75,000 accounts for violation of its “platform manipulation and spam policy” since the war in Ukraine began. Those accounts are not thought to “represent a specific, coordinated campaign associated with a government actor.”
- Many African countries are seeking to remain neutral in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, in order to give diplomacy a chance and focus on their own economic and political future in a world undergoing radical change, leaders from the continent said at a conference in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday. The US and its allies have been pressuring other states to join their campaign of sanctions against Russia, having previously argued – concerning Ukraine – that sovereign nations have the right to freely choose their alliances, without being “bullied” by others. “We abstained because we want the world to give diplomacy a chance,” Tanzanian Vice President Philip Mpango said.
- A system allowing direct rupee-ruble payments in trade between Russia and India could be launched this week, the president of the Federation of Indian Export Organizations (FIEO), A Sakthivel, told CNBC on Wednesday. The arrangement would allow India and Russia to carry out financial operations bypassing the US dollar. Russia is effectively blocked from using US currency due to Western sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine. According to the official, the Indian government is working on a proposal to allow up to five nationalized Indian banks to be engaged in the rupee-ruble trade mechanism, and discussions between the central bank governor, the finance minister, and the banks on the matter have already been held. The arrangement would let Indian exporters continue doing business with Russia despite sanctions banning, among other things, international payment mechanisms in the country, such as SWIFT. It would also let India continue buying Russian energy exports and other goods.
- The Austrian government has declared a stage-one alert regarding the supply of natural gas, shortly after Germany did the same on Wednesday. Vienna made the move fearing shortages should Russia insist on payments in rubles, rather than dollars or euro, due to Western sanctions.
- South Ossetia, a partially recognized republic in the Caucasus region, will soon be taking legal steps in an attempt to join the Russian Federation, its president, Anatoly Bibilov, has announced. Most of the world officially regards the territory as part of Georgia, although Tbilisi hasn’t held control since the Soviet collapse in 1991. “I believe that unification with Russia is our strategic goal. Our path, the aspirations of our people. And we will move along this path. We will take appropriate legal steps in the near future. The Republic of South Ossetia will be part of its historical homeland – Russia,” Bibilov said.
- The Hubble Space Telescope has glimpsed the most distant single star it’s ever observed, glimmering 28 billion light-years away. And the star could be between 50 to 500 times more massive than our sun, and millions of times brighter. Astronomers have nicknamed the star Earendel, derived from an Old English words that means “morning star” or “rising light.” This observation breaks the record set by Hubble in 2018 when it observed a star that existed when the universe was around four billion years old. Earendel is so distant that the starlight has taken 12.9 billion years to reach us.
- During the administration of Donald Trump, North Korean denuclearization had been at the top of the list of US foreign policy priorities. Under Joe Biden, the North Korean problem has been relegated to the back burner. A recent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) allegedly capable of striking targets across the US demonstrates the folly of allowing diplomacy to languish. North Korea’s flight test of an indigenously manufactured ICBM on Thursday serves as a stark reminder that even as the international community wrestles with the consequences of Russia’s “special operation” in Ukraine, the world outside Europe remains a very dangerous place, with the potential for becoming even more so. The launch of the Hwasong-17 ICBM, which had been publicly unveiled at an October 2020 military parade in Pyongyang and again at a defense exhibition in October 2021, represents a dramatic leap forward in terms of North Korean military capability.
- Princess Cruises confirmed that one of its cruise liners, the Ruby Princess, reported a COVID-19 outbreak before docking in San Francisco. “As with all Princess itineraries, this cruise is operated as a vaccinated cruise, as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the company told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Guests and crew vaccination rates were at 100 percent.”
- Facts in the possession of the Russian military “prove that the Kiev regime was seriously considering the possibility of using biological weapons against the population of the Donbass and the Russian Federation,” Konashenkov added. Russia has also identified “specific officials who took part in the creation of components of biological weapons,” the general went on to reveal. He did not name any of them, however, saying only they were “the heads of divisions and employees of the US Department of Defense, as well as its main contractors.”
- The European Union’s Court of Justice has refused to “urgently” consider RT France’s request to temporarily suspend a broadcasting ban imposed on the network by the European Council. The body announced on Wednesday that a request to speed up the consideration of the Russian state-funded media concern’s lawsuit has been rejected. However, another, regular, procedure on the issue is still in play. This means that the decision doesn’t amount to an outright refusal to lift sanctions imposed by Brussels, but rather prevents an interim lifting of restrictions before a final decision.
- Authorities searched the offices of Gazprom’s subsidiaries in Germany, Gazprom Germania and Wingas, which, according to Bloomberg, account for roughly 20% of Germany’s gas supplies. The publication notes that Europe has been grappling with an energy crisis since last fall, which, officials claim, kicked off when Gazprom stopped booking additional supply volumes at a time when gas supplies in EU stores were already running low. Back then, Gazprom was accused of “abuse of power,” with EU officials claiming it deliberately reduced supplies in order to pressure politicians to speed up the launch of Russia’s newly built, but still uncertified, Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
- India will allow sanctions-hit Moscow to invest and borrow on its domestic market, the Economic Times reported on Thursday. The move comes as countries around the world introduce new restrictions against Russia over the conflict in Ukraine. According to the report, Moscow has been approved to invest in Indian corporate debt funds. The country has also been allowed to pay for the investments through a Reserve Bank of India (RBI) account. Media reports say that Russian government officials have asked their Indian counterparts to relax India’s External Commercial Borrowing (ECB) framework. This would allow Russian entities to invest in bonds of Indian companies, known as ‘Masala bonds’, and pay for these investments through an account with the RBI. Masala bonds are rupee-denominated bonds issued overseas by Indian companies. Both government and private entities can issue them.
News Burst 1 April 2022