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Zaluzhnyi, US’ Milley Discusses Latest Strikes

(Bloomberg) — Russia launched its biggest barrage of missile attacks against Ukraine so far this year, a day after President Volodymyr Zelenskiy completed a visit to European capitals, where he sought more weapons to fend off Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

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Moody’s Investors Service on Friday cut Ukraine’s credit rating to the second-lowest score, citing “long-lasting challenges” to its economy and public finances from the war with Russia.

The top military commanders of Ukraine and the US spoke by telephone on Saturday. Ukraine’s Valeriy Zaluzhnyi told Mark Milley that Kyiv’s forces continue to hold the contested town of Bakhmut in Donetsk.

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Key Developments

  • Wheat Rises as Russia Launches Fresh Missile Attacks on Ukraine

  • Ukraine Credit Rating Cut by Moody’s on ‘Likely’ Restructuring

  • Russian Moms-to-Be Flock to Argentina Seeking Safety, Passports

  • Romania Says No Russian Missile Crossed Airspace After Kyiv Claims

  • Bank of Russia Tilts Hawkish, With Rate Hike More Likely in 2023

On The Ground

Russian forces continued an offensive in the direction of Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Novopavlivka, General Staff said on Facebook. On Friday, the Ukrainian army repelled Russian attacks near three settlements in the Luhansk region and four settlements in the Donetsk region. The Ukrainian Air Force delivered 12 strikes at Russian positions and 4 strikes at the positions of Russian anti-aircraft missile systems. The Odesa region was attacked twice by Russian missiles overnight, the city council said. Bombs were also dropped on Snake Island from two Su-24M jets. Two Oniks anti-ship cruise missiles were fired from Crimea and hit the coastline in Odesa region, without casualties.

(All times CET)

Zaluzhnyi Tells US Joint Chiefs’ Milley That Ukraine Still Holds Bakhmut (5:40 pm)

Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, spoke Saturday with Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. The previously announced call between the pair was on Jan. 25.

Milley and Zaluzhnyi discussed Friday’s massive Russian missile barrage, air defense for Ukraine, and Russia’s use of underwater drones that may threaten the Black Sea safe-transit corridor, according to a Twitter post.

Kremlin forces are attacking Ukrainian positions as many as 50 times a day in the Donetsk region, Zaluzhnyi told Milley. The Ukrainian commander also said his forces “continue to hold Bakhmut under our control.”

Zelenskiy Aide Says Talks With Russia ‘Out of the Question’ (5 pm)

An adviser to president Volodymyr Zelenskiy tweeted that talks with Russia “are out of the question,” citing the Kremlin’s commitment to stay in occupied areas of Ukraine.

A day after a massive Russian missile and drone barrage, Mykhailo Podolyak later tweeted that Russian President Vladimir Putin “declares with a smile, ‘we did not start wars, we do not kill,'” adding, “would you like to enter into any kind of agreement with him?”

Ukraine to Set up Special Center for De-Mining (3:19 pm)

Ukraine’s government plans to create a special center for “humanitarian de-mining” to coordinate efforts of different law enforcement bodies to remove landmines from roughly 30% of the country.

Some 500,000 landmines have been removed so far in liberated territories, Ukraine’s cabinet said on its website.

In early September, before Kharkiv and Kherson regions were liberated, the government estimated that almost half of the territory had mines.

Zelenskiy Looks at Reconstruction at JPMorgan Summit (10:45 am)

Ukraine needs foreign investment to diversify and decentralize its energy system and make it less vulnerable to Russian attacks, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told an investment summit organized by JPMorgan.

Zelenskiy met in Kyiv with three senior officials from the bank and addressed the conference via video link, according to a posting on the presidential website.

Ukraine’s economy ministry said Thursday it would work with JPMorgan to attract private investments for the nation’s reconstruction. The ministry, JPMorgan and US investment company BlackRock signed a memorandum of understanding.

Russia Likely Turning to Convict Labor in Defense Plants, UK Says (8 am)

Russia’s regular military has likely deployed the vast majority of reservists called up under last year’s “partial mobilization,” the UK defense ministry said.

That leaves Russia “the difficult choice of either continuing to deplete its forces, scale back objectives, or conduct a further form of mobilization,” the UK said on Twitter.

Further, the nation’s defense manufacturing “is highly likely resorting to using convict labor to meet war-time production demands,” the UK said.

Serbian President Warns of ‘Major Escalation’ (7 am)

Aleksandar Vucic predicted a “major escalation” of Russia’s invasion over the next five to six months in a TV interview Friday night.

“This so far is almost nothing in comparison to what’s to come,” Serbia’s president told Prva TV in Belgrade. “In five to six months they will try to de-escalate, but in the next five to six months there will be the most fierce conflict.”

At this point “it’s not clear who’s winning” in Ukraine, he said.

Ukraine Credit Rating Cut by Moody’s on ‘Likely’ Restructuring (11 pm)

Moody’s Investors Service cut Ukraine’s credit rating to the second-lowest score, citing “long-lasting challenges” to its economy and public finances from the war with Russia.

The agency now rates Ukraine one notch lower at Ca, on par with Argentina. Moody’s also changed the outlook to stable from negative, according to a statement Friday.

Ukraine has about $23 billion outstanding in international bonds, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Read more: Ukraine Credit Rating Cut by Moody’s on ‘Likely’ Restructuring

Putin Weaponizing Energy With Oil Output Cut: White House (10 pm)

Russia’s plan to slash its oil output by 500,000 barrels a day next month shows the extent to which President Vladimir Putin is willing to use resources like energy as a weapon, said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council.

Putin’s move isn’t surprising after a decision by the G-7 and the European Union to implement price caps on Russian oil and oil products, Kirby said. The US will continue to work with allies and partners, including those in OPEC, he added, saying he had no specific conversations to speak of at this time.

Oil posted its largest weekly gain in four months after Russia followed through on a threat to cut production in response to Western energy sanctions.

Russia Launches Further Drone Attacks (8:30 pm)

Russia launched another wave of attacks by Iranian-made drones, targeting southern and central regions including Odesa and Mykolaiv, Ukrainian officials said.

Mykolaiv regional governor Vitaliy Kim said Ukrainian troops shot down three Shahed drones and the governor of Odesa said that air defenses shot down four of the aircraft that had attempted to attack energy infrastructure. Warning sirens were also heard in Kyiv.

Wagner Founder Sees 2-Year Effort to Control Donbas (8:15 pm)

Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Russian military-contracting company Wagner that’s playing a key role in the fighting in Ukraine, said it will take Russian forces up to two years to take control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

In a rare interview with a pro-Kremlin video blogger, Prigozhin was asked what he thinks is the goal of Putin’s war, and how long it will last. “Everybody has a different view of the special operation,” he said. “As far as I understand, we need to take the Donetsk and Luhansk republics, and in principle everybody will be satisfied with this.”

Prigozhin also said that Wagner has stopped recruiting prisoners to send to the front lines, although he added that the Defense Ministry is now hiring them.

Ukraine Says It Downed 61 Cruise Missiles (1:22 pm)

Russia launched 71 cruise missiles, as many as 35 S-300 missiles and seven drones, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said Friday on Telegram. Cruise missiles were fired from strategic bombers and from ships in the Black Sea. Ukrainian forces shot down 61 cruise missiles and five drones, he said.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal had said earlier on Telegram that high-voltage infrastructure in the country’s western, central and eastern regions had been damaged, causing interruptions with power supply.

Romania Says ‘Aerial Target’ Was Never In Its Airspace (12:30 pm)

Romania’s defense ministry said it detected an “aerial target, most likely a cruise missile launched from a Russian warship in the Black Sea,” early Friday, but that the projectile did not cross into its airspace “at any time.” The missiles were never within 35 kilometers (22 miles) of the northeastern Romanian border, it said.

The “target” flew over Ukraine, then Moldova, “after which it reentered Ukrainian space without crossing into Romania’s airspace,” the NATO member said in a statement.

Romania said it rerouted two MiG jets to the north of the country to increase “reaction options,” but that once the situation was clarified the jets resumed their initial mission.

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