A victory for the West as China abstains instead of vetoing

Russia vetoed a draft UN Security Council resolution on Friday that would have deplored Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, while China abstained from the vote – a move western countries view as a win for showing Russia’s international isolation.

The United Arab Emirates and India also abstained from the vote on the US-drafted text. The remaining 11 council members voted in favour. The draft resolution is now expected to be taken up by the 193-member UN General Assembly.

Meanwhile, dozens of Ukraine military sites have already been hit by Russian fire, a steady flow of people are leaving for neighbouring as this turns into a bloody war. The repercussions are being felt beyond Europe as rising geopolitical risk and volatile energy and financial markets rock global markets. 

Nevertheless, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index added 0.8% this week as a Thursday-Friday impressive recovery from multi-week lows managed to erase declines posted earlier in the week amid geopolitical turmoil. The S&P 500 ended Friday’s session at 4,384.65, up from last Friday’s closing level of 4,348.87.  Moreover, this marks the S&P 500’s first weekly gain since the week ended Feb. 4. With just one session remaining in the month, the index is down 2.9% for February to date. It is down 8% for the year to date.

What to watch for from the weekend 

The markets will be expecting more developments over the weekend. Mr Vladimir Putin has suggested he might be willing to enter negotiations with Ukraine even as his forces continued their advance to take over the capital, Kyiv. Inside the embattled capital, the president, Volodymyr  Zelenskyy, is refusing to leave. He has instead made a desperate plea for Western governments to take tougher measures against Moscow.

The UK and US have upped the ante and will now sanction the president of Russia directly and the US has sent thousands of its troops to the borders of eastern NATO flanks. The European Union and Canada also announced Friday that they would introduce sanctions targeting Mr Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Ukrainian leaders,  as well as lawmakers in US Congress and UK parliament, are calling for additional steps, including shutting Russia out from the SWIFT financial messaging system used for international transactions, as well as targeting Mr Putin directly.

Meanwhile, Zelensky and Putin are discussing coming together to negotiate a ceasefire, according to a spokesperson for the former. 

Ukraine’s press secretary Serhiy Nykyforov was quoted as saying Friday: “I must refute the allegations that we have refused to negotiate. Ukraine has been and remains ready to talk about a ceasefire and peace. This is our constant position. We agreed to a proposal of the president of the Russian Federation. During these hours, consultations are underway between the parties on the venue and time of the negotiation process.”

However, it does not seem Mr Putin is on the verge to talk to Zelensky all the while he attempts to have his own military turn on him.

Mr Putin spoke at a televised meeting with Russia’s security council and called on the Ukrainian military to seize power in their country and overthrow Mr Zelensky.

“I once again appeal to the military personnel of the armed forces of Ukraine: do not allow neo-Nazis and (Ukrainian radical nationalists) to use your children, wives and elders as human shields,” he said.

“Take power into your own hands, it will be easier for us to reach agreement.”

This is an evolving situation, but Russia is now getting an increased presence of NATO on the doorstep of Russia, exactly what Mr Putin did not want. 

Russia “will launch an assault” on Kyiv Saturday morning

Russia “will launch an assault” on Kyiv later, Zelensky said, warning Ukrainians that “this night we have to stand ground. The fate of Ukraine is being decided now.”

“The enemy will use all of their power on all fronts to break our defense,” Zelensky said in his address, adding that “many cities are under threat: Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Donbass, southern Ukraine and special attention to Kyiv.”

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