The British Defense Ministry says a recent poll shows Russian public support for the war on Ukraine is dropping.
In its Sunday morning intelligence update the ministry said an independent Russian media outlet has claimed access to data collected by Russia’s Federal Protective Service that indicates 55% of Russians favor peace talks with Ukraine, while only 25% say they support continuing the war. In April 2022 some 80% of Russians were reported as supporting the invasion of Ukraine.
The ministry says that, “With Russia unlikely to achieve major battlefield successes in the next several months, maintaining even tacit approval of the war amongst the population is likely to be increasingly difficult for the Kremlin.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said capping the price of Russian seaborne oil at $60 a barrel is not aggressive enough to squeeze the Russian economy that funds its invasion in Ukraine.
The price cap was agreed to by Australia, Britain, Canada, Japan, the United States and the European Union, but the Ukrainian leader called Saturday for a much lower one.
“The logic is obvious,” he said. “If the price limit for Russian oil is $60 instead of, for example, $30, which Poland and the Baltic countries talked about, then the Russian budget will receive about $100 billion a year.”
“This money,” he said, “will go not only to the war and not only to Russia's further sponsoring of other terrorist regimes and organizations. This money will also be used to further destabilize precisely those countries that are now trying to avoid big decisions.”
The West believes such a significant reduction in price could undercut the cost of Russian oil production.
“We think the number at $60 a barrel is appropriate” to balance limiting Moscow’s ability to profit and ensuring supply meets demand, said John Kirby, U.S. National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, on Friday, adding that the cap can be adjusted.
The cap proposed by U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen aims to reduce Russia’s oil earnings, which support its military and the invasion of Ukraine.
The price cap takes effect on Monday, which coincides with the European Union’s embargo on most Russian oil shipments. It’s uncertain how all of this will affect oil markets, which are swinging between fears of lost Russian supply and weakening demand caused by the lagging global economy. Russia could retaliate by halting shipments, and Europe may struggle to replace imports of Russian diesel fuel.
OPEC+, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, meets Sunday to review its production targets. Reuters says four OPEC+ sources have told it there will be no change in planned oil supplies.
For its part, Russia rejected the price cap and threatened to turn off the oil spigot on the coalition of Western countries that endorsed the cap.
"We will not accept this ceiling," Tass quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying Saturday.
The Russian embassy in Washington said Saturday it will continue to find buyers for its oil, despite what it called “dangerous” attempts by the West to introduce a price cap on its oil exports.
"Steps like these will inevitably result in increasing uncertainty and imposing higher costs for raw materials to consumers," it said.
Russia has resumed shelling the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson. And officials warned of a tough winter as Russian strikes target energy infrastructure.
"Russian invaders shelled Kherson — damaged power grids. The city was left without electricity again," Governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said on Telegram, adding that technicians were already working to restore power to the recently liberated city on the west bank of the Dnipro River.
Officials in Kherson have announced they will help citizens evacuate parts of Russian-occupied territory on the east bank of the Dnipro River amid concerns of intensified fighting in the area.
Since Russia’s retreat from Kherson, Ukrainian forces could advance south through the fields of the Zaporizhzhia region to recapture occupied territory and repel the invaders, according to The Washington Post.
Their aim would be to control the land bridge that connects Russia to Crimea. Their counteroffensive must wait, though, until the cold sets in and the muddy ground freezes.
Meanwhile, the world should expect “the reduced tempo in fighting in Ukraine to continue in coming months,” U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said Saturday at the Reagan National Defense Forum in California, noting she sees no evidence of a reduced will to resist on the part of the Ukrainian forces.
In Kyiv Saturday, Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of state for political affairs, said Russian President Vladimir Putin is not serious about peace talks with Ukraine at this time. She commented after meeting with Zelenskyy and other senior Ukrainian officials.
"Whether it's the energy attacks, whether it's the rhetoric out of the Kremlin and the general attitude, Putin is not sincere or ready for that," she said.
Russia and the United States have both said this week they are open to talks in principle, though U.S. President Joe Biden said he would only talk to Putin if he showed true interest in ending the war.
Ukraine says negotiations are possible only if Russia stops attacking and pulls out its troops.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.