What We're Watching: Zelensky meets top US officials, Indonesia hoards palm oil

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky holds a press conference at a metro station in Kyiv.

EYEPRESS via Reuters Connect

US officials visit Kyiv

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky spent Sunday waiting for a visit from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the highest-level American delegation to visit Kyiv since the Russian invasion began. Zelensky reportedly told the senior US officials that Ukraine needs more powerful weapons to resist the Russians. After the meeting, Blinken announced that the US would reopen its embassy in Ukraine (in the western city of Lviv) and pledged more military funding to Ukraine in addition to the $800 million in military support Biden announced on Thursday, which included heavy artillery, ammunition, and tactical drones. But Kyiv is also asking for long-range air defense systems and fighter jets. The Americans have rebuffed similar earlier requests and blocked NATO allies like Poland from supplying Soviet-era warplanes to avoid risking a direct military confrontation with Russia. Meanwhile, Ukraine is trying to set up humanitarian routes for escape from the besieged port city of Mariupol, where an estimated 100,000 people remain stuck with little food, water, or heat.


Indonesia’s palm oil export ban

In the latest ripple effect from the food price crisis spurred by Russia's war in Ukraine, Indonesia on Friday banned the export of palm oil, the most consumed edible oil in the world. President Joko Widodo wants to address a domestic shortage that has caused prices to skyrocket (and Indonesians to protest). This ban is a very big deal because Indonesia is the world's top producer of palm oil, accounting for more than half of the global supply. More broadly, it comes amid soaring prices for cooking oil due to the conflict between the two sunflower superpowers, Russia and Ukraine. The ban is expected to be short-lived and for exports to resume once the country stocks up enough palm oil for the price hike to subside. Until then, Indonesia’s top customers — China and India — will feel the pinch.
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