Blinken eyes prisoner swap as Kyiv region struck

Blinken’s engagement with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov coincides with continuing sharp exchanges over Moscow’s war on Ukraine.



Image: Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced he plans to speak with his Russian counterpart about a “substantial” deal to free Americans Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, and a person familiar with the offer said it would swap them for imprisoned Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.

Blinken’s engagement with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov coincides with continuing sharp exchanges over Moscow’s war on Ukraine. Blinken last spoke with Lavrov on February 15 and then canceled a planned meeting two days before Russia launched its invasion on February 24.

Russian natural gas supplies to Europe via Ukraine are expected to remain stable on Thursday, while flows via the key Nord Stream pipeline remain at 20% of its capacity. Gazprom PJSC has signaled more problems are possible with gas turbines, amid its spat with Siemens Energy AG over equipment maintenance.

(See RSAN on the Bloomberg Terminal for the Russian Sanctions Dashboard.)

Key developments

  • US Pursuing Deal to Swap Griner and Whelan for Arms Dealer Bout
  • European Gas Prices Ease as Russia Flows Hold at Curbed Levels
  • German Consumers Face Gas-Bill Surge With Move to Pass on Costs
  • Russia-Ukraine Conflict Turns Fuel Tankers Into Hot Property
  • Ukraine Is Rebuilding Under Fire to Escape Putin’s Trap

On the ground

Russia launched a barrage of missile strikes on the Kyiv region from bases in Belarus early Thursday, Ukraine’s northern military command said on Facebook. Local authorities also reported rocket attacks in the northern Chernihiv region and in Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv in the northeast overnight, and explosions were heard again in the southern port of Mykolaiv. The attacks in northern Ukraine occurred as the nation’s armed forces step up efforts to liberate Russian-held areas in the south. Ukraine’s general staff reported several repelled Russian attacks around Slovyansk and near Bakhmut in the eastern Donetsk region, adding that Russian forces made some progress southeast of Bakhmut.

(All times CET)

Ukrenergo Seeks Delay for ESG Bonds (10:50 a.m.)

Ukrainian power company NPC Ukrenergo will seek a two-year payment delay and changes to the terms of bonds funding green energy in the wake of disruption from Russia’s invasion, the first time a company has requested the possibility of changing targets set as part of a sustainability-linked instrument.

The electricity grid operator sold $825 million of the five-year notes in November to help repay debt owed to renewable energy producers. The bonds were guaranteed by the Ukrainian government, while the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development was one of the buyers, taking $75 million.

India to Restart Sunflower Oil Imports (10:30 a.m.)

India, the world’s biggest edible oil importer, will likely receive its first shipments of sunflower oil from Ukraine starting in September after a five-month gap, according to Sunvin Group.

About 50 000 to 60 000 tons may arrive as Ukraine is set to open some Black Sea corridors for agricultural exports, said Sandeep Bajoria, chief executive officer of the Mumbai-based broker and trader. The cargoes will likely be loaded at the seaports of Odesa and Chornomorsk, he said.

Baerbock Urges NATO Unity (9 a.m.)

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called on NATO allies to maintain a united front against Russian aggression ahead of a trip Friday to Istanbul for talks with her Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“Cohesion between NATO allies and European partners has never been more important than in these times, when Russia is not only planning to subdue Ukraine as a self-determined country, but is also trying by all means to split our alliance,” Baerbock said in an emailed statement, calling Turkey “an indispensable partner.”

Turkey has threatened to veto NATO membership for Sweden and Finland unless the two Nordic countries satisfy demands to combat terrorism and extradite suspects.

OMV Doesn’t Expect Russian Gas Halt (7:30 a.m.)

Austrian state-owned energy company OMV AG said it expects Russian natural-gas flows will continue through the heating season after second-quarter earnings beat expectations on the back of surging prices for the fuel.

Read more: OMV Expects Russian Gas Flows to Continue With Profit Surging

“However, the uncertainty regarding future curtailments remains and could result in further losses in case the hedged volume deviates from the actual deliveries,” the company said.

H&M Looking for Buyer for Russian Business: Report (7:25 a.m.)

Swedish retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB is looking for a buyer for its business in Russia, including a portfolio of about 170 store leasing rights in 65 Russian cities, a distribution center, and 30 weeks worth of inventory valued at about $210 million, Kommersant newspaper reported.

H&M announced this month that it would start winding down its operations in Russia, having halted all sales in the country in March after Russia’s attack on Ukraine. H&M’s Russian business accounted for about 4% of sales during the most-recent financial year.

US to Contribute $500 Million to EBRD (7 p.m.)

The US will contribute $500 million to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to support businesses and public services affected by Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Treasury Department said in a statement.

The funds, which will support immediate crisis response mainly in Ukraine, are part of the $40 billion package of support for Ukraine that was signed into law by President Joe Biden in May.

© 2022 Bloomberg

William Murphy

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