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The Vultures Are Coming for Russian Debt

The country is fast becoming a case study in distressed investing. Who’s buying? Capitalism’s finest, of course.

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Illustration: Daniel Zender for Bloomberg Businessweek

Wall Street doesn’t usually let moral dilemmas get in the way of making money. There’s almost always a bidder for whatever security is on offer, no matter how dodgy the issuer, how funky the structure, or how unpleasant the circumstances. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is no exception.

Even before the missiles started raining down on Kyiv, the financial opportunists who prey on market dislocation were already hunting for bargains in Russian bonds. They had plenty to choose from. Almost all of Russia’s debt, both sovereign and corporate, remains open for trading under U.S. economic sanctions. And, because demand has collapsed, the yields on all that paper are now among the highest in the world.