Vladimir Putin just made an offer to the world, one that may illustrate how badly international sanctions are biting Russia. The Kremlin leader said he’s willing to smooth the way for grain and fertilizer exports as global shortages mount—but only if sanctions on his isolated nation are lifted. Putin didn’t specify if he was referring to Russian exports or those from Ukraine that have been stopped (or reportedly stolen) by his military as it wages war on that country. The White House swiftly rejected Putin’s quid pro quo. In Russia, the central bank delivered its third interest-rate reduction in just over a month and said borrowing costs can fall further still, halting a rally in the ruble as it unwinds the financial defenses in place since the invasion began. The pace of ruble losses quickened after the announcement, heading for a two-day slump that’s approaching 12% against the dollar. On the ground in Ukraine, Kyiv’s troops in the eastern Luhansk region are coming under constant shelling from Russians who now occupy about 95% of the territory, Ukrainian officials said. There are more than 40,000 civilians in the parts of Luhansk still under Ukrainian control, including 15,000 in the town of Sievierodonetsk. The fighting, said Ukraine Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar, has reached “maximum intensity.”
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