Bloomberg’s Natasha Doff notes a potentially very noteworthy legal battle in London, between Russia and Ukraine, over issues of international debt.
Russia and Ukraine are about to test the boundaries of sovereign-debt litigation in a dispute that could have far-reaching implications for government bailouts the world over.
The neighbors are vowing to fight each other in a London court over a $3 billion bond Vladimir Putin bought to reward his Ukrainian ally, Viktor Yanukovych, for rejecting closer trade ties with the European Union two years ago. That move fueled the protests in Kiev that led to Yanukovych’s ouster, Putin’s annexation of Crimea and an insurgency that’s killed 8,000 people.
Ukraine’s government, on life support from the International Monetary Fund, gave Russia until Thursday to agree to the same writedown and extension that Franklin Templeton, which manages the largest U.S. overseas bond fund, and other creditors accepted this month. Russia has refused to negotiate and is shopping for a law firm to file suit as soon as Ukraine makes good on its threat to default when the bond comes due Dec. 20.
“This issue will go to court, there’s no other way around it,” said Christopher Granville, a former U.K. diplomat in Moscow who runs Trusted Sources research group in London. “There’s no way Russia will remain under financial sanctions from the U.S. government and accept the same terms as Franklin Templeton.”