Stephen King will strike in favor of the US government in a case against book publishing and mass merger

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice asked a federal judge on Monday to block the merger of two "Big Five" book publishers, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster, in a trial expected to draw distinctive testimony from horror writer Stephen King.

"It’s real money for real people," said John Reed, an attorney for the Department of Justice.

Also Monday, in the same Washington federal court, the Department of Justice argued before a different judge that UnitedHealth’s (OH.N) $8 billion deal to buy Change Healthcare (CHNG.O) It must stop. Read more

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In the publisher consolidation experiment, the government is not focusing on what consumers pay for books but on advances paid to the most successful authors, especially those with $250,000 or more.

"Evidence will show that the proposed merger will likely result in expected bestseller authors receiving smaller upfront payments, meaning that authors who work for years on their manuscripts will be paid less for their efforts," the government said in a pre-trial brief.

The government also intends to show that there are concerns among the merging parties that the deal is illegal. It previously revealed an email sent by Simon & Schuster CEO Jonathan Karp, who wrote: "I’m pretty sure the Department of Justice won’t allow Penguin Random House to buy us, but that’s assuming we still have the Department of Justice."

King, author of "The Shining," "Carrie" and other blockbuster films, will testify to the government, along with publishing executives and author agents.

Michael Beach, CEO of Hachette Book Group, is due to testify on Monday, while King is expected to testify on Tuesday.

Penguin Random House, the largest book publisher in the United States, said it plans to buy rival Simon & Schuster in November 2020. Penguin Random House is owned by German media company Bertelsmann. (BTGGg.F). Simon & Schuster is owned by ViacomCBS, now known as Paramount Global (PARA.O). The Ministry of Justice filed its lawsuit in November 2021. Read more

Defense led by attorney Daniel Petrushelli who defeated the Trump administration’s 2018 bid to stop AT&T Inc (Tennessee) From buying Time Warner, he argued that the market for books and publishers to win best-selling authors is a competitive market and that a merger would make it more competitive.

Petroselli said in opening arguments that the government is asking the court to block the merger for "less than 100 books a year," rejecting the idea that the biggest booksellers would be able to reduce advances.

Publishers will argue that the evidence shows that when bidding for potential bestsellers, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster "are rarely the best bidders."

The top five publishers are Penguin Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette, with Walt Disney Co. (DIS.N) and Inc (AMZN.O) Also in the market. HarperCollins is owned by News Corp (NWSA.O).

U.S. District Judge Florence Bane for the District of Columbia will decide whether the deal can go ahead. The trial is expected to last two to three weeks.

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(cover) by Diane Bartz and David Shepardson in Washington. Editing by Matthew Lewis and Mark Porter

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Russia pound Ukrainian port; Putin announces global naval ambitions

  • Putin’s naval ambitions include the Black Sea and the Arctic
  • Russian missiles bombed the port of Mykolaiv
  • Explosion at the base of the Russian fleet in the Black Sea
  • Ukrainian grain magnate Oleksiy Vadatorsky was murdered in Mykolaiv
  • Ukraine’s first grain ship may leave port on Monday

Kyiv (Reuters) – Russian missiles bombed the Ukrainian Black Sea city of Mykolaiv, where President Vladimir Putin signed a new naval doctrine that portrays the United States as Russia’s main rival and outlines global naval ambitions in the Black Sea and the Arctic.

Putin did not mention the conflict in Ukraine during a speech to mark Russian Navy Day on Sunday, but said the navy would receive Zircon hypersonic cruise missiles in the coming months. Missiles can travel at nine times the speed of sound, outstripping air defenses. Read more

Naval Day celebrations in the port of Sevastopol were disrupted when five Russian Navy crew members were injured in an explosion after a suspected drone flew into the yard of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, the governor of the coastal city of Crimea Mikhail Razvozaev told Russian media.

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Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.

The attack was "undoubtedly carried out not from abroad, but from the Sevastopol region," Olga Kovitedi, a member of the Russian Senate, told the RIA news agency.

"Urgent searches are being conducted in the city to track down the organizers of this terrorist act," Kovitedi was quoted as saying.

More than a dozen rocket attacks on Sunday, possibly the most powerful on the city in five months of the war, hit homes and schools, killing two people and wounding three, Mayor of Mykolaiv Oleksandr Senkevich said. The missile strikes continued until Sunday evening.

Vitaly Kim, the governor of Mykolaiv, said on Telegram that Ukrainian grain magnate Oleksiy Vadatorsky, founder and owner of the agricultural company Nipolon, and his wife were killed in their home.

Headquartered in Mykolaiv, a city of strategic importance located on the border of the predominantly Russian-occupied Kherson region, Nipolon specializes in the production and export of wheat, barley and corn, has its own fleet and shipyard.

grain shipments

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called Vadotorsky’s death "a great loss for the whole of Ukraine".

Zelensky added that the businessman – one of Ukraine’s richest people with Forbes estimated his net worth in 2021 at $430 million – was building a modern grain market with a network of recharging stations and elevators.

“It was these people, these companies, precisely in southern Ukraine, who ensured food security for the world,” Zelensky said in his nightly speech. "It has always been this way. And it will be so again."

Putin invaded Ukraine on February 24, sparking a conflict that killed thousands, uprooted millions and severely strained relations between Russia and the West.

The biggest conflict in Europe since World War II has also fueled an energy and food crisis that is shaking the global economy. Ukraine and Russia are the main suppliers of grain.

Zelensky said Ukraine could harvest only half the normal amount this year due to the disruption of agriculture.

But the agreement signed under the auspices of the United Nations and Turkey on July 22 provides for safe passage for ships carrying grain from three ports in southern Ukraine.

A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the ship could leave Ukraine’s ports on Monday.

Eastern danger

Zelensky said Russia is moving some troops from the eastern Donbass region to the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhya regions.

"But this will not help them there. None of the Russian strikes will pass without a response from our army and intelligence officers," he said.

After failing to quickly capture the capital, Kyiv, early in the war, Russia shifted its forces to eastern and southern Ukraine.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, and Kyiv says Moscow is seeking to do the same with the Donbass region, linking it to Crimea in the south. Russian-backed separatists controlled parts of the region before the invasion.

Russia said it had invited experts from the United Nations and the Red Cross to investigate the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists.

Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over a missile attack or explosion early on Friday that appeared to kill Ukrainian prisoners of war in the frontline town of Olenivka in eastern Donetsk.

The International Committee of the Red Cross condemned the attack and said it had not been given permission to visit the site, adding that it was not within its competence to conduct a public investigation into the alleged war crimes. Read more

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Reporting by Reuters offices. writing by Michael Berry; Editing by Robert Persell

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The governor of Sevastopol said that Ukraine is attacking the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet

  • Ukraine bombs a Russian base on the Black Sea, according to the governor
  • Zelensky says the grain harvest may be halved because of the war
  • Zelensky orders the evacuation of Donetsk
  • Dozens of prisoners of war were killed in a strike at a separatist-controlled prison

Odessa, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces bombed the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Russian-controlled Sevastopol early on Sunday, while Ukraine reported intense Russian attacks on two southern cities, the governor of the coastal city of Crimea said.

Russian media quoted the governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvogayev, as saying that five workers were wounded in the attack when a drone flew in the courtyard of the headquarters.

The attack coincided with Russian Navy Day commemorated by President Vladimir Putin by announcing that the Russian Navy would receive what he called "enormous" high-speed Zircon cruise missiles in the next few months. Hypersonic weapons can travel nine times the speed of sound. Read more

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He did not mention Ukraine directly.

Ukrainian authorities said intense Russian strikes hit the southern cities of Mykolaiv and Nikopol overnight and early Sunday morning.

Mykolaiv mayor Oleksandr Senkevich told Ukrainian television earlier that two people were killed and three wounded when 12 missiles hit homes and educational facilities, describing the strikes as "perhaps the strongest" on the city during the entire war.

Up to 50 Grad rockets hit residential areas of Nikopol on Sunday morning, Dnipropetrovsk Governor Valentin Reznichenko wrote on a telegram. One person was injured.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.

Putin sent tens of thousands of troops across the border on February 24, sparking a conflict that killed thousands, displaced millions and deeply strained relations between Russia and the West.

The biggest conflict in Europe since World War II has also fueled an energy and food crisis that is shaking the global economy. Both Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of grain.

The crop can be cut

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Sunday that the country’s crop could be half the usual amount this year due to the invasion.

"Ukraine’s crop this year is threatened to fall twice," Zelensky wrote in English on Twitter, indicating half of what is usual. "Our main goal is to prevent the global food crisis caused by the Russian invasion. Grain is still finding a way to deliver it instead," he added.

Ukraine has struggled to get its products to buyers through its Black Sea ports because of the war.

But the agreement signed under the auspices of the United Nations and Turkey on July 22 provides for safe passage for ships carrying grain from three ports in southern Ukraine.

A spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday that there is a high probability that the first grain-exporting ship will leave Ukrainian ports on Monday. Read more

Eastern danger

In a televised address late Saturday night, Zelensky said hundreds of thousands of people were still subjected to heavy fighting in the Donbass region, which includes the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and which Russia seeks to fully control. Vast areas of the Donbass were captured before the invasion by Russian-backed separatists.

"Many are refusing to leave, but it still has to be done," Zelensky said. "The more people leave the Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill."

On Sunday, Russia called on experts from the United Nations and the Red Cross to investigate the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists.

Ukraine and Russia traded accusations over a missile attack or explosion early on Friday that appeared to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the frontline town of Olenivka in eastern Donetsk.

On Sunday, the Russian Defense Ministry said Russia had invited experts from the United Nations and the Red Cross to investigate the deaths "in order to conduct an objective investigation".

The ministry had published a list of 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war killed and 73 wounded in what it said was a Ukrainian military strike with a US-made high-mobility artillery missile (HIMARS).

Ukraine’s armed forces denied responsibility, saying that Russian artillery attacked the prison to cover up abuse there.

Reuters journalists confirmed some deaths in the prison, but were not immediately able to verify different accounts of the events.

The United Nations said it was ready to send experts to investigate whether it had obtained approval from both parties. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was seeking access and offered to help evacuate the wounded.

Russia denies that its forces deliberately attacked civilians or committed war crimes in the invasion, which it described as a "special operation".

Ukraine’s military said on Saturday that more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed and seven tanks were destroyed in the south on Friday, including the Kherson region which is the focus of Kyiv’s counter-offensive in that part of the country and a key link in Moscow’s supply lines.

Military Southern Command said rail traffic to Kherson via the Dnipro River has been cut off, potentially further isolating Russian forces west of the river from supplies in occupied Crimea and the east.

Ukraine has used Western-supplied long-range missile systems to severely damage three bridges across the Dnipro River in recent weeks, cutting off the city of Kherson and – according to British officials' estimation – leaving the 49th Russian army very weak on the western bank of the river.

Officials from the Russian-appointed administration that administers the Kherson region earlier this week dismissed Western and Ukrainian assessments of the situation.

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Reporting by Reuters offices Writing by Lincoln Feast and William MacLean Editing by William Mallard and Frances Kerry

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Ukraine says dozens of Russians were killed fighting Kherson

  • Kherson is the center of the Ukrainian counterattack
  • Ukraine says railways to Kherson via Dnipro have been cut
  • Ukraine and Russia trade accusations over the killing of prisoners of war

Odessa/Kyiv, Ukraine, July 30 (Reuters) – The Ukrainian military said on Saturday that it had killed dozens of Russian soldiers and destroyed two stores of ammunition in the fighting in the Kherson region, which is focused on Kyiv’s counter-offensive in the south and a key mission. Link in Moscow supply lines.

Military Southern Command said rail traffic to Kherson via the Dnipro River has been cut off, potentially further isolating Russian forces west of the river from supplies in occupied Crimea and the east.

Ukraine has used long-range missile systems from the West to severely damage three bridges across the Dnipro River in recent weeks, cutting off the city of Kherson – British defense officials estimate – leaving Russia’s 49th Army positioned on the river’s highly positioned west bank. vulnerable.

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"As a result of the fire that imposed control of the main transport lines in the occupied territories, the passage through the railway bridge crossing the Dnipro River was not possible," the Southern Command of Ukraine said in a statement.

It said more than 100 Russian soldiers and seven tanks were destroyed in Friday’s fighting in the Kherson region, the first major town occupied by the Russians after their February 24 invasion.

The first deputy chairman of the Kherson Regional Council, Yuri Sobolevsky, asked residents to stay away from Russian ammunition depots.

"The Ukrainian army is attacking the Russians, and this is only the beginning," Sobolevsky wrote on Telegram.

Dmitro Potry, the pro-Ukrainian governor of Kherson region, said the Pereslav region was hit hard. Pereslav lies across the river northwest of the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Station.

"In some villages, not a single house has been left intact, all infrastructure has been destroyed, and people are living in basements," Pottery wrote on Telegram.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports. Officials from the Russia-appointed administration that administers the Kherson region earlier this week dismissed Western and Ukrainian assessments of the situation.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that Russia likely erected two pontoon bridges and a ferry system to compensate for bridges damaged in the Ukrainian strikes.

It added that Russia-installed authorities in occupied territories in southern Ukraine may have been preparing to hold referendums on joining Russia later this year, and "likely to force residents to reveal personal details in order to make up voting records." Read more

Explosion in prison

The two sides also traded accusations on Friday over a missile attack or explosion that appeared to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the eastern Donetsk province.

The Russian Defense Ministry said 40 prisoners were killed and 75 wounded in a prison in the frontline town of Olenivka and held by Moscow-backed separatists. Reuters journalists confirmed some of the deaths in prison.

A spokesman for the separatists put the death toll at 53 and accused Kyiv of targeting the prison with US-made Himmars missiles.

Ukraine’s armed forces denied responsibility, saying that Russian artillery targeted the prison to conceal mistreatment of detainees there. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia had committed a war crime and called for international condemnation.

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the different accounts of events.

Reuters TV showed the remains of a burnt building, the cave filled with metal beds, some lying on charred bodies, while others were lined up on military stretchers or on the ground outside.

The fragments of the shell were placed on a blue metal bench. It was not immediately possible to detect any identification marks and it was not clear where the parts were collected.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was seeking access to the site and offered to help evacuate the wounded.

Ukraine has accused Russia of committing atrocities and brutality against civilians since its invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia denies targeting civilians.

food diplomacy

Top US and Russian diplomats on Friday discussed a UN-brokered deal to resume shipments of grain from Ukraine and ease the global food crisis in their first phone call since before Russia invaded its neighbor on Feb. 24.

The Foreign Ministry said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Foreign Minister Anthony Blinken that Washington was not keeping its promises regarding food exemption from sanctions. Read more

A Russian account of the phone call quoted Lavrov as telling Blinkin that Russia would achieve all the goals of its "special military operation," and said Western arms supplies to Ukraine would only prolong the conflict.

Blinkin warned Lavrov against any territorial claims by Russia during its war in Ukraine.

"The world will not recognize the annexations. We will impose significant additional costs on Russia if it goes ahead with its plans," he said.

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Stephen Coates. Editing by Lincoln Fest and William Mallard

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



Analysis: The world’s largest bond markets are back in favour, as recession fears mount

Global indices are displayed on a screen on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in Manhattan, New York City, US, August 19, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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LONDON, July 29 (Reuters) – One day you get out of the house, the next you go in: Collapsing global sovereign bond markets are back for better as fears of a global recession mount.

Government borrowing costs from Germany to France and Australia fell sharply this month, with 10-year bond yields down nearly 50 basis points each in July, and braced for their biggest monthly drop in at least a decade.

US 10-year Treasury yields are down about 80 basis points from 11-year highs in June, as decades of high inflation fueled expectations of an interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve.

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Steady inflation certainly means that not everyone is buying bonds and Friday’s data that showed eurozone inflation at another record high was a catalyst for new bond sales.

But there appears to be a shift as signs of slowing economic growth point towards a peak in official interest rates. This means that government bond investors who shunned in the first half of 2022 are regaining their allure.

German bond yields head for biggest monthly drop since 2011

Bond funds saw inflows of $3.6 billion in the week to Wednesday, the largest since March, Bank of America’s weekly analysis of inflows released on Friday showed.

Antoine Buffett, chief interest rate strategist at ING, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the German 10-year bond yield tested 0.5% in the coming months. It was at 0.9% on Friday and rose to nearly 2% in June.

"The tide has really turned, and bonds are back to behaving like recession hedges," Buffett said.

Thursday’s data showed the US economy contracted again in the second quarter. Eurozone data on Friday showed that the bloc is holding up better than expected even though strong Germany is on the brink of deflation. Read more

Reuters graphics

long game

Investors are increasing their exposure to long-term debt due to growth concerns.

It is beginning to increase the term, which is sensitive to moves in base rates, said Flavio Carpenzano, chief investment officer at Capital Group, which manages $2.6 trillion in assets.

"We recently reduced the duration of the underweight (positions) because Europe may go into a recession, in which case we want to have core assets like German bonds," he said.

“From this perspective, we are gradually starting to increase the duration through German bonds in the 10-year part of the curve to protect the portfolio from a downside.”

Total returns, including capital gains and coupon payments, on Austria’s 100-year bonds rose 33% in July, according to Refinitiv data. But as with most very long-term debt, an investor who bought in at the start of 2022 would be down significantly so far.

The European Central Bank raised interest rates by 50 basis points last week and markets fully recovered in another big move in September. They now attribute a nearly 42% chance of raising another half a point.

Markets are pricing in the highest US interest rate of 3.2% by the end of this year and 50 basis points for rate cuts in 2023. Before the Federal Reserve raised rates by 75 basis points in mid-June, it had priced US interest rates at Peak by more than 4% in 2023 and cut the interest rate by a quarter point by the end of next year.

Earlier this week, the Fed introduced another rate increase of 0.75%. Read more

Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors, said the company had increased its exposure to US Treasuries and investment-grade corporate debt due to recession risks.

"We expect a recession in 2023 and believe the Fed will start cutting rates towards the end of next year, and it’s hard to see a higher move in US bond yields," she said.

Reuters graphics

Investors said the outlook for European bond markets such as Italy is more complex, given growth concerns and political instability.

It is still underweight in Italian bonds, Carpizano of the Capital Group said.

Others said the drop in bond yields wasn’t a one-way bet as the fight against inflation was a far cry from the won – eurozone price growth hit a new record high of 8.9% in July.

"I feel the rise in interest rates is overstated," said Tim Graf, head of macroeconomic strategy for EMEA at State Street.

“German 10-year bond yields at 0.9%, looking at the inflation picture, is not something I would like to have,” he said, noting that Bond yields could dip towards 1.25-1.5% by the end of the year.

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Reporting by Dara Ranasinghe. Additional reporting by Saikat Chatterjee and Sujata Rao; Editing by Tommy Rigory Wilkes and Thomas Janowski

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Russia assigns mercenaries to frontline sectors as infantry losses mount – UK

  • Wagner fighters are unlikely to change the course of the invasion – UK
  • Ukraine is trying to disrupt supply lines and bomb bridges
  • Russia strikes Kyiv region for the first time in weeks

Kyiv (Reuters) – Russia has assigned mercenaries to keep parts of Ukraine’s front line, Britain’s Defense Ministry said on Friday, signaling it is short of combat infantry, as Kyiv ramps up a counter-offensive in the south. .

A greater reliance on paid fighters from Russia’s private military company Wagner Group to carry out front-line missions rather than their usual special operations work would be another sign that the Russian military is under pressure six months into its war in Ukraine.

But the British Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update that it was unlikely that Wagner’s mercenaries would make up for the loss of regular infantry units or change the course of the Russian invasion.

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"This is a significant change from the group’s previous employment since 2015, when it normally carried out tasks different from regular, overt and large-scale Russian military activities," the ministry said on Twitter.

Outside normal business hours, Wagner and the Kremlin could not be reached for comment.

Officials in Kyiv said on Wednesday they had observed an "intense redeployment" of Russian forces in the south, where British defense officials believe the 49th Russian Army, stationed on the western bank of the Dnipro River, is at risk.

British intelligence said Thursday that the southern city of Kherson, key to Russia’s land supply lines from Russia-annexed Crimea, is now effectively cut off from other Russian-occupied territories.

The Kherson region fell to Russian forces shortly after the start of what Moscow calls a "special military operation" on February 24. Ukraine describes the Russian invasion as an imperial-style war of conquest.

The Ukrainian military has used long-range missile systems supplied by the West to severely damage three bridges across the Dnipro River in recent weeks, making it difficult for Russia to supply its forces on the West Bank.

Ukraine said its planes bombed five Russian strongholds around Kherson and another nearby city on Thursday, the epicenter of its biggest counterattack in the conflict.

Russia bombed the outskirts of Kyiv for the first time in weeks on Thursday. District Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said on Telegram that 15 people were wounded when rockets landed on military installations in the Vyshhorod district, on the outskirts of the capital.

Sirens sounded as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed Parliament alongside visiting Lithuanian President Gitanas Noseda.

The attack shattered the sense of life returning to normal in Kyiv since Russian forces abandoned attempts to capture the city in the early weeks of the war, in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.

The region’s governor, Vyacheslav Chusov, told Ukrainian television on Thursday that more than 10 Russian missiles had hit the Chernihiv region, northeast of Kyiv. Like Kyiv, Chernihiv has not been targeted for weeks.

The Northern Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said that more than 20 missiles were fired at the Chernihiv region bordering Russia from a base in Belarus, an ally of Russia.

Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield reports.

Eastern Front

Ukraine’s counterattacks in the south come as Russia continues its battle for control of the entire Donbass industrial region in the east, which includes the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.

Donetsk region governor Pavlo Kirilenko said on Telegram that Russian forces bombed the town of Bakhmut, which Russia described as a key target in its advance through Donetsk, four times on Thursday. He added that at least three people were killed and three wounded.

As the fighting raged, international efforts continued to try to reopen Ukrainian ports and allow the export of grain and other goods.

Allowing the safe passage of grain shipments from Ukraine should alleviate shortages that have left tens of millions of people around the world facing soaring food prices and starvation.

Russia and Ukraine struck a deal last week to lift a ban on grain exports from Black Sea ports, but UN aid coordinator Martin Griffiths said "critical" details of safe passage for ships were still being worked out.

Griffiths had hoped the first shipment of grain would be shipped from a Ukrainian port on the Black Sea as early as Friday. Read more

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Stephen Coates. Lincoln Fest Editing.

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Biden begins his fifth call with the Chinese president, as he looks to de-escalate tensions in Taiwan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping began their fifth call as leaders on Thursday, as concerns mounted over a possible visit to Taiwan demanded by China, U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The White House said the call began at 8:33 a.m. (1233 GMT) and US officials said it would have a broad agenda, including a discussion of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which China has not yet condemned.

In essence, US officials see the exchange as another opportunity to manage competition between the world’s two largest economies, whose relations are increasingly skewed by tensions over democratically governed Taiwan, which Xi has vowed to reunite with the mainland, by force if necessary.

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Beijing has issued mounting warnings of repercussions for Pelosi to visit Taiwan, a move that would be a dramatic, if unprecedented, display of US support for the island, which it says faces growing Chinese military and economic threats.

Washington has no official relations with Taiwan and follows a "one China" policy, which recognizes Beijing and not Taipei diplomatically. But it is obligated by US law to provide the island with the means to defend itself, and pressure has grown in Congress for more visible support.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.

One of the people briefed on the planning for the call said the Biden administration believes that leader-to-leader engagement is the best way to reduce tensions over Taiwan.

Some analysts believe Xi also has an interest in avoiding escalation as he seeks an unprecedented third term in office at China’s ruling Communist Party congress expected in the fall.

Biden also wants to discuss climate issues and economic competition, the person briefing said, as well as the idea of ​​capping the price of Russian oil to punish Moscow for its war in Ukraine, an issue Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen raised with her Chinese counterparts earlier. July. Read more

The Biden administration is debating whether to raise some tariffs on Chinese goods as a way to mitigate rising inflation, but US officials said the decision was not expected before the call. Read more

When Biden last spoke to Xi in March, he warned of "consequences" if Beijing provided material support for Russia’s war, and the US government believes that red line has not been crossed in the months since.

Taiwan has complained of intensifying Chinese military exercises over the past two years to try to force it to accept Beijing’s sovereignty. Just before the phone call Thursday, Taiwan’s military said it had fired flares to warn a drone that had "peeked" at a strategically located and heavily fortified island near the Chinese coast that may have been searching its defenses. Read more

Toxic links

The White House has reiterated that the "one China" policy has not changed despite speculation about Pelosi’s possible visit, which the speaker has not yet confirmed.

The last time the speaker of the US House of Representatives visited Taiwan was in 1997, and as an equal branch of government, the US executive has little control over travel within Congress.

China has grown militarily and economically powerful since then, and some analysts fear that such a visit at a time of fraught relations could lead to a crisis across the 100-mile (160 kilometer) wide waterway separating China and Taiwan.

Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund in the United States, said.

She said Biden and Xi need to focus their advocacy on de-escalation, including potential mechanisms to reduce the risk of mishaps.

Kirby said the administration is in touch with Pelosi’s office to make sure it has "all the context" it needs to make decisions about her travel.

China has offered little indication of specific responses it might take if Pelosi, a longtime critic of China, especially on human rights issues, goes to Taiwan.

Raising the Taiwan issue could serve as a domestic distraction from the slowing Chinese economy, said Martin Chorzimba, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, but "any reaction strong enough to impose US sanctions will do serious damage to China and the world economy." Read more

Chinese state media said Thursday that the country will try hard to achieve the best possible results for the economy this year, ignoring previous calls that it will strive to achieve its 2022 growth target. This came after a high-level meeting of the Communist Party chaired by Xi. Read more

Scott Kennedy, of the Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he did not believe the two sides were on the brink of a crisis, but that "the risk of a major crisis is well above zero" and it was important to avoid Biden’s invitation to Xi. Unwelcome clash.

"Beijing, Taipei, and Washington are full of people immersed in how to send and interpret signals that convey threats and reassurance, and I’m sure no one wants war right now."

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Additional reporting by Michael Martina, Trevor Honeycutt, David Bronstrom and Garrett Renshaw; Additional reporting by Martin Quinn Pollard in Beijing. Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan, Philippa Fletcher and Bernadette Bao

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Russia-occupied Kherson cut off due to Ukraine counter-attacks – Britain

  • Ukraine’s counter-offensive in Kherson is gaining momentum – UK
  • Ukraine says Russia is conducting "large-scale redeployment" in the south
  • Russian-backed forces take control of the Vohlhersk plant
  • Blinkin says he plans to make a call with Russian Lavrov

(Reuters) – British defense and intelligence officials said on Thursday that a Ukrainian counterattack had effectively cut off the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson and left thousands of Russian troops stationed near the Dnipro River "extremely weakened".

Ukraine has made it clear that it intends to regain control of Kherson, which fell to Russia in the early days of the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24.

The British Ministry of Defense said Ukrainian forces likely established a bridge south of the Ingolets River, and used new, long-range artillery to destroy at least three of the bridges crossing the Dnipro River.

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"The 49th Russian army stationed on the western bank of the Dnipro River now appears highly vulnerable," she said in a regular intelligence bulletin on Twitter, adding that Kherson is effectively isolated from other Russian-occupied territories.

His loss would severely undermine Russia’s attempts to portray the occupation as a success.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, had earlier tweeted that Russia was concentrating "maximum number of forces" in the direction of Kherson, but gave no details.

Oleksiy Aristovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said Russia is conducting an "extensive redeployment" of forces from east to south in what amounts to a strategic shift from offensive to defense.

Zelensky said Ukraine would rebuild the Antonevsky Bridge over the Dnipro River and other crossings in the region.

"We are doing everything we can to ensure that the occupation forces do not have any logistical opportunities in our country," he said in a speech on Wednesday evening.

Russian officials had previously said they would instead go to bridges and pontoon ferries to ferry troops across the river.

Russia-backed forces said on Wednesday they had captured the Soviet-era Volhersk coal-fired power plant, Ukraine’s second largest, in what was Moscow’s first major gain in more than three weeks. Read more


Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what Moscow called a "special military operation" to disarm and "disarm" its neighbor. Ukraine and its allies describe the invasion as an unjustified war of aggression.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said he plans to have a phone conversation with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov – the first among diplomats since before the war began.

Blinken told a news conference that the call in the coming days would not be "negotiations on Ukraine," reiterating Washington’s position that any talks on ending the war should be between Kyiv and Moscow.

Russia has not received any official request from Washington regarding a phone call between Blinkin and Lavrov, TASS news agency reported.

Blinken said the US made a "big offer" to Russia to release US citizens, WNBA star Britney Grenier and former US Marine Paul Whelan, without giving details of what the US would offer in return. Read more

Blinken said he would pressure Lavrov to respond to the offer.

A source familiar with the situation confirmed a CNN report that Washington was willing to exchange Russian arms smuggler Victor Bout, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States, as part of a deal.

Aside from discussing the Americans being held by Russia, Blinken said he and Lavrov would bring up the preliminary agreement on grain exports reached last week between Russia, the United States, Turkey and Ukraine.

Russia cut gas flows to Europe on Wednesday in an energy standoff with the European Union. It has blocked grain exports from Ukraine since the invasion, but agreed on Friday to allow shipments through the Black Sea to the Bosphorus strait in Turkey and to global markets. Read more

The deal became doubtful almost immediately when Russia launched cruise missiles at Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port, on Saturday, just 12 hours after the deal was signed.

Before the invasion and subsequent sanctions, Russia and Ukraine accounted for nearly a third of global wheat exports.

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Grant McCall and Stephen Coates; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Fest.

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Russia tells that NASA’s space station withdrawal is less imminent than previously reported

The International Space Station (ISS) is photographed by the Expedition 56 crew of the Soyuz spacecraft after dismantling, October 4, 2018. NASA/Roscosmos/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

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A senior NASA official told Reuters on Wednesday that Russian space officials have told their American counterparts that Moscow wants to continue transporting its astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) until their orbital site is built and operational. .

Combined with comments by a senior Russian space official published on Wednesday, the latest indications are that Russia still has at least six years to end an orbital cooperation with the United States dating back more than two decades.

A split in the International Space Station program seemed closer to hand on Tuesday, when Yuri Borisov, the newly appointed director general of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, surprised NASA by announcing that Moscow intended to withdraw from the space station partnership "after 2024." Read more

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Russian officials told the US space agency later on Tuesday that Russia’s Roscosmos wanted to remain in the partnership while Russia operates its planned orbital position, called ROSS, NASA chief space operations officer Kathy Lueders said in an interview.

"We are not getting any indication at any level of work that anything has changed," Luders told Reuters on Wednesday, adding that NASA’s relationships with Roscosmos remain "business as usual."

The space station, a science laboratory that spans the size of a football field and orbits about 250 miles (400 kilometers) above Earth, has been continuously occupied for more than two decades under a partnership led by the United States and Russia that also includes Canada, Japan and 11 European countries.

It offers one of the last vestiges of cooperation between the United States and Russia, though its fate has been in question since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, straining bilateral relations on several fronts as the Biden administration imposed economic sanctions on Moscow.

The Ukraine conflict has also raised tensions between the Russian space agency (Roscosmos) and the European Space Agency (ESA).

No formal agreement has yet been reached to extend Russia’s participation in the International Space Station beyond 2024. Lueders said that NASA, Roscosmos, ESA and other station partners plan to discuss the possibility of extending each other’s presence in the lab until 2030 during a regular meeting Friday of the board, which Supervising the management of the station.

On its website, on Wednesday, Roscosmos published an interview with Vladimir Solovyov, flight director of the Russian section of the space station, who was quoted as saying that Russia should remain at the station until Russia works.

Solovyov said he expects the ROSS to be fully assembled into orbit sometime in 2028.

"We, of course, need to continue operating the ISS until we create a fairly tangible backlog of ROSS," Solovyov said. "We must bear in mind that if we stop manned flights for several years, it will be very difficult to restore what has been achieved."

The American and Russian parts of the space station were intentionally built to be so interconnected and technically interconnected, that any abrupt withdrawal of Russian cooperation aboard the International Space Station could seriously disrupt one of the main pillars of NASA’s human spaceflight program.

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(Reporting by Joey Rowlett) Editing by Jonathan Otis and Will Dunham

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Russia cuts gas flows further as it urges Europe to save energy

Pipes are photographed at the landing facilities of the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline in Lubmen, Germany, March 8, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke/

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FRANKFURT/LONDON (Reuters) – Russia delivered less gas to Europe on Wednesday in another escalation in the face of an energy crisis between Moscow and the European Union that will make it difficult for the European Union to fill up more expensive stocks. Before the winter heating season.

Cut off supplies, indicated by Gazprom (GAZP.MM) Earlier this week, it reduced the capacity of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline – the main delivery route to Europe for Russian gas – to a fifth of its total capacity.

Nord Stream 1 accounts for about a third of all Russian gas exports to Europe.

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European Union countries agreed on Tuesday a weak contingency plan to curb gas demand after striking compromise deals to limit cuts in some countries, hoping that lower consumption would mitigate the impact if Moscow halted supplies altogether. Read more

The plan highlights concerns that countries will not be able to meet targets to refill storage and keep their citizens warm during the winter months and that Europe’s fragile economic growth could suffer another blow if gas rationing is to be made. Read more

Royal Bank of Canada analysts said the plan could help Europe get through the winter provided gas flows from Russia are within 20-50% of capacity, but cautioned against "market complacency, and European politicians have now resolved the issue of gas dependence." Russian".

While Moscow has blamed delays in returning serviced turbines and sanctions for cutting supplies, Brussels has accused Russia of using energy as a weapon to blackmail the bloc and retaliate against Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.

Gazprom Executive Vice President Vitaly Markelov said that the company has not yet received a Siemens turbine used at the Nord Stream 1 Portovaya compressor plant, which is undergoing maintenance in Canada.

Markelov said there were sanctions risks associated with the machines, while Siemens Energy said Gazprom needed to provide customs documents to return the turbine to Russia.

save gas

On Wednesday, physical flows through Nord Stream 1 fell to 14.4 million kWh between 1200-1300 GMT from about 28 million kWh the day before, already just 40% of normal capacity. The drop comes less than a week after the pipeline was restarted after a scheduled 10-day maintenance period.

European politicians have repeatedly warned that Russia could completely shut down gas flows this winter, which could push Germany into recession and push prices for consumers and industry even higher.

The Netherlands' wholesale gas price for August, the European benchmark, rose 7% to €210 per megawatt-hour on Wednesday, nearly 400% more than last year.

Germany, Europe’s largest economy and largest importer of Russian gas, has been hit particularly hard by supply cuts since mid-June, with its gas importer Uniper. (UN01.DE) As a result, it required a 15 billion euro ($15.21 billion) government bailout.

Environmental Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani has warned that Italy, another major importer that normally gets 40% of its gas from Russia, will face a gas supply crisis at the end of next winter if Russia halts supplies altogether. Read more

Uniper and Eni Italian (ENI.MI) Both said they received less gas from Gazprom than in recent days.

German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said he is open to using nuclear power to avoid electricity shortages. Read more

Germany said it could extend the life of its three remaining nuclear plants, which produce 6% of their energy, if Russia decided to cut them off from gas.

Klaus Müller, head of the country’s grid regulator, said Germany can still avoid gas shortages that could push it to rationing, while making another appeal to homes and industry to "save gas".

However, German industry groups have warned that companies may have no choice but to cut production to achieve greater savings, citing slowing approval to replace natural gas with other, more polluting fuels. Read more

Mercedes Benz (MBGn.DE) CEO Ola Kaellenius said a combination of efficiency measures, increased electricity consumption, lower temperatures in production facilities and a switch to oil could cut gas use by up to 50% during the year, if needed.

Germany is currently in the second phase of its three-phase emergency gas plan, with the final phase starting once rationing can no longer be avoided.

(1 dollar = 0.9862 euros)

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Additional reporting by Paul Carrell and Rachel Moore in Berlin, Christoph Stitz in Frankfurt and Nina Chestney in London; Additional reporting by Angelo Amanti in Rome and my Reuters offices; Editing by Eileen Hardcastle and Thomas Janowski

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