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Going on Vacation This Summer? Welcome to the ‘Revenge Travel’ Economy

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Going on Vacation This Summer? Welcome to the ‘Revenge Travel’ Economy

The clock had not yet struck noon on a recent sunny day in Copenhagen, but the hour didn’t stop Hannah Jackson and her friends from ordering a bottle of Champagne. After the waiter at one of the outdoor restaurants that line the Danish capital’s colorful harbor popped the cork, the four women from Texas gleefully toasted to their European adventure. “This is my first trip in more than two years,” said Jackson, 32. “We are celebrating every moment we can.”

Because no phenomenon can be real until it can be hashtagged, the travel industry has been quick to brand the impulse driving Jackson and countless others this summer as “revenge travel.” Like revenge spending and even revenge bubble-tea drinking, the phrase refers to consumers’ increased willingness to cough up cash after 28 long months of lockdowns and restrictions. In travel’s case, that means a newly unbridled demand for vacations that are more frequent, more indulgent, and—more than anything—far from home. That demand got a boost on June 13 when the U.S. stopped requiring a negative COVID-19 test for entry. But as it rises to and even surpasses pre-pandemic levels, a host of challenges, from inflation to war to, yes, the lingering threat of COVID-19, casts a shadow on the rosy predictions of a rebound. Will this be the summer in which the travel industry does indeed get revenge on the pandemic? Or will its hopes be dashed once again?

Read More: Can Barcelona Fix Its Love-Hate Relationship With Tourists After the Pandemic?

“The truth is that tourism is rebounding very, very quickly,” says Luís Araújo, president of the European Travel Commission (ETC), which represents the continent’s national tourism organizations. “It’s quite impressive.”

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At this juncture, revenge travel looks to be off to a good start. Among Europeans, 70% are planning vacation trips between now and November, according to an ETC survey. The numbers are almost as strong among Americans, with 65% planning leisure trips within the next six months according to MMGY Travel Intelligence, a global marketing and research company based in Kansas City. According to Mastercard, bookings on short and medium-haul flights have surpassed pre-pandemic levels. And travel searches for the first quarter of 2022 were above their 2019 levels, according to Google, while searches for passport appointments jumped 300% in the first three months of this year.


Travelers wait in a long queue to pass through the security check at Heathrow in London, on June 1, 2022.

Carl Court—Getty Images

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“Pent up demand is already delivering rapid growth,” says David Goodger, Europe director for Tourism Economics, a U.K.-based company that provides forecasting and analysis to the travel industry. It’s driven, he adds, “by excess savings accumulated during the period when people couldn’t spend or travel as usual.”

Those extra savings are affecting not only the amount of travel people are undertaking but the kind of travel as well. After decades of appealing to budget travelers with low-cost flights and party buses, many European destinations are emerging from the pandemic with a new emphasis on upscale travel. “A lot of enterprises, big and small, have spent the past two years renovating their facilities, upgrading, investing in their hospitality—adapting to the new needs of the customer,” says Araújo of the ETC. “We also see a lot of countries adjusting their communication to high-end travel.”

Certainly companies that specialize in high-end travel are experiencing a boom. At Black Tomato, a luxury tour company with headquarters in London, the interest in itineraries that have guests island hopping in Greece or bottling their own perfumes in Provence is at record levels. “Demand for Europe is insane right now,” says Brendan Drewniany, director of communications. “We’re advising our clients that if they want to go to specific destinations in Europe at this point they’re going to have to be pretty open-minded about alternatives.”


Visitors take photos of the sunset in Chora, Mykonos, Greece, on June 11, 2022.

Nick Paleologos—Bloomberg/Getty Images

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Drewniany says that travelers started planning for this summer early: the company had its best quarter ever at the end of 2021, and in the first quarter of 2022, its clients are spending on average 31% more per booking. “We’re seeing a lot more multi-destination trips, and a lot more multi-generational ones,” he says. “People are traveling to celebrate milestones, and they want to bring the grandparents now.”

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And after all that time stuck at home with nothing to do except stream Netflix and tend their sourdough starters, travelers are eager for experiences. “I prefer to call it ‘liberation travel,’ rather than revenge travel,” Araújo says with a chuckle. “But there’s an increase in people wanting to stay in independent hotels, partly because they care about sustainability. And they’re looking for more authentic experiences as well.”

Katie Parla can testify to that. The author of several books on Italian food, she leads culinary tours in Rome, and has seen her bookings surge 200% in the last several months compared to the same period in 2019. “People are just so grateful to be having these experiences,” Parla says. “Often they’re doing trips that they had planned to do in 2020, so even then something is closed or things don’t go as planned, they’re tolerant and understanding. They’re just so happy to be there.”



Tourists visiting the interior of Rome’s Pantheon stand in the light circle projected on the marble floor, on June 17, 2022.

Alessandra Tarantino—AP

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But we have been here before. In fact, the notion of revenge travel first emerged ahead of the summer of 2021, when everyone thought the worst was over and the world would soon open up again. In many ways, it did. Domestic travel in many places surged to nearly 90% of its 2019 rates that summer, and, as MMGY senior analyst Leanne Hill points out, tourists spent unusually high amounts that were, she says, “largely revenge-travel oriented.” But slow vaccine rollouts and adoption rates, coupled with the slew of ever-changing travel restrictions and newly emerging virus variants ultimately stymied expectations. International tourism was down 67% in July 2021 over its rates that same month in 2019.

This time around, the obstacles to the fulfillment of travel fantasies, vengeful and otherwise, are less about the virus (all of the experts TIME consulted agreed that there was little tolerance for more lockdowns and restrictions) than other ills that have sprung up in its wake. “Inflation and staff shortages is the twin-headed monster threatening the travel recovery this summer,” says Tourism Economics’ Goodger.

Staffing shortages are cutting into service across Europe. Many hotels have responded by automating some aspects like check in, and trimming once routine benefits like daily room cleaning. Restaurants from Copenhagen to Madrid have cut their operating hours and, in some cases, shut down altogether. But perhaps nowhere is the impact of the shortage on travelers clearer than in the scenes of chaos emerging from airports across Europe and the United States: flight cancellations, long waits for baggage that frequently fails to appear altogether, excruciating lines through security. “Demand is ramping up much more quickly than businesses, having shed workers during the pandemic, have been able to recruit for,” says Goodger.

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A couple sunbathes as tourists are seen in the background in Cais das Colunas in Lisbon, Portugal on May 19, 2022.

Horacio Villalobos—Corbis/Getty Images

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And although American travelers are, according to MMGY estimates, planning on spending an average of $600 more per trip than they did a year ago, it’s unclear, analyst Hill says, “whether that’s because of increased costs or overall willingness to spend more.” There are clear signs, she adds, inflation is definitely starting to bite. “We’re beginning to see travel intentions start to erode slightly, particularly among travelers making less than $100,000.” Those concerns are echoed among Europeans travelers, according to the ETC, which found that while only 7% of travelers expressed concern about inflation and costs affecting their vacations in 2021, 13% do so now. At the high end too, pricing is “definitely a real challenge,” says Black Tomato’s Drewniany. “Hotel properties are all still recouping and it’s not that they’re trying to be extortionist, but prices are definitely worse. So it’s a challenge to explain and translate that to clients.”

The war in Ukraine is also having an impact, at least in countries close to the border that, although they may not be major destinations, had experienced tourism growth prior to the pandemic. “These countries are running as smoothly as in any other country, but we’ve seen that they’ve had a hard time getting that message across to travelers,” says Araújo, especially when compared to the rapidly rebounding Mediterranean area. Inside Europe, he adds, the recovery has “two velocities.”


A tourist stands in front of the glass pyramid of the Louvre museum in Paris, France, June 15, 2022.

Sarah Meyssonnier—Reuters

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All that, and the uncertainty of COVID-19 to boot. When the U.S. lifted the requirement of a negative test to enter the country on June 12, it spurred an immediate boomlet within the larger boom of American travel plans. One global tour operator Explore, saw a 12% increase in website traffic immediately following the news, according to MMGY. Within Europe, though, some countries still have some restrictions in place, and the lack of clarity has translated, according to the ETC, into a weaker resurgence of long-haul flights to Europe, including from the US; those numbers are not expected to return to 2019 levels until 2024.

Even so, most industry insiders are feeling optimistic about the summer ahead of them. And even more than revenge, that may be due to another pandemic-generated emotion: resilience. “You hear things like, oh, people are valuing experiences over Rolexes, and I think that is the reality right now: people are putting their money into experiences,” says Drewniany. But, he adds, there’s something else in play. “After everything everyone’s been through, there’s not a ton of fear about the unknown anymore. People know that if they’re scheduled to go to London in October and for some reason, London locks down or something, they know that we’ll figure it out. What you’re seeing renewed right now is this sort of inherent mindset of flexibility.”

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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‘Super-Earths’ Could Host Alien Life for 84 Billion Years, Study Finds

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‘Super-Earths’ Could Host Alien Life for 84 Billion Years, Study Finds

Life on a rogue Super-Earth would be difficult, but organisms have been shown to thrive even in very extreme conditions on regular Earth.

Concept art of Super-Earth. Image: 

Evgeniy Ivanov via Getty Images

210329_MOTHERBOARD_ABSTRACT_LOGO

ABSTRACT breaks down mind-bending scientific research, future tech, new discoveries, and major breakthroughs.

A special class of planets could potentially host life for as long as tens of billions of years, according to a new study.  

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Super-Earths, which are rocky planets that are more massive than Earth but smaller than ice giants such as Neptune, are abundant in star systems across the Milky Way; indeed, our own solar system may be somewhat of an outlier in lacking this type of world. 

Now, scientists led by Marit Mol Lous, a PhD student studying exoplanets at the University of Zürich, have presented new evidence that so-called “cold Super-Earths” that orbit their stars at more than twice the distance between Earth and the Sun, “can maintain temperate surface conditions” for up to give to eight billion years, a timespan that “suggests that the concept of planetary habitability should be revisited and made more inclusive,” according to a study published on Monday in Nature Astronomy.

In addition, Mol Lous and her colleagues found that some Super-Earths that are kicked out of their home star systems by gravitational perturbations, or other mechanisms, could potentially maintain liquid water habitats for as much as 84 billion years, because these rogue worlds would not be affected by the death of any host star.

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“Here we argue that it should be considered that habitable planets could be very different from Earth, and that we should remain open-minded when investigating such potentially habitable planets,” Mol Lous said in an email. “Of course, it is also important to remain cautious and not jump into conclusions when considering such ‘exotic’ habitats as we know very little, and a lot can be left to speculation.”

The new study is built from theoretical models of these tantalizing worlds, rather than real observations, because it is challenging to spot these cold Super-Earths with current telescopes. Most exoplanets are detected when they pass in front of their star relative to our perspective on Earth, causing a slight dip in starlight. As a result, all known Super-Earths have relatively short orbits that produce frequent brightness dips, making them simpler for telescopes to pinpoint.

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However, scientists have suspected for years that Super-Earths in more distant orbits could be compelling targets in the search for extraterrestrial life. Models suggest that these planets could retain their primordial atmospheres, which are dominated by hydrogen and helium gas, for billions of years. These atmospheres are distinct from those surrounding some rocky planets in our own solar system, including Earth, which evolved atmospheres with more complicated compounds, such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen gasses.

“The hypothesis that there could be liquid water on a planet that has a primordial atmosphere has been around for over 20 years and since then more studies have worked on this idea,” Mol Lous said. “We wanted to further investigate the evolutionary aspect, in other words, we calculated how long liquid water could be present and what would be necessary for a planet to have the longest possible duration of liquid water.”

Liquid water is the magic ingredient for life as we know it on Earth, which is why scientists prioritize it in search for aliens elsewhere in the universe. To delve into the “potential exotic habitability” of cold Super-Earths with primordial atmospheres, in the words of the study, Mol Lous and her colleagues ran over 1,000 simulations of planets with different masses, atmospheres, and orbital distances.

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The team discovered that planets between one and ten times the mass of Earth, with atmospheres that are 100 to 1,000 times thicker than Earth’s skies, might occupy a hospitable sweet spot. Worlds that orbit too close to their stars are expected to lose their primordial atmospheres under the harsh stellar glare, but planets that are located at distances beyond the orbit of Mars could hang onto this hydrogen-helium envelope. At this potentially safe distance, these atmospheres could act as greenhouse gasses by absorbing infrared radiation, providing a source of heat that might nurture life in liquid water oceans. 

This class of planets could provide habitable conditions for five to eight billion years, but would eventually become inhospitable once their stars began expanding during their dying stages, reports the study. In a mind-boggling twist, the researchers found that rogue planets that are ten times as massive as Earth, with atmospheres that are about one percent the mass of Earth, could be habitable for an astonishing 84 billion years, according to the models. The study suggests that these unbound worlds would probably be too hot for life at this point in the universe’s 13.8-billion-year lifespan, but could become hospitable over the next several billion years.

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Any speculative aliens on these worlds would have to grapple with very different conditions compared to Earth, including enormous surface pressures and a lack of direct sunlight as a result of thick atmospheres. However, the team notes that extreme lifeforms on Earth can deal with high pressures in deep ocean trenches, while some organisms rely on chemical energy sources instead of drawing fuel from the Sun.

The implications of the study are exciting, but Mol Lous and her colleagues cautioned that it will take more research, and hopefully direct observations, to back up these initial findings. 

“There are three important things to address in the future,” Mol Lous said. “The first is if our results hold when we make our model more realistic. We did a few studies on how robust our results are for changing parameters, but we still make simplifications and that should be improved in future work. For example, we don’t really let the water interact with the atmosphere in our model and that could actually be important.” 

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“The second is to study how likely it is that planets can form with the ‘right’ conditions for liquid water,” she continued. “The third is to think about observations: what can we measure about such planets to determine if they have liquid water or not?’

To that end, the team emphasized that these special exoplanets might be detectable to the next-generation observatories, such as the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope or NASA’s forthcoming Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope. 

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“There are no accurate predictions on the occurrence of super-Earth-sized planets with these initial conditions, but it is likely enough that these alternatively habitable planets constitute a fraction of the habitable worlds in the galaxy,” the researchers said in the study.

We “expect that our understanding of this exoplanetary population and its potential habitability will substantially improve in the near future,” they concluded.

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The #1 Period Tracker on the App Store Will Hand Over Data Without a Warrant

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The #1 Period Tracker on the App Store Will Hand Over Data Without a Warrant

​Stardust app screens via Apple Store

Stardust app screens via Apple Store

Stardust, an astrology-focused menstrual tracking app that launched on the App Store last year, is one of Apple’s top three most-downloaded free apps right now. From sometime around Sunday evening until Monday mid-morning, it was in the number one spot. It’s also one of very few apps that has put in writing that it will voluntarily—without even being legally required to—comply with law enforcement if it’s asked to share user data. 

After the fall of Roe on Friday, ending the Constitutional right to an abortion and making abortion illegal in more than a dozen states, many people used Twitter to urge others to delete their period tracking apps for privacy and security reasons. A widely-shared concern is that law enforcement can use personal data created in apps against people who’ve sought or gotten abortions illegally. 

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Despite this, more people are downloading Stardust—which combines astrology with menstrual cycle tracking— right now than some of the most-downloaded apps in history. As of Monday morning, on the iOS App Store, Stardust was ranking above hugely popular apps including TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram. It was ranking above BeReal and NGL, two apps that have recently gone viral with teens. 

Stardust seems to have done a decent job of jumping on this moment when everyone is screaming into the Twitter void to “delete you period tracking app!” by marketing itself as the choice for safety-conscious people to track their cycles. The app has less than 300 followers on Twitter, but has made viral TikToks talking about privacy and landed coverage in Mashable. Its Twitter bio is “Privacy first period tracking app.”

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Despite all of its privacy-first marketing, Stardust states in its privacy policy that if the cops ask for user data, it’ll comply, whether legally required to or not, and claims that the data is “anonymized” and “encrypted.” The privacy policy states:

“We may disclose your anonymized, encrypted information to third parties in order to protect the legal rights, safety, and security of the Company and the users of our Services; enforce our Terms of Service; prevent fraud; and comply with or respond to law enforcement or a legal process or a request for cooperation by a government or other entity, whether or not legally required.”

“Whether or not legally required” is an unusual phrase to include in a privacy policy. Most apps simply state that they will comply to the extent legally required. There’s no reason for companies to comply with the cops if they don’t have to. But Stardust says it will. 

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Stardust advertised that what differentiates it from other apps is an “encrypted wall” that they claim keeps data safe. “What we did was implement an encrypted wall between our users personally identifiable information (email/phone/apple id/ etc) and what they actually do on the Stardust app,” the company tweeted in a thread on Sunday about its data practices. 

This feature isn’t implemented yet: it will launch on Wednesday, according to Stardust, along with its Android app launch. It is not entirely clear what Stardust means by an “encrypted wall,” but Stardust explained that users create an encrypted identifier on their phones that the company doesn’t store, and that links users to their activity on the app. 

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Still, Stardust claims that if it receives a subpoena asking for data on a particular user, it will not be able to hand anything over. “If the government issues a subpoena to find out about your menstrual tracking data, we will not be able to produce anything for them,” Stardust claims. Whether that’s true depends on how and what it stores. Stardust did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Its privacy policy states that it collects and may share “general age demographic information and aggregate statistics about certain activities or symptoms from data collected to help identify patterns across users.” In a section about sharing to third parties, it states it will not share anything except in a laundry list of cases, including subpoenas: 

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“In response to subpoenas, court orders or legal processes, to the extent enforceable, permitted and as restricted by law (including to meet national security or law enforcement requirements); (ii) when disclosure is required to maintain the security and integrity of the App, or to protect any user’s security or the security of other persons, consistent with applicable laws; (iii) when disclosure is directed or consented to by the user who has input the Personal Data; (iv) in the event that we go through a business transition, such as a merger, divestiture, acquisition, liquidation or sale of all or a portion of its assets, your information will, in most instances, be part of the assets transferred. Information that is encrypted will remain encrypted and cannot be shared by us in decrypted form.”

Stardust tweeted that it offers an “an app experience on Stardust that lets our people share their tracking with their friends” and protect users from “bad actors” at the same time. The founders call this a “unique problem to solve.” These are diametrically opposed goals, unless security practices are airtight: either you can create an “app experience” that involves storing data with sharing features, or you can let people use the app without making accounts, and make your app less data-rich and valuable in the process.

The company tweeted that it’s still “working on an option” for anonymous use of the app, without creating an account. 

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Russia Defaults on Foreign Debt for First Time Since 1918

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Russia Defaults on Foreign Debt for First Time Since 1918

Russia defaulted on its foreign-currency sovereign debt for the first time in a century, the culmination of ever-tougher Western sanctions that shut down payment routes to overseas creditors.

For months, the country found paths around the penalties imposed after the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. But at the end of the day on Sunday, the grace period on about $100 million of snared interest payments due May 27 expired, a deadline considered an event of default if missed.

It’s a grim marker in the country’s rapid transformation into an economic, financial and political outcast. The nation’s eurobonds have traded at distressed levels since the start of March, the central bank’s foreign reserves remain frozen, and the biggest banks are severed from the global financial system.

But given the damage already done to the economy and markets, the default is also mostly symbolic for now, and matters little to Russians dealing with double-digit inflation and the worst economic contraction in years.

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Read more: How Sanctions on Russia Will Hurt—and Help—the World’s Economies

Russia has pushed back against the default designation, saying it has the funds to cover any bills and has been forced into non-payment. As it tried to twist its way out, it announced last week that it would switch to servicing its $40 billion of outstanding sovereign debt in rubles, criticizing a “force-majeure” situation it said was artificially manufactured by the West.

“It’s a very, very rare thing, where a government that otherwise has the means is forced by an external government into default,” said Hassan Malik, senior sovereign analyst at Loomis Sayles & Company LP. “It’s going to be one of the big watershed defaults in history.”

A formal declaration would usually come from ratings firms, but European sanctions led to them withdrawing ratings on Russian entities. According to the documents for the notes whose grace period expired Sunday, holders can call one themselves if owners of 25% of the outstanding bonds agree that an “Event of Default” has occurred.

With the final deadline passed, focus shifts to what investors do next.

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They don’t need to act immediately, and may choose to monitor the progress of the war in the hope that sanctions are eventually softened. Time may be on their side: the claims only become void three years on from the payment date, according to the bond documents.

“Most bondholders will keep the wait-and-see approach,” Takahide Kiuchi, an economist at Nomura Research Institute in Tokyo.

During Russia’s financial crisis and ruble collapse of 1998, President Boris Yeltsin’s government defaulted on $40 billion of its local debt, while declaring a moratorium on foreign debt.

The last time Russia fell into default vis-a-vis its foreign creditors was more than a century ago, when the Bolsheviks under Vladimir Lenin repudiated the nation’s staggering Czarist-era debt load in 1918.

By some measures it approached a trillion dollars in today’s money, according to Loomis Sayles’ Malik, who is also author of ‘Bankers and Bolsheviks: International Finance and the Russian Revolution.’

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By comparison, foreigners held the equivalent of almost $20 billion of Russia’s eurobonds as of the start of April.

Russia Debt Held Abroad Below 50%, First Time Since 2018: Chart

“Is it a justifiable excuse to say: ‘Oh well, the sanctions prevented me from making the payments, so it’s not my fault’?” Malik said.

“The broader issue is that the sanctions were themselves a response to an action on the part of the sovereign entity,” he said, referring to the invasion of Ukraine. “And I think history will judge this in the latter light.”

Finance Minister Anton Siluanov dismissed the situation on Thursday as a “farce.”

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With billions of dollars a week still pouring into state coffers from energy exports, despite the grinding conflict in east Ukraine, he reiterated that the country has the means, and the will, to pay.

“Anyone can declare whatever they like,” Siluanov said. “But anyone who understands what’s going on knows that this is in no way a default.”

His comments were prompted by the grace period that ended on Sunday. The 30-day window was triggered when investors failed to receive coupon payments due on dollar- and euro-denominated bonds on May 27.

The cash got trapped after the US Treasury let a sanctions loophole expire, removing an exemption that had allowed US bondholders to receive payments from the Russian sovereign. A week later, Russia’s paying agent, the National Settlement Depository, was also sanctioned by the European Union.

In response, Vladimir Putin introduced new regulations that say Russia’s obligations on foreign-currency bonds are fulfilled once the appropriate amount in rubles has been transferred to the local paying agent.

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The Finance Ministry made its latest interest payments, equivalent to about $400 million, under those rules on Thursday and Friday. However, none of the underlying bonds have terms that allow for settlement in the local currency.

So far, it’s unclear if investors will use the new tool and whether existing sanctions would even allow them to repatriate the money.

According to Siluanov, it makes little sense for creditors to seek a declaration of default through the courts because Russia hasn’t waived its sovereign immunity, and no foreign court would have jurisdiction.

“If we ultimately get to the point where diplomatic assets are claimed, then this is tantamount to severing diplomatic ties and entering into direct conflict,” he said. “And this would put us in a different world with completely different rules. We would have to react differently in this case — and not through legal channels.”

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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