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Middle East helps Europe fill diesel void as Russian flows slump amid war, sanctions

Middle Eastern petrostates are helping Europe make up for a drop in diesel supplies from Russia.

Flows of the transport fuel from the Arabian Gulf to Europe are set to rise almost 130 percent this month to 379,000 barrels a day, according to fixture reports and tanker tracking data compiled by Bloomberg.

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That’s the highest figure since October 2020 and will be bigger than the 166,000 barrel-a-day fall in European imports from Russia, according to the provisional bookings data.

The shift comes as the Europe Union tries to isolate Moscow for its attack on Ukraine with far-reaching sanctions. Energy exports are yet to be penalized by the bloc but traders, shippers and insurers are increasingly wary of taking on Russian barrels.

On Wednesday, Moscow escalated its standoff with Europe by cutting natural gas to Poland and Bulgaria.

In Europe, prices of diesel, used to power trucks, heavy machinery and ships, have surged around 70 percent this year. That’s even more than crude, which jumped above $100 a barrel in the wake of Russia’s attack.

The so-called crack spread for diesel – a measure of the profitability for refining crude – has increased from $11 a barrel at the start of 2022 to more than $40.

That’s giving countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates an incentive to increase exports of diesel. The two OPEC members are known as swing producers for their ability to ramp up crude output.

But after more than a decade of expanding refining capacity and building their trading arms, they’re now playing a similar role in refined fuel markets. The diesel flows may generate Middle Eastern producers around $1.5 billion in revenue over the course of this month based on current prices, according to Bloomberg calculations.

Diesel stockpiles around the world fell heavily last year as demand recovered from the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, and the trend’s accelerated since the Ukraine war started. The problem could worsen in the coming months as more long-term Russian supply contracts expire and traders refuse to extend them, said Matt Stanley, a Dubai-based broker at Star Fuels.

Russia will still be the biggest diesel supplier to Europe this month, with flows averaging 618,000 barrels a day, according to the data.

Shippers and traders have booked 19 vessels to take refined products to Europe from the Gulf for potential delivery in May, almost three times as many as were reserved for April delivery at the same point last month.

Middle Eastern refiners have the capacity to raise diesel production further as they’re coming out of their traditional winter maintenance period, when demand is lower.

Companies such Saudi Aramco and Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. are among those most likely to benefit from diesel’s rise, said Stanley. That’s because their integrated production, refining and trading businesses allow them to react quickly to market swings.

Aramco’s largest refinery of Ras Tanura, capable of handling 550,000 barrels a day of crude, is back to capacity after shutting diesel units for maintenance in March, traders said. The company’s new 400,000 barrel-a-day refinery at Jazan on the Red Sea is still ramping up, they said.

In the UAE, Adnoc and Dubai’s Emirates National Oil Co. have restarted units that process condensate, a light type of oil.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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