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FirstFT: West prepares Russia sanctions after Putin orders troops into Ukraine


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The EU and UK are preparing a “first barrage” of sanctions against Russia after Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces into eastern Ukraine and formally recognised two rebel-held regions in the country.

The Russian president’s move, which was widely condemned in the west, has raised fears of a conflict in Ukraine and came after leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz failed to secure a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Putin ordered troops to enter eastern Ukraine on Monday night for “peacekeeping operations” after recognising two separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. The action was swiftly condemned in the US and Europe, with Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, describing it as a “clear attack” on Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, said the “first barrage of UK economic sanctions” would be announced on Tuesday, warning that Putin was bent on a “full-scale invasion of Ukraine”.

  • Explainer: Why has Putin got Donetsk and Luhansk in his sights?

  • Go deeper: Russia’s threats to invade Ukraine are forcing China to strike a balance between President Xi Jinping’s growing support for Putin and Beijing’s self-interest in the region’s stability.

  • Oil majors and commodity traders at risk from new sanctions on Russia.

  • Markets briefing: Global stocks slide and oil jumps as Putin puts Russia on war footing

Thanks for reading FirstFT Americas. What questions do you have about the crisis in Ukraine? Share them with us at firstft@ft.com — Wai Kwen

1. Crypto pushes into regulated derivatives markets Volumes in cryptocurrency derivatives registered almost $3tn last month, accounting for more than 60 per cent of crypto trading, as companies sought to meet demand from retail traders for supercharged bets on digital assets.

Column chart of Monthly trading volumes ($tn) showing derivatives make up greater share of crypto market

2. Virgin Hyperloop axes half its staff in freight refocus The US company, which is backed by UAE government logistics group DP World and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, said 111 people were laid off on Friday as it pivots from passenger travel to delivering a cargo version of its experimental high-speed transport system.

Virgin Hyperloop’s transport system propels pods through low-pressure tubes at speeds of up to 670mph
Virgin Hyperloop’s transport system propels pods through low-pressure tubes at speeds of up to 670mph

3. Swiss banks struggle to move on from murky past Switzerland’s attempts to shed its reputation as the banking centre for oligarchs, corrupt officials and drug smugglers have been dealt a blow by the leak of documents detailing the accounts of 30,000 Credit Suisse clients. Shares among the country’s banks fell further than most EU lenders yesterday.

4. EU targets Myanmar’s lucrative energy sector in latest sanctions The EU has imposed sanctions against almost two dozen Myanmar government and military officials as well as a state-backed oil and gas group, in the first measures targeting the country’s lucrative energy operator in the wake of last year’s coup.

5. Mumford & Sons founder’s venue venture raises $50mn Musicians, tech billionaires and international financiers have backed the first external fundraising of the Venue Group Hospitality, a British music business set up by a founding member of the folk rock band and his brother, a former finance director of Soho House North America, for a US expansion.

Coronavirus digest

  • The G20 has pledged $60bn of extra money for developing nations struggling under the financial impact of the pandemic, falling short of expectations.

  • Opinion: The pandemic has been a wake-up call. We now have a choice: carry on as before or find a way to ensure we are better prepared for extreme risks, writes Martin Rees.

  • Boris Johnson has announced the ending of all remaining coronavirus legal restrictions in England. The decision appeared premature, driven by political expediency rather than public health, writes our editorial board.

  • Kate Bingham, former head of the UK’s Vaccine Taskforce, said the regulator’s ability to move nimbly during the pandemic was attracting biotech companies.

The day ahead

The pandemic: The ILO Global Forum for a Human-centred Recovery begins, bringing together heads of government and organisations. Speakers include IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva. The aim of the gathering is to propose actions to strengthen the global community’s response to the Covid crisis.

Corporate earnings InterContinental Hotels Group reports preliminary full-year results.

Economic data The UK releases public sector finances and the CBI industrial trends survey, Germany’s Ifo Institute monthly business confidence index is due and Italy has January inflation figures out. The US has the IHS Markit flash composite PMI, consumer confidence data and a house prices index, which is expected to have risen more than 18 per cent from a year earlier. (FT, WSJ)

To give school students the latest insights on climate change, the FT is hosting a free digital event on March 1. Sign up here and look out for our Climate Change for Schools report on March 19 packed with stories, graphics and tips on how young people can make an impact.

What else we’re reading

How Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption crusade went global Since coming to power in 2012, the Chinese leader has targeted both “tigers and flies”, or high and low-ranking government officials, with a clear purpose: to eliminate corruption and eviscerate political rivals. A decade later, there is no end in sight and the hunt for fugitives overseas has accelerated.

  • Richard Nixon in China — 50 years on: The former US president’s 1972 visit broke a stand-off between the two nations that had frozen ties since the Chinese Communist party victory in 1949 and helped reset the geopolitics of the cold war.

Grace Meng and Jack Ma, two Chinese citizens targeted by the security apparatus of Xi Jinping, centre
Grace Meng and Jack Ma, two Chinese citizens targeted by the security apparatus of Xi Jinping, centre © FT montage/Getty Images/AP/EPA/EFE/Shutterstock

Brookfield weighs the value of a new pillar in its complex structure The Canada-based investment group, whose eclectic $690bn portfolio includes office towers, gas pipelines and a nuclear services company, is not quite the world’s biggest investment firm — but it may be the most complicated.

European bank shares are experiencing a false dawn Look at the share-price charts for Europe’s banks and one fact is unmissable: investors are finally feeling confident about their prospects. But hopes of fatter margins on lending are offset by certain risks, writes Patrick Jenkins.

PepsiCo squares up to supply chain emissions challenge The drinks and snacks group recently set out ambitious climate goals, as it seeks to meet targets set out in the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change. Last year, the company said it would cut greenhouse gas emissions throughout its value chain by at least 40 per cent by 2030, compared with a 2015 baseline.

Peloton’s plan to conceal rust Last autumn, the home fitness company was confronted with a crisis: the paint was flaking off some of its exercise machines. Instead of returning the bikes to the manufacturer, executives hatched a plan, dubbed “Project Tinman”, to conceal the corrosion and send the machines to customers.

Best New York eateries in ‘And Just Like That . . . ’

The ‘Sex and the City’ reboot might not have been everyone’s dish of the day — but the cool Manhattan restaurants frequented by Carrie and the crew are in-crowd pleasers without reservation.

Getting to know you: new best friends Seema (Sarita Choudhury) and Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) in the SoHo branch of Sant Ambroeus, by the restaurant’s famed ‘plate wall’
Getting to know you: new best friends Seema (Sarita Choudhury) and Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) in the SoHo branch of Sant Ambroeus, by the restaurant’s famed ‘plate wall’ © Craig Blankenhorn/HBO Max/Warner Bros

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