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FirstFT: Biden imposes sanctions on Russia for Ukraine ‘invasion’

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Joe Biden announced sanctions against Russia and warned that Washington was prepared to take further action as he accused Vladimir Putin of beginning an “invasion” of Ukraine.

The US president revealed measures yesterday targeting two of Russia’s largest financial institutions, VEB and Promsvyazbank, which support economic development and defence projects, as well as the country’s elites and their family members. Sanctions would be aimed at Moscow’s sovereign debt and preventing Moscow from accessing US capital and financial markets, said Biden.

Despite the tougher-than-expected measures, Vladimir Putin has endorsed Russian-backed separatists’ claims to the entire Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, taking the countries closer to full-blown conflict.

The move came hours after Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz halted approval of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which connects Russia directly with Germany, scuppering Europe’s most controversial energy project.

FT.com has the latest news on the Ukraine conflict.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. What questions do you have about the crisis in Ukraine? Share them with us at firstft@ft.com — Jennifer

1. UK food exporters demand ‘urgent’ action over personnel shortages The food and drink industry is demanding the government act to tackle a shortage of vets to process food exports since Brexit, with fewer EU vets registering to work in the UK coupled with a huge increase in paperwork.

2. Traders shun US penny stocks Trading in unlisted US shares has dropped almost three-quarters from its peak at the height of last year’s retail trading frenzy, as investors rein in speculative bets and regulators crack down on potential fraud in penny stocks.

3. UK contractors can escape tax if hiring rules are misapplied Tens of thousands of freelancers in the private sector are entitled to reclaim the tax they paid if their hirer misapplies new rules governing contractor payments, HM Revenue & Customs admitted to the Financial Times.

4. Volkswagen in advanced talks over Porsche listing The world’s second-largest carmaker by volume has taken the first step towards a €20bn initial public offering of its Porsche brand in what would be one of Germany’s biggest listings in years.

5. India’s IT sector grapples with hiring ‘crisis’ The India chief executive of software giant Salesforce said the country’s IT sector was suffering a skills shortage “crisis” as companies struggled to meet surging demand and compete with well-funded tech start-ups for workers.

Coronavirus digest

  • Future UK generations will face an expected bill of at least £15bn in taxpayer money that was lost in error in Covid-19 support schemes, according to MPs. Employers warned they will be flying blind from tomorrow when all restrictions in England end as the government has not issued workplace safety guidance.

  • InterContinental Hotel Group, the owner of the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza chains, said business was “closer to pre-pandemic levels” in 2021.

  • Hong Kong announced yesterday that all residents would have to undergo mandatory Covid testing from next month.

  • Opinion: The pandemic has been a wake-up call. Should we carry on as before or find a way to ensure we are prepared for future risks, asks Martin Rees.

The day ahead

Andrew Bailey testifies before UK Treasury Committee The Bank of England governor will discuss the UK central bank’s quarterly Monetary Policy Report, with inflation set to be a pivotal topic. Dave Ramsden, BoE deputy governor, said only a “modest tightening” of monetary policy would likely be needed to tame inflation in the coming months.

  • Economic indicators: Germany’s GfK consumer confidence survey is out, as is eurozone inflation for January.

Corporate earnings Companies due to report include Barclays, Petrobras, Danone, Heathrow airport, Metro Bank, Rio Tinto, Aston Martin Lagonda and eBay.

António Costa takes office Portugal’s prime minister assumes his post after winning a snap general election.

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What else we’re reading and listening to

The monetarist dog is having its day Economists are being forced to relearn lessons about the importance of money supply. When people are holding more money than they desire, they want to get rid of it. This would lower the price of most assets, but the nominal price of money is fixed: a dollar is a dollar. The adjustment comes via higher prices for everything else — or inflation, writes Martin Wolf.

Martin Wolf: ‘A big lesson of history is that if economists think they understand how the macroeconomy works, they will be wrong’
Martin Wolf: ‘A big lesson of history is that if economists think they understand how the macroeconomy works, they will be wrong’ © James Ferguson

Silicon Valley has learnt little from Elizabeth Holmes While the Theranos founder awaits sentencing over defrauding investors, venture capital money continues to flow into wild start-up ideas. No broader reckoning has taken place. Instead of triggering tougher due diligence, the tech sector is dismissing the case as an outlier, writes Elaine Moore.

Labour tries to capitalise on Boris Johnson’s scandals The opposition is ahead in the polls, with the Conservative government dogged by a “cost of living” crisis and seemingly endless revelations about sleaze and scandal. But voters are not sure what Labour stands for under Keir Starmer.

Real-world profits in the metaverse Retailers such as Forever 21, Nike and Chipotle are creating virtual world stores in a bet it can boost profits. But is it a gimmick, or will the metaverse allow for the creation of low-overhead, high-margin ecommerce businesses that will transform global retail?

Why does my boss write such rude emails? In the latest episode of the Working It podcast, host Isabel Berwick speaks with Erica Dhawan, an expert on digital communication, about good email etiquette and Zoom hygiene. One question they tackle is whether or not it is rude to put a period on the end of texts, emails and DMs.


Do you keep a gardening diary? It is one of those good intentions which seldom translate into reality. A look at Robert Darwin’s garden diary brings us closer to the Victorians — and to the formative years of a boy who would go on to change the world.

Some of the research material Susan Campbell worked with for ‘The Garden Diary of Doctor Darwin’
Some of the research material Susan Campbell worked with for ‘The Garden Diary of Doctor Darwin’ © Emily Jagger

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