FirstFT: Moscow acknowledges heavy casualties

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Russia has for the first time acknowledged taking heavy casualties in Ukraine as its forces bombed frontline cities, laying waste to urban areas in one of the most destructive days of the week-old invasion.

After days of refusing to admit significant battlefield losses, Moscow said 498 of its troops had died in Ukraine, with a further 1,597 injured.

But there were indications yesterday that Russian forces may have seized Kherson, which would make it Ukraine’s first provincial capital to fall. It would come after days of artillery barrage that had laid waste to cities including Kharkiv. Track the latest with our map guide and our live blog.

Vladimir Putin’s brutal tactics in Ukraine are ratcheting up international pressure on Chinese President Xi Jinping, whose “no limits” partnership stands in stark contrast to global Kremlin condemnation.

Sign up to receive my colleague Valentina Pop’s essential newsletter, Europe Express, for the latest analysis and reaction. Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe / Africa. Here is the rest of the day’s news – Jennifer

1. Kwasi Kwarteng refuses to remove ‘chairman’ from company titles Business leaders have clashed with the British business secretary after he rejected demands that the government stop using the “archaic” word “chairman”.

2. World leaders agree to draw up ‘historic’ treaty on plastics pollution
A global agreement to tackle plastics pollution is in sight after almost 200 countries agreed to negotiate a legally binding UN treaty to cover the entire production-to-disposal lifecycle, in defiance of a push by vested interests to limit its scope.

3. Citigroup’s financial target lags Wall Street rivals The US bank’s first investor day presentation in almost five years set a new profitability target that indicated it would continue to lag behind rivals in the coming years, as chief executive Jane Fraser pursues a costly restructuring program.

4. Peloton founder sells $ 50mn in stock to MSD Partners John Foley made his largest stake sale only weeks after he stepped down as the connected fitness company’s chief executive.

5. Inequality and austerity undermine UK life expectancy targets The government’s ambition to add five years to healthy life expectancy as part of its agenda to “level up” poorer regions will take close to two centuries to achieve, according to research by the Health Foundation.

Line chart of Expected years of life at birth showing Gains in UK life expectancy slowed after 2010 and declined in the most recent period

Coronavirus digest

  • Consultancy IBA has forecast that the airline industry’s pandemic recovery will be delayed at least two months after the Russia-Ukraine conflict sent shares down.

  • Annual house price growth in the UK hit 12.6 per cent in February, despite rising mortgage rates, extending a pandemic boom.

  • Australia’s economy is larger than it was before the pandemic, following a strong rebound in the fourth quarter of last year.

  • In the latest part of our series “Economists Exchange”, Sarah O’Connor speaks with Claudia Goldinan economics professor at Harvard University, over whether Covid-19 might make top jobs more compatible with family life.

The day ahead

Antony Blinken in Brussels The US secretary of state is heading to the EU de facto capital to co-ordinate with NATO and G7 allies on a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis, before traveling to Poland and Moldova. His move comes on the same day as the first meeting of the “Schengen Council” of home affairs ministers.

PMI surveys IHS Markit services data is out for the eurozone, France, Italy, Germany, the UK and the US, while the European Central Bank Governing Council releases the minutes of its latest meeting.

Corporate earnings Sibanye-Stillwater, one of South Africa’s largest miners, is due to report annual results and is likely to face questions about its decision to abandon its purchase of Atlantic Nickel, as well as its strategy in battery metals. Here is a list of companies reporting results.

Birmingham Erdington by-election Voters in the UK constituency will take to the polls after the death of Labor MP Jack Dromey.

What else we’re reading

Cathie Wood did not come this far to quit A year ago, the founder of Ark Invest managed more than $ 60bn in assets. Now she faces the toughest battle of her career, as she fights against market momentum and tries to halt huge losses and outflows.

Cathie Wood's big, concentrated bets on 'disruptive innovation' helped drive assets in Ark's stable of ETFs to a value of $ 61bn at their peak in February last year

Cathie Wood’s big, concentrated bets on ‘disruptive innovation’ helped drive assets in Ark’s stable of ETFs to a value of $ 61bn at their peak in February last year

South Korea’s raucous politics The presidential election winner will take the helm of the world’s 10th largest economy and a manufacturing powerhouse in East Asia. But he will also inherit an unhappy balancing act between the US and China and an unresolved conflict with North Korea.

Investors can no longer afford to ignore geopolitical risk The idea that business can hold itself apart from politics is wrong, writes Helen Thomas. The legions of analysts and lobbyists employed by them in all sectors suggest large companies appreciate that they do not operate in a vacuum.

How the influencer industry really works Conservative estimates suggest there are upwards of 3.5mn people engaged in the influencer industry. And according to the German data firm Statista, the market was worth $ 13.8bn in 2021. In Get Rich or Lie TryingSymeon Brown takes a critical look at this and other forms of online “hustle”.

What is the best way to fund long-term care? Barry Summers, wealth planner at Kingswood, offers advice to a reader who worries about how to prepare financially in case their aging parents require care at the same time. Do you have a financial dilemma that you would like FT Money’s team of experts to look into? Email your problem in confidence to money@ft.com

Thanks to readers who took our poll yesterday. Forty-eight per cent of respondents said Japan should not legalize e-sports betting.

Travel

Can you be an explorer in the 21st century? For Benedict Allen, a lifetime of travel has not been about planting flags and staking claims but about leaving his own culture behind.

Benedict Allen taking part in a voodoo ritual in Haiti in 2004 © Benedict Allen

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