FirstFT: Russia says it is prepared to let Kyiv join the EU

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Russia is no longer requesting Ukraine to be “denazified” and is prepared to let Kyiv join the EU if it remains militarily non-aligned as part of continuing ceasefire negotiations, according to four people briefed on the discussions.

Moscow and Kyiv are discussing a break in hostilities as part of a possible deal that would involve Ukraine abandoning its drive for NATO membership in exchange for security guarantees and the prospect of joining the EU, the people said under the condition of anonymity because the matter is not yet finalized.

The draft ceasefire document does not contain any discussion of three of Russia’s initial core demands – “denazification”, “demilitarization”, and legal protection for the Russian language in Ukraine – the people added. Envoys from both sides are to meet in Istanbul on Tuesday in a fourth round of peace talks designed to end President Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The concessions on Russia’s side come as its month-long ground offensive has largely stalled as a result of fiercer Ukrainian resistance than expected and Russian operational deficiencies. But Ukraine and its western backers remain skeptical of Putin’s intentions, worrying that the Russian president could be using the talks as a smokescreen to replenish his exhausted forces and plan a fresh offensive.

In other developments:

Are you personally affected by the War in Ukraine? We want to hear from you. Tell us via a short survey. Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Here’s the rest of today’s news – Emily.

1. US and Australia boost security co-operation to counter China The two nations are set to boost co-operation in space and the cyber domain as the Indo-Pacific allies strengthen efforts to counter China, which is investing heavily in space and weapons such as hypersonic missiles.

2. Yen hits 7-year low after Bank of Japan sticks to stimulus The Japanese currency yesterday dropped more than 2 per cent against the dollar to reach ¥ 125, as the Bank of Japan bucked the global trend for tighter monetary policy. The decision stoked speculation that the central bank could intervene to prop up the currency for the first time since 1998.

Trump ‘more likely than not’ committed crime on January 6, judge says Judge David Carter in California wrote that former President Donald Trump and Attorney John Eastman “launched a campaign to overturn a democratic election, an action unprecedented in American history” as they “corruptly” attempted to obstruct Congress on January 6.

4. Middle East ministers hold talks in Israel on ‘common enemies’ Foreign ministers from across the Middle East have met for a summit in the Negev desert, the first such meeting to take place on Israeli soil, as they try to co-ordinate their response to regional security threats including Iran.

5. Will Smith under ‘formal review’ by Academy The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has launched a “formal review” after actor Will Smith struck comedian Chris Rock on stage during the Oscars awards show. Rock had made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, who has a shaved head and has spoken publicly about her hair loss.

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith © Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP

Coronavirus digest

  • Shanghai authorities have divided China’s biggest city into two zones, as it locks one area down amid the struggles to contain an outbreak of Covid-19.

  • Britons face a “historic shock” to their incomes this year sparked by surging energy prices, Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey warned.

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The day ahead

Joe Biden hosts Singapore PM The US president is set to welcome Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to the White House on Tuesday. The pair will discuss the war in Ukraine as well as plans to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific. (Reuters)

Japan unemployment figures February joblessness data will shed light on the country’s recovery from Covid-19.

Results Earnings are expected from the Bank of China, Bellway, Boku and Ten Entertainment.

What else we’re reading and listening to

US-China tech race In the first episode of a new series of our Tech Tonic podcast, the FT’s Global China Editor James Kynge tracks China’s dramatic transformation from the manufacturing workshop of the world to the next global superpower.

Women at the Start Are you just at the beginning of your career or do you fancy a change of job? This special report is full of tips for new recruits. It also includes advice for women starting their own business and a guide to reverse mentoring schemes.

War with Russia? Finland has a plan for that What the Nordic nation calls its strategy of “comprehensive security” offers an example of how countries can create rigorous, society-wide systems to protect themselves ahead of time – planning not just for a potential invasion, but also for natural disasters or cyber attacks or a pandemic.

Secret schools keep Afghan girls learning Rule-breaking teachers are defying the Taliban to provide lessons to women and girls. Together, volunteers from a network of three schools, with 18 teachers and more than 200 students aged from 10 to 18, take part in the program that serves many poor or disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Black Americans cheer as Jackson nears Supreme Court About 115 justices have served on the country’s highest court since its inception in 1789. Only five of those justices have been women, none of whom identified as black. Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation would also bring the court the closest it has ever been to gender parity, with five men and four women.

Ketanji Brown Jackson

Ketanji Brown Jackson would be the first black woman to serve on the US Supreme Court if confirmed © AP

Books

Journalist-turned-author Adam LeBor rounds up the best new thrillers. From spies, secrets and a Stasi “Romeo” in cold war Berlin to a dangerous haul of diamonds in Basel.

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