FirstFT: Russia steps up its bombardment of Ukraine cities

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Russia stepped up its bombardment of Ukraine’s biggest cities, firing missiles at targets in populated areas as Vladimir Putin’s forces turned to more brutal military tactics in a bid to regain momentum on the sixth day of the invasion.

A video posted by Ukrainian officials showed secondary explosions near the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial that killed at least five people, according to Volodymyr Zelensky, the country’s president. The memorial is adjacent to a wooded area where troops from Nazi Germany executed tens of thousands of Jews in September 1941 before later killing Ukrainians and ethnic minorities, with a death toll between 100,000 and 150,000.

Russia’s offensive in Ukraine has created diplomatic, economic and humanitarian shockwaves that have upended Europe’s postwar order and triggered the most far-reaching sanctions regime imposed on a major world economy.

The Kyiv assault capped another mixed day for Russian forces that easily outgun and outnumber the Ukrainian army but have struggled to make the fast progress expected, particularly in the north of the country.

The Pentagon said 80 per cent of the Russian forces that had amassed on the border before the invasion had entered Ukraine. But a senior defense official said Ukrainian resistance and logistical problems including insufficient fuel supplies seemed to be slowing the advance on Kyiv.

Map showing latest situation in Kyiv
  • Joe Biden: The US president is set to use his first State of the Union address to attack Vladimir Putin for misjudging western unity in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, while hailing the role of the NATO alliance.

  • Markets: US and European stocks fell, government bonds rallied and oil prices rose on Tuesday as traders weighed the invasion’s global economic implications.

  • Sanctions: The Austrian operation of Sberbank, Russia’s biggest lender, is the first casualty of sanctions, while its Croatian and Slovenian units are being transferred by the EU authority responsible for restructuring failing banks.

  • Energy: ExxonMobil said it will exit a major oil and gas project and cease investing in Russia, following in the footsteps of BP, Shell and Norway’s Equinor. More on what the war means for the energy sector here.

  • Opinion: A war of choice on the children of a peaceful democracy is not an action we can allow ourselves to forget, writes Martin Wolf.

  • Indicates that China: Beijing’s refusal to criticize Moscow and glorification of Russian military might on social media are giving China a bad name in Ukraine.

Follow the latest developments on our live blog and 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 – George

Macron’s re-election chances boosted by war Emmanuel Macron is set to confirm this week that he will be a candidate in next month’s French presidential election, with polls and political commentators suggesting that the war in Ukraine has further boosted his status as a favorite.

2. Credit Suisse asks investors to shred documents Credit Suisse has asked investors to destroy documents relating to its richest clients’ yachts and private jets, in an attempt to stop information leaking about a unit of the bank that has made loans to oligarchs who were later sanctioned.

The Britannia Industries biscuit factory in New Delhi. India’s biggest bread and biscuit maker by market share is looking for acquisitions © Adnan Abibi / Reuters

3. India’s biggest biscuit maker has appetite for acquisitions Britannia Industries, India’s biggest bread and biscuit maker by market share, is looking for acquisitions as severe commodity inflation bites into consumer goods companies.

4. Palantir technology to help cut NHS elective care backlog Palantir, the controversial data analytics group best known for its ties to the defense and security industries, is rolling out software across the UK’s NHS to help reduce the backlog of 6mn patients waiting for elective care.

5. Borrowed money funded share purchases by ‘Spac king’ Borrowing arrangements suggest that “Spac king” Chamath Palihapitiya took on greater than usual risk as he built an empire. They also indicate he put less personal cash into his deals than previously understood.

Column chart of average investor redemptions for Spac merger deals shows Spac investor redemptions soar

Coronavirus digest

  • Britain’s NHS risks taking longer to recover from the pandemic than health services in many comparable countries, reflecting underfunding, a high Covid-19 death toll and lack of investment in care outside hospitals, a report suggests.

  • Italy’s economy expanded at a slightly faster than expected rate of 6.6 per cent last year, while its fiscal deficit came in far below official targets, as investment, consumption and exports bounced back from the pandemic.

  • Better UK sick pay will help us live with Covid, writes Sarah O’Connor.

The day ahead

Germany’s jobless The Federal Statistical Office will release February labor data. The eurozone jobless rate fell to a record low of 7 per cent in December and the consensus is that the labor market will strengthen.

Opec + meeting The oil group is set to meet today, but Saudi Arabia and others are likely to stick with planned supply increases, Derek Brower writes in the FT’s Energy Source newsletter. If they are not willing to up supply further, western governments are ready to do so instead.

Federal Reserve Beige Book The US central bank issues its economic outlook. The Ukraine war has injected uncertainty but is unlikely to derail plans to raise interest rates from March, writes the FT’s Colby Smith.

South Korea GDP data Seoul is set to report on the growth of South Korea’s economy in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Canada rate The Bank of Canada will make an interest rate decision, with analysts expecting a 25 basis points rise as the central bank becomes more decisive in withdrawing policy stimulus. (Fitch Ratings)

What else we’re reading

Ukraine culture war For three decades, he was one of the world’s most sought-after conductors. Six days into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Valery Gergiev has gone from international celebrity to classical music pariah.

Japan plugs into electronic sport Gambling in Japan is legal only for a select group of activities. But a debate on e-sports comes from technology and the pandemic conspiring to transform how entertainment is consumed.

Do you think Japan should legalize e-sports betting? Tell us in our latest poll.

The rise of paternity leave It has traditionally been mothers who have had to take time off work to look after children. But in the past two years the pandemic has accelerated a huge shift towards many more fathers wanting to play an active role in family life.

Look to Iran’s sanctions experience Iran’s experience shows that asset freezes, transaction prohibitions and fines on any institution helping with evasion of sanctions are far more effective than banning a nation from Swift, writes Alistair Milne, a payments expert at Loughborough University.

Television

Just sometimes, a TV series succeeds in transcending the boundaries of the book. The on-screen adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend achieves just that, writes Fani Papageorgiou.

Gaia Girace plays Lila and Margherita Mazzucco portrays Elena in My Brilliant Friend

Gaia Girace, left, plays Lila and Margherita Mazzucco portrays Elena in ‘My Brilliant Friend’ © HBO

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