FirstFT: Russian troops storm Ukraine

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Vladimir Putin’s forces stormed Ukraine and mobilized for an overwhelming assault on Kyiv as Russia unleashed one of Europe’s largest military offensives since the second world war.

Russian troops launched air and missile strikes, followed by attacks from Ukraine’s northern border with Belarus, across its eastern frontier and from Crimea. Our maps will be updated to show Russia’s latest attacks.

A senior western intelligence official has warned that there “is not much time” left until Russia has assembled military forces around Ukraine’s capital. On the ground, roads are jammed as residents fled Kyiv, while others sought safety in metro stations.

US President Joe Biden has cut off Russia’s largest bank, Sberbank, from the US financial system, while Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, responded with what he said was “the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen”.

A combination of sanctions and prolonged conflict could hit industries from food to cars with disruption to exports. European natural gas prices soared almost 70 per cent and crude oil exceeded $ 105 a barrel yesterday on fears of global energy supplies. Here’s how Putin could weaponize energy exports.

But western leaders were split on whether Russia should be ejected from the Swift international payments system, which would deliver a blow to the country’s banks and its ability to trade beyond its borders. China, on the other hand, appears ready to throw Russia an economic lifeline.

Stay up to date with the latest from our live blog. We’re also making important Ukraine coverage free to read to keep everyone informed as events unfold. Please share with your friends, family and colleagues.

  • Explainer: What is Russia’s endgame? Western officials fear the invasion could devastate eastern Ukraine and leave Kyiv besieged within days.

  • Go deeper: Here’s what western Europe can do for Ukrainians – and what Putin’s apologists fail to understand, writes Simon Kuper.

  • Opinion: Russia’s assault is unprovoked and based on falsehoods, writes our editorial board. The west must now respond, argues Gideon Rachman.

  • Markets: Russia’s stock market dropped at a record-breaking pace and the ruble plunged yesterday, while Wall Street shifted violently, with the Nasdaq Composite registering its biggest intraday swing since March 2020.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe / Africa. To keep up to date with all that’s happening in Ukraine, sign up here to receive my colleague Valentina Pop’s essential newsletter, Europe Express – Jennifer

Rishi Sunak dragged into ‘partygate’ probe The UK chancellor has been sent a questionnaire by police about his attendance at Boris Johnson’s surprise 56th birthday party in Downing Street as part of an inquiry into lockdown-breaking events.

2. Elon Musk says brother ‘had no idea’ about Twitter poll The Tesla chief denied passing information that could have hurt the electric carmaker’s stock price to his brother, after a report that they were the subjects of an insider trading investigation by the US securities regulator.

3. Morgan Stanley reveals twin probes into block transactions The Wall Street bank disclosed yesterday that the Securities and Exchange Commission has been examining its block trading business since 2019, and the Department of Justice recently joined with its own investigation.

4. Wind power companies bid more than $ 3bn for oceans off New York The largest US offshore wind lease sale has attracted record bids as renewable energy developers compete for prime locations to install turbines.

5. Call for special UK ‘rape courts’ Ministers should establish specialist courts to cut the almost two-year wait between rape complaints and the start of any subsequent trial, according to a review into improving how the justice system treats victims of sexual assault.

Coronavirus digest

  • UK consumer confidence plunged in February and many measures of spending remained below pre-pandemic levels as living costs surged.

  • Downing Street and NHS England must prepare a long-term plan to deliver vaccines without affecting day-to-day health services, the country’s spending watchdog warned. Separately, a £ 1.9bn scheme to avert mass youth unemployment during the pandemic has failed to deliver, MPs found.

  • Bank of America‘s co-head of global capital markets in Asia-Pacific is leaving Hong Kong as harsh pandemic restrictions prompt an exodus of executives.

  • Modern said it expected the pandemic to end this year but forecast that a seasonal booster shot will be needed in the autumn.

Line chart of GfK consumer confidence index showing UK consumer confidence plunged in February

The days ahead

NATO summit The transatlantic alliance will hold an emergency meeting of its members’ 30 leaders to discuss what its head described as Russia’s “deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned invasion” of Ukraine. EU diplomats are also working to enshrine sanctions, including freezing some transactions with Russian banks, into law as soon as today.

Economic data Germany and France are set to release gross domestic product data for the fourth quarter. US consumer spending is forecast to rebound in January as household spending picks up. (FT, WSJ)

Berkshire Hathaway shareholder letter Warren Buffett will publish his annual letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders tomorrow as the company reports.

Belarus constitutional referendum Voting begins on Sunday in a poll that could allow leader Alexander Lukashenko to maintain his influence over the political system even if he steps down as president. (Bloomberg)

Join Financial Times journalists and leading experts today at 1pm GMT for an unmissable virtual briefing, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: what next? Register free here.

What else we’re reading

A history of royals behaving blamelessly In previous eras, accusations of shameful royal behavior were more easily hushed up, allowing them to do as they pleased without censure. Robert Shrimsley reimagines reports of previous out-of-court settlements from British history.

Capital markets union is crucial to a sovereign EU “Recovery, strength, belonging” is the motto of France’s presidency of the European Council. One familiar project is top of the agenda: the capital markets union. But if we are serious, we have to change our strategy, writes Theodor Weimer, chief executive of Deutsche Börse.

Why do some great ideas fail to scale? In the unlovely jargon of Silicon Valley, products such as Coca-Cola or the iPhone “scale”. In other instances, early initiatives deliver a sensational result, only to fade at a larger scale. This phenomenon is called the “voltage drop”. Tim Harford explains why this happens to so many promising ideas.

Tim Harford: 'One common problem is that the original effect was illusory'

Tim Harford: ‘One common problem is that the original effect was illusory’ © Anna Wray

What Meta’s VR advert tells us about the metaverse The Facebook owner is selling the idea that it does not matter if your life is awful, because for just $ 299, you can live in a fantasy, writes Jemima Kelly. But the more time you spend in the virtual world, the less you will have for people in the physical one.

Rich People’s Problems: superyacht envy After consuming a couple of bottles of Minuty rosé, most ideas seem good. Such as buying a boat. Thanks to online auction sites you can find yourself bidding on a boat you’ve never seen. But the result could sink your finances.

Running

Robert Martineau details blisters, bogs and the British winter in his account of a 268-mile marathon across the Pennines as runners fight to finish the Spine Race.

Eoin Keith is the first to cross the finish line in this year's race

Eoin Keith is the first to cross the finish line in this year’s race

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