FirstFT: Biden says Russia set to invade Ukraine within days

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Joe Biden has warned that Russia is on the brink of invading Ukraine within “several days”, saying the US believes the Kremlin is engaged in “a false flag operation to have an excuse to go in”.

The US president spoke as Kyiv and Moscow blamed each other for clashes in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region — incidents the west fears will be used as a pretext for a co-ordinated Russian military campaign.

Russia reiterated its threat to take “measures of a military-technical nature” after it complained that the US had “twisted” draft proposals Moscow put forward to address its concerns about European security.

Speaking at the White House, Biden offered a bleak assessment of the situation, noting there was a “very high risk” of a Russian invasion. “Every indication we have is they’re prepared to go into Ukraine, attack Ukraine,” he said. “My sense is it will happen in the next several days.”

  • Markets briefing: Wall Street and European stocks sank on Thursday as the US said Russia was on the brink of invading Ukraine.

  • Rachman Review podcast: Gideon Rachman talks to Charles Grant, head of the Centre for European Reform, about the impact of the Russian threat on US ties with Europe, and on Nato and the EU.

  • FT Magazine: A 1946 telegram predicts much of Russia’s 21st-century foreign policy

Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Do you have any feedback on today’s newsletter? Share your thoughts with us at — Emily

1. Trump must testify in New York investigation Former US president Donald Trump and two of his adult children will be required to testify under oath in a civil investigation by the New York attorney-general into their family business, a judge has ruled.

Donald Trump, centre, with two of his children, Donald Jr and Ivanka. In a January court filing, New York’s attorney-general said her office had uncovered “significant evidence” of fraud committed by the family-owned business © AFP via Getty Images

2. Elon Musk and Tesla accuse SEC of ‘harassment campaign’ Tesla has accused the Securities and Exchange Commission of going “beyond the pale” and harassing its chief executive Elon Musk over his compliance with a 2018 agreement on his use of social media, the latest salvo in a lengthy dispute between Musk and the US stock market regulator.

3. GFG routed transactions through Gupta’s Romanian bank Steel tycoon Sanjeev Gupta has turned to an obscure bank he owns in Romania to process transactions, as criminal probes draw scrutiny on his troubled metals empire in the wake of his main lender Greensill Capital’s collapse.

4. Sequoia earmarks $500mn for crypto push The firm, which is one of Silicon Valley’s most influential venture capital groups, announced that it had set aside between $500mn and $600mn for a new fund that would primarily invest in cryptocurrency tokens traded on third-party exchanges

5. Climate ETF on brink of failure months after UN summit launch The MSCI Global Climate Select exchange, a UN-backed green investment fund, is on the brink of failure three months after its launch during the Glasgow COP26 climate summit because institutions including big banks never delivered expected seed funding.

Thanks to those who voted in yesterday’s poll. Fifty-eight per cent of respondents said they would vote against Tim Cook’s $99mn pay and bonus package.

Coronavirus digest

  • Standard Chartered’s chief executive has warned that Hong Kong will struggle to retain its dominant position as Asia’s top financial centre the longer that China persists with its strict “zero-Covid” policy.

  • Athletes grappling with the nerves of elite-level competition must also contend with an array of strict coronavirus restrictions at China’s first Winter Olympics.

  • The chief economist of the European Central Bank said eurozone inflation looks unlikely to drop below its 2 per cent target in the next two years.

  • Workers are returning to UK offices in their greatest numbers since the start of the pandemic.

  • Opinion: The world will be a more dangerous place if G20 finance ministers downgrade the importance of pandemic and health response financing, writes Gordon Brown, former UK prime minister.

The day ahead

Singapore budget statement The city-state is expected to announce tax increases on Friday when finance minister Lawrence Wong unveils the new budget. (Bloomberg)

Munich Security Conference The two-day meeting, which begins today, will be attended by several western allies as well as Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukrainian president.

Vladimir Putin holds talks with Alexander Lukashenko The Belarusian president is expected to visit Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart. Lukashenko said on Thursday that Belarus would host “nuclear weapons” if threatened by the west. (Euronews)

What else we’re reading and listening to

Cost of Beijing Games spiral as China tries to project rising status The country has spent at least Rmb56bn ($8.8bn) to host the Winter Olympics, with the cost to retrofit or build a dozen new venues almost double the original budget, despite a pledge to ensure the Games would be “economical”.

What it would take for Japan to get a national pay rise For those entering the Japanese workforce this year, their entire lives have been spent with three things stuck at zero: inflation, interest rates and the chances of the shunto “spring offensive” of wage demands being anything other than a disappointment. Can unions change employers’ minds?

Can Jay Powell build consensus at a divided Federal Reserve? As the Federal Reserve prepares to unwind unprecedented monetary support in the face of surging inflation, divisions have emerged among its policymakers over how — and how quickly — to withdraw the stimulus that has been in place for nearly two years.

Boris Johnson’s Tories are facing a crisis of direction The Conservative party is facing two crises. First and most obvious is the one around Boris Johnson’s leadership. But there is a second, related, and deeper problem. It is also facing a crisis of purpose, writes Robert Shrimsley.

Inside Peloton’s epic run of bungled calls and bad luck It was a darling with investors and customers. But as the home fitness company was soaring to a peak valuation of nearly $50bn in late 2020, we now know that it was about to endure a series of tribulations that would involve the chief executive ceding his position and laying off three in 10 employees.

A Peloton bike
Peloton was forced to recall products and face an activist investor’s ire over profligate spending as Wall Street turned on it for missing forecast after forecast


Steven Soderbergh’s smart thriller Kimi, Netflix documentary Downfall: The Case Against Boeing and animated refugee story Flee are some of our six films to watch this week — reviewed by Danny Leigh and Leslie Felperin.

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