FirstFT: White House says Russian troop withdrawal claims are ‘false’

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The White House has called the Kremlin’s claims that it is withdrawing forces from the Ukrainian border “false” and accused Russia of increasing its troop presence in the region by about 7,000 in recent days.

“Yesterday, the Russian government said it was withdrawing troops from the border of Ukraine . . . we now know it was false,” a senior Biden administration official said on Wednesday.

“In fact, we have now confirmed that in the last several days, Russia has increased its troop presence along the Ukrainian border by as many as 7,000 troops, with some arriving as recently as today.”

US officials declined to provide more details to substantiate the claims, but said the intelligence was “fairly authoritative”. On Tuesday, President Joe Biden said Russia had concentrated about 150,000 troops on its border with Ukraine and in neighbouring Belarus.

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1. Can Jay Powell build consensus at a divided Federal Reserve? After a united front during the pandemic, officials are split over how aggressively to raise rates. The chair of the US central bank has the tricky task of negotiating agreements between policymakers who are at odds on how to tighten monetary policy.

  • Fed prepared to tighten policy further Officials are set to raise interest rates next month and would be willing to tighten monetary policy more quickly than they anticipate at present if inflation does not come under control.

2. Fossil fuel and agriculture handouts climb to $1.8tn a year, says study Governments worldwide are spending at least $1.8tn a year on subsidies in support of heavily polluting industries led by coal, oil, gas and agriculture, according to new research, despite their commitment to climate change targets.

  • Over the past week America’s biggest coal mining companies have enjoyed profit bonanzas.

  • A UN-backed green investment fund is on the brink of failure three months after its launch because institutions never delivered expected seed funding.

3. European wind groups blown off-course by ‘perfect storm’ Turbine makers are losing tens of billions in value amid supply chain woes and raw material inflation. Over the past year, more than $58bn has been wiped from the market value of the region’s three biggest wind companies: turbine makers Vestas and Siemens Gamesa, and offshore developer Orsted.

4. Apple shareholders urged to vote against CEO pay package Institutional Shareholder Services, a top shareholder advisory group, has recommended that investors vote against Tim Cook’s $99mn pay and bonuses package, forcing one of Silicon Valley’s most prominent campaigners on equality to defend his remuneration. How would you vote if you were an investor? Take part in our latest poll.

© Poll: Would you vote against Tim Cook’s pay and bonus package

5. Goldman bankers achieved ‘hero status’ for 1MDB work Goldman Sachs bankers who worked on a series of lucrative bond deals at the centre of the 1MDB scandal achieved “hero status” at the bank, according to testimony from Tim Leissner, a former executive who has pleaded guilty in connection with the case.

Coronavirus digest

  • Shares of DoorDash jumped as appetite for food delivery remained strong. Fourth-quarter revenue results at the US food delivery company beat analysts’ expectations despite fears that easing pandemic restrictions would reduce demand.

  • Heineken’s chief executive warned that “off the charts” cost inflation will push up the price of a pint and said the risk of outright shortages was growing.

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

  • US hotel group Hyatt said bookings for group business events had beaten pre-pandemic levels for the first time since the coronavirus crisis began.

  • Opinion: The world will be a more dangerous place if the pandemic and health response financing are downgraded to “any other competent business” out of a misguided complacency that we are in the Covid-19 endgame, writes Gordon Brown, former UK prime minister.

The day ahead

Russia chairs UN meeting on Ukraine Russia, as current head of the UN Security Council, is due to hold a discussion about the crisis at the body’s headquarters in New York. Oleksii Reznikov, the Ukrainian defence minister, will join the gathering. European leaders plan to meet on the same day to discuss the latest developments on the border.

EU-Africa summit As leaders from both continents descend on Brussels for the start of a much-delayed two-day summit, there will be tensions over everything from Covid vaccines to counter-terrorism strategies.

Hungarian PM hosts Brazilian president Viktor Orban will host Jair Bolsonaro one day after the latter met Russian president Vladimir Putin against the wishes of the US and western allies. (France 24)

California adopts child data law Lawmakers plan to introduce a bill to protect children’s data online, mirroring the UK’s new children’s code.

Corporate earnings Airbus made record profits last year and has restored its dividend. Food group Nestlé has reported its strongest growth in developed markets in a decade.

What else we’re reading and listening to

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

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?

Beijing Winter Olympics costs spiral as China spends 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”.

Clariant’s comeback faces setbacks The Swiss chemicals group was forced to delay its results this week after its auditors refused to sign off the annual accounts following an investigation into serious irregularities stretching back two years. But will the probe affect the bottom line?

Are companies walking their diversity talk? On this episode of the Working It podcast, Isabel Berwick talks to Taylor Nicole Rogers, the FT’s US labour and equality correspondent, to get a snapshot of where corporate America stands on diversity, equity and inclusion. Rogers also talks about her own workplace experience as a black woman.


Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, in self-imposed exile in Europe since 2015, has filled the galleries of Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge with an assortment of Chinese antiquities for his exhibition “The Liberty of Doubt”. They tell us a lot about how we approach art.

‘Han Dynasty Urn with Coca-Cola Logo’ (2014) by Ai Weiwei © Courtesy Ai Weiwei Studio

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