FirstFT: Biden and Putin agree ‘in principle’ to Ukraine summit


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Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden have agreed to “the principle” of a summit to ease tensions over Ukraine, the White House and French presidency said, capping a series of urgent diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis.

The possibility of a meeting followed days of fears that Moscow would launch a full invasion of Ukraine, concerns that were heightened over the weekend when Belarus said 30,000 Russian troops participating in joint drills would stay indefinitely.

Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, spoke to Putin yesterday in what a French official described as “part of the last possible and necessary efforts to avoid a major conflict”.

As the world waits to see how Russia’s threat plays out, the three Baltic states are focused on what Moscow’s presence in Belarus means for their security.

Meanwhile, the US said it published intelligence about Russia’s plans to obstruct an invasion, but some allies fear it could exacerbate tensions.

Until now, Nato members have held back from supplying offensive military support to Ukraine for fear of provoking Russia. That may be about to change.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. What questions do you have about the crisis in Ukraine? Share your questions with us at firstft@ft.com — Jennifer

1. UK property asking prices surge The price of homes coming to market rose £7,800 between January and February, climbing to £348,800, according to data from Rightmove, the UK’s largest online property portal. The jump, the largest monthly percentage rise since 2001, was driven by strong demand in London and elsewhere and a shortage of housing stock.

Line chart of £ '000 showing UK asking property prices surge in February

2. European energy groups seek €4bn damages Five energy groups are suing four European governments demanding compensation for the stymying of coal, oil and gas projects over climate change concerns, using a secretive process based on an international energy treaty.

3. Queen Elizabeth tests positive for Covid-19 Queen Elizabeth II has tested positive for Covid-19 and is experiencing “mild cold-like symptoms”, Buckingham Palace confirmed yesterday. The 95-year-old monarch had been in contact with Prince Charles, her son and heir to the throne, who tested positive on February 10, two days after meeting his mother.

Queen Elizabeth during an audience at Windsor Castle
Queen Elizabeth during an audience at Windsor Castle on February 16 © Steve Parsons/PA

4. Lotus explores IPO options The sports car brand is exploring a stock market listing of its China-based luxury lifestyle business within two years to help fund an international expansion and investment in electric vehicles, and meet growth targets of a 100-fold rise in sales over the next six years, one of its most senior executives said.

5. Insurer-owned fund managers lose out in hurt for returns The share of investments managed by insurer-owned fund groups in Europe has tumbled almost a third in the past decade, as groups that served as their parents’ default asset managers came under pressure from independent rivals.

Coronavirus digest

The day ahead

UK ‘living with Covid’ strategy Boris Johnson will announce England’s long-term Covid plan, with proposals expected to include scaling back testing provisions and scrapping the need to self isolate after a positive test. MPs and peers return to Westminster from recess.

PMIs Economists expect the UK IHS Markit flash composite purchasing managers’ index, a measure of the health of the private sector, to rise to 55 in February from 54.2 the previous month. PMIs are also out for the eurozone, France and Germany, which also has a producer price index.

EU-UK N Ireland talks The “joint committee” — a forum of the UK, European Commission and EU member states that monitors the Brexit agreement — holds a “stocktaking meeting” in Brussels on the Northern Ireland protocol. Foreign ministers also gather to discuss the continent’s security situation.

US markets are closed for the Presidents’ Day holiday.

What else we’re reading

The EU and Poland on the brink The European Court of Justice ruled last week that regulations to protect the EU budget from rule of law violations by member states were legally solid, throwing the commission further along a collision course with one of the bloc’s biggest members: Poland.

Green investing: the risk of a mis-selling scandal ESG funds are popular, but research has found the sector is rife with greenwashing. Lawyers have warned that a reckoning is coming, as terms used to label and market funds may carry more legal weight than companies thought.

A series of high-profile scandals has raised fears that some of the bolder green claims made by asset managers could amount to mis-selling
A series of high-profile scandals has raised fears that some of the bolder green claims made by asset managers could amount to mis-selling © FT montage/AFP/Getty Images/Unsplash

Europe’s companies languish in slow lane Europe’s fragmented single market is like an obstacle course, relegating the region’s companies to also-rans in the global race for growth. The failure to harmonise rules inside the trading bloc has allowed US companies to take the lead, said the continent’s industrialists.

Erdogan’s gamble, in charts President Recep Tayyip Erdogan triggered a collapse in the Turkish lira last year when he ordered the central bank to aggressively cut borrowing costs despite soaring inflation. Emergency measures have since restored calm, but analysts are sceptical it will hold.

Bonus season 2022 survey: will you invest, save or spend? This year is set to be a bumper one for bonuses owing to the high profits generated in finance over the past 12 months. But those lucky enough to receive one are weighing the impact of higher taxes, rising inflation and interest rates.

Travel

From Paris to Kyoto check out these smart escapes that won’t break the bank. Explore our list of five chic city stays for £200 or less.

The wabi-sabi courtyard at the Hotel Flora, founded in Venice in 1964
The wabi-sabi courtyard at the Hotel Flora, founded in Venice in 1964

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