FirstFT: Russia launches fierce attack on Ukrainian city of Kharkiv


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Russian forces have launched a heavy bombardment of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, overshadowing the first direct talks between the warring sides since President Vladimir Putin invaded the country five days ago.

Moscow’s military operation has failed to unseat Ukraine’s government or capture any major cities but it has uprooted hundreds of thousands of civilians who have fled to neighbouring countries.

The latest artillery barrage marked a gruesome escalation of Russia’s tactics and analysts warned it may only be a taste of worse to come.

The impact of western sanctions is hitting the Russian economy, with the central bank more than doubling interest rates yesterday to steady financial markets and increasing numbers of Russians considering emigration.

Line chart of exchange rate against US dollar showing rouble tumbles to record low

Follow the latest developments on our live blog and track the conflict in maps.

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

1. British energy producer to sell North Sea gas to Gazprom London-listed gas producer IOG will sell gas produced from one of the newest fields in the North Sea to a subsidiary of Gazprom even as western companies are under pressure to sever business links with Russia.

2. Climate change risks greater than thought: IPCC report The world has a “brief and rapidly closing” window to adapt to climate change, with the risks associated with lower levels of warming greater than previously thought, according to a landmark UN report.

3. Turkish opposition presents pact to defeat Erdogan Six opposition parties pledged to overhaul the country’s electoral laws and institutions as they signed a “historic” pact aimed at bringing an end to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s almost two decades in power.

4. UK stake in OneWeb ‘no guarantee’ production will shift from US The satellite company’s largest shareholder has warned it cannot guarantee the company will be able to manufacture in the UK, despite Downing Street’s ambitions to use its $500mn investment in the business to spur a domestic space industry.

5. KKR co-founders receive $100mn each Henry Kravis and George Roberts each earned more than $100mn in 2021 as buoyant financial markets caused the private equity group’s profits to soar.

Coronavirus digest

  • The EU’s pandemic strategy tries to bridge drug companies and civil society, but activists decry its failure to provide equal access to vaccines.

  • Cadavers are piling up at Hong Kong’s hospitals and public mortuaries as the number of Covid-19 cases soars in the territory. The city’s airport is falling off the radar, opines Primrose Riordan.

  • Opinion: The UK has entered the “living with Covid” phase of the pandemic, but it lags behind other countries in helping sick workers, writes Sarah O’Connor.

The day ahead

World leaders discuss Ukraine In an emergency meeting of the International Energy Agency, the US and its allies will discuss releasing oil from their strategic stocks after prices rose above $100 a barrel. Boris Johnson and UK government officials will also travel to Estonia and Poland to discuss the Ukraine crisis with counterparts and Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg. Separately, G7 finance ministers will meet to discuss the implementation of sanctions against Russia.

  • In markets: Russia’s central bank will decide on whether to open trading on the Moscow Exchange after trading in shares and derivatives was suspended. Ukraine plans to announce a new “war bond” auction the same day.

  • In Hungary: The country’s opposition will protest against Russian “influence”.

White House ex-officials in Taiwan A high-level delegation has been sent in the island with a message of reassurance and to remind China not to step up pressure on Taipei while Washington deals with the Ukraine crisis.

Corporate earnings Flutter, the world’s largest listed gambling group, will report full-year results and analysts expect changes to UK laws, such as a £500 limit for players under 25 and credit card bans, have curbed growth. Earnings are also out for tech company Safesforce.com and insurer Swiss Life. See our full list here.

PMI data The Institute for Supply Management’s surveys of purchasing managers are due for the eurozone, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the US and Canada. American manufacturing activity is likely to have expanded as the latest Omicron wave has faded. The data will be released on the same day that Italy and Canada publishes gross domestic product figures for February, while Germany will release retail sales and CPI data. Explore inflation rates around the world with our inflation tracker. (FT, WSJ)

US State of the Union address President Joe Biden will deliver the annual speech in a joint session of Congress in Washington.

What else we’re reading

Why UK labour relations are hotting up With wages failing to rise as fast as inflation, workers from universities to the London Underground are going on strike, fuelled by a sense of injustice not only at pay but also over a safe working environment.

The best bet for the 2020s is short tech, long commodities Silicon Valley manias tend to lose steam when investors realise they have been pouring money into unprofitable ideas, writes Ruchir Sharma, chair of Rockefeller International. And historically, tech and commodities follow opposite cycles.

Top tech for the trip to work — and back again Headed back to the office? Here are our top picks of gear worth splurging on to make your commute more enjoyable. From headphones to bicycles, mugs and more.

Food and drink

From New York to Berlin and beyond, here are FT writers’ picks of the best independent coffee shops in the world. What’s your favourite coffee shop in your city? Tell us at firstft@ft.com and we may feature your response.

Bonanza Coffee Roasters, Berlin © Bonanza

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