FirstFT: US pours cold water on hopes of diplomatic solution to Ukraine crisis

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The US secretary of state has poured cold water on hopes of a diplomatic settlement to the war in Ukraine, saying there were no signs Vladimir Putin was “prepared to stop” Russia’s invasion of its neighbour.

Antony Blinken also said that Washington would investigate “war crimes” carried out by the Russian military as he laid out what he thought Putin’s next moves might be, including the use of chemical weapons, the use of pro-Russian mercenaries and the kidnapping of local officials.

“The actions that we’re seeing Russia take every single day, virtually every minute of every day, are in total contrast to any serious diplomatic effort to end the war.”

Moscow’s initial hopes of lightning-fast victory have foundered in face of fierce opposition and its own shortcomings. Follow our visual guide here.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Send your feedback on this newsletter to Here’s the rest of today’s news — Jennifer

The war in Ukraine:

  • Military briefing: Ramping up ways for Kyiv to contest the skies may better serve its needs in the war than a no-fly zone. Here’s why.

  • War on truth: The Kremlin is staging a propaganda campaign about the war to test the loyalty of Russian citizens. Separately, Wikipedia has become a battleground between Russian and Ukrainian editors.

  • Debt: JPMorgan has processed interest payments sent by the Russian government for two of the country’s bonds.

  • Economics: In Free Lunch, Martin Sandbu explains what we know about the economic impact of the war. Two years on from pandemic shortages, the war has sparked hoarding in parts of Europe.

  • Oil and gas: An EU-wide embargo on Russian oil and gas imports would cause at least £70bn of damage to Britain’s economy, chancellor Rishi Sunak has said.

  • Business: Western executives have limited ways to exit Russia: sell up, wind down or pass the business to the state.

  • Opinion: Chris Giles argues that the UK’s cost of living crisis could be eased by targeting the profits of firms benefiting from the invasion. Britain needs an “everything” approach to its new energy plan, writes Helen Thomas.

  • China: Listen to our Twitter Spaces on how China is positioning itself in the war, with the FT’s Demetri Sevastopulo, Kathrin Hille and Marc Filippino.

Follow our live blog and updated maps for the latest on the conflict.

1. US and European stocks rise US and European stocks rose yesterday in choppy trading, following sharp rallies in the previous session, as traders weighed developments in Ukraine and central banks’ moves to tighten monetary policy. Futures markets indicated European shares would open lower today.

2. P&O Ferries sacks 800 sailors UK passenger and freight shipping routes face days of disruption after P&O Ferries ordered its ships back to port in order to sack 800 sailors. The company said it would replace the dismissed workers with cheaper agency staff.

3. UK paid ‘blood money’ to secure Iran detainees release Britain has been accused by former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo of paying “blood money” to bring home two UK-Iranian dual nationals from Tehran, claiming the move smacked of appeasement.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe returned to the UK yesterday after being detained almost six years ago
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe returned to the UK yesterday after being detained almost six years ago © AP

4. Amazon closes deal to acquire film studio MGM The $8.45bn acquisition, which includes debt, is the ecommerce giant’s largest in the media space and its biggest since the $13.7bn purchase of Whole Foods in 2017. Amazon closed its deal after US and European competition regulators declined to block the move, despite growing concern over Amazon’s size.

5. FCA leaves crypto firms in limbo The Financial Conduct Authority has approved only a quarter of applications by crypto firms for the permissions necessary to run their businesses in the UK, as tensions swell ahead of a high-stakes deadline at the end of this month.

Coronavirus digest

  • AstraZeneca’s head of research and development has said the UK drugmaker would consider not submitting its Covid-19 vaccine for approval in the US if it finds it is “banging its head against a brick wall indefinitely” with regulators.

  • The Bank of England raised interest rates from 0.5 per cent to 0.75 per cent yesterday, underlining its resolve to fight soaring inflation.

  • Hong Kong residents are fleeing the city’s strict Covid-19 measures — and they are taking their cars and yachts with them.

  • Jeff Zients is stepping down as chief Covid-19 adviser to President Joe Biden.

The days ahead

Biden-Xi call US president Joe Biden will hold a phone call with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping today to discuss the war in Ukraine, among other issues.

Quadruple Witching Day Today is the day stock index futures, stock index options, stock options and single-stock futures expire, creating a flood of trading volume and arbitrage opportunities. (FT, Investopedia)

Economic data The rush to purchase homes in the US is expected to have cooled slightly in February. January trade balance figures are out for Italy and the EU, while February retail sales figures are out for the UK. (WSJ, FT)

Elections A Labor victory seems likely in state parliamentary elections that begin in South Australia tomorrow. In East Timor, the first round of the presidential election takes place on the same day. (The Conversation, FT)

What else we’re reading

The war of Putin’s imagination Maria Stepanova, the award-winning Russian writer, reflects on how fear as well as dictatorship led her homeland to launch its disastrous invasion of Ukraine. “What we are living through might be termed the death of the conceivable,” she writes.

Business is finally collaborating on cyber security A decade ago, the Obama administration tried to force US companies to collaborate on cyber defence. It did not go well. But once-taboo concepts such as industrial strategy are back in vogue as western companies fear a Russian attack.

Corsica riots cause a headache for Macron Emmanuel Macron has sought to play peacemaker between Russia and Ukraine recently. Now he is having to put out a fire raging closer to home: pro-independence Corsican riots that threaten his presidential re-election campaign.

Becoming French is like winning the lottery Simon Kuper was born with a lucky citizenship and has now become French. But as a cosmopolitan, nativistic nationalism strikes him as absurd.

A battery-powered symphony for EVs In their basic form, electric cars are silent. Hans Zimmer wants to change that. The Oscar-winning composer is turning from the silver screen to the open road to answer the question: what should an electric car sound like?


Would you travel across the frozen wilds of Swedish Lapland on a hot-air balloon? One operator from the Masai Mara is looking to do just that.

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