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FirstFT: Biden warns of chemical attack threat

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Joe Biden accused Vladimir Putin of having his back “against the wall” as his military campaign in Ukraine stalls, and warned that the Russian president may resort to increasingly desperate tactics, including more indiscriminate bombing and use of chemical weapons.

The US president said Ukraine was “wreaking havoc” on Russian forces that had failed to capture big cities and in some places had been repelled by Ukrainian forces, including in Mariupol.

After a meeting with US company executives in Washington yesterday, Biden delivered his strongest warning yet that Russia was setting up “false flags” to justify the use of unconventional weapons in Ukraine.

Biden is preparing to travel to Europe this week for talks with Nato and G7 leaders. They will discuss how to stop the war in Ukraine and further sanctions on Russia, as well as potential next military steps. As talks continue between Ukraine and Russia, Volodymyr Zelensky said any potential “historic” agreement would have to be put to a referendum, underlining the challenges to finding any lasting settlement.

“Our people will have to say and give an answer to certain formats of compromises,” Zelensky said in an interview last night.

Ukraine’s military said today that Russia had launched more air sorties over the past day, while US officials noted increased naval activity around the Black Sea port of Odesa, which has been almost unscathed so far in the invasion.

The war in Ukraine:

  • Military briefing: After failing to secure Ukraine’s major population centres quickly, Russia has turned to heavy artillery to achieve its military goals.

  • Technology: EU and US lawmakers have demanded that social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter do more to crack down on Russian state accounts spewing disinformation.

  • Refugees: European policymakers are locked in discussions to create a facility to make it easier for Ukrainian refugees fleeing the war to exchange their hryvnia savings into euros or other currencies.

  • Business: A battle with insurers looms after Moscow signed a law allowing jets owned by leasing groups to be re-registered in Russia despite sanctions. Chinese businesses are in a precarious position as they attempt to preserve business with Russian partners, and Joe Biden has told US companies to spend more on cyber security as a “patriotic obligation”.

  • Opinion: Peace talks or turmoil in Russia could halt the conflict, but the likeliest outcome is many more months of fighting, writes Gideon Rachman.

How do you think this war will end? Email me at firstft@ft.com and share your views. Thanks for all the emails we have received so far. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Gordon

1. Exclusive: Archegos quietly built stake in Deutsche Bank Archegos Capital Management quietly amassed a stake in Deutsche Bank after its founder Bill Hwang forged ties with the German lender’s leaders before the family office imploded last year, the Financial Times can reveal.

2. Fed prepared to move more aggressively to tackle inflation Jay Powell said yesterday the Federal Reserve needs to move “expeditiously” towards tighter monetary policy and is prepared to act more aggressively if necessary to tackle excessive inflation.

3. No survivors found from Boeing 737 crash in China Hopes of finding survivors among the 132 people on board the Boeing 737 that crashed in China yesterday are fading fast as investigations into the country’s worst air disaster in more than two decades are launched.

4. Alibaba boosts buyback programme The Chinese ecommerce group increased its share buyback programme to $25bn to improve investor confidence. Shares in the group, founded by Jack Ma, have lost about 65 per cent of their value since Chinese authorities cancelled the initial public offering of its fintech arm Ant Group in November 2020.

5. Saudi Arabia ‘will not bear responsibility’ for global oil shortages Saudi Arabia has said it will not be held responsible for shortages in the global energy market as it warned yesterday that missile attacks on oil installations by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen would disrupt supply.

The day ahead

Ukraine crisis President Volodymyr Zelensky will address the Italian parliament via a video link, following on from similar addresses to the US Congress and the parliaments of Britain, Germany and Israel. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte visits Turkey for talks with President Tayyip Erdogan ahead of the Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday.

Fed speakers John Williams, Federal Reserve Bank of New York president, participates in the BIS Innovation Summit 2022 organised by the Bank for International Settlements. Mary Daly, Federal Reserve Bank of Francisco president, appears at an event hosted by the Brookings Institution, and Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland president Loretta Mester speaks on the economic outlook and monetary policy in Ohio.

US Supreme Court nominee Q&A Ketanji Brown Jackson will face a question-and-answer session before the Senate judiciary committee votes on whether to advance her nomination by president Joe Biden.

Earnings Carnival Corp is expected to post a rise in first-quarter revenue helped by a rebound in demand for cruise travel. Investors will look out for comments on the impact of Omicron, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and higher fuel prices.

World premiere for Bridgerton season two The cast and makers of the hit Netflix series Bridgerton attend the show’s world premiere at London’s Tate Modern. TV critic Dan Einav reviewed the new series based on the novels of Julia Quinn. “As high camp and escapist entertainment it’s pretty irreproachable,” he writes.

Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma and Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton © Liam Daniel/Netflix

What else we’re reading

How war is changing business The war in Ukraine has already disrupted countless lives, now it’s disrupting business models as well. With upheaval to supply chains coupled with Covid-19 related disruptions in China, companies are having to rethink everything.

HK expats drive demand for Singapore school places International schools across Singapore told the Financial Times that they had received multiple times more inquiries than normal from expatriates fleeing Hong Kong’s draconian pandemic restrictions.

Is gold the safest place to invest? Gold is traditionally seen as a “haven investment” during volatile times so it will come as no surprise that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as well as rising global inflation, has caused a jump in its price. But how do you invest in the precious metal? The FT’s consumer editor Claer Barrett explains.

Why San Francisco turned sour on ride-hailing apps Uber and Lyft were both founded in the tech metropolis, but neither were made to feel wanted. This is intentional, given the city’s troubled history with taxi drivers. One service hopes to offer something new — but we shouldn’t expect an easy ride.

A four-day week might benefit employers Given the average full-time working week in the UK is only 36.3 hours, a campaign for more time off probably sounds decadent. But the “leakiness” of modern work combined with parenting have left many starved of time, writes Sarah O’Connor.

Fashion

The tie has been struck dead by Covid-19, argues Robert Armstrong. The first thing anyone will think when you wear a tie to the office, he writes, is, “What the hell is that guy doing in a tie? Has he got an interview? Weirdo.”

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