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FirstFT: Putin ready for talks on security

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Vladimir Putin has eased tensions in the Ukraine crisis, drawing down some Russian troops from border areas to enable “dialogue” with the west while still keeping the threat of invasion hanging over his neighbour.

Russia’s president said he was prepared to hold negotiations on intermediate nuclear missile forces and confidence-building measures with the west if the US and Nato agreed to discuss Moscow’s grievances with the transatlantic alliance — including its chief demand that it pledge never to admit Ukraine. US and European shares rallied following Putin’s comments.

Line chart of Performance since start of trading on February 11, 2022 (%) showing Stocks have whipsawed since the US warned of possible Russia invasion of Ukraine

Still, analysts are treating with caution Moscow’s latest announcement that it is ready to de-escalate. Kyiv announced a fresh round of cyber attacks against government websites and banks, raising concerns that Russia was mounting an online offensive.

President Joe Biden said there was “plenty of room for diplomacy” to resolve the Ukraine crisis. While Biden said the US had not yet verified whether Russian military units were “returning to their home bases” as Moscow had announced, he shied away from warning of an “immediate” assault — which had been suggested by his top officials in recent days.

  • Explainer: Can the Minsk accords help de-escalate Russia-Ukraine tensions? French and German leaders are keen to revive stalled talks.

  • News in-depth: US intelligence has shared fresh claims of a Moscow coup plot for Ukraine.

  • Global Insight: Neighbouring Poland has begun mending fences with Washington and Brussels over its judicial reforms and clampdown on independent media.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Americas. Have feedback on today’s newsletter? Share your thoughts with me at [email protected]. — Emily

1. Prince Andrew settles suit from Epstein accuser Prince Andrew has settled a lawsuit brought by Virginia Giuffre, an accuser of Jeffrey Epstein, who had alleged the British royal sexually assaulted her when she was 17. The settlement includes a “substantial donation” to a victims charity run by Giuffre, and acknowledgment that she had “suffered both as an established victim of abuse and as a result of unfair public attacks”.

2. Navalny goes on trial at prison colony jail Russian dissident Alexei Navalny could face another 15 years in prison after a new trial against him began yesterday. Prosecutors allege that Navalny, who denies the charges, stole 356mn roubles worth of donations to his Anti-Corruption Foundation, which Russia banned last year.

Alexei Navalny talks to his wife Yulia ahead of his court hearing at the IK-2 jail east of Moscow on Tuesday
A visibly gaunt Alexei Navalny talks to his wife Yulia ahead of his court hearing at the IK-2 jail east of Moscow on Tuesday in an image taken from a live broadcast shown to journalists © Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty

3. Republicans boycott Biden nominee for top Fed watchdog role The Senate banking committee has postponed a planned vote on Joe Biden’s five nominees to the Federal Reserve after Republicans failed to show up over concerns about nominee Sarah Bloom Raskin’s statements that regulators should take a bigger role in policing climate risks. (Reuters, FT)

4. US probe of ‘block trades’ on Wall Street heats up A slow-burning US Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into big share sales on Wall Street has kicked up a notch as watchdogs examine whether banks and hedge fund traders are improperly profiting at the expense of institutional sellers and retail traders.

  • Related read: Top private equity firms set aside more than twice as much to pay each employee last year than leading investment banks, underscoring the shift of power and money towards the less-regulated corner of Wall Street.

5. Buffett bought stake in Activision weeks before Microsoft deal Berkshire Hathaway purchased a nearly $1bn stake in Activision Blizzard in the fourth quarter of 2021, weeks before the video game maker agreed to sell itself to Microsoft for $75bn. The investment stood out in a quarter in which the sprawling industrials conglomerate made relatively minor adjustments to its holdings.

Coronavirus digest

  • Japan’s relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions prompted a boost in consumer spending and an economic rebound during the past three months of 2021.

  • Hong Kong will set aside up to 10,000 hotel rooms to isolate Covid-19 patients as medical facilities get overwhelmed.

  • French spirits maker Pernod Ricard has asked top executives to temporarily relocate outside Hong Kong as authorities tighten restrictions.

  • Airbnb said bookings would for the first time rebound to pre-pandemic levels in the current quarter, with concern over Omicron having “quickly dissipated”.

  • Boris Johnson’s allies are increasingly confident he can avoid being fined over Downing Street parties held during coronavirus restrictions.

The day ahead

Nato defence ministers meet in Brussels Amid continued tensions at the Ukraine-Russia border, the alliance will meet this week to decide whether to deploy troops to south-east Europe. (Reuters)

CPI figures Canada, China and the UK will report consumer price index data today. Slower growth and higher inflation are the hallmarks of a post-Covid-19 world, Ruchir Sharma wrote in the FT. Stay up to date on the latest figures with our inflation tracker.

What else we’re reading

Olympic Games stoke anti-China hostility in South Korea China’s image has taken a battering in South Korea since 2016 when Beijing imposed an unofficial economic blockade on the country. Frustration appeared to boil over during the first week of the Games following accusations of cultural appropriation and biased officiating.

  • More Olympics reading: Self-taught skier Arif Khan, hailing from a small village in Kashmir, is the only athlete from India to participate in the Beijing Games. (Nikkei Asia)

South Korea’s Hwang Dae-heon, left, and China’s Ren Ziwei compete in the men’s 1000m short-track speedskating semi-final last week
South Korea’s Hwang Dae-heon, left, and China’s Ren Ziwei compete in the men’s 1000m short-track speedskating semi-final last week. Hwang was disqualified but won gold in the 1,500m event © Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Highlight text

BP’s bruised but buoyant ‘worrier’ chief Shortly after taking the helm, Bernard Looney’s plan to turn the 112-year-old oil major into an integrated energy company stalled; the group’s shares fell to a 25-year low. But after the group reported its highest in eight years in 2021, Looney is optimistic again — if a little chastened from his bruising introduction.

“I tell people, ‘you don’t have to beat me up because I beat the shit out of myself every day about how I can get better’,” Looney told the Financial Times.

Australia’s ‘buy now, pay later’ boom faces crunch The takeover of Afterpay by Jack Dorsey-led Block adds to the consolidation of a local hotbed of micro loan providers, writes Nic Fildes. The spate of deals is likely to continue with more companies under pressure to buy rivals out now.

Why the infancy of NFTs may last a long time Measured in financial terms, the market looks big: about $24bn worth of non-fungible tokens have been traded to date, according to Cryptoslam.io. Yet when you count users instead of dollars, the NFT world is tiny, writes the FT’s global tech correspondent Tim Bradshaw.

Emerging markets: all risk and few rewards? The difference between the pace of growth in developing and advanced economies is set to narrow to its lowest level this century, raising a problem for emerging market investors who seek greater yields and markedly quicker growth. Is it still worth it?

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Television

Apple TV Plus’s Severance is set at Lumon Industries, a mysterious company where a number of new employees have been fitted with a brain implant which essentially creates two distinct minds in one body. Read our full review of this brilliant alternate-reality thriller.

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hello, I am Flora Khan and i work journalist in allnewshouse website i work in other sites like forbes and washington post with 5 years in experience.

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