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FirstFT: Russian gas projects face sanctions if Ukraine attacked

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The UK and EU are preparing to hit new Russian gas projects with sanctions if Moscow orders an attack on Ukraine, the first time Europe has weighed targeting a sector it relies on for 40 per cent of its gas imports.

The plans, supported by the US, would severely curtail financing and technology transfer for gas projects, according to people briefed on the discussions.

The sanctions reflect concern over a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine after Moscow deployed more than 100,000 troops near the border.

The measures would form part of a wider package of potential economic measures, with the severity to be adjusted depending on the scale of any Russian offensive, people close to the discussions said.

The crisis presents the biggest test yet for Joe Biden’s foreign policy doctrine, as the US president vowed to stare down Russian threats. China, however, has signalled its support for Moscow, saying Vladimir Putin’s regime had “reasonable security concerns” that should be “taken seriously” by the US and its allies.

A top UK security official has warned British organisations and businesses should prepare for possible Russian cyber attacks.

Thanks to readers who took our poll earlier this week. Forty per cent of respondents said they think Russia will invade Ukraine. Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Jennifer

1. No 10 ‘partygate’ report delayed by police investigation The publication of an official report by Sue Gray, a senior civil servant, into Downing Street parties during coronavirus lockdowns has been held up by concerns it could compromise a police investigation, according to Whitehall officials.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick. Government insiders said the Met’s investigation was mainly responsible for the delay in publishing Sue Gray’s report
Metropolitan Police commissioner Dame Cressida Dick. Government insiders said the Met’s investigation was mainly responsible for the delay in publishing Sue Gray’s report © Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

2. Latvia slams Germany’s Russia and China relationships Germany’s “immoral and hypocritical” relationship with Russia and China has driven a wedge between western and eastern Europe, Artis Pabriks, Latvia’s defence minister, told the Financial Times in comments that highlighted cracks in the west’s unity.

3. Robinhood growth loses steam Shares of the retail brokerage fell more than 12 per cent in after-hours trading after it missing targets in the final quarter of 2021, as retail trading fervour in meme stocks and cryptocurrencies lost steam.

4. Biden vows to nominate black woman to Supreme Court The US president confirmed that he would nominate a black woman with “extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity” to replace Stephen Breyer on the top US court. Breyer, 83, said in a resignation letter that he would step aside at the end of the court’s current term.

5. Oaktree risks clash with Beijing over Evergrande debt The US asset manager is risking a showdown with Beijing over control of one of ailing property developer Evergrande’s most-prized projects in mainland China, a sprawling tourism resort on the Yellow Sea coast called “Venice”.

Keep up with the news throughout the day with Top Stories Today, a short-form audio digest of headlines. Find the latest episode here.

Coronavirus digest

  • Cases in the UK are rebounding, particularly among schoolchildren, according to a symptom tracker study, as an Omicron subvariant spreads. In England, the number of people starting apprenticeships has regained pre-pandemic levels.

  • Apple posted record revenues of $123.9bn in the holiday quarter, an 11 per cent gain from a year ago, as the iPhone maker navigated supply chain constraints. McDonald’s revenues grew slower than anticipated last quarter, dragged down by rising costs and restrictions in China and Australia.

  • Chinese officials tightened restrictions in parts of Beijing in an effort to minimise disruption to the Winter Olympics, which begins next week.

  • The US economy underwent its fastest full-year rebound since 1984 last year as the country began to move past the worst of the pandemic’s economic damage.

  • Opinion: As the world faces severe supply constraints, it is best not to destroy jobs and growth but to allow economies to recover, writes Philipp Hildebrand.

Column chart of GDP change (% annualised) showing US economic growth quickened at the end of last year

The days ahead

European economic data Gross domestic product figures for Germany and France are expected to underscore the diverging performance of the eurozone’s two largest economies, with Germany’s to shrink slightly in the final quarter of 2021 from the previous one, while France is set to grow 0.5 per cent. Italy and France release producer price index data.

Corporate earnings Full-year results will show the impact on clothing retailer H&M of China’s state-influenced consumer boycotts. Companies reporting quarterly earnings include Caterpillar, Chevron, Colgate-Palmolive, Saipem and Volvo, while UniCredit has full-year results.

Mike Lynch extradition decision Priti Patel, UK home secretary, has until midnight to decide whether to approve the extradition of the British software entrepreneur, who faces trial in the US on criminal fraud charges over the $11bn sale of his company Autonomy to Hewlett-Packard.

Australian Open The men’s singles semi-finals take place today, with Daniil Medvedev facing Stefanos Tsitsipas and Rafael Nadal against Matteo Berrettini for a spot in Sunday’s final. Tomorrow, Ashleigh Barty and Danielle Collins meet in the women’s singles final. Barty is the first Australian to make the women’s final since 1980. (NYT)

Portugal general election The country holds a snap parliamentary election on Sunday. The opposition centre-right Social Democratic party has a lead in opinion polls over the ruling Socialist party.

Join leaders from Uefa, the FA, PCP Capital Partners, LaLiga and more to discuss disruption, recovery and the struggle for power in the football industry. The fourth edition of our Business of Football Summit kicks off online and in-person on March 2-3. Register here.

What else we’re reading and watching

How to make resolutions stick How are those New Year’s resolutions going? If you’re persisting, good for you. Many are not. Tim Harford muses on the problem of treating certain dates as springboards for personal change: “Look for a fresh start that will last, a change of routine or context to which a new habit can be pinned.”

Tim Harford: ‘A fresh start is just a start. But it is better than nothing’
Tim Harford: ‘A fresh start is just a start. But it is better than nothing’ © Anna Wray

Would you buy a home in the metaverse? You could buy an island, complete with a villa, for prices as low as $104,000, less than half the average cost of a first-time buyer’s house in the UK. There’s one slight catch: you can’t actually live in it. It exists only online, in a virtual world filled with buyable digital assets ranging from art to cars.

Turkish lira steadies After tumbling 44 per cent last year, emergency measures announced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have helped Turkey’s currency post a relatively calm start to 2022 — but analysts remain deeply uncertain over its outlook.

Investors: beware liquidity holes This week, investors would be wise to ponder the concept of “liquidity holes”. After US Federal Reserve chair Jay Powell indicated future rate rises, markets could experience a shortage of buyers for some assets relative to supply, writes Gillian Tett.

Space-based solar power beckons The US, UK and China are exploring the potential of an untapped source of clean energy. But there are risks to harnessing space-based solar power for use on earth — namely issues of launch costs, space governance and land use, writes Anjana Ahuja.


Is Kanye West good for Gap? What started as a coup for the store has turned to frustration at the slow rollout of the Yeezy Gap brand.

Yeezy Gap’s hoodie, released in September and puffer jacket, released in June 2021. Both have sold quickly though little has been revealed about Yeezy Gap’s sales performance

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