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FirstFT: Russia and UK’s frosty Moscow meeting

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Russia’s foreign minister has described a two-hour meeting in Moscow with his British counterpart as “disappointing” and “a dialogue of a mute person with a deaf person”, as European countries continued to struggle in their diplomatic effort to prevent a Russian attack on Ukraine.

Speaking to the press yesterday, Sergei Lavrov said Liz Truss’s delegation had come “unprepared”, as he reiterated that the Russian military build-up around Ukraine posed no threat and that Moscow’s security demands in Europe had been ignored. Meanwhile Truss demanded Russia withdraw the more than 100,000 troops massed on the border with Ukraine.

Truss’s visit is the first by a UK foreign secretary to Russia in more than four years. But Lavrov openly questioned whether there had been a point in holding the meeting.

“I am disappointed that our conversation was the dialogue of a mute person with a deaf person,” Lavrov said. “We appear to listen to each other, but we do not hear each other.”

Truss said: “I certainly wasn’t mute in our discussions earlier. I put forward the UK’s point of view on the current situation as well as seeking to deter Russia from an invasion of Ukraine.”

Further reading:

  • Russia began massive military exercises in Belarus and naval drills in the Black Sea as the UK warned that the stand-off with Moscow over Ukraine faced its “most dangerous moment” in the next few days.

  • US officials have warned that Russia has continued to ramp up its military activity around the Ukrainian border, despite a flurry of diplomatic efforts to defuse the crisis.

  • Sign up for our Swamp Notes newsletter to receive today’s edition, which covers the Finlandisation of Ukraine.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Have a great weekend. Share feedback on today’s newsletter at — Emily

1. US inflation surges at its fastest in 40 years The US consumer price index rose 7.5 per cent last month compared with January last year, its fastest annual pace since 1982, heaping pressure on the Federal Reserve to act more aggressively to tame inflation.

Line chart of Annual % change in US CPI showing US inflation at a 40-year high

2. Evergrande chair breaks silence to rule out asset fire sale Evergrande’s shares rose after its chair ruled out asset fire sales and pledged to complete half its remaining projects over the rest of the year, as the world’s most indebted developer battled to deliver units to homebuyers.

3. Hedge funds and activists could face new US disclosure rules Hedge funds and other activist investors would have to disclose significant investments in US public companies within five days, halving the time they currently have to amass a secret stake, under new rules proposed on Thursday by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

4. Australia foils ‘Puppeteer’ plot to infiltrate parliament Australia’s security services have thwarted a plot to interfere in national elections this year by an unnamed government through a wealthy individual nicknamed the “Puppeteer”.

5. New Delhi seeks record IPO of up to $8bn Narendra Modi’s government is expected to raise as much as $8bn from its initial public offering of Life Insurance Corporation of India, as it seeks to ramp up a privatisation drive crucial to financing its expansionary budget.

Coronavirus digest

  • The head of the Mandarin Oriental hotel group wants his executive team to be temporarily based outside Hong Kong because of strict coronavirus rules.

  • Senior Conservative MPs said Boris Johnson would face a vote of no confidence in his leadership if he was fined for breaking coronavirus restrictions.

  • AstraZeneca reported record revenues, helped by a $1.8bn contribution from its Covid-19 vaccine and sales from newly acquired rare disease company Alexion.

  • Stronger than expected results from Uber helped offset a knock in rideshare demand caused by Omicron, sending shares up in after-hours trading.

  • Opinion: A malaria theory known as the “rebound effect” adds nuance to the debate over how to protect children against Covid, writes Anjana Ahuja.

  • The Austrian village of Ischgl made headlines for all the wrong reasons at the onset of the pandemic: as a superspreader ski resort. Can it reinvent itself?

The Austrian village of Ischgl
Partying skiers rapidly became a powerful shorthand across Europe for official ignorance and public carelessness © Getty Images

The days ahead

India industrial production figures The country’s monthly factory output will be released today. Last month’s report found that India’s factory output, measured in terms of Index of Industrial Production, grew 1.4 per cent in November. (Indian Express)

Russia interest rate decision The Russian central bank on Friday is expected to raise interest rates for the second time in a row, according to a Reuters poll. (Reuters)

National Football League Super Bowl Ahead of the NFL’s biggest game this weekend, the Brian Flores lawsuit has reinvigorated the discussion about race and leadership in America’s most popular sport.

What else we’re reading

Olympian Eileen Gu wins over public and brands by avoiding politics The 18-year-old, who speaks English and Mandarin fluently, is one of the most marketed Olympic stars in China. But Gu’s calibrated comments highlight the difficult balance brand ambassadors and athletes must strike during the Games amid a US-led diplomatic boycott over Beijing’s policies in Xinjiang.

Eileen Gu
Eileen Gu’s gold medal win this week ignited celebrations in China, which she has represented since 2019, but she waved off questions about her citizenship status after the victory © Richard Heathcote/Getty

Indian cosmetic start-ups harness the rise of ‘boss lady’ energy In India, where analysts say that working women have more money (and freedom to spend it) than ever before, a traditionally uninspiring market has spotted a new and lucrative target demographic, writes Mumbai correspondent Chloe Cornish.

Can Kuala Lumpur lure back international workers? The Malaysian city has affordable homes and a vibrant culture, but bureaucracy and a downturn are a deterrence. Many immigrants have left in the past year or so, disillusioned with strict lockdowns and the inability to see family.

Apollo under scrutiny over lingering ties to Leon Black Links between the investment company and its billionaire co-founder remain fraught but may be loosening. Last week an Apollo lawyer told regulators in Nevada that if Black ever wanted to return to the investment company’s space on 57th Street, he would first have to line up with other visitors and register with building security.

Siberia’s crypto boom is made of ingenuity and defiance The little wooden house in Stolbova is not your average Siberian cottage. Fuelled by cheap electricity and Chinese hardware, households across Russia’s frigid east have been furiously mining cryptocurrency. But a crackdown looms.


The power of regret and how to reinvent the workplace are among the themes in this month’s selection of top business titles, selected by our Work and Careers team.

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