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FirstFT: Russia warns west to back down over Ukraine

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Russia has warned the US and Nato to make concessions or face a worsening security situation in Europe as talks began between Washington and Moscow to avert a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The high-stakes negotiations were prompted by Russia’s deployment of about 100,000 troops close to its border with Ukraine and its warnings of military action if the west ignores demands for new guarantees that would reshape Europe’s security architecture.

Sergei Ryabkov, Russia’s deputy foreign minister and lead negotiator, said his country would not yield on its demand for Nato to never make Ukraine a member, a pledge the US and the military alliance had already ruled out.

“Now the other side must show flexibility. If they are unable to do this, then they will face a worsening situation in their own security,” he told Russian state news agency Ria.

Nato warned Moscow to abandon its belligerent foreign policy on the eve of today’s talks and co-operate with the west or face a military alliance steeled for conflict.

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato secretary-general, told the Financial Times the US-led defence pact was prepared for “armed conflict in Europe” should negotiations fail, as officials readied for discussions.

Today’s bilateral talks in Geneva involving Wendy Sherman, deputy secretary of state, and Ryabkov are the first in a series of diplomatic meetings this week aimed at de-escalating the situation in Ukraine. They will be followed by talks in Brussels on Wednesday between Russia and the 30 members of Nato and on Thursday the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe will host talks in Vienna.

Do you think the US and Russia can de-escalate the Ukraine crisis? Share your thoughts with us at [email protected]. Thanks for reading FirstFT Americas and here’s the rest of today’s news — Gordon

1. New York City apartment fire kills 19 Hospitals worked through the night to save the lives of people gravely injured by smoke in a fire that killed 19 people, including nine children, in a Bronx apartment building, Associated Press reports. An investigation into the cause of the fire was ongoing, New York City’s mayor Eric Adams told reporters last night.

Mayor Eric Adams at a news conference outside the apartment building where the deadly fire occurred in the Bronx on Sunday
Mayor Eric Adams at a news conference outside the apartment building where the deadly fire occurred in the Bronx on Sunday © Yuki Iwamura/AP

2. Novak Djokovic wins appeal The world’s top male tennis player has won his appeal against deportation from Australia after a judge ruled that the country’s border authorities had acted unreasonably when they cancelled his visa. The Australian government argued that the Serbian had failed to provide sufficient evidence to justify an exemption to enter Australia without a vaccination.

3. US rate rise forecast for March despite weak jobs growth The Federal Reserve is on track to raise interest rates as early as March, economists said, as strong wage growth and falling unemployment shift focus from monthly job creation. Figures released on Friday showed a sharp slowdown in the number of new jobs in December but that the unemployment rate plunged to the lowest level since before the pandemic.

4. Bill Gates-backed fund aims to invest $15bn in clean tech Breakthrough Energy Catalyst plans to mobilise as much as ten times an initial investment of $1.5bn from philanthropists and companies to bring down the cost of clean-tech products such as green steel and green hydrogen.

5. China tech stocks rally Chinese tech stocks rallied earlier today after starting the year with a week of sharp falls. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Tech index gained as much as 2.5 per cent, with Alibaba Health Information Technology rising as much as 14 per cent and short-video platform Kuaishou’s Hong Kong-listed shares advancing 12.2 per cent. The Star 50 index of Shanghai-listed tech stocks climbed about 1 per cent.

Coronavirus digest

  • Citigroup will fire US employees at the end of January if they have not been vaccinated or received an exemption, according to a person briefed on the matter.

  • Reinfections are rising among people who caught Covid-19 earlier in the pandemic as the Omicron variant spreads. The strain is threatening to overwhelm the US testing system.

  • International business groups in Hong Kong are pleading with the government to restart flights after executives who travelled home for Christmas have been left stranded.

  • China is tightening pandemic controls in Tianjin, a city of 14m that is 120km south-east of Beijing, after discovery of the first community transmitted cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

  • Novartis will seek expedited approval for Ensovibep, a Covid-19 drug developed with biotech group Molecular Partners, after strong trial results showed it could help to treat the disease.

  • The influential Reddit forum r/antiwork has seen its membership balloon during the pandemic from 180,000 in October 2020 to 1.6m earlier this month as Americans re-evaluate their careers.

The day ahead

Markets US equities are expected to open higher this morning after a turbulent start to the year. The Nasdaq Composite shed 4.5 per cent in the first five trading days of 2022 as investors ditched fast-growing technology companies in favour of traditional companies that should benefit as the global economy emerges from the pandemic. US Treasuries were under pressure ahead of inflation data due later this week.

What else we’re reading

Is there an end to supply chain disruption? The chief executive of DSV, one of the world’s largest logistics groups, describes the situation as “the worst I’ve seen” in more than three decades as the company is squeezed between frustrated shipping lines and angry customers. Delays are expected to continue in 2022.

What happens when the Web3 bubble pops? Web3 builds on Web 2.0, which was all about social media and user-driven content, taking it to the next level of either utility or hype, depending on your point of view. Rana Foroohar argues that investors should pay less attention to the metaverse and more to those who are using capital to build out the hard assets of the future, such as Tesla and German internet-of-things companies.

Apple at $3tn: the enigma of Tim Cook Two years after the death of Steve Jobs, Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison claimed it was inevitable Apple would struggle under Tim Cook — you only had to look, he said, at what happened to the company after Jobs was ousted in 1985. Few predictions have ever been so wrong.

The EU vs the City of London As the UK marks the anniversary of its divorce from the single market, bankers and officials confirm a broader picture: rather than a big-bang shift of financial businesses to the EU, the City is enduring a slow puncture that could take decades to play out.

How super readers get through 52 books a year How do they do it? Where do they find the time? What do they give up? The expert advice is to get up early, treat bad literature ruthlessly and skim, skim, skim.

Technology

Last week saw the annual unveiling of new gadgets and innovations at CES in Las Vegas. Adrian Justins rounds up the dominant trends to emerge in residential technology and takes a look at the latest products designed for cutting-edge living.

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