EconomyFirstFT: Ukraine and Russia explore neutrality plan

FirstFT: Ukraine and Russia explore neutrality plan


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Ukraine and Russia have made significant progress on a peace plan including a ceasefire and Russian withdrawal if Kyiv declares neutrality and accepts armed forces limits, according to five people briefed on the talks.

The 15-point draft would involve Kyiv renouncing its ambitions to join Nato and promising not to host foreign military bases or weaponry in exchange for protection from allies such as the US, UK and Turkey, the people said.

However, the nature of western guarantees for Ukrainian security could prove to be an obstacle to any deal, as could the status of the country’s territories seized by Russia and its proxies in 2014.

It came as Joe Biden approved the delivery of US weapons systems to Kyiv, including sophisticated armed drones, after Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky made a plea for more military support to defend against Russia’s invasion.

Biden went on to label Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” for the first time.

The latest from the Ukraine war:

Follow our live blog and updated maps for the latest on the conflict. Send your feedback on this newsletter to firstft@ft.com. Now for the rest of today’s news — Jennifer

1. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe arrives back in UK The UK-Iranian dual national has returned after being detained by Tehran nearly six years ago, in a move that could boost western diplomatic efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear accord.

2. Fed announces first rate rise since 2018 The US Federal Reserve lifted its benchmark interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point in what officials signalled would be one of several hikes this year. Hikes are expected at all six remaining policy meetings. The US stock market rallied in response.

3. Oaktree Capital prepares offer for Chelsea The US asset manager is preparing the offer as the race to buy one of Europe’s biggest football clubs hots up after Roman Abramovich’s decades-long ownership ends.

4. Number of independent retailers in UK rises The number of independent retail businesses on high streets increased for the first time in five years in 2021, even though chain stores reduced their presence.

5. Lloyd’s of London issues its largest fine Underwriting group Atrium has been hit with a £1mn penalty for behaviour that included “systematic bullying” and sexual harassment on an annual “boys’ night out”.

Coronavirus digest

The day ahead

BoE interest rate decision The Bank of England is poised to tighten monetary policy to its pre-Covid level as it fights surging inflation. In other economic data, Europe will release inflation figures for February.

UK online safety bill details The government will unveil measures to tackle a range of online harms, from bullying and fraud to child abuse, in an attempt to force Big Tech companies to police their networks.

Turkey’s foreign minister in Kyiv Mevlut Cavusoglu will visit the Ukraine capital after meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov yesterday in a bid to help broker a peace deal between both sides.

Nato winter exercises The alliance of 23 members plus Finland and Sweden will begin winter defensive exercises with about 30,000 troops in Norway in the Cold Response 2022 event to illustrate Nato’s firepower.

What else we’re reading and watching

How did an Amazon warehouse change life in one town? Ten years after her groundbreaking investigation into the retail giant, Sarah O’Connor returns to a small town in the British Midlands called Rugeley — where a new economy was developing on top of the old — to find out what had changed.

Will older investors ever embrace crypto? Wealthy millennials favour cryptocurrencies, while few of their older peers hold any at all. This is beginning to change as established institutions offer more access to digital currencies. But they are having to overcome concerns about security.

Maths skills oil the wheels of financial literacy The biggest service we could do for future financial literacy is to embed mathematical skills for today’s pupils, writes Hilary Cooper. This article is the latest part of the FT’s Financial Literacy and Inclusion Campaign.

Boris Johnson’s frustrated vision for Britain The UK prime minister is often described as a lucky politician when it comes to his survival. An alternative view, though, is that his premiership has been pretty unlucky, hit by two huge existential crises, writes Robert Shrimsley.

The truth about fasting Advocates of intermittent fasting, a health practice that involves extending the time periods between eating, say it makes you sharper and slows ageing. Why did it become normal to starve ourselves for stretches of time? And when does it become dangerous?

Art

A sculpture that sold for £5,200 in a 2002 auction has turned out to be a lost work by Italian master Antonio Canova, commissioned by a British prime minister. It is now valued at between £5mn and £8mn.

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