FirstFT: Blinken warns of ‘Russian playbook’ to destabilize Kyiv

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The United States said Moscow’s efforts to destabilize Ukraine were “part of the Russian playbook” after the United Kingdom warned of an alleged plot to install a puppet government in Kiev.

Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said Washington had been “concerned” for weeks about Russian tactics, including President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to replace the government in Kiev.

He was speaking after the UK said in an extraordinary statement it had evidence Russia was planning to install a pro-Moscow leader in Ukraine – and named Yevhen Murayev as a potential Kremlin-favoured leader.

Russia has massed more than 100,000 troops near the Ukrainian border and has sworn “the most unpredictable and serious consequences for European security” if the United States does not give in to its demands to roll back the expansion of NATO.

  • Related News: NATO’s promise to admit Ukraine was a ‘nasty compromise’ but not to blame for threatening conflict with Russia, former military alliance secretary general told Financial Times.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Yasemin

1. Activist hedge fund Trian takes stake in Unilever The arrival of Nelson Peltz’s group comes as the British consumer giant comes under pressure from investors after its attempted £50bn takeover of GSK Consumer Health failed.

2. Australian Open kicks out protesters for supporting Peng Shuai The tennis tournament expelled two spectators for wearing T-shirts in support of player Peng Shuai, who accused a senior Chinese government official of sexual assault last year.

3. Private equity avoids the parade of IPOs The industry’s biggest private companies raised at least $9 billion through debt sales last year to invest in their own buyout funds, finance growth or pay dividends to partners, according to industry executives and records obtained by the Financial Times.

4. World Bank under pressure to release Afghan funds Major charities working in Afghanistan are demanding more than $1.2 billion in frozen funds in order to pay teachers and other civil servants and prevent the collapse of essential services.

5. Warren Buffett is getting closer to Cathie Wood Cathie Wood’s flagship Ark fund is set to be overtaken by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway in the post-pandemic performance chart, reflecting a dramatic change in fortunes between the two top investors.

Summary of coronavirus

  • from new zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will reintroduce tough Covid-19 restrictions – forcing her to cancel her own wedding plans – as Asia-Pacific battles to stop the spread of the Omicron variant.

  • the Beijing Winter Olympics poses a challenge to China’s zero Covid policy.

  • The Omicron variant causes far less damage to the Eurozone economy than previous waves of Covid-19, according to FT analysis.

The day ahead

IBM revenue The IT, technology and computer consulting firm will report its fourth quarter results.

PMI IHS Markit releases Flash Composite Purchasing Managers Index data for Japan, Eurozone, France, Germany, UK and US.

Italian presidential election Parliamentarians and regional representatives will start voting for the replacement of Sergio Mattarella. Prime Minister Mario Draghi is considered a serious candidate.

What else we read and watch

Russia and China’s plans for a new world order Ten years ago, neighbors were as much rivals as partners. But after a period when the two countries quarreled with the United States, Xi Jinping has become Vladimir Putin’s most important ally. Today, Moscow and Beijing have embraced the rhetoric of counter-revolution.

Don’t write off Hong Kong as a financial center just yet Hong Kong is in turmoil after the city issued a death sentence against hamsters. But for difficult economic reasons, the future of the Chinese territory is more secure than any global rival except New York, says Robin Harding, editor of FT Asia.

Netflix faces a dystopian future The streaming giant seemed to be on a roll towards the end of 2021, with the success of squid game and Don’t look up. But the star-studded releases weren’t enough to give it a significant subscriber boost in the fourth quarter. What if popular new shows are no longer enough to attract many new subscribers to Netflix?

Analysts say the lifespan of hit programs like Squid Game is short in an age of excessive viewing © Netflix/AP

Get ready for the four-day work week First, it was about working from home, writes our economics columnist Pilita Clark. Today, the four-day working week is disrupting business life in ways that would have seemed unthinkable before Covid-19. Young managers are much more interested in the idea than the older leaders they are about to replace.

Millions of Turks are flocking to cryptocurrencies TV news channels feature bitcoin and ethereum prices alongside dollar and euro exchange rates. Halftime TV commercials at football games extol the virtues of crypto exchanges. Amid soaring inflation and falling Turkish Lira, millions are investing in crypto. The renewed interest has alarmed the country’s authorities who now want to regulate the sector.

Life & Arts

FT San Francisco correspondent Patrick McGee looks at the controversial rise of connected fitness. Peloton fans and peers describe the gamified experience as a way to get fit, or even build community, without feeling uncomfortable or vulnerable in the gym.

Patrick McGee using some of the products

Patrick McGee: “This is the closest thing yet to cracking the code that will inspire more people to be physically active” © Cayce Clifford

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