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The US sought to tighten sanctions on Russia yesterday by blacklisting a swath of financial executives at Gazprombank for the first time, and barring companies from providing Russia with corporate services such as accounting and consulting.
A senior Biden administration official said the new US sanctions targeted 27 executives of Gazprombank, Russia’s third-largest lender and a subsidiary of state-owned energy company Gazprom. But the measures did not freeze the company’s assets or prohibit transactions with it since it is the main way Russia sells gas to Europe.
“We’re sanctioning some of their top business executives, they’re the people who sit at the top of the organisation, to create a chilling effect . . . we don’t want Gazprombank to be seen as a safe haven,” the senior Biden administration official said.
The new sanctions come even as the EU struggled to finalise its latest package of penalties. Diplomats said Hungary continued to hold back progress in Brussels on the EU’s proposed sixth package of sanctions, which will include a phased-in oil embargo aimed at squeezing Moscow’s sources of cash.
With Russia preparing for today’s Victory Day celebrations, the G7 and its allies are seeking to harden the economic pressure on President Vladimir Putin’s regime. US president Joe Biden met his G7 counterparts and Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday as part of a co-ordinated show of support for the war-torn country.
Happy Monday, and thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Here’s the rest of the day’s news. — Sophia
Five more stories in the news
1. China has been ‘unsettled’ by Ukraine war Bill Burns, director of the CIA, said this weekend that Chinese president Xi Jinping is “unsettled” by Russia’s continuing aggression, demonstrating that the friendship between Beijing and Moscow has “limits”. The conflict may be affecting the Chinese leadership’s calculations with respect to Taiwan.
2. John Lee chosen as Hong Kong’s next leader Following a campaign that critics labelled as absurd, John Lee has been confirmed as Hong Kong’s next chief executive after Beijing backed his candidacy and no one else ran for election. Residents’ voting power has been steadily disenfranchised, and most political opposition has either fled or is in jail.
3. Sinn Féin wins historic victory in Northern Ireland A jubilant Sinn Féin clinched a historic victory in Northern Ireland’s elections with its laser focus on the cost of living crisis and promises to get the stop-start executive back to work. The victory cements the nationalist party as the region’s biggest political force for the first time in over a century.
4. Xi Jinping warns against ‘any slackening’ of zero-Covid policy China’s president has reaffirmed his commitment to the country’s controversial strategy for controlling the spread of Covid-19, triggering a sell-off in Chinese stock markets. The CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks shed 2 per cent today, while the benchmark Hang Seng index in Hong Kong dropped 3.8 per cent.
5. North-Korea backed “crypto mixer” gets hit with US sanctions The US Treasury has sanctioned a “crypto mixing” service used in a hacking group’s attempt to launder $20.5mn in one of the biggest-ever crypto heists. Friday’s announcement is the latest sign of how financial watchdogs are stepping up efforts to stamp out money laundering through digital currencies.
The day ahead
Pulitzer Prize The 106th annual Pulitzer Prize winners and nominated finalists will be announced today for prizes in journalism, drama, letters and music.
Philippines election Polls open today as the nation votes in the country’s presidential election.
Russia’s Victory Day A parade will be held in Moscow’s Red Square today to celebrate the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany.
FT’s Future of the car summit May 9-12 features Tesla founder Elon Musk, who will be speaking and taking audience questions, along with a host of other industry leaders. Register here.
What else we’re reading
Shanghai lockdown tests Xi’s loyalties in China’s Communist party Li Qiang, Shanghai’s top official, seemed close to securing a spot on China’s most influential political body as Xi Jinping prepares to secure a third term in November. But weeks of brutal lockdowns in Shanghai have eroded faith in the Communist party’s ability to govern. Many blame Xi — and the future of Li hangs in the balance.
Peter Ma, China’s shy insurance tycoon, bursts into the limelight Ping An, the world’s second largest insurance company and the largest investor in HSBC, dropped a bombshell that it would be splitting its Asian and western operations, leading to the largest restructuring in HSBC’s 157-year history. It was also an uncomfortable step into the limelight for 67-year-old Ping An founder Peter Ma, who rarely appears in public.
The world needs a 12-step programme for better trade The World Trade Organization is broken, and the first step toward a solution is admitting that there is a problem with the old model of globalisation. The world needs a newer, better, faster way to resolve trade disputes and find a balance between international trade and domestic politics, argues Rana Foroohar.
Pro-Ukrainian hackers strike back at Russia For more than a decade, Ukraine’s government, financial system and other key infrastructure were pummelled by Russian state-backed hackers. Now, hordes of pro-Ukrainian hackers are matching Russian cyber aggression, leading to an ‘avalanche’ of secret data from state-backed groups and private companies.
Networking for a hybrid era As employees return to offices at least part-time, formal work events have resumed, spurring a heady mix of dread and excitement about professional networking. Emma Jacobs explores how to deepen your professional relationships in a hybrid era.
Plus: Sign up to Working It, a newsletter which explores workplace trends and the big ideas that are shaping work today. There is also a weekly podcast of the same name.
Food & drink
Why do so few restaurants get their bread right? For starters, cooking and baking are more different than many people realise. There are many factors to consider in bread baking, and the process requires dedicated time, space and money.
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