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Good morning. Today we start in the US, where Joe Biden’s administration has imposed fresh sanctions on Chinese companies it said was supplying parts for drones that Russia has used to fight its war in Ukraine.
On the topic of sanctions, we also have an exclusive story that Russian billionaires Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven are primed to offload their stakes in Alfa-Bank as they seek to free themselves from western penalties.
Here’s what else I’m keeping tabs on in the coming days:
Bank of Japan: The central bank will announce its decision on interest rates
today. Rapid price growth of popular products — including chicken nuggets, tofu and bidets — exemplifies challenge for central bankers.
UK-France summit: UK prime minister Rishi Sunak and his French counterpart, president Emmanuel Macron, will attend their first bilateral summit in five years.
Canberra Balloon Spectacular: The week-long event begins in Australia on Saturday.
Thank you for reading FirstFT. Have a great weekend.
Today’s top news
1. US president Joe Biden’s administration has imposed new sanctions against a group of Chinese companies it said was supplying parts for Iranian drones used by Russia to fight its war in Ukraine. The US Treasury on Thursday said five Chinese companies and one individual were “responsible”.
2. Scoop: Russian billionaires Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven are primed to offload their stakes in Alfa-Bank in a $2.3bn sale of Russia’s largest private lender, as they seek to free themselves from western sanctions.
3. Roger Ng, a former Goldman Sachs banker, was sentenced to 10 years in prison on Thursday in New York. The 50-year-old Malaysian citizen, who was convicted in connection with the multibillion-dollar embezzlement scheme at 1MDB, was found guilty on all three counts in his case.
4. JPMorgan Chase is suing Jes Staley over the Jeffrey Epstein lawsuits, in an attempt to make the former executive liable for penalties the bank might face if it is found to have facilitated the late sex offender’s trafficking crimes. Read more details from JPMorgan’s court filing.
5. Cash-strapped local governments in China artificially boosted their revenues last year by selling swaths of land to their own investment vehicles, an official think-tank said, raising concerns about the extent of their financial woes. Some of the transactions, the Chinese Academy of Fiscal Sciences warned, “might be fake”.
How well did you keep up with the news this week? Take our quiz.
Despite western officials and even some Ukrainian soldiers suggesting it might be wise to pull back from the eastern city of Bakhmut, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy this week recommitted his forces to defending the city. Our reporters delve into why Zelenskyy has raised the stakes.
We’re also reading . . .
New cold war: Xi Jinping is not wrong about Washington’s “containment” of China, but encircling Beijing is not a viable long-term strategy, writes Edward Luce.
Trade secrets: Being on the receiving end of coercive trade bullying from China isn’t much fun for exporters — and all the more reason to read Alan Beattie’s quick and easy guide for countries resisting Chinese trade coercion.
Bad break-up: EY has been thrown into disarray by an internal war over its plan to split in two after its US boss said the deal would have to be paused.
Chart of the day
Peanuts are no longer going for well, peanuts. They have become China’s best-performing agricultural commodity as dry weather and Beijing’s policies have eaten into supplies, raising traders’ fears that demand from the world’s largest importer of the legume will push up international prices.
Take a break from the news
Cal Newport, an MIT-trained computer scientist, has carved out a side career as a productivity evangelist for the masses, with teachings centred around the values of focused work, work-life balance and cutting out digital distractions. What does he know that we don’t?
Additional contributions by Darren Dodd and Tee Zhuo
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