FirstFT: Russia seizes Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant

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Russian forces have seized control of Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant, raising international alarm over Moscow’s warfare during another night of devastating shelling.

World leaders condemned the assault on the Zaporizhzhia plant near the southern city of Enerhodar after a blaze broke out at what Ukrainian authorities called “an educational and training building” near the facility.

Ukraine’s nuclear inspectorate said firefighters had brought the blaze under control by dawn and there were no casualties or unusual radiation levels reported but it was under the control of Russian forces.

The attack evoked memories of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 and the fire at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky contacted half a dozen world leaders in the early hours of Friday, accusing Russia of deliberately targeting the reactors.

Russia’s defence ministry accused Ukrainian forces of staging a “monstrous provocation” at the Zaporizhzhia site.

The incident came after another day of brutal bombardment of Ukraine’s urban centres, including a ruinous siege of the port city of Mariupol, whose population of almost half a million is lacking food, water and electricity.

At least 22 people were killed in a missile strike on Chernihiv, a city in the north of Ukraine, and Kharkiv in the east remained under constant attack.

As civilian casualty numbers mounted, Russian and Ukrainian delegations agreed yesterday to set up civilian evacuation routes out of the hardest-hit cities. However, the talks ended without a ceasefire agreement.

Track troop movements on our regularly updated map of the conflict and follow our live blog for the latest developments.

1. Sony and Honda plan EV tie-up to take on Tesla Two of the most storied names in Japanese business are teaming up to take on Tesla in the electric car market. They are expected to establish a new company later this year and sell their first cars in 2025.

2. Purdue and US states agree new settlement for opioid litigation Members of the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma, have agreed to increase their financial contribution to a settlement with US states over their role in the opioid crisis to $6bn.

3. Argentina secures $45bn IMF debt deal Under the agreement, which comes just weeks before a deadline for repayments the country would struggle to make from fast-dwindling reserves, payments will begin in 2026 and end in 2034. However, the agreement must still be approved by Argentina’s congress and the IMF board.

4. Billions required to prevent next pandemic, expert warns Governments must invest billions of dollars to prevent the next pandemic, according to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, which is charged with preparing the world for emerging infectious diseases.

5. Plans to revive European Super League attacked Top football bosses have criticised an effort to revive the European Super League, as one of the breakaway contest’s leading advocates insisted he would continue to pursue a radical transformation of the world’s favourite sport.

The days ahead

Ukraine talks Nato foreign ministers and their allies from the EU and G7 meet in Brussels today and are expected to discuss a possible no-fly zone over Ukraine. The UN Human Rights Council will vote on whether to establish a commission of inquiry for one year to investigate alleged human rights violations committed by Russian forces in Ukraine since 2014.

US jobs report The world’s largest economy is forecast to have posted another solid month of job gains. Employers are predicted to have added 415,000 jobs in February, according to a consensus forecast compiled by Bloomberg, building on the 467,000 positions created in January. The unemployment rate is expected to fall to 3.9 per cent.

2022 Paralympic Winter Games The Games will kick off in Beijing, where Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from competing by the International Paralympic Committee. Multiple national paralympic committees were “threatening not to compete” if the nations were included in the Games following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

China’s National People’s Congress The annual plenary session begins tomorrow, with President Xi Jinping preparing to extend his period in office into a third term. But furore over Xi’s support for Russia and the collapse of his zero-Covid policy in Hong Kong threaten to overshadow the gathering.

International Atomic Energy Agency chief in Tehran Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director-general, will meet senior Iranian officials to discuss remaining issues around reviving the Iran nuclear deal tomorrow. (Reuters)

What else we’re reading

Putin’s war on the liberal order Democratic values were already under threat around the world before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Now we need to rekindle the spirit of 1989, writes Francis Fukuyama in an essay for the Financial Times.

Books review: How did London and the US become safe havens for “dirty money”? These three books examine how the financial centres assumed the role of “butlers” for autocrats.

Gillian Tett: War in Ukraine threatens the global financial system, writes the FT’s US editor at large.

Borrowed money funded ‘Spac king’ share purchases Chamath Palihapitiya, the former Facebook executive and billionaire tech investor, borrowed money to finance landmark investments while emphasising the importance of Spac sponsors putting their own capital at risk. Here’s how the arrangements indicate he put less personal cash into his deals than had been thought.

Hip-hop stars miss out in music catalogue gold rush You might have noticed headlines about musicians selling their life’s work for eye-popping sums of money. But rappers, despite being the backbone of the streaming revolution, are losing out to boomer rock musicians, writes Anna Nicolaou.

Reader feedback

This week we featured an item from our food and drinks team on the world’s leading independent coffee shops and asked for your suggestions. Koishu Kunii got in touch from Paris to recommend two of her favourite outlets in the French capital.

“Weekday afternoon in the spring is the best time to visit and fully immerse yourself in coffee with a touch of Vitamin D,” she writes of Fringe, which was opened by former photographer Jeff Hargrove. Brouillon opened late last year and “offers fully alternative experience with consciousness, from cookies made with love and locally sourced produce to homemade kombucha”.

Thanks for reading FirstFT and do email us with suggestions or feedback about this newsletter. We love hearing your thoughts. Have a good weekend and I will be back on Monday — Gordon.

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