FirstFT: EU steps up action against Russian oil sanctions

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Germany has called for a phased ban on Russian oil imports into the EU, stepping up pressure on Brussels to strike a deal between divided member states ahead of a critical week for the bloc’s Russian energy policy.

Germany, the EU’s biggest economy and most powerful member, was initially reluctant to impose sanctions on Russian oil at the start of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But he gradually changed his position as the war continued, a sign of the EU’s determination to stop paying Moscow for energy despite the potential economic impact on the bloc.

As the EU discusses its toughest sanctions yet against Moscow this week, Berlin’s willingness to speed up its timetable increases the likelihood of a full EU oil embargo. Jörg Kukies, one of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s closest advisers, said Berlin favored an oil embargo but needed “a period of thoughtful relaxation” to prepare for an end to crude shipments Russian. Most German refineries have already switched to other suppliers.

Tensions between Russia and the West over energy have escalated in recent days, with Moscow cutting off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria. The European Commission is preparing a sixth sanctions package against Russia for its war against Ukraine, which is now in its third month. The measures are expected to target Russian oil, Russian and Belarusian banks and more individuals and businesses.

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

Latest updates on the war in Ukraine

1. China met with banks to protect assets from US sanctions Chinese regulators held an emergency meeting with domestic and foreign banks to discuss how they could protect the country’s foreign assets from sanctions like those imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

2. US and UK discuss Chinese threat to Taiwan For the first time, US and UK officials held high-level talks on how to cooperate more closely to reduce the risk of war with China over Taiwan and explore contingency plans in the event of conflict . Although there is no imminent threat, Beijing’s attitude towards Taiwan, which it considers part of China, has become increasingly assertive.

3. Western multinationals are sounding the alarm over Chinese blockages China’s efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 have left 345 million people living under full or partial lockdown. Strict measures in the world’s second-largest economy have led Apple, Coca-Cola, General Electric and others to worry about supply chains, financial forecasts and disruptions to industries, from automakers and tech to goods of consumption.

  • In-depth news: Chinese officials and advisers are also worried about the economic impact of the country’s drawn-out Covid lockdowns – and fear that Xi Jinping is blind to the impact of these tough anti-coronavirus measures.

4. Elon Musk sells $8.5 billion worth of Tesla stock The billionaire revealed late last week that he had sold nearly 9.7 million Tesla shares at prices ranging from $872 to $999 as the stock price plummeted. The sale will bolster the Tesla CEO’s cash position ahead of his planned Twitter purchase. Meanwhile, Tesla shareholders have given their thoughts on what Musk’s Twitter deal will mean for the automaker.

Join us on May 4 for our subscribers-only Elon Musk Twitter Takeover webinar. register here for our free virtual briefing on the consequences of the world’s richest man acquiring the social media platform he describes as the “bedrock of a working democracy”.

5. Renminbi pressure hits other emerging market currencies The Chinese currency has fallen sharply, and it is not the only one. The combination of the global fallout from the war and a slowing Chinese economy – in part due to the country’s Covid lockdowns – sent emerging market currencies down around the world, from Brazil to South Africa.

The day ahead

Ramadan ends The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr begins tonight and continues until tomorrow evening, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

Met Gala The trendy charity event takes place today at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. This year’s theme is “In America: A Fashion Anthology”.

Travel to New Zealand Fully vaccinated travelers from around 60 countries on a visa waiver list will be able to arrive in the country from today.

What else we read

Companies must ‘dance with the devil’ to leave Russia From oil majors to automakers, many Western companies seeking to exit Russia face several challenges: few potential buyers, expensive exit options and uncertain prospects for future performance. As hope for a quick resolution to the war fades, corporate advisers face an incredibly tricky situation.

Israel’s ‘King Bibi’ prepares for his return Amid a political crisis that has rocked the governing coalition that toppled him last year, and with his corruption trial unfolding at a chilling pace, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has returned with full force in public life and social media. At 72, he remains the country’s most popular politician.

Hong Kong, my vanishing city Hong Kong’s population of 7.4 million is rapidly shrinking. Draconian Covid regulations and a political crackdown by authorities have caused residents to flee the city. Author Louisa Lim, who now lives and works in Melbourne, writes a love letter to her former home.

© Cat O’Neil

Prepare for speaking season with these simple public speaking rules Many conferences are restarting for the first time in two years. If you’re preparing to give a talk, check out Simon Kuper’s top tips for holding your audience’s attention. Don’t tell cliché conference jokes or say things that are obviously true, and speak less than your allotted time.

Bill Hwang case puts prosecutors’ allegation of market manipulation to the test The highly publicized implosion of Archegos Capital Management caused billions of dollars in losses for investment banks and wiped more than $100 billion from the valuations of nearly a dozen companies. But legal experts say prosecutors may still struggle to prove the manipulation charge. Stefania Palma spoke about the case to lawyers specializing in white-collar criminal law.

Travel

Souvenirs don’t have to be the sticky plastic trinkets found in tourist shops. For ideas on what to bring home from your next trip, find inspiration in our souvenir buying guide from The Aesthete. Cynthia Nixon, Tory Burch and other stylish globetrotters share their best finds.

BBC World News presenter Yalda Hakim in her kitchen next to her Afghan rug

BBC World News presenter Yalda Hakim in her kitchen next to her Afghan rug © Max Miechowski

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