FirstFT: EU steps up action on Russian oil sanctions

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

Germany, the EU’s biggest economy and most powerful member, was initially reluctant to place sanctions on Russian oil at the outset of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But it has steadily shifted its position as the war has continued, in a sign of the EU’s determination to stop paying Moscow for energy in spite of the potential economic impact on the bloc.

With the EU this week discussing its toughest sanctions yet on Moscow, 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 was in favour of an oil embargo but needed “a considered wind-down period” to prepare for an end to Russian crude shipments. 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 the supply of gas to Poland and Bulgaria. The European Commission is drawing up a sixth package of sanctions against Russia over its war against Ukraine, now in its third month. The measures are expected to target Russian oil, Russian and Belarusian banks and more individuals and companies.

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

Latest updates on the war in Ukraine

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

2. The US and UK discuss China’s threat to Taiwan For the first time, US and UK representatives have held top-level talks on how to co-operate more closely to reduce the chances of war with China over Taiwan and to explore conflict contingency plans. Although there is no imminent threat, Beijing’s attitude towards Taiwan, which it considers part of China, has become increasingly assertive.

3. Western multinationals sound the alarm over Chinese lockdowns China’s efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19 have left 345mn people living under full or partial lockdown. The strict measures in the world’s second-largest economy have led Apple, Coca-Cola, General Electric and others to voice concern over supply chains, financial forecasts, and disruption to industries, from carmakers and tech to consumer goods.

  • News in-depth: Chinese officials and advisers are also worried by the economic impact of the country’s endless Covid lockdowns — and fear that Xi Jinping is blind to the impact of these harsh anti-coronavirus measures.

4. Elon Musk sells $8.5bn of Tesla stock The billionaire revealed at the end of last week that he had sold almost 9.7mn Tesla shares at prices ranging from $872 to $999, as the stock price fell. The sale will boost the Tesla chief executive’s cash position ahead of his planned Twitter purchase. Meanwhile, Tesla shareholders offered their views on what Musk’s Twitter deal will mean for the automaker.

Join us on May 4 for our subscriber-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 functioning democracy”.

5. Pressure on the renminbi is hitting other emerging market currencies China’s currency has fallen steeply, and it isn’t alone. The combination of the global fallout from the war, plus China’s slowing economy — in part due to the country’s Covid lockdowns — has sent emerging market currencies around the world into reverse, from Brazil to South Africa.

The day ahead

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

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

New Zealand travel Fully vaccinated travellers from about 60 countries on a visa-waiver list will be able to arrive in the country from today.

What else we’re reading

Companies have to ‘dance with the devil’ to exit Russia From oil majors to car companies, many western companies seeking to exit Russia face several difficulties: few potential buyers, costly exit options and uncertain prospects for any future return. As hope fades for a rapid resolution to the war, corporate advisers are facing an impossibly tricky situation.

Israel’s ‘King Bibi’ plots his comeback Amid a political crisis that has shaken the governing coalition that toppled him last year, and with his corruption trial proceeding at a glacial pace, former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has returned with full vigour to public life and to social media. At 72, he remains the single most popular politician in the country.

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

© Cat O’Neil

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

Bill Hwang case puts prosecutors’ market manipulation claim to the test The high-profile implosion of Archegos Capital Management caused billions of dollars of losses for investment banks and wiped more than $100bn from the valuations of nearly a dozen companies. But legal experts say prosecutors may still struggle to prove the manipulation charge. Stefania Palma spoke to some white collar crime lawyers about the case.


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

BBC World News presenter yalda Hakim in her kitchen, beside her Afghan rug
BBC World News presenter Yalda Hakim in her kitchen, beside her Afghan rug © Max Miechowski

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