FirstFT: Russia demands Ukraine surrender Mariupol

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Russia has given Ukrainian forces a Monday deadline to surrender control of the besieged port city of Mariupol, the scene of some of the heaviest fighting since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine more than three weeks ago.

In a statement carried by Russian state news agency RIA Novosti, Moscow’s defence ministry said it was opening humanitarian corridors out of Mariupol from 10am local time on Monday and told Ukrainian forces defending the city to lay down their arms and leave. It demanded Kyiv respond in writing to its ultimatum by 5am on Monday.

Russia — which has framed its invasion as a “special operation” to “liberate” Ukraine — claimed Kyiv was using “Nazis”, “foreign mercenaries” and “bandits” to hold up to 130,000 civilians hostage. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, it has denied any responsibility for the overwhelming civilian casualties in Mariupol and blamed them on “provocations” by Ukrainian nationalists.

The ultimatum came as fierce fighting engulfed Mariupol yesterday, with Russian forces tightening their grip and bombing a school where about 400 residents were sheltering. Electricity, gas and water have been cut off and trapped residents are without food. People are so hungry they are killing stray dogs for food, FT’s Guy Chazan reported.

More from Ukraine:

Explore our interactive map that shows how Russia’s mistakes and Ukrainian resistance altered Putin’s war. Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Send your feedback on this newsletter to firstft@ft.com. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Emily

1. Foreign investors dump Chinese stocks at record pace Foreign investors have dumped a record $6bn worth of Chinese shares in the first three months of 2022 as they take fright at new coronavirus outbreaks and the risk that western countries will sanction Beijing if it supports Russia’s war in Ukraine.

2. Japanese start-up wants to cause real-life pain in the metaverse H2L, a Sony-backed company founded a decade ago, is banking on being able to deliver physical pain to people in the metaverse, one of a growing number of companies vying to profit by providing real-life human experiences in virtual worlds.

3. Myanmar junta approves Telenor’s divestment from country Myanmar’s military junta has approved the sale of Norwegian telecoms operator Telenor’s business in the country to a Lebanese investment group after months of wrangling over the deal following the military coup early last year.

4. China sails carrier through Taiwan Strait China sailed an aircraft carrier through the sensitive Taiwan Strait earlier today, just hours before the Biden-Xi call. An incursion last month of Beijing’s fighter jets into the island’s airspace, and the war in Ukraine, have led to questions about Taipei’s military preparedness.

5. Meta sued in Australia for allegedly ‘misleading’ crypto ads Australia’s competition regulator has taken Meta to court for allegedly allowing misleading cryptocurrency advertisements to appear on Facebook.

Coronavirus digest

  • Amid Beijing’s current outbreak of Covid-19 the city’s caution stems from the fear of a deadly outcome, repeating Hong Kong’s failures but on a huge scale.

  • Fears of ever more draconian Covid-19 restrictions are leading wealthy Hong Kong residents, many of them expats, to sell their yachts and luxury cars or move them out of the city

The day ahead

China loan prime rate The People’s Bank of China is expected to keep its LPR on hold at today’s announcement.

Japan Vernal Equinox Day Financial markets will be closed as families celebrate the traditional day to visit relatives’ graves or hold family reunions. (CNN)

EU foreign affairs council meeting The group will gather in Brussels for discussions including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

What else we’re reading

The global economy’s growing risks This was supposed to be the year the world economy recovered from the shock of Covid-19. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and new outbreaks of coronavirus in China are threatening the expected rebound, especially in Europe.

Will AI turbocharge the hunt for new drugs? During the pandemic, artificial intelligence was primarily used as a tool to save scientists’ time, accelerating this notoriously slow discovery process. But advocates of AI say its wider use during the crisis is just the start of a revolution in drug discovery.

Chinese market rally disguises concerns over deglobalisation The scale of last week’s rally may have been welcome and impressive, but its propellant — a pledge from the top of the Chinese Communist party to introduce a range of “policies favourable to the market” — came with huge implications, writes Leo Lewis.

The war of Putin’s imagination Maria Stepanova, the award-winning Russian writer, reflects on how fear as well as dictatorship led her homeland to launch its disastrous invasion of Ukraine. “What we are living through might be termed the death of the conceivable,” she writes.

The strange death of the salutation If the opening salutation is fading, it is probably no surprise after two harried pandemic years, followed by headlines of a third world war. Firing off an email without an opening greeting is becoming more common but is still unwise, writes Pilita Clark.

Travel

Would you travel across the frozen wilds of Swedish Lapland in a hot-air balloon? One travel operator from the Masai Mara is looking to do just that.

A hot-air balloon hangs above the snow-dusted pines of Lassbyn in Swedish Lapland
A hot-air balloon hangs above the snow-dusted pines of Lassbyn in Swedish Lapland © Fredrik Broman

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