Good morning. This article is an on-site version of our FirstFT newsletter. Sign up to our Asia, Europe/Africa or Americas edition to get it sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived at the White House on Wednesday, the first stop in a brief, high-stakes visit to Washington that marks his first time leaving the country since Russia invaded more than 300 days ago.
President Joe Biden and his wife Jill greeted Zelenskyy shortly after Ukraine’s leader touched down in Washington on a US Air Force plane. Zelensky was clad in his customary military green cargo pants and a sweatshirt with Ukraine’s state emblem in the shape of a trident.
The two presidents put their arms around each other before heading inside the White House. Shortly before his arrival, the Biden administration had announced $1.85bn in new lethal assistance for Ukraine, including the long-coveted advanced Patriot missile defence system.
Inside the Oval Office, Biden, wearing a yellow-and-blue striped tie, told Zelenskyy he was “delighted” the Ukrainian leader could make the trip as [Russia’s leader Vladimir] Putin is escalating assaults on civilians and is “trying to use winter as a weapon”. He pledged continued support for Ukraine, including the Patriot system.
Later in the day, Zelenskyy is set to address a joint session of Congress before returning to Ukraine. He is expected to make his case to sustain US support, and for the West to step up weapons shipments.
Zelenskyy’s visit comes at a critical moment in Russia’s invasion. Officials in Kyiv have warned that Moscow is gearing up for a possible winter offensive as Ukraine fends off Russian attacks on two fronts: the east and south, where grinding combat between the militaries is under way; and in the skies, where Moscow has pummeled Ukraine’s critical energy infrastructure.
Military briefing: The Patriot system is one of the most advanced pieces of western weaponry so far obtained by Kyiv. While an important addition to Ukraine’s defences, it will not offer immediate respite from Russia’s repeated missile and drone bombardments.
For the latest updates on the war’s progress, go to our visual guide.
Thank you for reading FirstFT Asia. Here is the rest of the day’s news. —Amanda
Five more stories in the news
1. WHO urges China to step up vaccinations after rise in Covid cases The World Health Organization has said it is “very concerned” about a spike in severe Covid-19 cases in China and called on Beijing to step up its vaccination programme, especially among vulnerable groups. The country is grappling with a wave of infections following the lifting of its zero-Covid policy.
More on Covid-19 in China: China’s fiscal deficit has hit a record high, more than doubling year over year, as Covid-19 and a property slump take their toll.
2. Japanese bonds sustain fresh blow in test of central bank’s low rate resolve Japanese government bond prices have lurched lower for the second straight day as markets forcefully challenged the Bank of Japan’s assertion that it was not planning to raise interest rates. Yields continue to climb following the central bank’s surprise policy tweak.
Opinion: The Bank of Japan’s tweak to its yield curve control policy could affect the decisions of tens of thousands of companies, but there are bigger concerns than currency, writes Leo Lewis.
3. Iran’s foreign minister holds ‘friendly talks’ with Saudi Arabia Hossein Amirabdollahian said he had “friendly talks” with his Saudi counterpart at a regional conference in Jordan. Tensions between the two countries have increased as Tehran has accused Saudi Arabia and other foreign powers of stoking the worst outbreak of unrest in Iran in years. The gathering is believed to be the first meeting between Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers since 2017.
4. Donald Trump’s tax records show $53mn in net losses The former US president paid $1.8mn in federal income tax between 2015 and 2020, as he declared $53mn in net losses over the six-year period, according to a summary of his tax returns released by a Democratic-led US House committee. The documents show the extent to which Trump aggressively used tax deductions and reported losses in order to lower his tax bill at the height of his political career and his public service.
5. Sam Bankman-Fried consents to US extradition The FTX founder told a court in the Bahamas he will consent to extradition to the US. The US Department of Justice last week filed charges against Bankman-Fried and accused him of orchestrating “one of the biggest financial frauds in American history.” He could arrive in New York as soon as Wednesday to face charges.
The day ahead
Economic data The UK will release final Q3 GDP figures today, offering further evidence of the impact of the cost of living crisis and high inflation. Initial estimates show GDP contracted 0.2 per cent in the third quarter, a better outcome than the 0.5 per cent economists had predicted.
Spanish Christmas Lottery Spain will announce the lucky winners of the $2.5bn El Gordo Christmas lottery, Europe’s biggest and oldest lottery draw.
Join FT Live at Davos for a number of in-person and digital events alongside the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting from January 16 to 20. The sessions will gather leaders in policy, business and finance to share insights into the big issues being debated and the solutions that may pave the way to renewed growth, stability and resilience. View the events and register for free here.
What else we’re reading
US targets China’s potential chip stars with new restrictions The US started using export controls to rein in China’s technological rise by putting Huawei on the entity list in May 2019. Since then, Washington has added more and more Chinese tech enterprises and last week targeted the high-end semiconductor industry. “It is a game of whack-a-mole,” said one expert.
South Korea’s Mirae builds up in European ETF industry South Korean financial group Mirae is expanding its European presence by buying London-based GHCO, the region’s third-largest market maker in exchange traded funds. The move follows a flurry of activity in the fast-moving ETF market by Mirae, including the purchase of ETF Securities in June.
Surge in infections leads to global antibiotics shortage Dozens of countries are reporting low supplies of antibiotic drugs amid a surge in bacterial infections after lifting pandemic restrictions. A combination of inflationary pressures, regulatory hurdles, and weak supply chains is making it hard for drugmakers to scale up and ease shortages.
He is one of Russia’s most esteemed musicians: why he left Mikhail Voskresensky, former head of the piano section at the Moscow Conservatory, left Russia after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. His saga underscores the widening splits in Russia’s intelligentsia and the possible reshaping of its cultural and intellectual life for years to come.
Best TV shows of 2022
The FT called Pachinko, a narrative of the enduring scars of Japanese occupation on a Korean family, a “superlative drama”. It is among 2022’s television highlights.
Thank you for reading and remember you can add FirstFT to myFT. You can also elect to receive a FirstFT push notification every morning on the app. Send your recommendations and feedback to [email protected]
Recommended newsletters for you
The Climate Graphic: Explained — Understanding the most important climate data of the week. Sign up here
Long Story Short — The biggest stories and best reads in one smart email. Sign up here