• Putin is proving his skills as Russia’s great propagandist, with his use of Soviet-era symbolism alarming those fearful for the country’s democracy.

• The Ukraine stand-off offers Beijing a broader role on the global stage.

• The FT’s series on the Fragile Middle continues, with a look at how India‘s petty entrepreneurs face an uncertain future.

• About to take over a crisis-ridden company with a demoralised workforce? Look no further the Vatican under Pope Francis for a case-study in how it should be done.

• As forests of empty new housing towers fill the horizon in Chinese cities, yet more state sanctioned construction would amount to yin zhen zhi ke – “drinking poison to quench one’s thirst”.

Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former banker accused of fraud and one of the Kazakh president’s main political opponents, says the UK is being manipulated by a kleptocratic dictator after London decided to revoke his asylum status. Read more

The fragile middle
Decades of rapid growth have created a new middle class in the developing world, prompting multinational companies to invest heavily in emerging markets as they attempt to serve millions of new consumers. But rising inequality and slowing growth has presented a risk to this new middle class and is forcing companies to rethink their strategy. In this week’s podcast, Ferdinando Giugliano is joined by Shawn Donnan, world trade editor and James Kynge, emerging markets editor to discuss this nascent middle class and its prospects in the face of slowing growth

Malaise in Brazil highlights how Latin America’s middle class could fall into poverty if growth stalls. The latest in the FT’s Fragile Middle series.

• Italy is embracing change as women are appointed to the top jobs in the country’s largest state-controlled companies.

• Oligarchs in Ukraine deny that they are siding with separatists and trying to use the threat of breakaway areas as a negotiating chip with Kiev.

• Six ways that Europe’s financial sector has changed – or at least is supposed to change.

• The New York Times shows how the five-year economic collapse in Greece has spawned a new burst of creative energy that has turned Athens into a contemporary mecca for street art in EuropeRead more

François Hollande has had to get used to dismal opinion polls, but the latest one is about as bad as it gets for France’s struggling Socialist president.

A survey by OpinionWay for Le Figaro published on Tuesday evening shows Mr Hollande would be easily knocked out of the presidential race by Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front, if a re-run of the May 2012 election were held today.

Then, Mr Hollande beat both incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and Ms Le Pen in the first round of the election and went on to oust his centre-right rival from the Elysée Palace in the decisive second round. Two years later, after an often chaotic presidency marked by big tax increases, rising unemployment and faltering growth, Mr Hollande would muster a mere 19 per cent of first round votes, according to the poll. Read more

• The FT continues its Fragile Middle series with a look at how one in five Chinese are only one pay packet away from losing middle class status.

War has created civilisation over the past 10,000 years – and threatens to destroy it in the next 40.

Turkey‘s social media curbs are darkening prospects for its technology sector.

• Despite the undue frostiness that has greeted Iran’s nuclear spring, politicians and diplomats are convinced Tehran wants a deal.

It took just four years for Kim Yong-chul to go from chief lawyer at Samsung to working in a bakery. Now the most high-profile whistleblower in South Korean history is back in the spotlight.

China is unlikely to have a Lehman-style moment – but danger is lurking in the shadows. Read more

David Gardner

Patrick Seale, journalist and scholar, Middle East commentator and impassioned Syria expert, died last week after succumbing to brain cancer. He was 83.

Best known as the biographer of Hafez al-Assad, the late dictator of Syria, and as a foreign correspondent, first for Reuters news agency and then as the Middle East correspondent for the Observer, Seale was also at different times an art dealer, a literary agent and in 1999 an intermediary in ultimately vain efforts to secure a peace treaty between Syria and Israel. Read more

♦ Almost a billion people in the developing world are at risk of slipping out of the ranks of a nascent middle class, according to FT analysis, raising questions about the durability of the past 30 years’ march out of poverty.

Weeks after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, the growing unrest in eastern Ukraine appears to be following an eerily similar script.

♦ Eurozone policy makers aim to make it less attractive to hold euros.

♦ The power of the US cable barons must be challenged, says Edward Luce.

♦ As the US grows older and less white, the political messages and messengers will have to adjust, writes Chris Cilliza in The Washington Post. Read more

Gideon Rachman

As the situation in eastern Ukraine gets ever more volatile, the West is still trying to figure out what to do. On Monday April 14th, EU foreign ministers are due to meet to discuss the situation. Top of the agenda will be the question of how to respond, if Russia invades eastern Ukraine. Defining “invasion” might be a trickier task than is sometimes realised. Agreeing on effective sanctions will be even harder. All the same, a new sanctions package really needs to be pulled together – and fast. Read more

India goes to the polls

India, the world’s largest democracy, is in the midst of conducting its general election. Voting has started and is set to go on for several weeks, with the result declared in mid-May. That result could be dramatic, with polls and pundits predicting the end of a long period of rule by the Congress party, and that a new government could be headed by Narendra Modi, the controversial leader of the BJP. To discuss what we can expect from these elections, Gideon Rachman is joined by Victor Mallet, Delhi bureau chief, and James Crabtree, Mumbai correspondent

Gideon Rachman

The first time I met Bob Carr, who was then Australian foreign minister, he struck me as a polite and humble man. That just shows how wrong you can be. For Mr Carr, who lost office when the Labor Party lost power in Australia, has just published a book called Diary of a Foreign Minister, which reveals – with remarkable frankness – his raging egotism. Among other things, the former minister congratulates himself on his membership of the “elite of the flat-stomached” (fellow members, Barack Obama and Prince Charles), his brilliance as a chairman and his taste in ties. He also complains vociferously about the iniquities of business-class travel on an airline. (Apparently the layout of the seats is similar to a slave-ship). He also publishes, in full, an apology sent to him by Singapore Airlines, for sins that include not providing English subtitles on the Wagner opera that the minister had been watching in first-class. Read more