The differing responses to the Ukraine crisis
This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in Washington for talks with President Barack Obama, and Ukraine will top the agenda. Washington has led the way on sanctions, imposing asset freezes and travel bans on dozens of senior Russians and scores of companies, in an attempt to show Russia’s President Vladimir Putin that his interference in Ukraine will bring rising economic costs. The EU on the other hand, seems deeply resistant to tougher economic sanctions, given the much more important ties between Europe and Russia. In this week’s podcast, Ben Hall, world news editor, is joined by Geoff Dyer, Washington correspondent, and Stefan Wagstyl, Berlin bureau chief, to discuss how the two leaders should handle the escalating situation

• The peace deal struck in Geneva means little in Ukraine’s easternmost province where hard core activists are refusing to end their occupation of government buildings.

Russia seeks economic self-reliance. Faced with the threat of more sanctions over Ukraine, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says the country must reduce its dependency on imports and strenghthen from within.

• Thousands of government opponents in Egypt have disappeared into secret jails, which critics warn are radicalising a new generation of jihadis.

• David Moyes’s sacking, after just 10 months as Manchester United’s manager, is above all a story of image.

• The American middle class, long the most affluent in the world, has lost that distinction. New York Times analysis shows that across lower-and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced countries have won considerably larger salary increases over the last three decades. Read more

By Jurek Martin

The formal obituaries of Shijuro Ogata, the former deputy governor of the Bank of Japan who has died at the age of 86, will take due note of his policy making roles over a long career, invariably executed with acumen. They will also record that, as he frequently said with affection, he was hardly the most famous Ogata in his own household – his wife, Sadako, was the UN High Commissioner for Refugees for a decade and holder of more than one Japanese government humanitarian portfolio.

What is less well known is the extent to which he was single-handedly responsible for opening up the previously closed Japanese bureaucracy to the western media – and all through the device of a tea party of his own mischievous creation. Read more

• 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

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

• 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

  • “When a man becomes a high official, even his chickens and dogs go to heaven”, but a Chinese corruption investigation means the route for Zhou Yongkang, his chickens and his dogs might well lead somewhere else.
  • Hollande’s drubbing is not a blank cheque for France’s mainstream right
  • Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s former premier and now a presidential candidate, urges the west to bolster the country’s military defences and impose “immensely strong” economic sanctions on Moscow.
  • Meanwhile a visit to Donetsk shows how private donations are helping Ukraine’s underfunded army with everything from food to funds to create a ‘Maginot line’ to halt Russia.
  • The Middle East Institute tracks the history of terrorism in Egypt’s Sinai with an interactive graphic.

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Turkey in turmoil over Erdogan’s Twitter ban
Gideon Rachman is joined by Daniel Dombey, Turkey correspondent, and Leyla Boulton, head of special reports and former Turkey correspondent, to discuss Prime Minister Erdogan’s ban on Twitter and what the year ahead holds for the country and its divisive leader. The Twitter ban adds to a growing cloud of controversy, with allegations of corruption and a blackmail ring also engulfing Turkey’s political system, but Erdogan has retained much of his support from conservative groups and is still polling broadly above 40 per cent as this weekend’s local elections approach.

Europe’s response to the Crimean crisis
Ben Hall is joined by Peter Spiegel, Brussels bureau chief and Neil Buckley, East Europe editor to discuss Europe’s response to Russia’s summary annexation of Crimea, the first such grab for sovereign territory by a European nation since the second world war. President Vladimir Putin’s move has prompted outrage in European capitals, and the muscular tone of his speech to the Duma on Tuesday will have triggered some alarm about Russian intentions. But Europe’s response so far seems timid, as governments weigh their economic interests with standing up to Russian aggression.

By Stefan Wagstyl

All this talk of fascism: the most abused and overused word in the political dictionary is once again being royally abused and overused.

For weeks, Russian propaganda has portrayed the protesters in the Kiev Maidan as fascist, along with the interim government, and most of western Ukraine. Now Oleksander Turchynov, Ukraine’s interim president, has returned the compliment – and called Russian president Vladimir Putin a fascist. Read more

The turmoil in Venezuela
While the crisis in Ukraine has grabbed the headlines, Venezuela, once the toast of the radical left around the world, has also been in the grip of a violent political crisis. In the last three weeks, protests have left at least 20 dead. Gideon Rachman is joined by Latin American editor John Paul Rathbone, and correspondent Andres Schipani to discuss the background to the situation, and where the country goes from here.

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  • If Russia gets away with its incursion into Ukraine, other governments may decide defying America is getting less risky, writes Gideon Rachman.
  • Play at being president-for-a-day to get under the skin of South America’s leaders as regional problems expose a lack of unity.
  • London has impressed itself upon the world as an imperial metropole, a financial hub, a destination for migrants – and now as a subject of moral panic.
  • The father of the boy responsible for the Sandy Hook killings in the US searches for answers.
  • Development experts stand accused of empowering dictators and trapping millions in poverty.

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  • Ten years ago Christine Spolar, FT investigations editor, reported on the Iraq war. She returned last month to find old colleagues and friends living in fear.
  • China’s leaders love watching House of Cards because it confirms their perceptions of the workings of US government.
  • Japan’s yakuza have seen their numbers decline for the first time in years: is it because of a police crackdown, or are they going underground?
  • Francis Fukuyama looks at how effectively the US translates its economic power into foreign and security policies.
  • Tatar leaders war of jihadi-style violence against Russia over its Crimea occupation.
  • Lawrence Summers says the west should make modest promises to Ukraine and then strive to deliver more than it expects.

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  • Having persuaded the world that it now faces a terrorist threat, Beijing may discover find that “Wars on terror” are hard to win, says the FT’s David Pilling.
  • China’s rubber-stamp parliament meeting started off with war being waged on pollution and the war of words with Japan getting uglier.
  • Evan Osnos at the New Yorker looks at the dangers in China’s ethnic divide: “an emerging argument in Chinese policy and scholarly circles has come to see the failure of the Soviet Union as a failure to manage ethnic unrest.”
  • In Ukraine, eastern cities are bridling at Kiev’s interim rulers while in Crimea pro-Russian militias are filling the power vacuum.
  • Time reports on an unusual example of interfaith cooperation in Egypt – weekly exorcisms where Muslims and Christians are briefly united in a fight against demons.

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The international crisis over
Russian troops are in effective control of many parts of the Ukrainian region of Crimea and the United States is threatening Russia with isolation if it doesn’t back down. In this week’s podcast, Gideon Rachman is joined by Neil Buckley, East Europe editor and chief US commentator Edward Luce to discuss how this dangerous situation is likely to develop.

  • Ivan Krastev in Foreign Affairs looks at why Putin threw caution to the wind: “to bring about a constitutional crisis that will remake Ukraine into a confederate state with a very weak centre”.
  • Neil Buckley critiques Putin’s classic performance as he broke his silence on Ukraine.
  • Money flows from power in China: the richest members of China’s parliament saw their average wealth increase more than four times over the past eight years, compared with an increase of under three times for the 1,000 wealthiest people identified in the country. Those who wanted to leave the country however, were less lucky – a group of wealthy Chinese are threatening to sue over Ottawa’s abrupt cancellation of its Immigrant Investor Scheme.
  • “Mandarinisation” is making people in Hong Kong indignant.
  • As the European Central Bank prepares to conduct stress tests and asset quality reviews of hundreds of banks across the eurozone, there is particular worry among some European regulators about Italy’s banks.

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