Russia

Judging from Moscow’s dark warnings over the threat of civil war in Ukraine, and its war of words with the west over the crisis engulfing its neighbour, one would assume that president Vladimir Putin would be under considerable stress.

But on Thursday, the Russian leader was on top form. In the marathon televised question-and-answer session in which he holds court once a year, Mr Putin appeared at ease, well prepared, and, most importantly, very satisfied with what he has recently achieved. 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

♦ In the new cold war, Russia could hit the US where it hurts – in Iran.

Vladimir Putin has confounded three US presidents as they tried to figure him out.

♦ The decision in Egypt to hand the death sentence to 528 Muslim Brotherhood members was widely condemned, but Egyptian TV told a different story.

♦ The US is losing its edge as an employment powerhouse after its labour participation rate fell behind the UK’s.

♦ Russia’s actions in Crimea have sent a chill through its former Soviet neighbours in Central Asia and the Caucasus.

♦ American economist Hyman Minsky is back in vogue as his ideas offer a plausible account of why the 2007-08 financial crisis happened.

♦ A report on how former Tunisian president Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali changed the rules of business underlines the challenges still facing the country. Read more

Both the US and the EU are stepping up their sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea. So far it has all been very personal; both the US and the EU have focused on making life difficult for key individuals in and around the Kremlin and President Vladimir Putin. But that is unlikely to be the end of it. Both the US and the EU have threatened to impose further, broader, sanctions on the Russian economy. So in terms of trade, what might they target? Read more

  • Chris Giles warns that the message from the data behind the UK Budget is that the country’s public finances were terrible, are terrible and still need lots of work to repair.
  • A Russian journalist who wrote a satirical letter to Putin asking him to send troops to restore the rights of Russians in Russia itself found the president was not amused.
  • Iran’s traditional entertainers are having a hard time cheering Iranians as economic gloom blights new year festivities.
  • Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny tells the west how to really punish Russia over its ‘little war’ in Crimea.

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♦ Farhan Bokhari speaks to those on the front line as the Taliban tightens its grip on Pakistan society.

♦ After annexing Crimea, Russia moves to carve up the spoils. Guy Chazan reports from Simferopol.

♦ Russia’s revanchism has to be stopped, even for Russia’s own sake, argues Martin Wolf.

♦ Putin’s well-trained, stealthy army is not like the feeble one that invaded Afghanistan, warns David Ignatius in The Washington Post.

Reuters’ Breaking Views asks whether the eurozone should heed Japan’s deflation lessonsRead more

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

♦ President Putin’s Crimea intervention has won widespread support within Russia and sparked a debate over the country’s Soviet past.

♦ The Ukraine crisis has provided the EU with a cue to start thinking strategically.

♦ Chrystia Freeland says we must stop pussyfooting around Putin’s regime.

♦ Prince Turki al-Faisal, the man who headed Saudi Arabia’s intelligence service for 24 years, has Lunch with The FT.

♦ The New York Times profiles one Saudi’s “Lonely, costly bid for Sunni-Shia equality.”

♦ The Wire introduces the open source coder who wants to be a US CongressmanRead more

  • 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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By John Thornhill

Look at Ukraine’s polling data and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that even if Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘wins’ Crimea he runs a far bigger risk of ‘losing’ Ukraine. Read more