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FirstFT: US Senate approves $40bn Ukraine aid package


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The US Senate approved $40bn in fresh military, economic and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine yesterday, as Russia presses an offensive in the Donbas region.

The vote passed 86-11 after a week-long delay, despite opposition from a handful of self-described America First Republicans. US president Joe Biden is now expected to quickly sign the measure, freeing up vital assistance as the war enters its fourth month.

The $40bn package is more than the $33bn Biden requested three weeks ago, and includes increased spending on defence and humanitarian aid.

Biden welcomed the bill’s passage and said Congress’s actions ensured there wouldn’t be a lapse in funds for Ukraine. The president will sign the measure once it is formally delivered by the Senate.

More than half of the funds in the new package will be earmarked for weapons, equipment and military financing for Ukraine, as well as for restoring US weapons stocks and support for European Command operations.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Asia. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Sarah

1. Sri Lanka defaults on foreign debt for the first time Sri Lanka’s central bank has confirmed the country has missed a deadline for foreign debt repayments, deepening the economic and political crisis. The island — which has never defaulted before — owes about $51bn in overseas debt to bilateral creditors and international bondholders.

2. Google’s Russian unit to file for bankruptcy The US tech group plans to file for bankruptcy after authorities in the country seized its bank account, saying it had become “untenable for our Russia office to function”. Google said it would continue to provide free services, including search, YouTube, Gmail, Maps, Android and Play, to users in Russia.

3. Joe Biden bids to boost alliances in Asia The US president visits South Korea and Japan as worries rise over a potential Chinese military action against Taiwan. Biden is expected to address those concerns and reassure countries that his administration has not diverted attention from China, which he has called his top foreign policy challenge.

4. Luxury goods leaders bet booming US will offset China hit Some investors worry that Covid-19 lockdowns in China, sanctions on Russia and the global cost of living crisis could hurt demand for luxury goods. But two top executives in the industry have insisted their businesses will continue to grow and that faltering Chinese demand will rebound.

5. UAE’s new president takes power as dynasty speculation swirls Sheikh Mohammed, known as MBZ, could break with tradition and pick his son, rather than one of his brothers, as crown prince. “MBZ is already doing centralisation — this would be hyper-centralisation,” said Cinzia Bianco, a research fellow on Europe and the Gulf.

The days ahead

Japan April CPI data Last month’s consumer price index is set to be released today.

Ukraine Foreign ministers from the 46 Council of Europe member states meet today in Turin to discuss their response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Biden in Asia The US president begins his first trip to Asia in the role. He will meet the new president of South Korea, Yoon Seok-youl, today. On Sunday, Biden will head to Japan for discussions following the spate of weapons tests by North Korea.

Australian election Australians will vote on Saturday in a federal election. The incumbent Liberal-National coalition government — led by Prime minister Scott Morrison — is challenged by the Labor party. (The Guardian)

What else we’re reading

China’s crackdown reflects splits among policymakers In Beijing, rival factions are battling for influence amid a new regulatory storm. The fight is between senior party and government officials focused on economic growth and those more concerned with security and control, echoing infighting and policy guesswork that plagued China under Mao Zedong.

Images of Xi and Mao
© Greg Baker/AFP/Getty Images

Twitter deal leaves Elon Musk with no easy way out Could the Tesla boss walk away from his $44bn Twitter bid? As the richest person in the world appears to have second thoughts, the “bulletproof” modern deal agreement faces one of its biggest tests. Read our Explainer.

The Russian network helping Ukrainians flee A network of Russian volunteers, among them antiwar activists, is operating largely through word of mouth and the Telegram messaging app to help thousands of Ukrainian refugees get out of Russian displacement camps.

Corporate Japan wary of the sliding yen A weak currency was long a blessing for corporate Japan, especially large exporters. But as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is sparking a surge in commodity prices, the yen’s spectacular fall is suddenly turning into a threat.

There is a moral case against crypto Mining digital currencies is not “just all a bit of harmless fun”, writes Jemima Kelly. The latest crypto crash should be an opportunity to reflect on the environmental, financial and psychological harm caused by mining coins, from growing e-waste to suicide attempts.

Gaming

Being a real-life city planner sounds both complex and stressful. So why is it so much fun in game form? Balancing resources and attending to citizens’ diverse needs can be a satisfying puzzle. And, in recent years, city-builders have become more complex and environmentally minded.

A screen grab of Cities: Skylines is a modern successor to the original city-building game, ‘SimCity’
‘Cities: Skylines’ is a modern successor to the original city-building game, ‘SimCity’

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