FirstFT: Ukraine says ‘main event’ in counteroffensive still to come

Ukraine has hit back at doubters over the progress of its summer counteroffensive, insisting recent modest gains against Russian occupiers were merely a “preview” of a much bigger push to come.

Oleksiy Reznikov, Ukraine’s defence minister, told the Financial Times that the liberation of a group of villages under Russian occupation in recent weeks was “not the main event” in Kyiv’s planned attack.

“When it happens, you will all see it . . . Everyone will see everything,” said Reznikov, brushing aside media coverage of Ukraine’s slow progress against well-fortified Russian positions.

According to Reznikov, Ukraine’s main troop reserves, including most brigades recently trained in the west and equipped with modern Nato tanks and armoured vehicles, have yet to be used in the operation.

He also said last weekend’s mutiny in Russia revealed the fundamental weakness of President Vladimir Putin’s regime but cautioned against banking on further “mutinies and riots” for battlefield success.

Reznikov, who expressed hope that the mayhem in Moscow would encourage western capitals to further boost the supply of weapons to help Kyiv, said Ukraine’s army continued to impose heavy losses on Russian troops, with “degradation as a tool and the liberation of Ukrainian lands as the goal”.

Here’s what else I’m keeping tabs on today:

  • ECB forum: The heads of the Bank of England, Bank of Japan, European Central Bank and US Federal Reserve speak on a policy panel at the annual central bank event in Portugal.

  • US banks: The Fed publishes the results of its annual stress test for the largest American banks.

  • Economic data: Spain reports retail sales from last month, while France and Germany have consumer confidence reports, and Italy releases its consumer price index for this month.

  • Eid al-Adha: Financial markets are closed in Egypt, India, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE for the holiday.

Five more top stories

1. Two-fifths of UK property sellers are accepting discounts of more than 5 per cent on the asking price, reflecting the impact of rocketing mortgage rates and the wider cost of living crisis. “This is a signal that buyers are becoming more price conscious,” said Zoopla’s research director Richard Donnell. Read more on the report from the property website.

2. Fears of deepfake ID scams are growing after business software maker Progress Corp was compromised. Cyber security experts warn that criminals could pair artificial intelligence software with stolen personal information to bypass traditional security checks. Here’s why the scams could prove more lucrative for hackers than extorting companies.

3. US president Joe Biden is making a new push to sell his economic agenda to Americans in a bid to win over sceptical voters, as the effects of his industrial policies begin to be felt and inflation continues to ease. The president is travelling to Chicago today for what top aides have described as a significant speech on “Bidenomics”.

4. PwC has told its 25,000 UK staff to expect smaller pay rises and bonuses if not freezes this year because of “challenging” market conditions despite industry calls to catch up with stubbornly high inflation. The move could mean real-terms pay cuts for some employees.

5. UK banks are seizing on rising interest rates to improve profits by charging borrowers more for loans. But the boost may be shortlived as bad debt starts to creep upwards and competition for deposits intensifies. Experts now warn of an “inflection point” where rising interest rates no longer translate into higher margins.

The Big Read

Border between Gibraltar and Spain
Border between Gibraltar and Spain © Claudia Wiens/FT

A power struggle in Spain that could see the more nationalistic People’s party at the helm threatens to dash Gibraltar’s hopes for closer ties with the EU. The UK territory, which voted overwhelmingly against Brexit, is racked by fears of a hard border that would end the ease of movement to which workers have grown so accustomed to.

We’re also reading and listening to . . .

Chart of the day

Wall Street’s main indices rose yesterday following the release of data that showed the US economy remained resilient despite the Fed’s aggressive tightening of monetary policy. The gains were relatively broad, but heavyweight tech stocks led the rally.

Take a break from the news

Pieter Mulier in his studio at Alaïa, with a model in the foreground
Pieter Mulier in his studio at Alaïa

After two decades working in the heart of fashion for the likes of Dior and Calvin Klein, Pieter Mulier thought he was “done” with the profession. Then Richemont called, offering the 43-year-old designer a “once in a lifetime thing” to be Alaïa’s new creative director.

Additional contributions by Benjamin Wilhelm and Gordon Smith