March 4, 2023

BBC raids show India’s shrinking media freedom under Modi, some journalists say

BBC raids show India's shrinking media freedom under Modi, some journalists say© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Police officers stand outside a building having BBC offices, where income tax officials are conducting a search, in New Delhi, India, February 14, 2023. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis

By Krishn Kaushik, Devjyot Ghoshal, Saurabh Sharma and Aditya Kalra

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – At around 11 a.m. on Feb 14, some 20 Indian tax officials and police burst into the BBC’s offices in New Delhi, shouting at staff to step away from their computers and hand over their mobile phones, according to two people present.

At the company’s bureau in India’s financial capital, Mumbai, tax officials launched a second raid. The government said the BBC had failed to respond to repeated requests to clarify its tax affairs related to the profits and remittances from its Indian operations.

The BBC has said it is cooperating fully with tax authorities and hopes to resolve matters quickly, adding its journalists would continue to report “without fear or favour”. It declined to comment for this story.

Three weeks before the raids – which the government called a “survey” – the BBC released a two-part documentary that included an examination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in sectarian riots in his home state of Gujarat in 2002 when he was chief minister there. The documentary, which was only broadcast in Britain, accused Modi of fostering a climate of impunity that fuelled the violence.

Modi’s government has called the documentary “biased” and reflecting a “colonial mindset”. Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar told the ANI news agency last week it was “politics by another means” and suggested its timing was intended to undermine support for Modi. The BBC has said it stands by the reporting.

The 72-year-old prime minister enjoys high approval ratings and is expected to run for reelection next year for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In late January, Indian authorities ordered the removal of social media posts sharing the documentary and police detained some Indian students who tried to screen it, saying it would disturb the peace. They were released shortly afterwards.

The tax inspections at the BBC’s offices – during which officials cloned the mobile phones of some senior staff and searched computers, according to the two people present – have highlighted the concerns of some journalists and media rights watchdogs about what they say is a decline in press freedom under Modi.

Reuters spoke to eight Indian journalists, industry executives and media analysts who said that some media which reported critically on the government have been targeted with inspections by government agencies, the suspension of state advertising, and the arrest of reporters.

“There’s never been a golden age of Indian journalism,” said Abhinandan Sekhri, chief executive of independent online media group, Newslaundry, whose offices in New Delhi were surveyed twice by tax officials in 2021 after critical coverage of Modi’s administration. “But it has never been like it is now.”

A criminal case filed by the tax department against Sekhri alleging tax evasion and forging a valuation report was thrown out by a judge in Delhi in November. Sekhri has sued the government for attacks on his fundamental rights and freedom of expression; the case is being heard in the Delhi High court.

Modi’s government has vigorously denied the BBC tax inspection – the first against an international news organisation in decades – was a response to the film.

“The BBC operates under two private companies in India: like any other foreign company, they are open to scrutiny and tax laws apply to them,” said Kanchan Gupta, senior adviser to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. The BBC had received more than 10 tax notices before the documentary aired, he said.

Reuters was unable to confirm this independently. The tax agency did not respond to request for comment for this story.

Since Modi took office in 2014, India has slid from 140th in World Press Freedom Index, an annual ranking by non-profit Reporters Without Borders, to 150th place last year, its lowest ever.

Modi’s government rejects the Index’s findings, questioning its methodology, and says India has a vibrant free press.

The world’s most populous democracy with 1.4 billion people, India has thousands of newspapers and hundreds of TV news channels.

Gupta, the advisor to the information ministry, denied any government agency had targeted the media in response to coverage, or suspended any advertising. He said the government had stated repeatedly that harassment of journalists was unacceptable and against the law.


The Editors Guild of India, an industry association, said the BBC raids were part of a trend of “government agencies being used to intimidate and harass news organisations.” It cited four similar tax inspections against media in 2021.

In one of those, the offices of Dainik Bhaskar, one of India’s largest newspapers by circulation, were raided in July2021 by tax authorities, who alleged it evaded taxes on income worth 7 billion Indian rupees ($84.47 million). The paper has contested the charge and the case is ongoing.

The newspaper – part of DB Corp, one of India’s largest newspaper groups – had published a series of articles alleging authorities mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic and underreported deaths. The government has denied mistakes in its response and undercounting.

A senior Dainik Bhaskar executive, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the raids followed an unexplained halt in advertising by the federal government and six BJP-controlled states from February 2021. The suspension lasted until August 2022 and cost the newspaper more than 1 billion rupees ($12.25 million), he said.

A spokesman for the newspaper declined to comment. The state governments did not respond to requests for comment. Asked about the case, Gupta, the senior advisor at the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, said the government did not pull advertising because of critical reporting.

In a report last year, Reporters Without Borders said that, despite high readership, many Indian news organisations were vulnerable to economic pressure because of their reliance on government advertising.

The acquisition of some media groups by billionaires seen as close to Modi has also led to the silencing of independent voices in the Indian press, it said.

Between 2014 and early December 2022, the federal government spent 64.9 billion Indian rupees ($784.34 million) on advertising in print and electronic media, it said in a statement to parliament at the end of last year. However, the figures showed spending has declined in recent years.

Gupta said there had been complaints after the government reduced its advertising spending but that was not an assault on media freedom.

“Government doesn’t exist to fund media. We don’t want a media which is loyal to us or beholden to us because of the money that we give them,” he said.


Reports from international press freedom watchdogs, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), say that – in addition to the financial pressures on media organizations – the federal and state governments in India have detained an increasing number of journalists for their reporting.

At least seven journalists remained behind bars in India as of December, the highest number in 30 years, according to the CPJ’s annual global tracker released on Dec 14.

In some instances, reporters have been detained by state governments – which control local police forces – after reporting on minor issues.

On March 29, 2022, Ajeet Ojha, a reporter with the Hindi-language newspaper Amar Ujala in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, wrote a story about high school examination test papers being leaked to students in advance in the town of Balia. Ojha wrote that an investigation into who leaked the papers was ongoing.

The next day, the 42-year-old reporter was arrested by police and accused of leaking the test papers himself, according to the police report, reviewed by Reuters.

“I spent 27 nights in jail,” Ojha said, adding that he is still accused on two counts, though police dropped some criminal charges. Balia police did not respond to requests for comment.

Gyanendra Shukla, a veteran reporter who led the campaign for Ojha’s release, said the BJP-controlled state government viewed “critics as an enemy”.

“They have forgotten that the work of a journalist is to highlight problems and criticise the system,” he said.

The Uttar Pradesh government did not respond to requests for comment. Gupta, the ministry advisor, said the arrest was a matter for the state authorities.

BofA, Citigroup trim investing banking headcount in Asia -sources

BofA, Citigroup trim investing banking headcount in Asia -sources© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Bank of America logo is pictured in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., January 30, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

By Selena Li and Kane Wu

HONG KONG (Reuters) -Bank of America and Citigroup (NYSE:) have cut some investment banking jobs in Asia, people familiar with the matter told Reuters, joining global peers in paring headcount as China dealmaking slows.

Bank of America (NYSE:) (BofA), which is shrinking its investment banking business globally, did away with around half a dozen Hong Kong-based jobs on Thursday, two people familiar with matter said.

David Lam, a managing director in BofA’s Greater China equity capital markets team, and Kevin Yang, a managing director in the bank’s China investment banking team were among those laid off, they said.

Lam confirmed his departure when contacted by Reuters. Kevin Yang could not immediately be reached for comment on Saturday.

Citi on Thursday trimmed four jobs from its China investment banking team, said one of the two people and a separate person. The Wall Street bank is laying off less than 1% of its workforce globally, people familiar with the matter have said.

BofA and Citi both declined to comment on layoffs involving investment bankers in Asia. All sources were not authorised to speak to media and declined to be named.

The number of the banks’ remaining China-focused investment bankers could not immediately be learned.

After record dealmaking activity in 2021, M&A volumes and stock floats globally tumbled last year as volatility in capital markets and geopolitical tensions took their toll.

China-related deals were particularly hard hit as harsh COVID-19 curbs, lifted only late in the year, hammered the economy.

Other major banks that have trimmed Asia headcount include Goldman Sachs (NYSE:) and Morgan Stanley (NYSE:).

JPMorgan (NYSE:) has also cut around 20 investment banking jobs, mostly mid-level bankers focused on China deals, according to two separate sources. Bloomberg reported on Feb. 21 that the bank was laying off 30 bankers in Asia.

“We regularly review our business needs and a small number of employees across Asia Pacific have been affected,” a JPMorgan spokesperson said, declining to comment on the number of layoffs and teams affected.

Nomura Holdings (NYSE:) Inc has cut 18 Asian banking jobs, most of them China-focused investment banking roles, sources have said.

Airbnb cuts recruiting staff headcount

Stock Markets 5 hours ago (Mar 04, 2023 07:10AM ET)

Airbnb cuts recruiting staff headcount© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The Airbnb logo is seen on a little mini pyramid under the glass Pyramid of the Louvre museum in Paris, France, March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo/File Photo

(Corrects headline and first paragraph to remove reference to 30% headcount reduction)

(Reuters) -Home rental firm Airbnb Inc laid off some of its recruiting staff this week, a company spokesperson said on Friday, noting that it’s not an indication of more widespread layoffs.

The decision, first reported by Bloomberg News, affected less than 0.4% of the San Francisco-based company’s total workforce of about 6,800, the spokesperson said.

“We’ve become a leaner and more focused company over the last three years,” Airbnb spokesperson said in a statement, adding that the company expects to grow its headcount this year.

The company said in February it expects headcount growth in the range of 2% to 4% in 2023, compared with 11% growth last year.

In 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Airbnb laid off 25% of its workforce, or nearly 1,900 employees, after its business was hit hard as global travel came to a standstill.

Before fatal collapse, Turkish building had skirted code thanks to Erdogan policy - Financial Markets Worldwide

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World 5 hours ago (Mar 04, 2023 12:56PM ET)


Before fatal collapse, Turkish building had skirted code thanks to Erdogan policy© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A general view of Malatya, Turkey February 23, 2023, in this screen grab taken from a video. REUTERS/Natalie Thomas


By David Gauthier-Villars and Natalie Thomas

MALATYA, Turkey (Reuters) – The Trend Garden Residence, an upscale serviced apartment building in the Turkish city of Malatya, boasted a gym, freshly-furnished rooms and a roof-top cafeteria.

But when a powerful earthquake jolted the city in the early hours of Feb. 6, the seven-floored building disintegrated, killing 29 people, according to two government officials. It was as if the structure had “liquefied,” one survivor said.

Beneath its colourful facade, the building had been extensively remodelled a few years ago without the necessary permits, but was later registered thanks to a 2018 zoning amnesty promulgated by Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to a Reuters review of municipal and amnesty documents, architects drawings and interviews with six people familiar with the Trend Garden’s history.

Erdogan at the time said the amnesty, which was first granted to building owners ahead of his 2018 re-election, was aimed at resolving conflicts between citizens and the state over millions of buildings “constructed in violation of urban planning.”

Now, the wrecked Trend Garden is the subject of a criminal investigation to determine responsibility for its collapse. Local prosecutors have arrested at least three people connected to the building on preliminary charges of causing death by negligence, according to the two government officials who asked not to be named. The officials said the investigation would consider all aspects of the building’s life.

As focus in Turkey intensifies on how poor construction may have contributed to the devastation caused by the earthquake, the deadliest natural disaster in the country’s modern history, authorities have pledged to identify culprits. More than 230 people have been arrested, including building contractors and developers, the government said.

The earthquake has left more than 50,000 people dead in Turkey and Syria, and aftershocks continue to rock the region. The Trend Garden was one of the more than 200,000 buildings that Turkish authorities say collapsed or are in urgent need of demolition in the regions shredded by the earthquake. A further earthquake on Monday caused more buildings in Malatya to collapse.

The Turkish presidency’s communications directorate and the urbanisation ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment, including on the amnesty and whether the policy contributed to the devastation triggered by the earthquake. Erdogan, who has led Turkey since 2003, said following the disaster that building standards have improved under his watch.

Among those arrested as part of the Trend Garden probe is Engin Aslan, according to the government officials. Corporate records show he is the majority owner of a Turkish company that, according to land registration documents, owns the building. Contacted by Reuters via an employee of the apartment building’s management prior to being arrested, Aslan said he wouldn’t speak to the news agency because he was mourning the loss of his brother who was killed in the Trend Garden’s collapse.

A lawyer for Aslan, Muhammet Karadogan, declined to comment.

Architects and civil engineers said it was too early to determine whether the building’s remodelling, which involved dividing 12 apartments into 42 smaller units and transforming the attic into a full-fledged seventh floor, contributed to the collapse.

But they said the amnesty law raises fundamental problems because it has fostered a reckless culture in the construction business in a country that sits on major fault lines and faces well-identified earthquake risks.

Under the amnesty, owners could legalise unregistered buildings by filing an electronic application and paying a tax. Detailed guidance issued by the urbanisation ministry, which oversaw the process, makes no mention of a requirement for independent assessment. However, the law stipulates that the owner is responsible for ensuring the building is earthquake resistant.

“That law is nonsensical,” said Erol Erdal, a member of the Malatya branch of Turkey’s Chamber of Civil Engineers. “The government and the laws are meant to protect people, not put them in harm’s way.”

Malatya Mayor Selahattin Gurkan declined to comment on the Trend Garden’s collapse, citing the ongoing probe, but told Reuters that authorities needed to learn lessons from the earthquake. Asked if regularising illegal buildings might have caused safety hazards, the mayor – a member of Erdogan’s ruling AK Party (AKP) – said “the zoning amnesty wasn’t the correct approach.”


Among those killed in the Trend Garden’s collapse were four members of Fatma Zehra Gorgulu’s family – her three children and one of her sisters.

Sitting by a fire near the wrecked building amid freezing temperature for a sixth day after the earthquake, Gorgulu remained silent and appeared transfixed, as rescue teams combed the rubble and she waited for news.

Feyza Yilmaz, a third sister, had come to Malatya to help her sibling following the disaster. Yilmaz explained the family had rented a room at the Trend Garden because it was close to a hospital where one of Gorgulu’s children needed to undergo treatment for a rare condition and she also had scheduled surgery. When the earthquake struck, Gorgulu was at the hospital while her daughter and two sons were being looked after by the other sister at the residence.

Yilmaz, a 32-year old lawyer, said she wanted to understand how a modern, sturdy-looking building could crumble like a house of cards.

“I want to know who is responsible for this,” she said.

The following day, the four bodies were recovered, according to rescuers.


The Trend Garden building – and the 2018 zoning amnesty law – are emblematic of what some architects and civil engineers say is Turkey’s failure to impose stringent antiseismic regulations under Erdogan, as the country’s population of 85 million continued shifting to urban centres.

Ahead of 2018 presidential elections and municipal ones in 2019, Erdogan hailed the zoning amnesty as “a gesture of compassion” towards Turkish citizens confronted with a finicky administration. Addressing an AKP rally in Malatya in March 2019, the president told supporters that thanks to the policy “the problems of 88,507 Malatya citizens have been resolved,” according to a video of his speech.

Turkish authorities extended the amnesty several times. The move has generated billions of dollars for state coffers, according to the government. More than 3 million households and companies obtained their deeds as a result, the government said in October last year.

That same month, an Erdogan ally, the Great Unity Party’s leader Mustafa Destici, proposed reviving the measure ahead of this year’s presidential elections in order to help others. Destici didn’t respond to a request for comment relayed via a spokesperson on whether he continued to support the proposal.

In 2019, after a building in Istanbul that had benefited from the zoning amnesty collapsed, causing 21 deaths, the government vowed to accelerate a plan to demolish and replace Turkey’s most dangerous buildings. At the time, the government said about a third of the country’s 20 million properties raised safety concerns and required action.

But Turkish authorities neglected the issue, according to Eyup Muhcu, head of Turkey’s Chamber of Architects. Instead, the government focused on construction in new areas, “abandoning problematic buildings to their fate,” he said.

The urbanisation ministry also didn’t respond to questions about how it dealt with problematic buildings and how many of the recently collapsed buildings had benefited from the amnesty.


The Trend Garden’s building was constructed more than two decades ago, in the late 1990s, following a typical Turkish real-estate pact where one party contributes the land and another takes charge of construction, while the two divvy up the units.

Bahattin Dogan, a building contractor from Malatya who is in his 70s, told Reuters that he did the construction. Bulent Yeroglu said his family brought the land. A 59-year-old civil engineer, Yeroglu said he also took responsibility for designing the building’s structure with steel reinforced concrete for the frame, and bricks for the infills.

Both men said they had followed all applicable rules and took no shortcuts. Reuters wasn’t able to independently corroborate that.

Architects drawings of the original structure and building permits dated 1996 and later seen by Reuters, as well as a satellite image from 2010, show the building had initially consisted of a ground floor with commercial space, and 12 apartments on six stories above plus an attic.

Presented with the drawings, one forensic engineering specialist, Eduardo Fierro of California-based BFP Engineers, said the building appeared to have “a reasonably well-engineered frame.” Fierro said, however, that it had a so-called “soft story” or inherent weakness on the ground level, with a higher ceiling and fewer walls or partitions to accommodate the commercial area. He, and several other specialists consulted by Reuters, agreed that determining whether remodelling played a role in the building’s collapse wasn’t possible without more information. Reuters had no evidence that the remodelling was a factor in the catastrophe.

Yeroglu said he got the commercial area and that he had split it into two spaces over a decade ago, selling them to two pharmacists. Both pharmacists told Reuters they acquired the commercial space after it was divided and didn’t make any changes to the building.

Building contractor Dogan, who got the 12 apartments, said he sold them in mid 2018 to Aslan, one of the individuals the government officials said had been arrested.

Reuters couldn’t determine if Aslan or someone else took responsibility for the remodelling into 42 units because the building’s ownership kept evolving around the time it happened.

A municipal official said the remodelling was done without applying for permission, which he and other local buildings specialists said should have been sought for such a transformation. “There is no trace of an application,” the official said after consulting building records in Malatya’s Yesilyurt district.

If an application had been made, the official added, it would likely have been rejected because the municipality is generally opposed to allowing remodelling of older buildings that have “tired” structures.

A spokesperson for the Yesilyurt district municipality, where Trend Garden was located, declined to comment about the building’s registration history.

What is clear is that the urbanisation ministry issued amnesty decisions in December 2019 “on the basis of information provided by the applicant” for 42 apartments at the address of the Trend Garden, according to 42 amnesty documents seen by Reuters.

Land registry documents reviewed by Reuters show that a Malatya-based company called Trend Yurt used the amnesty decisions to obtain the building’s deed in November 2020.

Aslan has been Trend Yurt’s majority owner and manager since March 2020, according to corporate records.

The two government officials said those arrested also included Sefa Gulfirat, who founded Trend Yurt in 2018, corporate records show, and Yeroglu, the civil engineer who designed the building’s structure.

Speaking to Reuters before his arrest, Yeroglu said he believed the building collapsed because its structure was damaged during the remodelling.

A lawyer who represented him when he was arrested, Ozgur Akkas, said Yeroglu would contest that he caused death by negligence on the grounds that his responsibility as a civil engineer had elapsed. Contacted by Reuters, one of Yeroglu’s relatives rejected the notion that the building had an inherent weakness, saying the civil engineer had designed the structure carefully, including the commercial area.

Aslan’s lawyer Karadogan is also representing Gulfirat. The lawyer also declined to comment on Gulfirat’s behalf.

Following further refurbishment, the attic became a seventh floor with a cafeteria and the serviced apartments opened in late 2021, according to Anil Ozhan, whose family owns a pharmacy in one of the commercial spaces on the ground floor, and other locals. A photo posted online by the Trend Garden Residence in late 2021 shows the building following these refurbishments, including blue and ochre trims, emblazoned with the company’s name and a full-height, glass-fronted seventh floor.

Ozhan said he was aware the building had benefited from the zoning amnesty but the pharmacist believed the remodelling had been thoroughly assessed before the amnesty was granted. “I’d be mad if I heard it wasn’t,” he said.


At 4.17am on Feb. 6, the snow-covered ground around the Trend Garden began shaking violently, according to footage captured by closed circuit television.

Onur Gencler, a manager at a construction company, was sleeping on the sixth floor. When he understood what was happening, he pulled two beds close together and laid between them wrapped in comforters after grabbing his cellphone.

The building shook for a long minute, he said, and then collapsed in a matter of seconds, plunging him in darkness.

“I thought I was dead,” Gencler said. “It’s only when I turned on my phone and saw the picture of my wife and son, that I understood I was alive.”

About 90 minutes later, his boss Mehmet Kaya and colleagues who had rushed to the site pulled Gencler from under a slab of concrete with minor injuries.

After six hours of searching under heavy snow fall, Kaya said they found his 34-year-old cousin Fatma, who was also staying at the serviced apartment building.

She was dead.

Silvergate suspends crypto payments network; shares fall after-hours

Stock Markets 14 hours ago (Mar 04, 2023 08:35AM ET)

Silvergate suspends crypto payments network; shares fall after-hours© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A representation of bitcoin is seen in an illustration picture taken on June 23, 2017. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

By Hannah Lang and Akriti Sharma

(Reuters) – Silvergate Capital (NYSE:) Corp said on Friday it made a “risk-based decision” to discontinue the Silvergate Exchange Network, its crypto payments network, two days after the digital asset-focused bank raised doubts about its viability.

“Effective immediately Silvergate Bank has made a risk-based decision to discontinue the Silvergate Exchange Network (SEN). All other deposit-related services remain operational,” Silvergate said in a statement posted on its website.

The Silvergate Exchange Network, one of the bank’s most popular offerings, enabled round-the-clock transfers between investors and crypto exchanges, unlike traditional bank wires, which can often take days to settle.

Silvergate shares on Friday slumped more than 2% in after-hours trading, after closing up 0.9% at $5.77 in regular trade. The shares on Thursday had fallen to a record low, ending the day down more than 97% from their all-time high in November 2021.

Silvergate on Wednesday warned in a filing that it was evaluating its ability to operate as a going concern, disclosing that it had sold additional debt securities this year at a loss and that further losses mean the bank could be “less than well capitalized.”

After the warning, cryptocurrency heavyweights including Coinbase (NASDAQ:) Global Inc and Galaxy Digital dropped Silvergate as their banking partner. Stablecoin issuers Paxos and Circle, Cboe’s digital asset exchange, and crypto exchanges Bitstamp and Gemini also suspended their partnerships with Silvergate.

Tesla recalls 3,470 Model Y vehicles over loose bolts

Stock Markets 11 hours ago (Mar 04, 2023 10:50PM ET)

Tesla recalls 3,470 Model Y vehicles over loose bolts© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Visitors wearing face masks check a China-made Tesla Model Y sport utility vehicle (SUV) at the electric vehicle maker’s showroom in Beijing, China January 5, 2021. REUTERS/Tingshu Wang/File Photo

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Tesla Inc said it is recalling 3,470 2022 through 2023 Model Y vehicles in the United States because bolts securing the second-row seatback frames may not have been securely tightened, according to a filing made public Saturday.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said a loose seat frame bolt may reduce seat belt system performance, increasing injury risks during a crash.

Tesla (NASDAQ:) told NHTSA it has identified five warranty claims since December that may be related to these conditions. Tesla said it was not aware of any injuries or deaths that may be related to the recall issue.

Tesla will inspect bolts securing second-row driver-side and passenger-side seat back frames to the lower seat frames and if needed tighten them to specifications.

In December, a Tesla supplier implemented improved process controls along with improved training and supervision to ensure bolts are torqued to specifications, the automaker said.

Russian defence minister pays rare visit to troops in Ukraine


Russian defence minister pays rare visit to troops in Ukraine© Reuters. A still image from video, released by Russia’s Defence Ministry, shows Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu during what it said to be inspection of a forward command post of Russian armed forces deployed in Ukraine, at an unknown location in the course of Russi


(Reuters) -Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has paid a rare visit to Russia’s forces deployed in Ukraine, awarding medals to military personnel and meeting senior commanders during the trip, a statement and videos issued by his ministry showed on Saturday.

Russia’s top military chiefs have visited front lines in Ukraine only sparingly since Moscow sent tens of thousands of Russian troops into the neighbouring country just over a year ago in what it calls a “special military operation”.

Shoigu “inspected the forward command post of one of the formations of the Eastern Military District in the South Donetsk direction” during the visit, the Defence Ministry said in a statement published on messaging app Telegram.

In a video released by the ministry, Shoigu is seen awarding medals to Russian military personnel and touring a ruined town together with the district’s commander, Colonel-General Rustam Muradov.

In a second video, published by the ministry later on Saturday, he is seen chairing a meeting with senior commanders, including Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and General Sergei Surovikin, one of Gerasimov’s deputies in the Ukraine campaign.

Shoigu, who has served as defence minister since 2012, has come under harsh criticism over his performance in the conflict from pro-war advocates.

Last month, Wagner Group mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose force has played a significant role in Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, accused Shoigu and others of “treason” for withholding supplies of munitions to his militia.

Bankman-Fried can have flip phone, limited internet while on bail, US proposes

Stock Markets 9 hours ago (Mar 04, 2023 11:30AM ET)

Bankman-Fried can have flip phone, limited internet while on bail, US proposes© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former FTX Chief Executive Sam Bankman-Fried, who faces fraud charges over the collapse of the bankrupt cryptocurrency exchange, exits the Manhattan federal court in New York City, U.S. February 16, 2023. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Sam Bankman-Fried should be allowed while on bail to have a flip phone with no internet capability and a basic laptop with limited functions, but be forbidden from using other electronic communication devices, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

The proposal to limit the indicted FTX cryptocurrency exchange founder’s communications was filed late on Friday in Manhattan federal court, on behalf of the government and Bankman-Fried’s defense team.

It requires approval by U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan, who oversees the case.

Kaplan had signaled at a Feb. 16 hearing that he might jail the 30-year-old Bankman-Fried for testing the limits of his $250 million bail package by communicating in ways that could not be monitored.

The judge said he did not want to set Bankman-Fried “loose in this garden of electronic devices,” following accusations that Bankman-Fried tried to contact possible government witnesses and used a virtual private network to watch football.

Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty after prosecutors said he stole billions of dollars of FTX customer funds to plug losses at his Alameda Research hedge fund. He faces 12 criminal charges under an indictment made public on Feb. 23.

The proposed flip phone or other non-smartphone for Bankman-Fried would be limited to voice calls and SMS text messages.

Laptop internet use would be restricted to specified virtual private networks, 23 websites for personal use covering news, including Reuters, sports and food delivery, and websites to help Bankman-Fried prepare for his scheduled Oct. 2 trial.

Bankman-Fried is living under house arrest with his parents, both Stanford Law School professors, in Palo Alto, California.

The parents agreed to submit sworn affidavits that they would not bring other electronic devices into their home or let their son use theirs.

They also agreed that each device would carry software that periodically takes videos or photos of the user, which court officers would be allowed to review, the letter said.

Bankman-Fried’s lawyers did not immediately respond on Saturday to requests for comment.

Russia’s war on Ukraine latest: Russia’s Wagner chief warns on ammunition

Russia's war on Ukraine latest: Russia's Wagner chief warns on ammunition© Reuters. Ukrainian service members ride a self-propelled howitzer, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, near the frontline city of Bakhmut, Ukraine February 27, 2023. REUTERS/Yevhen Titov

(Reuters) – The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary force warned that Russia’s position around the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut was in peril unless his troops got ammunition, the latest sign of tension between the Kremlin and the private militia chief.


* A woman and two children were killed in Russian mortar shelling of a village in the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson, the head of Ukraine’s presidential office said.

* The Russian army hit a command centre of the Ukrainian forces’ Azov Regiment in southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, the Russian Defence Ministry said. The ministry did not elaborate on the attack. Reuters could not independently verify the account.

* The death toll from a Russian missile strike that hit an apartment block in the southern Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhia rose to 11 on Saturday after a woman’s body was found in the debris, the state emergency service said.

* Top commanders of what Russia calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine have briefed Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on the current situation and action plans, his ministry said.


* Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Ankara is working hard to extend a U.N.-backed initiative that has enabled Ukraine to export grain from ports blockaded by Russia.

* Two Ukrainian pilots are in Arizona to fly flight simulators and be evaluated by the U.S. military, two U.S. officials said, as Washington remains mute on whether it will send fighter jets or sophisticated remotely piloted drones to Kyiv.

* German defence contractor Rheinmetall is in negotiations about building a tank factory in Ukraine, the newspaper Rheinische Post reported, citing an interview with CEO Armin Papperger.

* In addition to Leopard 2 tanks, Rheinmetall wants to buy 96 Leopard 1 tanks from Swiss defence firm Ruag to send to Ukraine, the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger reported.

* Germany is making slow progress in enforcing sanctions against Russian oligarchs and institutions, according to government numbers seen by Reuters.


* TIMELINE – Major developments since Russia’s invasion

* Ukraine’s Zelenskiy has defied Putin against the odds

* Putin, secure in power, has set the stage for long war

* A year on, Ukraine and its government have not just survived. They’ve fought back

* Toughened by war’s scars, Kyiv presses on

* Graphics of a year of war in the markets: How the dollar, energy and food prices swirled

* Russian economy holds up but the road back to prosperity may be long

* Moscow’s decades-old gas ties with Europe lie in ruins

* Top brands pull out of Russia, but goods easy to find

* Can U.S. support for Ukraine last?

* External backers pour billions into Ukraine

* How has China stood by ‘no limits’ partner Russia?

* Life and death in Mariupol – a survivor’s tale of war

* Family mourns Bucha victim who became symbol of war


Learn more about the Ukraine war. Listen to a special episode of the Reuters World News Podcast.

Fed’s Daly: tighter policy, for a longer time, ‘likely’ needed

Fed's Daly: tighter policy, for a longer time, 'likely' needed© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President Mary Daly poses at the bank’s headquarters in San Francisco, California, U.S., July 16, 2019. REUTERS/Ann Saphir/File Photo

(Reuters) – San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank President Mary Daly on Saturday sounded a clear warning on the inflationary threat, and signaled that the U.S. central bank may raise interest rates further, and keep them there longer, than has been expected.

Though inflation by the Fed’s preferred measure has fallen from its mid-2022 highs of around 7% to 5.4% in January, the latest monthly reading showed price pressures gaining at their fastest pace in seven months.

That’s despite what last year was the Fed’s most aggressive set of interest rate hikes in 40 years as it took its benchmark rate from near zero in March to what is now 4.5%-4.75%.

The acceleration of inflation in January “suggests that the disinflation momentum we need is far from certain,” Daly said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Princeton Economic Policy Symposium. “In order to put this episode of high inflation behind us, further policy tightening, maintained for a longer time, will likely be necessary.”

Coming from Daly, whose views are typically in line with Fed leadership, the remarks may add to expectations that Fed policymakers will lift rates higher in coming months than the 5.1% that most of them had penciled in December.

Fed policymakers will publish fresh projections for policy and the economy at the close of their upcoming March 21-22 meeting.

Some traders are even betting the Fed will deliver a half-point hike in March, rather than the quarter-of-a-percentage point rate hike seen as most likely – a reversion of sorts to the super-aggressive stance the U.S. central bank pursued much of last year.

Daly did not use her prepared remarks to offer a view on how big March’s rate hike ought to be, or exactly how high rates should go.

Still, she painted a challenging picture for the Fed, not only of stubbornly high inflation now, but of the range of new pressures that could feed into high inflation for some time to come, including corporate efforts to relocate factory production back to the U.S. from abroad, and the ongoing labor shortage at home.

She also called out the potential for additional price pressures as firms pass on to consumers the cost of transitioning to lower-carbon energy sources in the fight against climate change.

And she said that she was particularly focused on the possibility – so far not in evidence – that an inflationary psychology could take hold in the American mind and make the Fed’s inflation fight even harder.

“Achieving our mandated goals takes time and a broader view,” she said. “As policymakers, we have to respond to an economy that is evolving in real time and prepare for what the economy will look like in the future.”

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