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Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 208 | Russia-Ukraine war News

Here is the situation as it stands on Monday, September 19:

Fighting

  • Ukraine troops have advanced to the eastern bank of the Oskil River, threatening Russian occupation forces in the eastern Donbas region. Crossing the Oskil is another important milestone in Ukraine’s counteroffensive.
  • US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, visited a military base in Poland hosting US troops and called for vigilance, saying the war was “not going too well for Russia right now”.
  • The Russian army, seeking contract soldiers for its war in Ukraine, is using mobile recruiting trucks to reach out to volunteers, offering nearly $3,000 a month as an incentive.
  • The Ukrainian military said its forces repelled attacks by Russian troops in the Kharkiv region in the east and Kherson in the south, where Ukraine launched counteroffensives this month, as well as in parts of Donetsk in the southeast.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has vowed there will be no let-up in the counterattack that has reclaimed towns and cities from Russian troops.
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said mass graves found in Ukraine are evidence of Russia’s war crimes and full accountability for its actions was needed.

Diplomacy

  • US President Joe Biden urged Russian President Vladimir Putin not to use tactical nuclear or chemical weapons in the wake of military setbacks in Ukraine.
  • Australia will not ban Russian tourists from entering the country as part of sanctions on Russia, its defence minister said.
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a global food crisis aggravated by the war will be the focus of world leaders when they convene for the United Nations General Assembly this week.
  • Alla Pugacheva, the queen of Soviet pop music, denounced Putin’s war in Ukraine, saying it is killing soldiers for illusory aims, burdening the people, and turning Russia into a global pariah.

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As Japan’s Kishida marks 1st year, ‘new capitalism’ is flailing | Business and Economy

Tokyo, Japan – When Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida came to power in October last year, he pledged to foster a “new form of capitalism” that would spur healthy growth alongside a more equal distribution of wealth.

But as Kishida marks one year in office on Tuesday, the Japanese leader’s “new capitalism” is still struggling to get off the ground amid criticism that his signature strategy lacks concrete details or clear targets.

Kishida’s struggles to turn his vision into a coherent economic plan capable of reversing decades of stagnation come as the world’s third-largest economy faces mounting challenges at home and overseas, from rising inflation and a weakening yen to global supply chain snags and the war in Ukraine.

Kishida, a former banker who positioned himself as the only post-war prime minister with experience in the finance industry, is widely seen as an awkward fit for the populist rhetoric he has championed.

“The key point is that Kishida has no strong personal convictions, particularly on economic policy,” Jesper Koll, an economist and executive director at Monex Group in Tokyo, told Al Jazeera,

“Setting up this ‘new capitalism’ slogan, and various teams around it, is effectively just a plan for business as usual.”

“There’s absolutely nothing new or radical in what [Kishida’s] proposed or in what’s going to be coming,” Koll added, describing the Japanese leader’s “steady hand” governance as in accordance with the incremental approach favoured by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party establishment.

The Prime Minister’s Office of Japan did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.

Japan’s economy is facing a host of challenges including rising inflation, a weakening yen, global supply chain snags and the war in Ukraine [File: Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

In an address at London’s Guildhall in May, Kishida spoke of capitalism’s “two major transformations”, from laissez-faire to the welfare state and from the welfare state to neoliberalism.

“In both of these transitions, the pendulum swung between two ideas: ‘market or state’, ‘public or private,’” he said. “But the next transition will be to a ‘new form of capitalism’, in which the public and private sectors work together.”

While stressing the need for a “virtuous cycle” of growth and wealth redistribution, Kishida has laid out policy in mostly broad terms, including investment in human capital, greater female participation in the workforce, funding for green initiatives, the digitalisation of government, and support for startups.

Tom Learmouth, who is undertaking doctoral studies on Japan’s economic history at the London School of Economics, said Kishida appeared to be aiming for a return to the industrial strategy of Japan’s post-war, high-growth era when the public and private sectors worked in close collaboration.

During this period of rapid economic growth, Tokyo actively tried to pick winners in industry by directing investment to sectors deemed to be promising, such as automobiles and electronics.

“Trying to resurrect that now, in a very different economic climate – where interest rates are close to zero – it’s difficult to see how the government can exercise much power over the private sector,” Learmouth told Al Jazeera.

Kishida, who criticised his predecessor Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” for exacerbating wealth inequality, did weigh concrete reform early in his tenure by proposing to raise Japan’s capital gains tax from the current rate of 20 percent. The Japanese leader, however, backpedalled within days after pushback from the business community and investors.

Eric J Ritter, a professor of economics at Lakeland University Japan, said Kishida’s redistribution agenda had failed to make headway.

“He had to give up on raising capital gains taxes on the rich which could’ve been spent on the poor,” Ritter told Al Jazeera. “Another issue is raising the tax ceiling on working wives who have to start paying tax if they earn above 1.1 million yen [$7,580] a year. This depresses family incomes and female participation.”

Ageing population

More recently, Kishida tried to spur, through corporate tax breaks, a rise in Japan’s long-stagnant wages, which have scarcely risen since the late 1990s and sit well below the OECD average. These efforts have also fallen short of expectations, with real wages continuing to fall as a result of rising import costs.

The plunging yen, which last month hit a 24-year low against the US dollar, has heaped more pressure on retailers and households, causing famously thrifty Japanese consumers to tighten their belts further.

Worse for the long-term health of the economy, Japan’s labour force is shrinking. After years of plunging birth rates, the country already has the world’s oldest population, with 28 percent of residents aged over 65. Japan’s labour market has also been criticised for lacking mobility, which is ranked about half of the OECD average.

Shigeto Nagai, head Japan economist at Oxford Economics, said labour market reforms and social security reforms that provide for the vulnerable working age population as well as the elderly should be key priorities of Kishida’s economic strategy.

“Rigid seniority-based wages under the lifetime employment system have undermined the dynamism of Japanese companies,” Nagai told Al Jazeera, describing the Japanese leader’s strategy so far as “very conceptual and confusing”.

“Making the labour market more flexible and dynamic will enable individual workers to earn more competitive wages reflecting productivity,” Nagai said. “It is [also] essential that the state takes responsibility for providing social security for the working-age population, rather than leaving it to the companies.”

NTT, Japan’s largest telecommunications company, recently announced plans to shift from seniority to performance-based promotion and compensation, raising hopes that corporate peers could be encouraged to follow suit.

While Kishida has struggled to initiate significant economic reform, some analysts say that simply keeping Japan’s economy steady during such a period of global turmoil would be an achievement in itself.

“This is a political world where it’s another day, another crisis,” Koll said. “Having a steady hand, which doesn’t rock the boat, but focuses on incremental changes – maybe that’s the right thing to do in the current environment.”

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US to impose additional ‘costs’ on Iran amid protests, Biden says | Politics News

US president says he is ‘gravely concerned’ by reports of crackdown on protests in Iran over death of Mahsa Amini.

US President Joe Biden has said his administration will impose “further costs” on those responsible for violence against Iranian protesters, who have taken to the streets for more than two weeks in anger over the recent death of a 22-year-old woman in Tehran.

In a statement on Monday evening, Biden said he was “gravely concerned about reports of the intensifying violent crackdown on peaceful protesters in Iran, including students and women, who are demanding their equal rights and basic human dignity”.

“This week, the United States will be imposing further costs on perpetrators of violence against peaceful protestors. We will continue holding Iranian officials accountable and supporting the rights of Iranians to protest freely,” he said.

The ongoing protests in Iran were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, who was arrested in mid-September by the country’s so-called morality police for wearing “unsuitable attire” in the capital.

Amini’s death prompted an outpouring of anger against the Iranian government, with demonstrators demanding more civil liberties, including an end to the dress code imposed on women.

Dozens of people are believed to have been killed, while many others also have been arrested, but the authorities have not released an official tally.

On Monday, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, made his first comments on the anti-government protests, accusing the US and Israel of being responsible for the unrest and seeking to stop Iran’s “progress”.

“I say explicitly that these riots and this insecurity were a design by the US and the occupying, fake Zionist regime [Israel] and those who are paid by them, and some traitorous Iranians abroad helped them,” Khamenei told graduating cadets at a police university in Tehran.

The Iranian authorities also have denied reports that Amini was beaten in custody.

Tehran’s police chief, Brigadier-General Hossein Rahimi, said last month that she was detained for wearing tight trousers and wearing her headscarf improperly, but that claims she was mistreated were “completely false”.

Still, the US and its allies have condemned Iran for Amini’s death and the government’s response to the subsequent protests — and large rallies have been held around the world in solidarity with the Iranian demonstrators.

Last week, Washington sanctioned Iran’s “morality police”, as well as seven leaders of Iranian security organisations that it said “routinely employ violence to suppress peaceful protestors and members of Iranian civil society, political dissidents, women’s rights activists, and members of the Iranian Baha’i community”.

Canada on Monday also sanctioned top Iranian security officials for what it said were “gross human rights violations”.

This included the “systematic persecution of women and in particular, the egregious actions committed by Iran’s so-called ‘Morality Police,’ which led to the death of Mahsa Amini while under their custody”, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government said in a statement.

Biden’s promise to impose more “costs” on Iran comes as talks to restore the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, have stalled.

The multilateral pact, which former US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from in 2018, had seen Iran scale back its nuclear programme in exchange for lifting international sanctions against its economy.

While Biden had pledged to restore the deal, indirect talks have so far failed — and the US administration has continued to pile on a variety of sanctions against Tehran.

Late last week, the Biden administration promised to impose financial penalties on Iran on a “regular basis” in an effort to “severely restrict” Iranian oil and petrochemical exports.

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Credit Suisse sees shares sink over restructuring concerns | Business and Economy News

Credit Suisse Group AG saw its shares slide by as much as 11.5 percent and its bonds hit record lows on Monday before clawing back some of the losses amid concerns about the lender’s ability to restructure its business without asking for more money.

The situation prompted Swiss regulator FINMA and the Bank of England in London, where the lender has a major hub, to monitor what was happening and work closely together, one source familiar with the matter said.

Some analysts and industry sources said the bank had enough capital and cash to deal with any crises. One analyst said investors feared the bank’s ability to execute on a turnaround strategy, which it is due to reveal on October 27.

Broader market malaise is also likely adding to investor worries, they said. Global financial markets have been particularly fragile of late, where rapidly rising interest rates, policy inconsistencies, recession fears and the war in Ukraine have unnerved investors.

“The key issue is the viability of the bank following its upcoming strategic review,” wrote ABN AMRO analyst Joost Beaumont, who added that adverse market conditions have raised the “execution risk of any strategic review”.

The Bank of England, FINMA and the Swiss finance ministry declined to comment.

Analysts at Citi said that widening credit spreads could exacerbate market fears and damage counterparty confidence, as well as drive funding costs higher.

“In the long-term the further the share price falls the more dilutive any capital raise becomes (and vice versa), which constrains the magnitude of any investment banking restructuring that CS can undertake,” the analysts said.

Strategy review

Credit Suisse, one of the largest in Europe and one of Switzerland’s global systemically important banks, has had to raise capital, halt share buybacks, cut its dividend and revamp management after losing more than $5bn from the collapse of investment firm Archegos in March 2021, when it also had to suspend client funds linked to failed financier Greensill.

In July, Credit Suisse announced its second strategy review in a year and replaced its chief executive, bringing in restructuring expert Ulrich Koerner to scale back investment banking and cut more than $1bn in costs.

The bank is considering measures to scale back its investment bank into a “capital-light, advisory-led” business, and is evaluating strategic options for the securitised products business, Credit Suisse has said.

Citing people familiar with the situation, Reuters reported last month that Credit Suisse was sounding out investors for new cash as it attempts its overhaul.

Falling shares

Credit Suisse shares fell as much as 11.5 percent before coming off early lows to end down just 1 percent. Its international bonds also showed the strain, with euro-denominated bonds dropping to record lows before clawing back some losses in the afternoon.

The embattled lender’s longer-dated bonds suffered the sharpest declines.

Spreads on Credit Suisse’s US dollar bonds were quoted on Monday morning about 40 to 90 basis points wider across their outstanding bonds. One basis point (bps) is one-hundredth of one percentage point.

“It is pretty ugly for CS bonds,” one syndicate banker said.

Credit Suisse credit default swaps (CDS) soared higher on Monday, adding 105 basis points from Friday’s close to trade at 355 bps, their highest level in at least more than two decades. The CDS measure the cost to insure the bank’s bonds and were a much lower 57 bps at the start of the year. Monday’s spike was an indication of how risky investors find the bank now.

Bank executives spent the weekend reassuring large clients, counterparties and investors about its liquidity and capital, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

That followed Chief Executive Koerner’s telling staff last week that the bank, whose market capitalisation dropped to a record low of 9.73 billion Swiss francs ($9.81bn) on Monday, has solid capital and liquidity.

Some investors said they were not panicking.

“They’ll be recapitalised by the public markets if the environment is good in a month or two, or they’ll be backstopped by the Swiss government if the environment is bad,” said Thomas Hayes, chairman and managing member of New York-based Great Hill Capital.

Liquidity ‘healthy’

JPMorgan analysts said in a research note on Monday that, based on its financials at the end of the second quarter, they view Credit Suisse’s capital and liquidity as “healthy”.

Credit Suisse had total assets of 727 billion Swiss francs ($732.7bn) at the end of the second quarter, of which 159 billion Swiss francs ($160.3bn) was cash and due from banks, while 101 billion Swiss francs ($101.8bn) was trading assets, it noted.

Still, investors are questioning how much capital the bank may need to raise to fund the cost of restructuring, analysts at Jefferies wrote in a note to clients on Monday. Also, the bank is now potentially a forced seller of assets, they said.

Deutsche Bank analysts in August estimated a capital shortfall of at least 4 billion Swiss francs ($4.03bn).

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