Putin Faces U.K. Deadline on Spy Poisoning Scandal

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It’s deadline day for U.K.-Russia relations after Prime Minister Theresa May gave President Vladimir Putin until midnight to say whether the Kremlin was behind a nerve-agent attack in Britain.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today that Russia’s not guilty and is ready to help investigators. Even so, Putin’s unlikely to satisfy May’s demand to admit either that former spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned on state orders or that Russia lost control of the “military grade” weapon.

That will put the ball back in May’s court to translate words into action against Russia. Diplomatic expulsions and appeals to expand U.S. and European Union sanctions could be on the table.

She’s already briefed French President Emmanuel Macron, while U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson blamed Russia for the “egregious act” that he said “will trigger a response.” Still, May’s bark might be worse than her bite. There’s little the U.K. can do alone and not much to suggest allies are ready for tough action.

Putin’s in Crimea tomorrow, the peninsula whose 2014 annexation first triggered U.S.-led sanctions. That gives him a platform to accuse the West of stoking tensions if he chooses a display of defiance ahead of Sunday's presidential election.

Global Headlines

Not-so-subtle message | President Donald Trump just sent a signal to overseas investors that he’ll swat down deals potentially giving China an edge in critical technology on national security grounds. The president’s rejection of Broadcom Ltd.’s takeover of Qualcomm Inc. is part of a broader move to contain China on trade. Although Broadcom is based in Singapore, the company is locked in a race with China’s Huawei Technologies Co. over the development of wireless technology. There are concerns it may cut investment in research and development at Qualcomm.

Money and power | China unveiled the largest cabinet agency shake-up in at least 15 years as President Xi Jinping restructures the state to curb financial risks and exert greater global influence. The overhaul gives the country’s central bank new oversight over the $43 trillion banking and insurance sector and focuses foreign aid toward Xi’s signature plan to expand infrastructure and trade links from Asia to Europe and beyond. 

Silence in North Korea | Nearly five days after Trump said he would meet with Kim Jong Un by May, the U.S. still hasn't heard anything from Pyongyang on arranging the time and place. Tillerson urged patience, saying the administration expected to hear directly from North Korea to prepare for the potentially historic handshake.

More Aussies | Australia’s vocal anti-immigration lawmakers are facing an uncomfortable truth: only an accelerating population will continue the country’s period of record economic expansion. As governments from the U.S. to the U.K and Europe clamp down on immigration, political leaders Down Under are weighing populist policies against the need to protect the nation from slipping into recession. 

Murder and protests in Slovakia | It started with the slaying of a young journalist and his fiancee. Then came street protests not seen since the fall of the Iron Curtain. Now Premier Robert Fico’s future is at stake as his ruling coalition teeters on the brink of collapse. A no-confidence motion may come as soon as this week. Bloomberg looks at what went wrong in this bastion of stability in a region where the populist tide is rising.

Midterm indicator | Keep an eye out for results of today’s special U.S. House election in Pennsylvania. A Republican loss could be interpreted as a sign of trouble for the party heading into November’s elections.

And finally… The potential Trump family conflict-of-interest plot thickens - again. Two months after presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner started work at the White House, his family firm sold a stake in a Brooklyn building to a unit of a company whose largest shareholder is the government of Japan. Caleb Melby exclusively reports on the first such known deal with a government-affiliated firm during Kushner’s tenure in the West Wing.

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