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This is an audio transcript of the FT News Briefing podcast episode: Ukraine’s army of volunteers

Joanna S Kao
Good morning from the Financial Times. Today is Thursday, March 24th, and this is your FT News Briefing.

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Vladimir Putin has thrown a wrench into energy markets. He wants his gas buyers to pay in roubles. We’ll also hear from writer Tim Judah. He’s in Kyiv. He’ll tell us who hasn’t fled the capital. Plus, the FT’s Olaf Storbeck talks about his scoop on Deutsche Bank and his relationship with Archegos Capital Management.

Olaf Storbeck
What wasn’t known is that at the same time, Archegos had quietly built a large stake in Deutsche and had become one of the biggest shareholders in (inaudible).

Joanna S Kao
I’m Joanna Kao, in for Mac Filippino, and here’s the news you need to start your day.

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Oil prices jumped higher yesterday after exports from a crucial pipeline on Russia’s Black Sea coast were completely halted. The Moscow-based group that runs the pipeline blamed storm damage. Markets also worried that Russia may further interrupt energy supplies while US president Joe Biden is in Europe to discuss the war in Ukraine.

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Meanwhile, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin rattled gas markets with an announcement that he will start demanding his European gas buyers pay in roubles. The move boosted the Russian currency, which has been under pressure because of western sanctions. Here’s the latest industry reporter Harry Dempsey.

Harry Dempsey
So the key thing which we’re trying to establish is whether the option to pay in roubles is included in the contracts or not. And if it isn’t, this could have quite big ramifications because Russia will have to ask European customers to renegotiate the contracts, and that would give an opening for European utilities and other buyers to potentially buy less volumes of Russian gas and end the contracts earlier, for example. So it will open a bit of a can of worms, to be honest.

Joanna S Kao
That’s the FT’s Harry Dempsey.

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Russian forces continue with their military offensive in Ukraine, with the ultimate target being the capital. The writer, Tim Judah, is in Kyiv on assignment for the FT. He told us that half or more of the city’s population has fled. So we asked him, who’s still there?

Tim Judah
You know, I think there are quite a lot of elderly people, people who are sort of disabled or infirm. You know, then there’s a sort of group in the middle who for various reasons say they don’t want to leave, they don’t want to become a refugee. But I think you then have another group of people who are absolutely determined to do something to fight. Then you have people, mostly men, not only men, but mostly men who’ve actually joined the Territorial Defence Forces, which are a new kind of military force. And they are basically designed for civilians who want to join up for a crisis period, like now. They’ve got a few days training and then they get going, given a gun. But they’re not being sent to the front lines, they’re being sent to man checkpoints, which have been increasingly fortified throughout the city. And that enables the professionals, the experienced soldiers, to go off and fight the Russians, which is exactly what’s happening. You have, again, tens of thousands of people who may not be part of the Territorial Defence Forces, but they are part of volunteer networks.

Joanna S Kao
So Tim, how did they come up with this system of volunteers?

Tim Judah
So if you remember the 2014 Maidan revolution . . . 

Joanna S Kao
That’s a massive protest movement that ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian government and helped turn Ukraine more toward Europe and the west.

Tim Judah
Yeah, that you had a big volunteer network which emerged to support it, bringing food, bringing medicine, bringing things that people who were taking part in the revolution needed. In the next phase, many of those people then joined up to make volunteer battalions to go to fight the Russians in the east. But this volunteering network, this system, has survived. So two weeks ago, I went to a very big military-style kitchen and there were like scores of people, mostly women, but not only, chopping, dicing, cooking, you know, making food. And all this have been recruited on Facebook and on social media by people who’ve done exactly the same during the 2014 revolution. So actually, if you look to the pure statistics of how many soldiers has Ukraine got, how many men or women are in the Territorial Defence Force, it will be misleading because behind them you’ve got another whole layer of thousands of volunteers doing everything from making food to filling sandbags to making Molotov cocktails and doing all sorts of other volunteer jobs, including probably all the cyber work as well, defending the country from cyber attacks and presumably cyber attacking Russia.

Joanna S Kao
So Tim, how are all these volunteers when they’re not supporting the military effort? How are they surviving financially?

Tim Judah
Well, I think people are running out of money and some people have run out completely. I mean, I was in front of a hotel just chatting to a colleague the other day and a woman came up hearing and speaking and she spoke perfect English. So she must been sort of educated middle class and said very politely, you know, I’ve got no money. Could you give me some money? To which, of course, we did. But you know, I think for the moment, a lot of people are worried that they won’t get their next pay cheque. I think probably quite a few people got paid in February. But coming up, you know, in the next week or so, probably it is going to be a moment of truth because almost all business has shut down.

Joanna S Kao
That’s the writer Tim Judah on assignment for the FT in Kyiv.

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Before we go, the FT’s Frankfurt correspondent, Olaf Storbeck, had a scoop this week on Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank, and its relationship with Archegos Capital Management. That’s the New York-based investment firm that imploded last year. It was already known that Archegos was a client of Deutsche and borrowed from the bank, but Olaf found that Archegos had also quietly built up a stake in Deutsche.

Olaf Storbeck
We have one source with good knowledge on Archegos Investment who told us the stake stood at around 2 per cent while people familiar with Deutsche’s view on the matter told us it was just under one per cent, but even a stake of one per cent or just under one per cent would turn you into a top 15 shareholder at Deutsche Bank at the moment because of their shareholder structure is quite scattered.

Joanna S Kao
And what is the significance of finding that a bank is lending to a client who is also an investor?

Olaf Storbeck
Well, for a bank, if you’re lending out money to a client, this creates potentially a conflict of interest if the client is at the same time one of your significant donors because you’re basically having two different hats on at the same time and you’re risk-taking decisions might not be the same if you’re giving a loan to somebody who is not your client. There are rules for this and the German law, which only sees the loans to people who own at least 10 per cent of your equity as problematic for a bank and kind of stipulate special rules and special scrutiny. Deutsche itself has rules for anyone who owns 3 per cent or more in their shares, where they have to kind of apply special scrutiny to loans. So technically, as far as we can tell, there wasn’t any policy violated by Deutsche Bank. But it’s still remarkable yet that they were in this dual position.

Joanna S Kao
Olaf Storbeck is the FT’s Frankfurt correspondent.

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You can read more about all of these stories at FT.com. If you aren’t a subscriber yet, you can read our key Ukraine coverage for free. Just visit FT.com/freetoread. Again, that’s FT.com/freetoread. We also have a link to that in the show notes. This has been your daily FT News Briefing. Make sure you check back tomorrow for the latest business news.

This transcript has been automatically generated. If by any chance there is an error please send the details for a correction to: typo@ft.com. We will do our best to make the amendment as soon as possible.

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