Morning papers: US and EU could announce Russian sanctions

The US and EU are set to implement new sanctions against Russia after a reported 96 per cent of Crimean voters voted for the pensinsula to once again become part of Russia, the Guardian reports.

Sanctions could include asset freezes and visa bans, with speculation suggesting the first measures could be announced today (17 March). According to the paper, US president Barack Obama yesterday told Russian president Vladimir Putin that the vote “would never be recognised” by the United States.

According to the Financial Times, Crimean authorities said 95 per cent had voted in support of cessation from Ukraine on a turnout of 82 per cent.

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The Telegraph reports that the poll was denounced as “illegal and illegitimate” by the West, and said Britain and America had condemned it as a “gun-enforced sham”.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said: “I condemn the fact that this referendum has taken place, in breach of the Ukrainian constitution and in defiance of calls by the international community for restraint.

“Nothing in the way that the referendum has been conducted should convince anyone that it is a legitimate exercise.”

Banks set to freeze forex bonuses

Major banks including Barclays, Citigroup and Royal Bank of Scotland have frozen bonuses across large parts of their foreign exchange trading teams in light of the investigation into manipulation of forex benchmarks, the Financial Times reports.

The paper cites people close to the various banks as saying the suspension of both cash and share bonuses affect the wider team rather than simply the individual traders under investigation.

Bonuses - which can reach $2m for top traders - will remain frozen until the investigations conclude.

Osborne Budget has ‘little room for largesse’

Despite planning to announce the largest annual upgrade to economic growth since the start of the new millenium, forecasts for a slowing economy will leave chancellor George Osborne will little room for largesse in his upcoming Budget, the Financial Times reports.

The paper says options for vote-winning tax cuts aimed at Britain’s middle classes have been hampered by predictions by the Office for Budget Responsibility that the rapid growth will not last.

The FT predicts Mr Osborne will use what little wiggle room he has to raise the tax-free allowance for families with more modest incomes.

Richest five UK families have more than bottom 20 per cent

The richest five families in Britain possess more wealth than the entire bottom 20 per cent of the population combined, the Independent reports.

Research by Oxfam reveals that the few top billionaires, including Sports Direct boss Michael Ashley and property investor Charles Cadogan, are worth a combined £28.2bn, more than the wealth of the poorest 12.6 million people in Britain.

The charity also warned that the UK’s wealthiest 0.1 per cent has had its income grow almost four times faster than the least well-off 90 per cent of the population.