Ukrainian troops with an armoured vehicle near Debaltseve, in the eastern Donetsk region, on August 29, 2014. Gleb Garanich  / Reuters
Ukrainian troops with an armoured vehicle near Debaltseve, in the eastern Donetsk region, on August 29, 2014. Gleb Garanich / Reuters

Nato tells Russia to halt ‘illegal’ actions in Ukraine



BRUSSELS // Nato told Russia on Friday to halt its illegal military actions in Ukraine after the West accused Moscow of direct involvement in the separatist uprising.

Fears of a wider confrontation rose after Nato said Russia had sent troops to fight in Ukraine and funnelled huge amounts of heavy weaponry to pro-Kremlin rebels.

Germany warned the crisis was spiralling out of control as European Union foreign ministers met to discuss further punitive measures against Moscow.

“This is not an isolated action, but part of a dangerous pattern over many months to destabilise Ukraine as a sovereign nation,” Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after an emergency meeting of the alliance.

“We urge Russia to cease its illegal military actions, stop its support to armed separatists and take immediate and verifiable steps towards de-escalation of this grave crisis.”

Kiev and the West have accused Russian troops of being behind a lightning counter-offensive in which the rebels have seized swaths of south-eastern territory from government forces, dramatically turning the tide in the four-month conflict.

And in a move certain to anger Kiev’s former masters in Moscow, Mr Rasmussen said Nato was not closing the door to Ukraine’s possible membership of the alliance after the government said it was taking steps to join.

The Russian president Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied that Moscow is fuelling the conflict or has any troops on the ground in the former Soviet state.

He demanded yesterday that the Ukrainian government hold talks with the separatists who took up arms against Kiev in April, apparently emboldened by Russia’s annexation of Crimea the month before.

“I believe that what is happening in Ukraine right now is in principle our common colossal tragedy and it is necessary to do everything for it to stop as soon as possible,” he said.

Nato said on Thursday Russia had sent at least 1,000 troops to fight alongside the rebels, along with air defence systems, artillery, tanks and armoured vehicles, and had massed 20,000 troops near the border.

The new rebel advance has raised fears that the Kremlin could be seeking to create a land corridor between Russia and Crimea on the Black Sea.

Residents of Mariupol, a strategic government-held port on the Azov Sea south of the main insurgent bastion of Donetsk, were fleeing yesterday after rebels seized several villages near by.

The sharp escalation came just days after Mr Putin held talks with Ukraine’s president Petro Poroshenko but failed to make any significant breakthrough.

“Russia has deliberately and repeatedly violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the new images of Russian forces inside Ukraine make that plain for the world to see,” the US president Barack Obama said.

“This ongoing Russian incursion into Ukraine will only bring more costs and consequences for Russia.”

The United States and the EU have already imposed a series of punishing sanctions on Moscow in the worst standoff between Russia and the West since the Cold War.

EU foreign ministers were meeting in Milan yesterday to propose new sanctions against Russia for consideration at a summit of the bloc’s 28 heads of state today in Brussels.

“We have to be aware of what we are facing: we are now in the midst of the second Russian invasion of Ukraine within a year,” said Sweden’s foreign minister, Carl Bildt.

“We see regular Russian army units operating offensively on the Ukrainian territory against the Ukrainian army,” Mr Bildt said. “We must call a spade a spade.”

Russia has rejected accusations that it has invaded Ukraine.

Mr Putin yesterday defiantly described the insurgents as defenders of New Russia, a Tsarist-era term for Moscow’s former imperial holdings in the region that the strongman has revived since annexing Crimea.

He praised rebel successes in halting Kiev’s advances in the counter-offensive in the south-east that has left government troops battling for survival in the town of Ilovaysk.

He called on rebel forces to open a “humanitarian corridor” for the besieged Ukrainian troops.

According to new UN figures, almost 2,600 people have been killed since mid-April, and well over 400,000 have fled their homes, many of them to Russia.

The UN chief Ban Ki-moon said the international community had to redouble its efforts to resolve the crisis, and said it was vital general elections in Ukraine go ahead as planned in October.

The International Monetary Fund on Friday approved the release of nearly US$1.4 billion (Dh5.14bn) in fresh funds for Ukraine.

It was the second tranche from the IMF’s programme to help stabilise the economy and its currency, the hryvnia, battered by years of mismanagement and more recently by the separatist uprising.

* Agence France-Presse, with additional reporting by Associated Press

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Company name: Cargoz
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The Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index

The Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index

Mazen Abukhater, principal and actuary at global consultancy Mercer, Middle East, says the company’s Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index - which benchmarks 34 pension schemes across the globe to assess their adequacy, sustainability and integrity - included Saudi Arabia for the first time this year to offer a glimpse into the region.

The index highlighted fundamental issues for all 34 countries, such as a rapid ageing population and a low growth / low interest environment putting pressure on expected returns. It also highlighted the increasing popularity around the world of defined contribution schemes.

“Average life expectancy has been increasing by about three years every 10 years. Someone born in 1947 is expected to live until 85 whereas someone born in 2007 is expected to live to 103,” Mr Abukhater told the Mena Pensions Conference.

“Are our systems equipped to handle these kind of life expectancies in the future? If so many people retire at 60, they are going to be in retirement for 43 years – so we need to adapt our retirement age to our changing life expectancy.”

Saudi Arabia came in the middle of Mercer’s ranking with a score of 58.9. The report said the country's index could be raised by improving the minimum level of support for the poorest aged individuals and increasing the labour force participation rate at older ages as life expectancies rise.

Mr Abukhater said the challenges of an ageing population, increased life expectancy and some individuals relying solely on their government for financial support in their retirement years will put the system under strain.

“To relieve that pressure, governments need to consider whether it is time to switch to a defined contribution scheme so that individuals can supplement their own future with the help of government support,” he said.

Tightening the screw on rogue recruiters

The UAE overhauled the procedure to recruit housemaids and domestic workers with a law in 2017 to protect low-income labour from being exploited.

 Only recruitment companies authorised by the government are permitted as part of Tadbeer, a network of labour ministry-regulated centres.

A contract must be drawn up for domestic workers, the wages and job offer clearly stating the nature of work.

The contract stating the wages, work entailed and accommodation must be sent to the employee in their home country before they depart for the UAE.

The contract will be signed by the employer and employee when the domestic worker arrives in the UAE.

Only recruitment agencies registered with the ministry can undertake recruitment and employment applications for domestic workers.

Penalties for illegal recruitment in the UAE include fines of up to Dh100,000 and imprisonment

But agents not authorised by the government sidestep the law by illegally getting women into the country on visit visas.

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

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Director: Rajkumar Hirani 

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Taapsee Pannu, Vikram Kochhar and Anil Grover

Rating: 4/5

Roll of honour

Who has won what so far in the West Asia Premiership season?

Western Clubs Champions League - Winners: Abu Dhabi Harlequins; Runners up: Bahrain

Dubai Rugby Sevens - Winners: Dubai Exiles; Runners up: Jebel Ali Dragons

West Asia Premiership - Winners: Jebel Ali Dragons; Runners up: Abu Dhabi Harlequins

UAE Premiership Cup - Winners: Abu Dhabi Harlequins; Runners up: Dubai Exiles

West Asia Cup - Winners: Bahrain; Runners up: Dubai Exiles

West Asia Trophy - Winners: Dubai Hurricanes; Runners up: DSC Eagles

Final West Asia Premiership standings - 1. Jebel Ali Dragons; 2. Abu Dhabi Harlequins; 3. Bahrain; 4. Dubai Exiles; 5. Dubai Hurricanes; 6. DSC Eagles; 7. Abu Dhabi Saracens

Fixture (UAE Premiership final) - Friday, April 13, Al Ain – Dubai Exiles v Abu Dhabi Harlequins

Results:

6.30pm: Maiden Dh165,000 2,000m - Winner: Powderhouse, Sam Hitchcott (jockey), Doug Watson (trainer)

7.05pm: Handicap Dh165,000 2,200m - Winner: Heraldic, Richard Mullen, Satish Seemar

7.40pm: Conditions Dh240,000 1,600m - Winner: Walking Thunder, Connor Beasley, Ahmed bin Harmash

8.15pm: Handicap Dh190,000 2,000m - Winner: Key Bid, Fernando Jara, Ali Rashid Al Raihe

8.50pm: The Garhoud Sprint Listed Dh265,000 1,200m - Winner: Drafted, Sam Hitchcott, Doug Watson

9.25pm: Handicap Dh170,000 1,600m - Winner: Cachao, Tadhg O’Shea, Satish Seemar

10pm: Handicap Dh190,000 1,400m - Winner: Rodaini, Connor Beasley, Ahmed bin Harmash