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FirstFT: Nato accuses Russia of escalating Ukraine war

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Nato has accused Moscow of escalating its war on Ukraine after Kremlin allies in occupied territories announced referendums to join Russia and the country’s parliament approved legislation that clears the way for military mobilisation.

Four Moscow-controlled regions in Ukraine will hold votes this week, a step that the Kremlin has resisted to date and which western powers and Kyiv immediately denounced as a sham.

Russia’s Duma also passed a law on Tuesday to increase penalties for desertion and evasion of conscription in the event of mobilisation, a further sign of Moscow’s hardening stance.

On Tuesday, US secretary of state Antony Blinken called the referendums “the sign of Russian failure”. “If these referenda proceed, and if Russia purports to annex Ukrainian territory, the United States will never, never recognise it,” he said during the UN General Assembly in New York.

Jens Stoltenberg, secretary-general of Nato, decried the referendums as “a further escalation” of the war. “Sham referendums have no legitimacy and do not change the nature of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,” he said.

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The day ahead

Cardinal Zen faces trial in Hong Kong After the start of the trial, originally set for Monday, was delayed after the judge contracted Covid-19, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun and five well-known members of the Democratic Front are due to appear in a court today, accused of failing to properly register a humanitarian fund for which they were administrators.

Cardinal Joseph Zen at a new year protest in Hong Kong in 2019
Cardinal Joseph Zen, centre, at a new year protest in Hong Kong in 2019 © Kin Cheung/AP

US interest rate decision The Federal Open Market Committee is expected to announce today that it will raise interest rates by at least 0.75 percentage points for the third time in a row as it tries to hit the brakes on the overheating US economy.

UK business secretary announces support scheme Jacob Rees-Mogg is expected to share details of a business support scheme for companies on Wednesday, ahead of chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s “mini-Budget” on Friday.

What else we’re reading

Hong Kong pins hopes on rugby sevens to rejuvenate city Hong Kong is betting on November’s return of the rowdy rugby sevens tournament to restore the Asian financial centre’s fortunes as the city’s leader said he would “actively study” relaxing a hotel quarantine requirement that has frustrated businesses and residents of the territory since 2020.

Indonesia’s unexpected success story As sharply rising US interest rates add to economic problems in the developing world, Indonesia appears unruffled, and its economy is prospering. Yet even as investors pile in, some worry about the sustainability of Indonesia’s newfound stability, particularly its politics.

Europe ditches negative rates as inflation surges The era of negative interest rates in Europe is set to end this week when Switzerland’s central bankers leave Japan as the sole proponent of one of the most controversial economic experiments of recent times. After more than a decade, the policy ultimately fell short of hopes that it would quickly vanquish the threat of deflation and revive growth.

‘Magic numbers’ are clouding the climate debate Climate change has become an existential crisis of notable exactitude, its parameters mapped out by precise temperature rises, thresholds, deadlines and “tipping points” of no return. But some scientists say climate messaging needs a fundamental reset to make it more accurate and relevant to our lives.

Are the British the worst idlers in the world? In the 2012 book Britannia Unchained, five Conservative MPs argued: “Once they enter the workplace, the British are among the worst idlers in the world.” Given that two of the book’s authors were Prime Minister Liz Truss and chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng, Sarah O’Connor says it is worth asking: is there any truth to it?

Bar chart of Average usual weekly hours worked in the main job (full-time dependent employment, 2021, selected countries) showing Hours worked in the UK are above the OECD average


Baseball caps are back, but what about in the office? Even in our casualised, post-lockdown world, workplace hats may be a step too far, writes Teo van den Broeke.

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