While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Feb 17

A member of the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service patrols the area near the frontier with Russia in the Chernihiv region of Ukraine, on Feb 16, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

West says Russia moving troops towards Ukraine, not away

Russia’s military build-up near the Ukrainian border is continuing, the United States warned on Wednesday as Estonia said battle groups were approaching ahead of a likely attack to occupy “key terrain”, despite Moscow’s insistence of a pullback.

There have been sightings of additional armoured vehicles, helicopters and a field hospital moving towards Ukraine’s borders, Britain’s defence intelligence chief Jim Hockenhull said in a rare public statement.

World powers are engaged in one of the deepest crises in East-West relations for decades, jostling over post-Cold War influence and energy supplies as Russia wants to stop Ukraine ever joining the Nato military alliance.

Western nations have suggested arms control and confidence-building steps to defuse the standoff, which has prompted them to urge their citizens to leave Ukraine because an attack could come at any time. Russia denies it has any plans to invade.


Torrential rain kills 78 in Brazil tourist town

At least 78 people were killed in devastating flash floods and landslides that hit the picturesque Brazilian city of Petropolis, turning streets into torrential rivers and sweeping away houses, officials said on Wednesday.

Rescue workers raced to find survivors buried in the mud and wreckage after heavy storms on Tuesday dumped a month’s worth of rain in three hours on the scenic tourist town in the hills north of Rio de Janeiro.

There were fears the death toll could rise as firefighters and volunteer rescue workers dug through the remains of houses washed away in torrents of mud, many of them in impoverished hillside slums.


Ex-Goldman banker says ‘greed, ambition’ drove 1MDB bribery

A former Goldman Sachs partner testified on Wednesday that “greed and ambition” drove his involvement in a bribery scheme that looted billions of dollars from Malaysia’s 1MDB sovereign wealth fund.

Tim Leissner, the former chief of Goldman’s Southeast Asia operation, is a star witness in the criminal trial of Roger Ng, the bank’s former head of investment banking in Malaysia.

The trial began on Monday in federal court in Brooklyn. Prosecutors have accused Ng, 49, of receiving millions of dollars in kickbacks for helping embezzle funds from 1MDB. Ng has pleaded not guilty to conspiring to launder money and to violate an anti-bribery law.


Saudi job ad for 30 women train drivers gets 28,000 applicants

A job advert to recruit 30 female train drivers in Saudi Arabia has attracted 28,000 applicants, highlighting the scale of pent up demand as the conservative kingdom opens up more opportunities to women.

Spanish railway operator Renfe said on Wednesday an online assessment of academic background and English language skills had helped it to reduce the number of candidates by around a half, and it would work through the rest by mid-March.

The 30 selected women will drive bullet trains between the cities of Mecca and Medina after a year of paid training.


Spanish tale of threatened family farm wins Golden Bear

Spanish director Carla Simon's film Alcarras, which explores the divisions ripped into a close-knit family of Catalan farmers who face eviction from their ancestral plot, won the Berlin Film Festival's top prize on Wednesday.

Simon herself grew up on a peach farm in the village of Alcarras, and her film was made using amateur actors from that area whom she recruited at village fairs and coached into playing several generations of a family of smallholders.

During an emotional ceremony in which several winners dedicated awards to friends who had died of Covid-19, the best documentary award went to Myanmar Diaries, a documentary shot by 10 anonymous filmmakers whose footage was smuggled out and stitched into a portrait of life in Myanmar since last year's coup.


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