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Ukraine welcomes Russian plan to reduce forces near its border

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Ukraine has welcomed Moscow’s decision to end war games close to its borders and in occupied Crimea and return thousands of Russian troops to base, in a move that could ease western fears over the Kremlin’s military intentions.

The European Union, United States and Nato had urged Russia to reverse its recent build-up of soldiers and armour, amid an escalation of fighting in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine that is partly controlled by Moscow-led separatists; Russia insisted its forces were conducting drills that did not pose a threat to any country.

“The troops have demonstrated their ability to ensure the reliable defence of the country,” said Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu, as he oversaw exercises in Crimea on Thursday involving more than 10,000 soldiers and 40 warships.

“As a result, I have decided to conclude the inspection drills in the southern and western military districts,” he added, ordering units to start returning to their permanent bases from Friday.

Vigilant

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy was quick to respond on Twitter: “The reduction of troops on our border proportionally reduces tension. Ukraine is always vigilant, yet welcomes any steps to decrease the military presence and de-escalate the situation in Donbas,” he wrote. “Ukraine seeks peace. Grateful to international partners for their support.”

Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, said on Thursday he was willing to meet Mr Zelenskiy in Moscow, days after Ukraine’s leader offered to hold peace talks with him in Donbas.

Yet in a sign that tension in the region may remain elevated for some time, Mr Shoigu ordered Russia’s military to be ready to respond quickly to any “unfavourable development” in the security situation during forthcoming Nato war games in the Black Sea.

Moreover, it is unclear how many of an estimated 100,000 Russian troops now in Crimea and near eastern Ukraine will return to base, and a significant amount of their weaponry is expected to remain at a staging area only about 200km from Ukraine.

The military manoeuvres have taken place amid a further fraying of diplomatic ties, as the US imposed fresh sanctions on Russia and the two countries expelled 10 of each other’s diplomats.

US ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan flew home for consultations on Thursday, a month after Russia’s envoy to Washington Anatoly Antonov returned to Moscow in response to US president Joe Biden saying he regarded Mr Putin as “a killer”.

Expelled

The Czech Republic told Moscow on Thursday to recall dozens more staff from its embassy in Prague, just days after it expelled 18 suspected Russian intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover and Russia responded by sending home 20 Czech diplomats.

The row erupted after Prague blamed Moscow for a deadly 2014 explosion at a Czech arms depot, and revealed that it suspects the involvement of two Russian intelligence officers whom the UK accuses of poisoning former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in 2018.

Western capitals are also closely monitoring developments in Belarus, which is under Kremlin pressure to allow deeper integration with Russia. Mr Putin was due to hold talks on Thursday evening with autocratic Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, who claims to have been the target of a failed US-backed coup attempt.

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Farrow & Ball’s colour guru on her converted schoolhouse and four for sale

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You may not be familiar with her name, but Joa Studholme is the person responsible for many of the colours in posh living rooms and kitchens throughout Britain.

Mrs Studholme is the colour curator for Farrow & Ball, a job title that sparks curiosity about what her own living room looks like, and what type of property she lives in.

Her home is an 19th century converted schoolhouse overlooking the hills of Somerset, which has inspired some popular Farrow & Ball colours, including one named School House White.

Pictured: Joa Studholme is the colour curator for Farrow & Ball and has used its School House White colour in the living room of her 19th century converted schoolhouse in Somerset

Pictured: Joa Studholme is the colour curator for Farrow & Ball and has used its School House White colour in the living room of her 19th century converted schoolhouse in Somerset

The woodwork and beams in the living room of her home are painted in a colour called Drop Cloth, which is another of her Farrow & Ball creations

The woodwork and beams in the living room of her home are painted in a colour called Drop Cloth, which is another of her Farrow & Ball creations

She moved to the property four years ago with her husband Andrew and their their two children. The children have since grown up and left home.

The unique property proved to be a perfect blank canvas for the Farrow & Ball colour chart, particularly the spacious living area. 

The room has vaulted double-height ceilings and was once the main classroom of the old school. It is painted in Farrow & Ball’s School House White – a colour that Mrs Studholme created especially for this particular property.

The woodwork and beams are painted in a colour called Drop Cloth, which is another of her Farrow & Ball creations.

Mrs Studholme told MailOnline Property: ‘When one chooses to live in an old schoolhouse, it is the size and the light that is so compelling, so as a general rule I feel that these outsize rooms should be kept a soft white – these special buildings deserve to be left in their iconic simple state.

‘When I moved to my old schoolhouse I mixed a colour to soften the bright white interior walls – now Farrow & Ball’s School House White – and painted the exterior windows in Archive Colour Black Blue to match the cows in the surrounding fields. 

‘Although it felt like a strange concept to me to be living in a white room, I actually find it extremely relaxing. And of course, the smaller rooms have all been packed with glorious colour.’ 

We take a look at four former schoolhouses for sale online, around different areas of the county, which have been converted into large family homes.

Daniel Copley, of Zoopla, said: ‘If you’re looking for a quirky property that’s brimming with history, it might be worth considering a converted schoolhouse. 

‘Many of these types of properties are brimming with characterful features and have the potential to be truly spectacular homes.’ 

1. Five-bed house, Oxfordshire, £850k

This former schoolhouse is in the village of East Challow, Oxfordshire, and is being sold for £850,000 via Connells estate agents

This former schoolhouse is in the village of East Challow, Oxfordshire, and is being sold for £850,000 via Connells estate agents

The Grade II listed property is an attractive example of Victorian Gothic architecture and now includes four bedrooms, plus a self-contained annexe

The Grade II listed property is an attractive example of Victorian Gothic architecture and now includes four bedrooms, plus a self-contained annexe

This Grade II listed former schoolhouse was built in 1865 and converted into a family home in the 1960s.

It mixes the old and the new, with a new bespoke oak staircase and oak doors working in harmony with the original fireplace and exposed beams.

The property is an attractive example of Victorian Gothic architecture and now includes four bedrooms, plus a self-contained annexe.

It is in the village of East Challow, Oxfordshire, and less than five minutes by car to Wantage High Street. It has a price tag of £850,000 and is being sold by Connells estate agents.

2. Five-bed house, Cornwall, £795k

This five-bed detached house in the Cornish hamlet of Tresmeer is on the market for £795,000 and is being sold by Open House estate agents

This five-bed detached house in the Cornish hamlet of Tresmeer is on the market for £795,000 and is being sold by Open House estate agents

The original school room is 40 feet long and is now a living room with a wood-burning stove and a dining room with exposed beams

The original school room is 40 feet long and is now a living room with a wood-burning stove and a dining room with exposed beams

The property was originally built in the mid 1870s and ran as a school for about 100 years before closing around 1966 and being converted into a family home

The property was originally built in the mid 1870s and ran as a school for about 100 years before closing around 1966 and being converted into a family home

This five-bedroom detached house in the Cornish hamlet of Tresmeer, near the town of Launceston.

The original school room is 40 feet long and is now a living room with a wood-burning stove and a dining room with exposed beams.

The property was originally built in the mid 1870s and ran as Tresmeer Primary school for some 100 years before closing around 1966. It has since been converted into a family home.

It is on the market for £795,000 and is being sold by Open House estate agents.

3. Eight-bed house, Shropshire, £650k

The Old School House in Telford, Shropshire, is being sold by Purplebricks estate agents with an asking price of £650,000

The Old School House in Telford, Shropshire, is being sold by Purplebricks estate agents with an asking price of £650,000

The living room includes wooden beams and a large solid stone fireplace with exposed brickwork

The living room includes wooden beams and a large solid stone fireplace with exposed brickwork

The Old School House in Telford, Shropshire, was renovated in 2001 and then updated by its current owners between 2011 and 2019.

The living room includes wooden beams and a large solid stone fireplace with exposed brickwork.

The property includes an annexe with large bi-folding doors overlooking the garden. It is being sold by Purplebricks estate agents with an asking price of £650,000.

4. Five-bed house, Berwickshire, £595k

This five-bedroom house in the Scottish village of Ladykirk, Berkwickshire, is on the market for £595,000 and the sale is being handled by George F White estate agents

This five-bedroom house in the Scottish village of Ladykirk, Berkwickshire, is on the market for £595,000 and the sale is being handled by George F White estate agents

The property sits on a plot of just under half an acre and the building was fully renovated by the current owners in 2004

The property sits on a plot of just under half an acre and the building was fully renovated by the current owners in 2004

This five-bedroom house in the Scottish village of Ladykirk, Berkwickshire, dates back to 1859.

The property sits on a plot of just under half an acre and the building was fully renovated by the current owners in 2004.

It is on the market for £595,000 and the sale is being handled by George F White estate agents.

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Childcare and transport measures being examined -Tánaiste

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The Government is looking at further measures to help with the cost of living crisis, in particular focusing on childcare and public transport proposals, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

Mr Varadkar has said these were areas the Government could help and do more .

The Tánaiste was speaking during Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil on Thursday, after Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Pearse Doherty said the Government had “lost control” of the cost of living crisis.

Mr Doherty said the crisis was reducing the living standards of low and middle income households, and that workers and families were “really struggling”.

The Donegal TD said while many factors were beyond the State’s control in terms of rising prices, “soaring rents and unaffordable childcare are not beyond the control of this Government”.

“In many ways, they have reached such unaffordable levels because of Government policy,” Mr Doherty said. “The Government can and must respond.

“We in Sinn Féin fully recognise that every household can’t be protected from every single price increase, but low and middle income households must be supported and in this regard, the Government has lost control of the cost of living crisis.”

He said electricity bills had risen by 28 per cent, gas bills by over 50 per cent, the cost of home heating oil had almost doubled and rents had increased by up by 12 per cent.

Mr Doherty said the most vulnerable in society were being faced with choices of “whether they should eat or heat their homes” and that “shamefully” the Government had not increased social welfare rates in response to historic levels of inflation.

He said his party had been consistent for many months calling for a “mini budget” to support low and middle income households and asked Mr Varadkar were the Government planning to introduce any further measures.

In response, the Tánaiste said the Sinn Féin TD had not acknowledged the measures already implemented by the Government to help with the cost of living which was “not fair”.

He said there had been packages of measures totalling €2.4 billion which was “considerable and more than would be the case in any budget”.

Mr Varadkar said there were areas where the Government “can help and can do more” such as childcare and the cost of public transport adding “we are working on proposals in those areas”.

Mr Varadkar said inflation was at levels “we haven’t seen for a very long time”.

“People are feeling the pinch and it’s more than a pinch, a lot of people are struggling to make ends meets. It’s affecting households, families and also businesses in terms of the cost of energy,” he said.

“People see it when they fill their car with petrol or diesel, you really see it when you see your electricity or gas bill, and increasingly you’re starting to see it in other areas such as the cost of groceries as well.

“It is true that those affected the most are those on the lowest incomes, because they spend more of their incomes on food and energy than people on middle and higher incomes do but I don’t think it’s the case that it’s only affecting people on low to middle incomes.

“People on average incomes of €40,000 to €50,000 a year, working full-time are being affected too.”

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Allianz acquires Pershing Hall in Paris (FR)

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MARK has sold a flagship mixed-use development in Paris to Allianz Real Estate, acting for several companies of Allianz Group. MARK acquired Pershing Hall, which is located in one of Europe’s most visited retail hotspots, the Parisian Golden Triangle, in 2018. The company, formerly known as Meyer Bergman, invested over €20m into modernising and repurposing the building.

 

The former five-star hotel has been successfully repositioned into a high-end office, retail and F&B destination, with MARK leveraging its global network of occupiers to attract a number of high profile tenants. They include one of New York’s most famous brunch spots, Sadelle’s, as well as New York footwear and clothing brand KITH, which chose Pershing Hall as the location of its flagship European store – occupying over 16,000ft² across three floors. The interiors of KITH’s store were designed by Snarkitecture, US contemporary artist Daniel Arsham’s studio. The upper floors, totalling over 14,000ft² have been converted into state-of-the-art offices now leased to a leading US investment bank and strategy consultants.

 

Pershing Hall, originally a 19th century mansion, was acquired in 1928 by the American legion to serve as a World War One memorial. It was then later transformed into a luxury hotel in the mid-20th century. In line with its corporate ESG ambitions,  MARK, together with its local investment and asset management partner Stepling, has made significant enhancements to the building’s environmental credentials. It has secured BREEAM Good certification and is on track for a BREEAM Very Good In-Use certification.

 

Ronnie Fieg at KITH said: “MARK played a role in bringing our vision to life, working collaboratively with the Kith team and design firm Snarkitecture to create a space that was modern, reflective of our brand ethos yet still respectful of the building’s heritage.”

  

Philippe Bidaud, managing director of MARK in France and board member, said: “Pershing Hall is a perfect demonstration of MARK’s ability to convert iconic but obsolete, single-use buildings into state-of-the-art mixed-use assets. The investment we made into transforming the building enabled us to attract leading brands as occupiers and exit the asset to a long-term institutional investor. This project, carried out in the midst of a pandemic, also demonstrates our ability to create value in real estate continuously and across cycles. The complementary forces of on-the-ground local experts and MARK’s global presence have been pivotal to the successful delivery of Pershing Hall. It joins the company’s growing list of successful value-add urban repositioning projects across Europe’s core cities and MPUR will be the next manifestation of that strategy.”

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