Friday briefing: Joe Biden visits Poland in solidarity |
Headline-grabber: Zelenskiy says sanctions are ‘a bit late’
Hello everybody. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the best stories right now.
Joe Biden will visit a Polish town near the border with Ukraine today in a show of solidarity with the war-torn country and in an attempt to show Western resolve against a Russian invasion that continues to target towns and cities. civilians. After a long summit day in Brussels yesterday, the US President will travel to Rzeszów before talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda. More than two million Ukrainians have fled to Poland, which has borne the brunt of the refugee crisis, and Biden will discuss a coordinated humanitarian response to help Warsaw’s efforts. He will also meet the American troops who have been deployed in recent weeks to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank. Biden said yesterday that NATO had “never been more united” and he warned Vladimir Putin that the West would react if the Russian president used chemical weapons in Ukraine. Boris Johnson also warned that such a move would have “catastrophic” consequences for Russia. However, EU leaders remain divided on whether to cut gas and oil supplies to Russia, and the effectiveness of the sanctions was also questioned last night by Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskiy, who said the measures had been “a bit late” in deterring Putin.
Some Ukrainian refugees have described being forced to return to Ukraine due to prolonged delays in obtaining UK visas, while others are living in underground bomb shelters in Kyiv, dismayed by the long wait for visa processing . Foreign Legion fighters are actively trying to enter Ukraine, with American volunteers now showing up to fight the invasion. And in Russia, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu appeared on television yesterday in an apparent attempt to quash rumors that he was the scapegoat for the failed invasion. But you had to be quick to catch up. He disappeared again very quickly, fueling suspicions that he was removed from his post. Here’s what we know so far as of Day 30 of the invasion, and you can also follow developments on the live blog here.
Bad show – Up to 1.3 million people will fall into absolute poverty next year, economists have warned, as Rishi Sunak tries to counter accusations that he hasn’t done enough to mitigate the worst drop in the level life for six decades. The Resolution Foundation said the number of people living in absolute poverty would rise to 12.5 million, or a fifth of the population. Asked why he hasn’t provided more support to Universal Credit recipients, who will see their benefits increase by just 3% as inflation jumps to nearly 8%, Sunak replied, “We don’t we can’t do everything. Our economics editor says the result is that Britain is no longer a country where workers can expect to improve year after year.
Academy Winners – The government has failed to rein in the excessive salaries received by academy leaders, according to MPs who have also criticized the use of millions of public money to ‘prop up’ mismanaged trusts. According to a Public Accounts Committee report published today, the number of academy trusts paying at least one senior member of staff over £100,000 rose from 1,875 in 2019-20 to 2,245 the following year .
Bridge block – An increasing number of UK road bridges are collapsing. More than 3,200 have been identified as substandard, with a repair cost of £1.2billion, according to local authorities. More than 100 council-maintained bridges have been declared unsuitable for the heaviest vehicles in the past year, with 17 bridges collapsing entirely and 37 partially during this period. Devon has the most bridges in disrepair – 229 – while Dorset has had the most collapses, at 12.
Electrical charge – The number of electric car chargers could increase tenfold to 300,000 by 2030 after criticism that the rollout of public infrastructure is too slow to keep up with rapid sales growth. The Department for Transport said it would invest an additional £450m to fit more Chargers ahead of a ban on sales of new petrol and diesel-powered cars and vans from 2030. There were 420,000 cars purely electric on British roads at the end of February. but only 29,600 public charging stations.
‘Stay firm, Mark!!!’ – US conservative activist Ginni Thomas – who is married to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas – has implored Donald Trump’s chief of staff to help overturn the 2020 election results, according to reports. In one of 29 messages, Thomas wrote to Mark Meadows on Nov. 10: “Help this great president stand firm, Mark!!!…who stands up for American constitutional governance…” Meanwhile, Trump sued Hillary Clinton for an alleged plot to rig the 2016 election.
Today in Focus Podcast: The Shameful Case of Child Q
After a 15-year-old London girl was strip searched by police at her school, her family and community want to be held to account, Alexandra Topping told Nosheen Iqbal.
Lunchtime reading: Hollywood, Covid and The Bubble
The Bubble is the first mainstream movie to tackle the pandemic and is about a group of movie stars holed up at the Cliveden House hotel in Berkshire in late 2020 to make a dino franchise film. It seems to be aimed at the actors’ vanity, but its director, Judd Apatow, and star David Duchovny explain to Catherine Shoard why the characters might actually be heroes.
Gareth Bale dazzled center stage with a superb free-kick and fine individual goal in a 2-1 win over Austria to leave Wales one game away from their first World Cup since 1958. Italy missed the World Cup final again after losing 1-0 at home to North Macedonia in their playoff semi-final as Aleksandar Trajkovski’s late goal earned the visitors a famous win. In Glasgow, Krzysztof Piatek’s stoppage-time penalty deprived Scotland of victory in a 1-1 draw on a poignant night at Hampden Park. Saqib Mahmood was energized by the sight of his England team-mates in white preparing to enter the pitch as he and Jack Leach mounted their determined rear guard at the 10th wicket on the opening day of the third Test against West Indies at the Grenade.
Emma Raducanu’s tough upbringing in her first season on the WTA Tour continued as she served for the match in her Miami Open debut but still lost to Katerina Siniakova at the second turn. Rugby Football Union chief executive Bill Sweeney has insisted Eddie Jones is not ‘bulletproof’ and belatedly admitted England’s Six Nations performance was not not acceptable. Human rights group Reprieve have demanded that Formula 1 end its association with Saudi sportswashing after the family of a teenager on death row wrote to Lewis Hamilton begging him to speak on behalf of their son ahead of this weekend’s race. And the process of selecting a new owner for Chelsea has taken a step forward after a Saudi consortium was dropped from the race.
Sir Christopher Hohn, the billionaire boss of the hedge fund TCI, has reiterated his support for action on climate change by urging shareholders to vote against bank managers involved in “greenwashing” who are lobbying against climate action. “Any bank making a net zero pledge while actively lobbying against necessary climate regulation…is greenwashing,” he said in a statement.
the Guardian leads with “Biden’s warning to Putin about chemical weapons”, and the same goes for the Times – “NATO will act if chemical weapons are used, says Biden” – and the Telegraph – “Biden: We will respond in kind if Putin uses chemicals”. the Mail reflects Downing Street’s joy at the Kremlin’s condemnation of Boris Johnson: “Kremlin: Boris is our No. 1 enemy”. The P&O scandal is the subject of several newspapers, including the FT splash saying ‘P&O chief admits firings were illegal but says he’d do it again’, while the shimmer has “Shame on you” and the record goes for “P&O pirates”. the I reports “Sunak and Johnson at odds over UK cost of living crisis” and the Express keeps the pressure on the government over the cost of living issue with a track saying ‘Why Britain must act to end this desperation’. the sun lead talks about the royal visit to Jamaica: “One’s love”, he says.
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