Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 2 March 2022
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Kharkiv attacks are ‘war crimes’
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy has accused Vladimir Putin of war crimes after Russia launched an air strike on Kharkiv in an attempt to capture the besieged city. At least ten people were killed and 35 injured, with Ukraine’s military claiming that Russian troops parachuted into the city. Russia’s 40-mile military convoy is nearing Kyiv, “raising fears Moscow may pulverise civilian areas” in its attempt to seize the capital, said The Guardian. Rockets struck a maternity clinic, a Holocaust memorial site and a broadcasting tower in Kyiv yesterday, with the Russian military warning it was engaged in “high-precision” strikes.
Biden: Putin will ‘pay a price’
Joe Biden said Vladimir Putin will “pay a price” for his attack of Ukraine during his first formal State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night. Biden said the Russian president gravely misjudged how the West and Nato would respond to an invasion. “He thought he could divide us at home… [and] in Europe. But Putin was wrong. We are ready. We are united,” he said. Oksana Markarova, the ambassador of Ukraine to the US, was given a standing ovation as she sat in First Lady Jill Biden’s VIP box.
MPs get £2.2k pay rise
The parliamentary spending watchdog announced that MPs will get a £2,200 pay rise from next month, prompting a furious backlash. “Ordinary people are facing a Tory cost-of-living crisis. They should get a proper pay rise, not well-paid MPs,” said Labour MP Zarah Sultana. The Guardian has noted that the 2.7% increase in MPs’ salaries is nearly half the current rate of inflation, effectively meaning they will get a real-term pay cut. The MPs’ pay rise is the same as the average increase in pay for public sector employees.
Fugitive caught on dog walk
Britain’s most wanted woman, who was involved in a £1b mobile phone tax scam, was arrested while walking her dogs in Tarragona, northeastern Spain, on Sunday morning. Sarah Panitzke disappeared in May 2013 and spent almost nine years on the run. She is accused of laundering money through companies in Spain, Andorra and Dubai for a group that bought mobile phones abroad without VAT and resold them in the UK, said The Daily Telegraph.
Prices rise fastest since 2011
Prices in shops have risen at their fastest rate in over a decade, said the British Retail Consortium (BRC). According to the group’s closely watched index, shop price inflation jumped from 1.5% in January to 1.8% in February, the highest rate of inflation recorded since November 2011. The BRC said that although retailers are “going to great lengths to mitigate against these price rises and support their customers” there are “limits to the costs that retailers can absorb”.
Burkina Faso delays elections
Burkina Faso has announced a three-year delay to elections after its military dictator signed a charter that will keep him in power until 2025. The transition period announced by Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba comes “amid fears of a backslide from democracy in the region”, said the Times. West Africa has experienced four coups in 18 months, with military takeovers also occurring to the east, in Chad and Sudan. Two coups have taken place in Mali, which has said it will not hold elections for up to five years.
Oil prices soar
Oil prices have surged despite the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s members agreeing to release 60m barrels of oil from emergency stockpiles. Brent crude, the international benchmark for prices, has hit $110 a barrel, the highest level seen in more than seven years, while the benchmark price for US oil has jumped more than 5% to around $109 a barrel. The IEA said the invasion of Ukraine came against a “backdrop of already tight global oil markets, heightened price volatility [and] commercial inventories that are at their lowest level since 2014”.
GPs to see patients on Saturdays
GP practices in England will be “forced” to open Saturdays, reported the Daily Mail. NHS England has announced the change in a letter sent out to every GP practice in the country, with aim of improving access to services for patients and ending regional variations. The announcement came just a week after MPs called on GPs in England to make it their “essential mission” to offer more face-to-face appointments following the ending of remaining Covid-19 measures.
Ship carrying luxury cars sinks
A cargo ship that was carrying thousands of luxury cars has sunk off the Portuguese Azores archipelago. The ship, which caught fire nearly two weeks ago, was transporting around 4,000 cars, including roughly 1,100 Porches and 189 Bentleys. All crew members of the Felicity Ace were evacuated when the fire broke out. No oil leak has been reported so far, but there are fears the fuel tanks could be damaged, with the vessel lying around 3,500 metres below sea level at the bottom of the Atlantic, said Reuters.
Good grammar not vital for stories
Education experts have found that grammar lessons may help children construct sentences, but not their ability to write stories. The team behind the study, which is believed to be the first of its kind, told The Times that their findings challenged the idea that primary school children should be taught about grammatical constructs such as subordinate clauses, adverbials and modal verbs. The Department for Education is not planning to drop grammar from the curriculum any time soon: a spokesperson told the paper that “good grammar is central to achieving our target”.