Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 4 March 2022
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
Russia seizes nuclear plant
Russian troops have seized control of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, Ukrainian authorities are reporting. Shelling from Russian forces caused a fire to break out in a training building near the Zaporizhzhia plant on Thursday night, leading Ukraine’s president to accuse Moscow of “nuclear terrorism”. “Europe must wake up now,” said Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “Right now Russian tanks are shelling nuclear units.” Despite initial panic, officials have said there is no indication of elevated radiation levels at the plant, which provides more than a fifth of the total electricity generated in Ukraine.
Macron warns ‘worse to come’
The French president has warned that Vladimir Putin wants to seize all of Ukraine and “worse is to come” from the invasion. The two leaders spoke on the phone for 90 minutes on Thursday afternoon, with an Elysée official describing the tone of the conversation as “pessimistic” and “not-so-friendly”. According to the official, Emmanuel Macron said he told Putin that he was making a “major mistake” that would cost Russia dearly over the long term. Politico said the call was initiated by Putin but he “did not make any specific recommendations to Macron”.
UK growth to halve in 2022
Surging inflation, tax rises and the war in Ukraine will combine to cut Britain’s economic growth by half this year, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has warned. The business lobbying group said growth would fall to 3.6% – less than half the 7.5% expansion in national income seen last year, reported The Guardian. “Our latest forecast signals a significant deterioration in the UK’s economic outlook,” said Suren Thiru, head of economics at the BCC.
Labour holds Birmingham seat
Labour has maintained its Birmingham Erdington seat in a by-election held following the January death of MP Jack Dromey, a leading figure in the trade union movement who had held the seat since 2010. Paulette Hamilton received 9,413 votes, comprising 55% of the ballots cast, with Labour increasing its vote share from 50.3% in 2019. “The fact that I am now not only the MP for Erdington but the first black woman… I am delighted and I am still pinching myself,” said Hamilton, who has worked as a nurse for 25 years.
Bet365 chief made £1.3bn in five years
The boss of Bet365 was paid just under £300m in salary and dividends for the first year of the Covid pandemic, reported The Guardian. The sum is £170m less than Denise Coates earned the year before, but takes her pay and dividends over the past five years to above £1.3bn. Accounts filed at Companies House show that Bet365 made a profit of £470m before tax in the year to the end of March 2021, as more customers turned to online casino games during lockdown. The company made charitable donations of £103m, added the paper, mostly to the Denise Coates Foundation.
Anger at Williamson knighthood
Boris Johnson has provoked anger by awarding a knighthood to Gavin Williamson. The Conservative MP for South Staffordshire oversaw the Covid exams debacle as education secretary and was sacked as defence secretary for allegedly leaking secure information. Labour called Williamson’s record “disgraceful” and the Liberal Democrats described the knighthood as “an insult to every child, parent and teacher who struggled through Covid against the odds”. Williamson supported Johnson’s leadership campaign in 2019.
Djokovic could make French Open
Novak Djokovic should be set for the French Open after officials announced that the country is suspending its vaccination pass requirement from 14 March. The decision to end current restrictions paves the way for the unvaccinated Serbian to defend his French Open title at Roland Garros, beginning on 22 May. The world No. 2 was unable to play at the Australian Open after being deported due to his unvaccinated status. If he competes in France, he will be in contention for a record-equalling 21st grand slam title.
Trump dodges oath appearance
Donald Trump has struck a deal with the New York attorney general that will temporarily spare him from having to testify under oath as part of an investigation into his business, reported The Guardian. Although a judge had ordered the former president and his two eldest children to appear for a deposition as part of New York state’s civil investigation into the Trump Organisation’s business practices, the new agreement means they must sit for depositions within two weeks of a ruling from the appeals court.
Supermarkets mull Kiev rebrand
Several supermarket chains are considering rebranding their Chicken Kiev ranges to “Chicken Kyiv” in a show of support for the Ukrainian people, reported the Daily Mail. Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s are thought to be among the chains weighing up a name change. Ukraine’s capital was known as Kiev under Soviet rule, but now most Ukrainians refer to the city as Kyiv.
Epstein was ‘factor’ in Gates divorce
Bill Gates’ relationship with the “evil and abhorrent” Jeffrey Epstein was a factor in his ex-wife’s decision to divorce the Microsoft founder, she told CBS Mornings. Melinda French Gates said she “made it very clear” how uncomfortable she felt about her then-husband’s meetings with the convicted paedophile. When asked why they broke up after 27 years of marriage, she said: “It was not one thing, it was many things. I did not like that he had meetings with Jeffrey Epstein.”