Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 12 March 2022
The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am
US ‘will not fight in Ukraine’
The US will “not fight a war against Russia in Ukraine”, the US president has said. Taking to Twitter, Joe Biden wrote: “I want to be clear: we will defend every inch of NATO territory with the full might of a united and galvanized NATO. A direct confrontation between NATO and Russia is World War III.” He also claimed that Vladimir Putin has already “failed”. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the conflict had reached a “strategic turning point” as Russian forces appeared to be regrouping for an assault on Kyiv.
Covid soaring across the UK
Covid infections are increasing across the UK with about one in 25 people infected, according to the Office for National Statistics. A sub-variant of Omicron, called BA.2, is now thought to be the most common strain in most of the UK. Experts say the BA.2 variant’s increased transmissibility, recent easing of restrictions and waning immunity from the vaccines could all be factors in the rise. The BBC noted that, when asked if there were worries about sub-variants, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the government had “no concerns at all”.
India admits missile mishap
India said it fired a missile into Pakistan following a “regrettable technical malfunction”, prompting Islamabad to threaten “unpleasant consequences” if there was a repeat of such an incident. Pakistan’s military said a “high-speed flying object” had crashed near the eastern city of Mian Channu. No one was hurt. On Friday, Pakistan's foreign ministry said it had summoned India’s chargé d’affaires over the incident. Pakistan also urged India to share the findings of its investigation into what happened.
Macron criticises UK on refugees
Emmanuel Macron has condemned the UK government for making Ukrainian refugees unwelcome and for pretending to lead the world in helping the victims of the war. Speaking at the end of a summit in Versailles, the French president said that by insisting that visa applications to the UK must be made in person in Brussels and Paris, Boris Johnson’s government had imposed additional misery on desperate men, women and children. He said the government had failed to live up to its “grand statements”.
Queen misses Commonwealth service
Buckingham Palace has announced that the Queen will not attend next week’s Commonwealth Service at Westminster Abbey. This is usually a “significant occasion for the Queen,” noted the BBC, and Her Majesty’s decision to miss it is understood to be about concerns over her discomfort with travelling and mobility, rather than illness. Meanwhile, Prince Harry is now not expected to come to the UK for a service of thanksgiving for Prince Philip, to be held later this month.
Chelsea card facilities suspended
Chelsea’s credit card facilities have been temporarily suspended while banks consider the implications of sanctions imposed on Roman Abramovich, noted the BBC. The club has been given a special licence to operate despite its Russian billionaire having his assets frozen by the UK government. Lenders say they want to assess the licence criteria to ensure it does not breach the government's sanctions.
Hunt calls for more defence spending
“Peace comes from strength, not luck,” argued Tory MP Jeremy Hunt, calling for an increase in defence spending. Writing for the Daily Telegraph, the former foreign secretary called the invasion of Ukraine “the biggest failure of Western foreign and security policy in our lifetimes”. He added that “if we want America to remain the leader of the free world, other democratic powers, especially in Europe, must commit to matching US defence spending as a proportion of GDP”.
‘Victory for women’ in Everard case
The Metropolitan police breached the rights of the organisers of a planned vigil for the murdered Sarah Everard, high court judges have ruled. Four women who founded Reclaim The Streets and planned the vigil brought a legal challenge against the force over its handling of the event. The group had to cancel the event after the Met said it would be illegal to stage it under lockdown restrictions. In a statement after the ruling, the women’s solicitor said: “Today’s judgment is a victory for women.”
Mordaunt calls for donor boycott
Tory minister Penny Mordaunt has called for her colleagues to stop taking funds from Alexander Temerko, a major party donor who described her as an “absolutely uncontrollable woman” and “threat to national security”. The Guardian said a row between Temerko and Mordaunt arose after the government blocked his application to build a subsea electricity cable between France and the UK. “His comments speak for themselves,” said Mordaunt. “Donors don’t control MPs. Donors don’t get to decide what MPs do or think.”
Cigarette age may be raised to 25
A ban on under-25s buying cigarettes is being considered by the new anti-smoking tsar, reported The Times. Javed Khan is leading an independent review of the government’s ambition to make England smoke-free by the end of the decade. He found that smoking among the 18-30 group in England soared by 25% during the first lockdown. “Is there [an argument] for raising the age to 19, 20, 21, or even 25?” Khan asked.