Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 17 March 2022

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1

Zaghari-Ratcliffe back in UK

British-Iranian nationals Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori are back in the UK after touching down at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire early this morning. Their release follows months of negotiations between the British and Iranian governments. The breakthrough “came after Britain paid £393.8m to settle a debt related to a tank order placed by Iran in the late 1970s”, reported Sky News. Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 44, was detained for six years after being accused of plotting to overthrow the government. Ashoori had been held on spying charges. Both denied the allegations.

2

Russia bombs Mariupol theatre

Russia bombed a theatre where civilians were sheltering in the besieged city of Mariupol on Wednesday, deputy mayor Sergei Orlov told the BBC. According to Orlov, between 1,000 and 1,200 people had sought refuge in the building. Mariupol’s city council said that Russian forces “deliberately and cynically destroyed” the theatre, with the death toll currently unknown. In a video address to Ukrainians early this morning, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia was a “terrorist state” and called on the West to impose more sanctions.

3

Biden: Putin is ‘war criminal’

Joe Biden has labelled Russian leader Vladimir Putin a “war criminal” in an escalation of rhetoric described as “unforgivable” by the Kremlin. The BBC said the US president delivered the remark “off-the-cuff” in response to a reporter’s question. The White House later said that the US president was “speaking from his heart” after seeing “barbaric” images of the invasion and was not making an official declaration. “This, of course, will make it harder for Biden and his administration to work with the Russians going forward,” said the BBC’s North America reporter. 

4

Second jobs pledge scrapped

Plans to cap MPs’ earnings from second jobs have been scrapped, revealed The Guardian. Ministers told the House of Commons standards committee that a time limit or ceiling on such earnings would be “impractical”. The news comes months after the issue caused a sleaze scandal in Westminster, sparked by disgraced former MP Owen Paterson, which led Boris Johnson to pledge to clamp down on MPs’ second jobs. Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, had promised that the government would back reasonable limits on MPs’ outside earnings.

5

Hong Kong running out of coffins

Hong Kong is running out of coffins as it suffers a surge in Covid deaths. The president of the city’s Funeral Business Association said that Hong Kong would use up its remaining 300 coffins within the next two to three days, and that grieving families may have to delay funeral services as a result. Nearly one million people out of a population of 7.5 million have been infected, according to official figures, but experts say the actual number is much higher due to underreporting.

6

Cummings said PM lied over Lebedev

Dominic Cummings has accused Boris Johnson of lying when he denied reports that he tried to intervene to hand Russian businessman Evgeny Lebedev a seat in the House of Lords against the advice of UK spy agencies. “I was in the room when the PM was told by Cabinet Office officials that the intelligence services and other parts of the deep state had, let’s say, serious reservations about the PM’s plan,” Cummings wrote on his personal blog. A government spokesperson said that “all individuals nominated for a peerage… are vetted by the House of Lords Appointments Commission”.

7

France considers Corsica autonomy

France said it is considering “autonomy” for Corsica following violent protests on the Mediterranean island ahead of presidential elections. Speaking to regional newspaper Corse Matin, French interior minister Gérald Darmanin said the government was willing to engage in an “unprecedented discussion on institutional matters”. The Daily Telegraph said Corsica has been rocked by two weeks of riots after a prison attack on nationalist Yvan Colonna, who is serving a life sentence for the assassination of Corsica’s top regional official.

8

Four dead in Japan quake

A powerful 7.4 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima in Japan last night, leaving at least four people dead and plunging more than two million homes in the Tokyo area into darkness. In some areas, the quaking was so severe that people were unable to stand and buildings were rattling, reported the AFP news agency. Nuclear authorities said that no abnormalities had been detected at the damaged Fukushima site, which was destroyed when an earthquake triggered a tsunami in 2011.

9

Cameron reveals royal deal

David Cameron has revealed that he gave the Queen and the royal family a “generous” deal to rescue their finances after Buckingham Palace began “running out of money to fix things”. In Queen of Our Times: The Life of Elizabeth II by royal biographer Robert Hardman, the former PM said he and George Osborne overhauled the system of royal finance by introducing the sovereign grant, which covered official royal duties and the upkeep of buildings such as Buckingham Palace. It replaced the civil list, which provided an allowance voted on by parliament.

10

Pogba burgled during match

Manchester United’s Paul Pogba said his home was burgled “while our babies were sleeping in their bedroom” during his side’s match against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday. The French midfielder has offered a reward to “anyone who has a clue to help us”. In January, the wife of Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof said her family was the subject of a “traumatic and scary” break-in while the centre-back played against Brentford.

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