Daily Briefing

Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 22 March 2022

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

1

US warns of chemical attacks

Joe Biden has warned there are clear signals that Vladimir Putin may be preparing to use chemical and biological weapons in Ukraine. The US president said the Russian leader “had his back to the wall” as a result of the fierce Ukrainian resistance, adding that there was a danger he could resort to more severe tactics. At a business roundtable event in Washington DC yesterday, Biden also accused Putin of resorting to “false flags” after the Kremlin claimed that the US and Ukraine have chemical weapons in Europe.

2

Two dead in Sweden school attack

Two women have died after being stabbed at a high school in Sweden, police have confirmed. The women, both in their 50s, were employees at Malmö Latin School, a secondary school in the centre of Malmö, the country’s third largest city. Local media said the attacker was armed with a knife and an axe. An 18-year-old student has been arrested after he called the emergency number to say where he was and that he had laid his weapons down. No motive has been established so far.

3

MP murderer tracked Gove

The man accused of murdering Conservative MP David Amess carried out reconnaissance on other potential targets, including Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove, a court has heard. Amess, who served as MP for Southend West, was stabbed during a constituency surgery on 15 October. Prosecutors said Ali Harbi Ali made “specific reconnaissance trips to a constituency surgery of Mike Freer MP and six visits to the home address of Michael Gove MP”. The jury were also told that he considered killing Gove while the cabinet minister was out jogging.

4

Sunak ‘does not plan big changes’

Government sources have claimed that Rishi Sunak is reluctant to announce any large fiscal changes in his spring statement tomorrow. The Guardian said the Treasury has drawn up a range of options to help with the impending cost of living crisis, including a 1p cut to income tax, raising the national insurance threshold and a significant cut to fuel duty. But the BBC’s economics editor Faisal Islam said the chancellor “does not want expanded government spending to define his tenure at Number 11”.

5

Holocaust survivor killed in Ukraine

A 96-year-old man who survived the Holocaust has been killed during a Russian attack on the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. Boris Romantschenko died when Russian shelling hit his apartment block on Friday, relatives said. At least 500 civilians have now been killed in the city, according to Ukrainian officials. The Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation said it was “deeply disturbed” by Romantschenko’s death. It came weeks after Vladimir Putin justified his invasion by claiming he was seeking to “de-Nazify” the country.

6

‘Partygate’ witnesses ‘refusing fines’

Detectives have begun interviewing key witnesses in the “partygate” investigation in a signal that some of those accused of breaking lockdown rules have refused to accept fines. Scotland Yard said on Monday that more than 100 questionnaires had been sent out to people suspected of attending illegal Downing Street gatherings. Boris Johnson received and returned a questionnaire last month, however, a source told The Telegraph that the prime minister has not yet been interviewed by police.

7

No. 10 mulls toll roads

Downing Street is considering a network of toll roads as ministers search for new ways to tax drivers. No. 10 is concerned that income from motoring taxes will plummet in coming years as more people buy electric cars, said The Times. Currently, the only major toll road in Britain is on the M6 in the West Midlands. It costs £7.10 for cars and £12.90 for HGVs. However, there are fears that if the toll system affected roads in towns and cities, rather than only major routes, it would cause a backlash from MPs and the public.

8

Mystery yacht linked to Putin

Activists have claimed that a yacht docked in Italy that is under investigation for ties to sanctioned Russians belongs to Vladimir Putin. Researchers linked to the jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny alledge that almost half of the Russian crew members it had traced were employed by Russia’s Federal Security Service, which handles security for high-ranking officials such as Putin. The vessel is docked at Marina di Carrara in Tuscany.

9

London homes overvalued by 50%

London house prices are overvalued by as much as 50% raising fears of a looming correction, according to The Telegraph. S&P Global Ratings, an American credit rating agency, told the paper that “a combination of low rates, the stamp duty holiday and excess savings amid the pandemic have driven property prices higher, particularly in London and the South East”. Meanwhile, outside London, S&P estimated that property was overvalued by 20%. According to property website Rightmove, the average home in the UK now costs £354,564.

10

Toddler killed by new family dog

A toddler has died after being attacked by a dog at her home, Merseyside Police have said. The girl died in hospital after the attack in Bidston Avenue, Blackbrook, yesterday afternoon. Police said her family were “absolutely devastated” by her death and had only bought the dog a week ago. The dog was killed by police, who will now carry out tests to see if it was an illegal breed, as well as trying to identify its previous owners.

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