Ukraine

Telegraph
Joe Biden on Thursday night declared that Nato would respond “in kind” if Vladimir Putin resorted to using chemical weapons against Ukraine.
Asked whether a Kremlin-orchestrated chemical attack would trigger a military response, the US president said: “It would trigger a response in kind.”
He added: “We would respond. We would respond if he uses it [chemical weapons]. The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use.”
Mr Biden’s remarks came as he met Nato, G7 and European leaders at a series of emergency summits in Brussels. They discussed what to do if Putin, whose forces are suffering unrelenting daily casualties, decided to unleash weapons of mass destruction.
Leaders were repeatedly asked how they would respond to a chemical attack in Ukraine after a Western official had earlier suggested Nato would not intervene militarily even in the event of such a strike.
“I think it is highly unlikely that Nato would go directly into conflict with Russia because every leader agrees that we’ve got to stop the killing,” the official said, adding that most believed Nato entering the conflict directly would only escalate it.
The official did not rule out a fiercer intervention, however, saying: “I did hear leaders say that use of chemical weapons would fundamentally change the nature of the conflict, and would have to have a very severe response.”
Boris Johnson, asked about the subject in Brussels, left open the possibility of a military response and said the West’s reaction would be “very, very severe”. The consequences of Putin launching a chemical strike would be “catastrophic for him”, he added.
Mr Biden’s pledge of a proportionate response to a Russian chemical attack also appeared to mark a toughening of the US stance. The US president has previously been adamantly against any direct military confrontation with Russia, warning that it would spark “World War Three”.

Times
Nato could respond against Russia if it carried out a chemical weapon attack on Ukraine, President Biden suggested last night.
In an apparent change of tone, Biden said that such an attack “would trigger a response in kind”. His comments, seemingly designed to be ambiguous, raised the prospect of the western alliance using troops or other military assets to help the country.
Biden has previously stressed that the US and Nato would not send soldiers to Ukraine owing to fears of a direct military confrontation with Russia.
British government sources have privately voiced frustration at such remarks, feeling a better approach would be to keep President Putin guessing.

Metro
President Joe Biden has said that NATO would respond if Putin used chemical or biological weapons.
He said he could not answer whether Russia had already used weapons of mass destruction, but hinted that the alliance would respond in equal measure.
Before leaving the G7 and NATO summits for Poland, he said three goals had been achieved.
He said: ‘First, to support Ukraine with military and humanitarian assistance.
‘Second was to impose the most significant most significant economic sanctions regime ever, in order to cripple Putin’s economy and punish him for his actions.
‘Third, was to fortify the eastern flank of our NATO allies who were obviously very, very concerned and somewhat worried what would happen.’

Mail
A NATO rift emerged overnight as Emmanuel Macron said supplying tanks and jets to Ukraine would cross a ‘red line’, after Boris Johnson called on allies to do so.
Addressing the NATO summit via video-link on Thursday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded for ‘1% of all your planes, 1% of all your tanks’.
Mr Johnson said Britain wanted to help, but conceded there were ‘logistical problems’ involved and called on Ukraine’s more eastern allies to provide armoured vehicles to the country.
France’s Macron took issue with Mr Johnson’s suggestion, ruling out supplying Ukraine with tanks and planes over fears such an action would drag NATO into conflict with Russia. The issue was a ‘red line’, the French president said.
Putin last month ordered Russia’s nuclear forces to be put on high alert, and threatened NATO allies with ‘consequences greater than any you have faced in history’ should they directly intervene in Ukraine.

Independent
Russian forces have been driven out of the city, out of many outlying areas and, importantly, away from the main route into Kyiv. Their failure to take Makariv is a telling blow to the Kremlin’s plan to encircle and capture the Ukrainian capital and enforce regime change, said to be the aim of Vladimir Putin’s 24 February invasion.
Russian troops have also failed to break out of Irpin and Hostomel other nearby towns within striking distance of Kyiv, although they appear not to be surrounded as Ukrainian authorities claim.
There have been many lives lost in Makariv since the invasion began. More than 15 workers died when an industrial bakery was shelled; a dozen wounded were freed from under the fallen building. A video has emerged of a Russian armoured carrier apparently opening fire and blowing up a car with an elderly couple inside. There have been alleged instances of Russian forces opening fire randomly as they drive through.

ITV News
Moscow is forcibly taking hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian civilians to Russia to use as “hostages” to pressure Kyiv to surrender, officials have said.
Ukraine officials say Russian troops are confiscating passports from Ukrainian citizens then moving them to “filtration camps” in Ukraine’s separatist-controlled east before sending them to distant, economically depressed areas in Russia. Lyudmyla Denisova, Ukraine’s ombudsperson, said 402,000 people, including 84,000 children, had been moved against their will.
But Russia deny this, saying the civilians are going of their own free will. Ukraine’s rebel-controlled eastern regions are predominantly Russian-speaking, and many people there have supported close ties to Moscow.Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said 6,000 of those forced to Russia were from the devastated port city of Mariupol, and 15,000 more people in a section of Mariupol under Russian control have had their identifying documents confiscated.
The ministry said the Russians intend to “use them as hostages and put more political pressure on Ukraine”.

Metro
Russian president Vladimir Putin is at risk of a coup by his own security service following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, a whistleblower has claimed.
The source – reportedly leading economic strategy within Russia’s Federal Security Services – made the comments to Vladimir Osechkin, an activist wanted for exposing abuse in prisons.
Mr Osechkin said: ‘For 20 years Putin created stability in Russia. FSB officers, policemen, state prosecutors – those people inside the system – were able to live good lives.
‘But now that has all gone. They recognise that this war is a catastrophe for the economy – for humanity. They don’t want to go back to the Soviet Union.’

Express
VLADIMIR PUTIN has had his legs cut off from beneath him, as the morale of the Russian military is “shockingly” low amid a struggling war effort, an expert has claimed.
Describing Putin as having “lost both his legs” and an “injured lion”, chemical weapons expert and former army officer Hamish De Bretton-Gordon told Express.co.uk that the Russian President had “absolutely underestimated his enemy” in the war against Ukraine. He claimed that his army was “badly prepared”, noting reports of a lack of ammunition, fuel and supplies. This, he said, means that Putin is now “facing strategic defeat militarily”.
However, Mr De Bretton-Gordon, who is currently training Ukrainians on how to survive chemical weapons, said that this vulnerability makes Putin “very, very dangerous”, as he is likely to turn to irregular weapons, such as nuclear or chemical, in order to secure victory.

EU

Express
SPAIN and Germany are set to go head-to-head over energy prices on the final day of a two-day EU summit in Brussels, where leaders are meeting to discuss the conflict in Ukraine.
Pedro Sanchez, Spain’s Prime Minister, is leading the charge for EU intervention into energy prices, arguing that rising gas prices are in turn causing electricity prices to soar. However, Germany and the Netherlands are arguing against intervention – stating that when prices are high, there is no silver bullet other than reducing demand or supply. Tensions are running high amid the leaders, and diplomats say Sanchez is threatening to veto the summit conclusions if EU leaders don’t sway towards intervention.

Ireland

Express
BORIS JOHNSON’s decision to introduce visa requirements for non-Irish EU citizens entering the UK via Northern Ireland has sparked fury in Dublin.
On Tuesday, MPs in the House of Commons voted to reject a Lords amendment that sought to ditch the requirement for foreigners to have an ETA pass when making a local journey to Northern Ireland from the Republic. The plan has proved controversial, even as the UK Government has insisted it will not mean checks at the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
The move angered Dublin with the Irish Government appealing for “special treatment” for the island, citing serious concerns about the plans.
The border proved a major sticking point in Brexit negotiations amid concerns the seamless nature of movement between the two jurisdictions could be effected by the UK exit from the EU.
Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney raised the issue during a meeting with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis in Dublin on Wednesday, as part of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

Covid

Mail
The proportion of Covid deaths where the virus is not the underlying cause has climbed to its highest ever level in England, official figures show.
One in three victims who had the virus mentioned on their death certificate in February died ‘with’ rather than ‘from’ Covid, according to the Office for National Statistics.
The ONS’ monthly report showed a record 34 per cent of the 3,644 coronavirus deaths in England in February were not primarily due to the virus.
For comparison, during the first wave of the virus in April 2020 before vaccines were available, the share of deaths where Covid was not the underlying killer was just five per cent.
When the milder Omicron variant emerged in November, the figure stood at 15 per cent and has climbed every month since.

Tax

Mail
Tory MPs demanded the Chancellor go further on his pledge to cut taxes tonight as figures revealed the Treasury is set to rake in £1trillion a year.
Total revenues flowing into the exchequer are forecast to reach a record £1.05trillion in 2023/24 – just ahead of the next election – up from £899.5billion this year and the equivalent of £42,000 per household.
The tax burden will reach its highest level as a proportion of national income since Clement Attlee’s postwar Labour government.
The figures, in documents published by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), will pile pressure on Rishi Sunak to reduce taxes.
The Chancellor was labelled a ‘fiscal illusionist’ by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) yesterday for claiming to have cut taxes when in he is ‘presiding over a very big increase’.

Telegraph
Rishi Sunak has been branded a “fiscal illusionist” by the Institute for Fiscal Studies as the claims made in the Spring Statement began to unravel.
The IFS said nearly all workers will end up paying more tax on their earnings despite the Chancellor’s claim to be delivering the “biggest net cut to personal taxes in over a quarter of a century.”
Amid a growing Tory backlash over the tax rises, the independent research institute said the gains from Mr Sunak’s plan to raise the thresholds for paying National Insurance and the 1p income tax cut in 2024 would be wiped out by his previous tax rises, which were confirmed in the Statement.
A median earner on £27,500 a year will be £360 worse off next financial year and someone earning £40,000 will be £800 worse off, according to the IFS. The analysis was backed by the Resolution Foundation, which suggested seven out of eight employees will pay more tax.

NHS

Sun
NHS budgets are set to be slashed by £500million to help cover the cost of Covid testing.
Health chiefs say the Treasury has demanded eye-watering savings as the cost of the pandemic bites.
But they warn cost-cutting could mean more Brits get stuck on waiting lists if it slows down hospitals’ recovery.
Julian Kelly, chief financial officer for NHS England, told a board meeting: “We have been asked to see if we can cut core NHS funding – probably to the tune of about £500m.
“That would involve slowing down transformation programmes and re-phasing some of the long-term plan.”
The total NHS budget is around £136billion per year.

P&O

Guardian
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, has called for the chief executive of P&O Ferries to resign over the sacking of 800 workers and pledged to force the ferry company to reverse the move and pay its crew the minimum wage.
Peter Hebblethwaite admitted to MPs on Thursday that his company broke the law by sacking the 800 workers without consultation.
Shapps said Hebblethwaite performance in front of the transport and business committee was “brazen, breathtaking, and showed incredible arrogance”.
Speaking to Sky News, Shapps said: “I cannot believe that he can stay in that role having admitted to deliberately going out and using a loophole – well break the law – but also use a loophole.
“They flagged their ships through Cyprus avoided having to tell anybody about this, or they felt they did. And even though they know they’ve broken the law, what they’ve done is to pay people off in such a way to try and buy their silence. It’s unacceptable.”
Shapps also pledged new legislation next week which which will “both close every possible loophole that exists, and force them to U-turn”.
He said P&O’s plan to replace the sacked workers with agency staff on less than the minimum wage was “simply unacceptable and we will force that to change”.

BBC News
P&O Ferries boss should resign over the no-notice sackings of 800 staff, the transport secretary has said.
Grant Shapps called for chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite to step down after his “brazen” and “breathtaking” comments about “knowingly breaking the law” by not consulting staff.
Mr Hebblethwaite admitted to MPs that he broke the law but said he would make the same decision again if he had to.
“I think he should go,” Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast.
“The idea that you come to parliament and you admit that you deliberately set out to break the laws in order to sack your staff and bring in below minimum wage people and that you’ll buy off the staff to do that is quite simply unacceptable,” he said.

Sky News
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said the boss of P&O Ferries should quit for his “brazen, breathtaking arrogance” in admitting breaking the law over a mass sacking.
Accusing the firm of a “weasel approach”, the cabinet minister also said he would change the law to force a U-turn and prevent the ferry operator paying below minimum wage to its workers.
It comes after P&O chief executive Peter Hebblethwaite admitted to MPs the company flouted employment law when it fired 800 workers without notice.
The transport secretary told Sky News: “I thought what the boss of P&O said yesterday about knowingly breaking the law was brazen and breathtaking, and showed incredible arrogance.
“I cannot believe that he can stay in that role having admitted to deliberately go out and use a loophole – well, break the law, but also use a loophole.”

Independent
The transport secretary has called for the chief executive of P&O Ferries to go after he admitted to knowingly breaking the law in the mass sacking of 800 staff.
Grant Shapps said this was “breathtaking arrogance” as he said the ferry company boss should resign.
Peter Hebblethwaite, the chief executive, said on Thursday there was “absolutely no doubt” P&O Ferries was required to consult with unions before the sacking of hundreds of members of staff on the spot but chose not to.vertisement : 8 sec
He also told MPs most seafarers replacing the fired workers were being paid below the UK’s national minimum wage.
Mr Shapps told BBC Breakfast on Friday the P&O Ferries boss should go.

The i
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has called for P&O Ferries’ boss to resign after he admitted the company deliberately broke the law in the way it sacked 800 workers.
Mr Shapps said Peter Hebblethwaite’s evidence to MPs yesterday was “brazen and breathtaking” and said the Government is set to change the law to block loopholes that were “exploited” to sack workers without notice.
Mr Hebblethwaite stunned MPs at a joint select committee by admitting P&O Ferries firm broke the law by failing to consult unions about the mass redundancies
The average hourly pay of the new crew brought in to replace the sacked seafarers is just £5.50 per hour, below minimum wage, he said.

Mirror
P&O Ferries knew it was breaking employment law by axing 800 seafarers without consulting unions but did it anyway, its chief executive said yesterday.
Peter Hebblethwaite told a Commons hearing he would do the same again as he confirmed replacement workers were being paid less than the UK minimum.
MPs called for him to be prosecuted. Labour’s Darren Jones asked the boss: “Are you in this mess because you don’t know what you are doing or because you are a shameless criminal?”
P&O Ferries deliberately broke the law by failing to consult unions before sacking 800 staff because it knew they would fight the move, boss Peter Hebblethwaite has said.

Morning Star
TORY ministers must issue an immediate injunction to prevent P&O ships sailing, RMT demanded today after the firm’s boss admitted he had broken the law when sacking nearly 800 workers without notice.
Addressing a joint committee of MPs, Peter Hebblethwaite said there was “absolutely no doubt” that the company was required by British employment legislation to inform unions before firing 786 staff last week.
However, he said the firm “chose not to consult” the workers as no union “could possibly accept” the move — an answer branded as “farcical” by Labour MP Andy McDonald amid astonished laughter from his colleagues.
The company’s director, who earns £325,000 a year excluding bonuses, reiterated his apology to those affected but stressed he would take the same decision again after P&O suffered a series of pandemic-related losses.

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