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Britons told to get out of Ukraine, as the US warns Russia could invade within days…

“British citizens have been told to leave Ukraine immediately as the United States warned that Russia could invade the country within days. Last night the Foreign Office told people to get out of Ukraine “while commercial means are available”. President Biden urged Americans to do the same on Thursday, saying that “things could get crazy very quickly”. The US is also set to evacuate its embassy in Kyiv. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the US had “reason to believe” that Russia could invade Ukraine “any day now” and before the end of the Winter Olympics in Beijing next week. The Kremlin response was immediate and angry. “The hysteria of the White House is more indicative than ever,” Maria Zakharova, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, said. “The Anglo-Saxons need a war. At any cost. Provocations, misinformation and threats are a favourite method of solving their own problems.”” – The Times

  • Russian missile attacks on Ukraine could begin any time – The Times
  • The European Union tells non-essential staff from its diplomatic mission in Ukraine to leave – Daily Mail
  • ‘What we signed up for’: British soldier returns to Ukrainian Army unit to prepare for Russian invasion – Daily Telegraph
  • We’re surrounded on all sides, Ukrainian army warns as Russian forces close in – Daily Telegraph
  • Biden and Putin to speak – The Guardian

… as the Defence Secretary says Putin will not survive as Russian president if he invades

“Vladimir Putin would not survive as Russian president if he invaded Ukraine, Ben Wallace said last night after crunch talks with key Kremlin figures in Moscow. On the first visit by a defence secretary to Russia in more than two decades, Wallace said such a move would have “long-term consequences” for Russia’s position in the western world and would lead to regime change. It would result in “long-term isolation” and have such a significant economic impact that it “would be hard to see how the government who committed this would be able to survive in the long term with its people”, he said in his strongest remarks yet concerning the future of Russia. Wallace flew into Moscow yesterday with Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the head of the armed forces, and Lieutenant General Ralph Wooddisse, commander of the UK field army, for an intense afternoon of negotiations.” – The Times

  • Send British troops to Ukraine now to deter Russian aggression, ambassador urges – The Times
  • Cooperation between UK and Russia ‘close to zero’, Wallace told by Kremlin – The Guardian
  • Western allies ‘close’ to settling on options for sanctions against Russia – FT

Alan Cochrane: ‘Captain Fantastic’ Wallace has come a long way from his days as a whippersnapper

“The seemingly neverending rise of Ben Wallace through Britain’s political ranks, and in popularity, has been little short of amazing for those who first clapped eyes on him at the opening of the new Scottish Parliament in 1999. As we watched him handle an international press conference in Moscow on Friday, having told his opposite number that “tragic consequences” would result if Russia invaded Ukraine, it was difficult to recall that this was the same cocky ex-Army captain who had precious little to be cocky about 23 years ago. After all, this proud and decorated ex-Scots Guards officer couldn’t even beat a former major in the Education Corps to win the West Aberdeen constituency in the election to Holyrood, having to make do with a regional “list” seat; something that grated with young Wallace for years.” – Daily Telegraph

Johnson receives questionnaire from police in ‘partygate’ investigation

“Boris Johnson faces being fined for breaking Covid laws after the Metropolitan Police formally approached him to answer questions about “partygate” events he attended. Downing Street confirmed on Friday night that the Prime Minister had been handed a questionnaire as part of the Met’s inquiry into allegations of lockdown-breaking parties in government buildings. It is the clearest indication yet that Scotland Yard believes Mr Johnson himself has a case to answer about whether he attended events which broke the Covid laws he set for the country. A No 10 spokesperson said: “We can confirm the Prime Minister has received a questionnaire from the Metropolitan Police. He will respond as required.” The Telegraph can reveal that Mr Johnson is preparing to argue he did not break Covid laws and he was working in the Downing Street flat when there on the night of the alleged “Abba party”.” – Daily Telegraph

  • PM ‘will deny he broke Covid laws at Abba party’ – Daily Mail
  • Frustrated Tory donor pulls plug on funding – The Times

Analysis:

  • Downing Street party scandal lies at every turn in Johnson’s political labyrinth – The Times
  • Goldsmith and Carrie Johnson tugging strings at heart of government – The Times

Comment:

  • Embittered Remainers Major, May and Sturgeon are all lining up to take pot shots at Johnson because they still can’t accept that the public voted to leave the EU, Daniel Johnson – Daily Mail

Middle England at breaking point as cost of living crisis bites

“Middle income and retired households will bear the brunt of the cost of living crisis, with hundreds of thousands of families unfairly excluded from “flawed” state support. Millions of households living in larger homes or wealthier areas will not be eligible for a £150 council tax rebate. But 640,000 of these are low-income families who desperately need help, according to the Resolution Foundation, a think tank. These “cash poor, asset rich” families include one in five of the lowest income households in London and the South East. Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a temporary cut in council tax for properties in bands A to D to alleviate the strain of soaring energy bills. This was designed to help eight in 10 homes and exclude wealthy people deemed not to need financial aid. But much of Middle England, who previously thought they were financially secure, will struggle to pay their bills.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Cost-of-living crisis: Why the UK is ‘not necessarily the miser of Europe’ on energy – The Scotsman

Comment:

Raab rips up solar contract linked to Uighur slavery

“Dominic Raab last night ripped up a multimillion-pound contract to install solar panels on dozens of prisons and courts after The Times revealed they contained parts made by a firm that uses forced labour camps in China. The government has repeatedly condemned China over its treatment of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang province and has imposed sanctions in response to its human rights abuses. But research by Labour, shared with The Times, has found that crucial parts for panels procured by the government are suspected of having been made in mandatory work camps in Xinjiang. It raises the possibility of the Ministry of Defence having to reinstall panels and halt further planned installations. The Ministry of Justice signed a three-year contract in December 2020 with Engie, a French renewable and utility company, to fit solar panels on 17 prisons and 90 courts.” – The Times

Parents ‘will be able to get five to 11-year-olds vaccinated’ as government advisers say jabs should be rolled out to children on a ‘non-urgent’ basis

“Covid vaccines are set to be offered to children aged five to 11, it was reported last night. The government’s scientific advisers are said to have agreed that the jabs should be made available to youngsters on a ‘non-urgent’ basis. This means parents would be given the option to have their young children vaccinated, a move that could ‘prevent a small number of hospitalisations’. This optional offer is seen as a preferable approach to a firm recommendation. It is claimed the guidance is likely to suggest the matter is not pressing, but something that families may wish to consider in order to protect against ‘a potential future wave’. Families planning half-term holidays next week have complained that the lack of jabs for under-12s in this country has limited their options for flying to certain other countries in Europe.” – Daily Mail

  • PM urged to keep free Covid testing as he plans to scrap isolation rules – The Sun

Analysis:

  • Did the Covid modellers get it wrong? – The Times

Khan in row over size of Dick’s Met Police exit payoff

“Dame Cressida Dick and Sadiq Khan were engulfed in a row over the size of her payoff last night, with claims that she could receive more than £400,000 after he forced her to resign. The Metropolitan Police commissioner is expected to stay on for two months to oversee the investigation into Downing Street parties. That will avoid her replacement being tarnished by its conclusion, which could decide Boris Johnson’s fate as prime minister. Priti Patel, the home secretary, is expected to appoint an interim commissioner while an “open and competitive” recruitment process is launched. Last night the mayor was trying to avoid having to hand Dick a payoff that could exceed £400,000. She is paid a salary of about £230,000 and signed a contract in September to serve a two-year extension to her original contract, which was due to expire in April.” – The Times

  • Met chief left aides to tell Khan he’d forced her out of a job – The Times

Analysis:

  • A chance to reconsider what the police are for – The Times

Comment:

  • Met Police needs a bold, energetic, tough-on-crime reformer as new chief — not another woke time-server – The Sun
  • Dick ticked all the right boxes but was never up to the job, Carole Malone – Daily Express

Duffield ‘tempted to quit Labour’ over lack of support on trans stance

“A Labour MP has said she found it “tempting” to defect to the Conservative Party over disagreements about transgender rights. Rosie Duffield, the MP for Canterbury since 2017, said there was not a “huge difference” between Sir Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn in supporting her during disputes with local activists on the issue. Last year Duffield said she felt unable to attend Labour’s annual conference after she was made to feel unwelcome because of her views on trans women. Duffield, who denies being transphobic, believes there should be protected spaces that are not open to those born male. “Senior colleagues” in the Conservative Party had been “incredibly supportive”, Duffield told The Daily Telegraph. “They’ve been really nice … they have factions well, but they don’t tear it apart. They don’t hate each other inside the party in the way that we do in some our branches.”” – The Times

Comment:

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