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Ukraine 1) West imposes sanctions on Russia as Biden warns of war…

“Britain and its western allies hit Russia with a wave of new sanctions last night as President Biden said that President Putin was preparing to “start a war”. The American president said intelligence suggested that Russian forces were moving blood and medical supplies to the Ukrainian border in readiness for a full invasion. He said the United States would immediately block the Russian government from using western financial markets to raise money. Britain and the European Union will follow suit. Western leaders have also signed off plans to target dozens of Russian oligarchs and their business interests as part of an international plan to “ratchet up” pressure on Putin.” – The Times

  • Ditch Nato hopes and let the West save face, Putin tells Ukraine – The Times
  • Rumble of tanks brings shadow war into the stark light of day – The Times
  • Britain to send more weapons to Ukraine within day – The Sun
  • World on brink of war – Daily Express
Sanctions
  • The three Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the UK – The Times
  • Sanctions on Russian banks unlikely to hit hard – The Times
  • Unpicking Russia’s web of UK interests – The Times
  • Russia’s waning reliance on London markets will weaken sanctions – FT
Energy prices
  • Risk of big rise in oil and gas prices – The Times
  • Petrol prices soar towards £1.70-a-litre – Daily Mail
Comment
>Today:

Ukraine 2) …but MPs urge tougher sanctions on Russia

“Boris Johnson faced pressure from MPs to toughen up powers against Russia to allow for the extension of sanctions which might include Roman Abramovich and Alisher Usmanov. Both the Chelsea owner and the influential investor at Everton were named by Margaret Hodge, the veteran Labour MP, as she claimed the current Government approach was too “narrow”. The new punishment system, she said, “may not affect oligarchs close to Putin who do not hold an official position in a company or who own less than 50 per cent of shares”. “That means that kleptocrats who have stolen from the Russian people and support Putin would not be caught,” she added. Then, referring to a list of 35 oligarchs drawn up in retaliation for the poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, she listed Abramovich and Usmanov as among four individuals who “would escape.” Hodge asked the Prime Minister to “look again at the sanctions regime so that, in the words of the Foreign Secretary: ‘nothing is off the table’?” – Daily Telegraph

  • PM under fire over ‘peashooter’ sanctions – FT
Comment

Ukraine 3) Putin is invading Ukraine and will go much further, warns Biden

“Joe Biden has said that Vladimir Putin has started to invade Ukraine and is preparing to go much further into the country, potentially bringing “untold suffering to millions of people” in an all-out war. The US president said: “This is the beginning of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. He’s setting up a rationale to go much further.” Mr Biden announced plans to sanction Russian banks and oligarchs, as well as “cut off” the Russian government from Western financing. Mr Putin escalated the prospects of a devastating conflict as he backed the territorial claims of pro-Russian separatists over the entire regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, in eastern Ukraine.” – Daily Telegraph

Comment

Ukraine 4) Liz Truss: Nothing is off the table in our response to Putin’s aggression

“In threatening the innocent people of Ukraine and violating its sovereignty, President Putin is also undermining Europe’s security and stability. We will use every lever at our disposal to stop him in his tracks. Time after time, we and our allies have said that any further invasion would have severe consequences. Now Russia has chosen to abandon diplomacy, we have a moral duty to stand with Ukraine and demonstrate that we mean what we say. We have put in place our toughest sanctions regime against Russia. Nothing is off the table. This first wave will target the individuals and companies closest to the Kremlin. I held a conference call with our G7 allies to agree the next package. This is the start of a closely co-ordinated effort to ratchet up the pressure.” – The Times

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Coronavirus 1) Johnson ‘interviewed under caution by police over lockdown parties’

“Boris Johnson has become the first British prime minister to be questioned under caution by the police, a leaked form appeared to confirm tonight. The Metropolitan Police is sending questionnaires to 88 people accused of attending lockdown-breaking gatherings as part of a criminal investigation into a dozen Downing Street parties across 2020 and last year. In the forms, which are equivalent to a police interview, people are asked to explain and justify their presence at gatherings. Johnson, 57, has filled out his questionnaire and returned it to the police after consulting a lawyer hired at his expense. He has argued that he attended six events — including an impromptu birthday party and a gathering in his Downing Street flat — as part of his working day.” – The Times

  • Downing Street party attendees ‘interviewed under caution’ – Daily Telegraph
Comment

Coronavirus 2) Britons ‘must be told where support money has gone’

“The Treasury must do more to account for the £370 billion cost of pandemic interventions, MPs have said, after the government “risked and lost unacceptable billions of taxpayers’ money”. A report from the Public Accounts Committee said the Treasury must be more transparent about the “substantial, long-term financial risks” to which taxpayers have been exposed, including enormous sums lost to fraud and error. According to the National Audit Office’s Covid-19 cost tracker, the government has spent £261 billion on 374 measures. These are expected to cost a total of £370 billion over their lifetime, which is up to 20 years.” – The Times

  • UK to lose at least £15bn on Covid support due to fraud and error – FT

Rees-Mogg doubts figures on civil servants in offices during ConservativeHome’s Moggcast

“Jacob Rees-Mogg has questioned whether enough civil servants are returning to Whitehall as he suggested he did not believe his own department’s figures on the issue. More than a month after the government urged civil servants to return to their offices, Rees-Mogg, the new minister for civil service reform, questioned the number of “empty desks”. Rees-Mogg told Conservative Home’s Moggcast: “I’m not sure, wandering around here, quite how many people are back at work yet. I’m told certain figures and then I wander round and there seem to be a lot of empty desks.” Last month Steve Barclay, who has since become Boris Johnson’s chief of staff, told civil servants to “ensure we make maximum use of our office space”. – The Times

Comment

Levelling Up 1) Nadine Dorries: My plan to end North-South divide in arts funding

“I’d like to say I was surprised by what I saw. But unfortunately some of the stats told an all-too-familiar story. Over the last few decades, an overwhelming amount of money has gone to organisations based in London, while other regions haven’t received their fair share. In parts of London, there are dozens upon dozens of cultural institutions, known as “national portfolio organisations”, that benefit from Arts Council funding. Yet a town like Grimsby doesn’t have a single one. In fact, London has more such organisations than Yorkshire and the Humber, the North East and the North West combined. This is national funding, and it should benefit the entire nation. Instead, there’s been a huge historic imbalance. But that’s about to change.” – Yorkshire Post

>Yesterday:

Levelling Up 2) Ian King: Northern towns are already doing their level best to regenerate

“Before Michael Gove published his levelling up white paper three weeks ago, critics denounced the policy as a vacuous slogan. When it was published, they accepted that it contained plenty of detail but suggested it was light on specific policies. However, there is evidence, in some parts of Britain, that what might be described as levelling up is already happening. A key element in Gove’s proposals is regenerating 72 towns and high streets to restore “a sense of community, local pride and belonging”. That is precisely what is taking place, for example, in Prescot. The Merseyside town, once the heart of the UK watch-making sector and later wire and cable manufacturing, is undergoing a £3.1 million regeneration programme funded by the government, Knowsley council and supported by Historic England.” – The Times

Iain Dale: Starmer can’t be forgiven for backing Corbyn for PM

“Whenever I begin to think positively about Sir Keir Starmer, I usually receive a jolt back into reality when I remember that he was only too happy to serve for three years as a leading light in Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. Not only that, but he campaigned to make him prime minister. We had a lucky escape. On Monday, Jezza rose from the backest of backbenches and appeared to intimate that the Ukraine crisis was all the West’s fault. More specifically, he asked Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, if Nato would withdraw troops “from the border” (of where?) if Russia did the same – as if Vladimir Putin’s demands were in any way justified.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Labour fight to capitalise on Johnson scandals – FT
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