Published:

Russia captures a nuclear plant after shelling it

“Russian forces have seized the largest nuclear plant in Europe after a building at the complex was set on fire during heavy fighting with the Ukrainians. Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s foreign minister, warned of an explosion “ten times larger than Chernobyl” after Russian troops shelled a reactor at the Zaporizhzhya plant. He had called for an immediate ceasefire after an assault yesterday started a fire at an office block outside the power station in Enerhodar, southeastern Ukraine. Local officials accused the Russian army of shooting at emergency services before finally giving firefighters access to the plant. Andriy Tuz, the plant spokesman, told Ukrainian television that the shelled reactor was taken offline for scheduled maintenance before the battle, but still contains nuclear fuel.” – The Times

  • Ukraine accuses Russia of ‘nuclear terrorism’ – Daily Telegraph
  • Johnson accuses Putin of ‘directly threatening the safety of all of Europe’ – Daily Mail
  • Putin has ‘crossed a line’ by deploying barbaric vacuum bombs, Wallace blasts – The Sun
  • Emotional Dorries is close to tears as she pays tribute to warzone journalists – Daily Mail

More:

  • Russia ‘is planning to stage public executions in Ukraine when cities are captured to break morale’ – Daily Mail
  • President ‘hid Ukraine invasion plan from cabinet, who are now too scared to resign’ – The Times
  • Russia agrees to create humanitarian corridors backed by cease-fires – Daily Mail
  • Food drops by British planes are unlikely as ministers fear they may be shot down – Daily Telegraph
  • Residents of Ukraine’s fallen cities regroup under occupation – FT

Assassins:

  • Zelensky survives three assassination attempts in days – The Times
  • Plots were foiled by double agents within the FSB – Daily Mail

>Yesterday: Garvan Walshe’s column: Now that Putin’s blitzkrieg has failed, Russia turns to other Nazi tactics in Ukraine

Johnson sanctions two oligarchs…

“Boris Johnson on Thursday sanctioned two more Russian oligarchs after mounting criticism over the UK not targeting as many individuals as the European Union. Alisher Usmanov, who had recent ties to Everton Football Club and before that Arsenal, and Igor Shuvalov, a former Russian deputy prime minister, were the men sanctioned. They are worth a combined $19 billion, according to the Foreign Office, but will now have all their UK assets frozen and be banned from entering the country. A new “oligarch taskforce” is also being created, with ministers and officials from four Government departments working with the National Crime Agency. The moves come after Mr Johnson and Downing Street officials have been pushed to explain why the EU has sanctioned more Russians than the UK.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Raab hits back at claims UK slow to act – Daily Express
  • Oligarchs allied to Vladimir Putin may be stripped of British citizenship – Daily Telegraph
  • Budget cuts leave corruption investigators ‘massively outgunned’ by oligarchs – The Times

More:

…as Truss seeks emergency legislation to speed up British sanctions

“UK foreign secretary Liz Truss is pushing for emergency legislation to speed up the process of sanctioning Russian oligarchs with links to President Vladimir Putin following the invasion of Ukraine. Truss hopes to reduce the evidence threshold for proving an individual’s links to the Kremlin and introduce measures to make it easier to designate groups of individuals more quickly, according to government officials. For years the UK has been accused of serving as a “laundromat” for “dirty” Russian money and illicit financing. Truss’s move comes as pressure mounts on the government to ratchet up sanctions against Putin’s associates as the US and EU target a greater number of individuals. Critics point out that just last month Truss introduced sanctions legislation designed to significantly strengthen the UK’s ability to deal with Russia’s aggressive action towards Ukraine.” – FT

  • Why does UK seem so slow at acting against Putin’s oligarchs? – The Guardian
  • Johnson under pressure to sack Tory fundraiser over Russia links – FT
  • Lawyers say the past week has allowed oligarchs to move cash out of banks – Daily Mail

Comment:

  • Sanctions have reawakened the spectre of stagflation – Jeremy Warner, Daily Telegraph

UK steps back from suspending Northern Ireland trade deal

“Boris Johnson is unlikely to trigger Article 16 proceedings against the EU over the controversial Northern Ireland protocol ahead of May’s Stormont elections due to the war in Ukraine. The UK prime minister has threatened to activate the override mechanism and suspend part of the UK-EU accord covering post-Brexit trade with the region due to concerns that its implementation is too onerous and disruptive to trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Negotiations between UK foreign secretary Liz Truss and European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic to agree a compromise over border arrangements for Northern Ireland have continued for months with little sign of any breakthrough. The purdah period for May’s elections begins at the end of March.” – FT

  • Prime Minister ‘unlikely’ to deploy safeguard mechanism – Daily Telegraph

More:

  • Civil Service on alert as leading Brexiteer handed top job – Daily Express

>Yesterday: Henry Hill’s Red, White, and Blue column: How will the new Euro-British détente affect the Protocol negotiations?

Ministers at odds over restarting fracking to boost energy supplies

“Ministers are embroiled in a fresh Cabinet row over restarting fracking in Britain in a bid to boost energy supplies after Russia invaded Ukraine. Brexit minister Jacob Rees-Mogg is at odds with the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng over how to drive down soaring energy bills. Brits face a huge squeeze in their incomes when the price cap rises to £1,900 a year in October, and is expected to jump again come October as costs stay high. Mr Rees-Mogg and a group of Tory MPs are piling pressure on the PM to look again at fracking to boost supplies and “keep the lights on”, despite a long-running ban on all activity over earthquake fears. The Brexit Opportunities minister and around 30 backbenchers met with representatives from fracking firm Cuadrilla in Parliament earlier this week.” – The Sun

  • Javid tells NHS to stop using Gazprom-supplied energy – The Guardian
  • UK seeks investors for nuclear plant as it eases out China’s CGN – FT

>Today:

Robert Buckland: Escalating our military role in Ukraine is too nightmarish to contemplate

“An increasingly desperate leader of a nuclear power which happens to be a member of the UN Security Council has authorised the invasion of a neighbouring state. It is not the actions or failures of Ukraine that are the cause of these horrors, but the aggression of Russia. To move to the next stage of R2P, even if it is military intervention which we argue would be necessary and proportionate with the aim of humanitarian relief, would be nothing short of a direct conflict with Russia itself. This is, frankly, a nightmare scenario. It has often been said that foreign and defence policy is the art of the possible. What we have been able to achieve is a wide and united front delivering a serious regime of sanctions and unprecedented levels of military and logistical help to a country in dire need. We must continue with these tasks unsparingly and with maximum commitment, simply because this is what we can do now.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Defence boost will force us to cut elsewhere – James Forsyth, The Times
  • Putin will live to regret a war that has united Europe against him – Fraser Nelson, The Times
  • Path to war was paved with Biden’s failures – Gerald Warner, The Times

>Yesterday: John Baron MP in Comment: Ministers should continue to resist siren calls for a no-fly zone

Inside the ‘super prison’ of the future, with all the mod cons but no ‘cells’

“The governor has been renamed the director and aims to be on first name terms with all inmates, who all have tablet computer and showers in their cells as well as access to workshops, ranging from hairdressing and bike repair to forklift truck maintenance and waste recycling. For relaxation and exercise, there is a fully kitted-out gym and sports pitches, as well as running and rowing machines, along with snooker and table tennis in every one of the seven blocks of the 1,700-capacity jail. Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, on Thursday set the seal on Five Wells jail in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire – the first of six new “super prisons” that aim to revolutionise the penal regime by putting rehabilitation, work and training at the heart of it.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Giving prisoners a new start keeps the public safe – Dominic Raab, The Times

Williamson to be knighted

“Gavin Williamson, the former education secretary responsible for the Covid exams fiasco, has been put forward for a knighthood by Boris Johnson. In a move described by opposition parties as an insult to parents, teachers and children, Johnson nominated Williamson for the honour, which was approved by the Palace yesterday. He joins two other recently sacked former ministers in being knighted as Johnson moves to shore up his position among Conservative MPs after the Downing Street parties scandal. Williamson, a former chief whip, played an integral role in Johnson’s successful leadership campaign and was regarded by some as a potentially dangerous opponent on the Tory back benches. The honour is controversial as Williamson was sacked as defence secretary by Theresa May after a Whitehall investigation concluded that he had leaked sensitive information from a meeting of the national security council.” – The Times

Labour 1) Opposition holds seat in by-election with reduced majority

“Labour have retained their seat in Birmingham Erdington, with Paulette Hamilton becoming the constituency’s first black MP. But Sir Keir Starmer’s party won with a slim majority of 3,266, which is slightly smaller than the previous Labour majority of 3,601 under the former MP Jack Dromey. Labour won 9,413 of the 17,016 votes cast on Thursday (55 per cent) while the Conservatives candidate Robert Alden came second with 6,147 votes. Ms Hamilton said she is “absolutely delighted” to be elected and promised to “challenge the Government to get a better deal for Erdington”. But Mr Alden told The Telegraph that the result shows it is “clear that Keir Starmer is not ready for Government” adding that the slim majority is a “damning indictment” on his leadership.” – Daily Telegraph

  • Result shows there might not yet be enough enthusiasm for Labour – The Guardian
  • Voter apathy leads to turnout slump – Daily Express

>Today: ToryDiary: Labour holds Birmingham Erdington on a low turnout

Labour 2) Party’s silence over Tube chaos

“Labour was in chaos over London Underground strikes yesterday after failing to condemn a second crippling walkout. London Mayor Sadiq Khan was booed while attending a glitzy music awards ceremony, with one punk group publicly savaging him for not dealing with the crisis. Critics questioned why the mayor was attending the event instead of holding talks to try to halt the industrial action. Meanwhile, party leader Sir Keir Starmer has chosen to remain silent on the issue. And analysis of Labour MP Twitter accounts found at least 15 used their profiles to back the strikes, with several proudly posting pictures of themselves on picket lines. Yesterday marked another day of commuter despair as the militant RMT union staged a second 24-hour walkout of Underground staff, bringing the capital to a near-total standstill again.” – Daily Mail

News in Brief:

  • Taiwan is next, and the West must be prepared – Sam Olsen, CapX
  • How Putin wins the war – Wolfgang Münchau, The Spectator
  • Is Ukraine breaking the Geneva Convention? Should we care? – Henry Hill, UnHerd
  • New 1922 policy committee chairmen revealed – Guido Fawkes
  • The revolution will not be tweeted – Kit Wilson, The Critic