Monday briefing: Macron to meet Putin on Ukraine crisis |
Headlines: Macron is preparing a “historic solution”
Hello everybody. I’m Martin Farrer and these are the best stories this morning.
Emmanuel Macron believes he can deliver a ‘historic solution’ to the Ukraine crisis as he prepares to land in Moscow today for talks with Vladimir Putin on ending the standoff. Amid dire warnings from Washington that Russia could attack its neighbor “tomorrow”, the French president said he would use his previous “extensive dialogue” with Putin to “de-escalate” the situation. The Russian leader did not want to invade, Macron told a French newspaper, but was simply seeking a “clarification of the rules” with NATO and the European Union. “It is our responsibility to build a historic solution” to the problem of European security, Macron said. “I believe President Putin is available for this.”
The mood music was more pessimistic in the United States where national security adviser Jake Sullivan said an invasion could take place “as soon as tomorrow”. The US believes Putin has amassed 70% of the firepower he needs to annex Ukraine, but the country’s former defense minister told the Guardian that Russia already has enough troops to s seize any city in the country. Nonetheless, Macron spoke with Joe Biden for 40 minutes yesterday to ‘coordinate’ his diplomatic mission, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is heading to Washington to convince the US president he is behind Western efforts to confront Putin. .
Johnson Reset – Boris Johnson’s allies have insisted the ‘adults’ are in charge in Downing Street after the Prime Minister tried to save his job as Prime Minister by rebuilding his No 10 squad. Guto Harri, the former journalist of the BBC who is Johnson’s new communications chief, said he was “proud to join a team of capable, mature, professional and pragmatic people”, while MP Steve Barclay becomes chief of staff. They are likely to face another tough week, however, amid calculations that the number of Tory MPs calling for a vote of no confidence is close to the 54 needed to trigger a poll. More hostile fire is also expected from Johnson’s despised former adviser Dominic Cummings. The revelations could implicate Johnson’s wife, Carrie, who responded to a murderous weekend of media coverage by saying she had been targeted by her husband’s enemies.
Peng ‘misunderstanding’ – Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has given her first interview to independent media since she alleged on Weibo that a senior Chinese official she had a relationship with forced her to have sex, claiming that it was a “huge misunderstanding”. In the interview with French sports daily L’Équipe – overseen by a Chinese official – Peng said she never accused former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault and denied having disappeared from the public view afterwards.
Cancer delays – The number of cancer patients facing delays in seeing a specialist for the first time and starting their treatment has reached record levels in England, amid fears that pandemic-hit NHS services can no longer provide care fast. Half a million people will have to wait longer than the supposed maximum of two weeks to see an oncologist this year, analysis for the House of Commons Library reveals. The disclosure comes amid a fresh row over how quickly hospitals can clear the record NHS backlog of 6 million people, which has forced ministers to delay publishing the long-awaited plan to tackle it. In another issue for the NHS, a report says children’s access to specialist mental health services in England remains “a postcode lottery”, with huge differences in spending and referrals depending on where families live.
Emergency in Ottawa – The mayor of Canada’s capital declared a state of emergency last night as protesters opposing Covid-19 restrictions continued to paralyze central Ottawa. Ottawa residents are furious at the incessant honking, traffic disruptions and harassment of thousands of protesters – many of them truck drivers angry over vaccination mandates. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has ruled out calling in the military, but Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said his emergency declaration underscored the need for support from “other levels of government”.
Messy problem – Nature reserves are flooded with poop and dog urine in such quantities that they risk harming wildlife. A study found that the resulting overfertilization of the soil with nitrogen and phosphorus could reach levels that would be illegal on farmland. The scientists based their findings on work in Belgium, but said the situation would be similar across Europe, which is home to around 87 million dogs. More than 12 million of them are in the UK.
Today Podcast in the spotlight
Dating fraudsters stole almost £100million from single people in Britain last year. Lizzie Cernik explains how these increasingly sophisticated scams work.
At lunchtime, read: Jennifer Beals – “I wanted joy. Full stop’
Jennifer Beals, the actress whose breakthrough role came in 1983 playing a welder who dreamed of being a dancer in Flashdance, tells Zoe Williams about her life as an activist, why Gen Z gives her hope and joins the Star Wars universe in his final role in The Book of Boba Fett.
On the eve of the Winter Olympics, China has promised the world a ‘rational, safe and most splendid’ Games, but just two days after the start of the event, organizers are facing a litany of complaints of athletes and countries on several fronts. On the slopes, Mikaela Shiffrin’s bid for a record Winter Olympics medal got off to a rocky start on Monday morning when the American star missed a gate at the start of the first run of the giant slalom and was disqualified. Sadio Mané scored the winning penalty as Senegal beat Egypt 4-2 in a shootout after a 0-0 draw to win the Africa Cup of Nations.
According to his Harlequins manager Tabai Matson, Eddie Jones’ decision to remove Marcus Smith at a crucial moment in England’s Calcutta Cup loss to Scotland was premeditated and a missed opportunity for the fly-half . Non-Championship side Boreham Wood stunned Championship high-flyers Bournemouth with a 1-0 win that puts them in the FA Cup fifth round, while Steve Cooper’s emerging young side Nottingham Forest, inspired by Brennan Johnson and Djed Spence, hammered Leicester. 4-1. Andy Murray will skip the French Open and the entire clay season as he charts his course through the rest of 2022.
John Allan, chairman of Tesco, Britain’s biggest supermarket and biggest private sector employer, has warned he expects the economy to deteriorate in the coming months as the full impact of a 54% rise in energy prices will be felt. Food inflation could rise from around 1% currently to 5% in the spring, he said. The FTSE 100 seems to open flat this morning while the pound is at $1.353 and €1.185.
Images of the Queen populate pretty much every front page this morning and many newspapers have also run their own take on her statement about Camilla taking the royal title. “Honored, my ‘darling wife’ will be queen”, declares the Express quoting Prince Charles, but the To post believes that “Queen gave Camilla her blessing years ago”. The Sun’s headliner is “Busy Lizzie” in reference to the monarch’s reappearance in the public eye after a few months of convalescence.
the Guardian has a photo of the beaming Queen on tourists in Piccadilly, but she leads with ‘Half a million people are facing delays to see an NHS cancer specialist’. the Telegraph also has a health lead with ‘Treasury blocking Prime Minister’s plan to clear NHS backlog’, as does the Mirror: “Be the hero of the blood donor”. the Time sticks to the mess of Downing Street with “Johnson hits the reset button with a new No 10 team” and the I reports that “PM in crisis: 100 deputies are ready to vote against him”. the FT leads on “EU prepares gas options if Ukraine crisis affects supplies”. In Scotland, prices are the main concern. the Registration says “Food prices will soar by 5%” while the Scottish a ‘Lives could be lost’ warning as cost of living crisis looms’.
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