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Ukraine war: Russia attacks ‘pompous’ Zelenskyy and warns UK as president asks for more weapons | Politics News

Russian officials have attacked Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s “hasty” visit to Europe – dismissing his speech to MPs in Westminster as “theatrical”.

The Ukrainian president made a surprise appearance in London, where he urged the UK and Western allies to provide “wings for freedom” by supplying advanced jets.

Mr Zelenskyy then travelled to Paris for talks over dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz – and he is expected to attend an EU summit in Brussels later today.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meet Ukrainian troops being trained to command Challenger 2 tanks at a military facility in Lulworth, Dorset. Picture date: Wednesday February 8, 2023.

But in a strongly worded statement, the Russian embassy in London said: “Zelenskyy’s pompous solicitations about the values of ‘freedom’ and ‘human rights’, which Kiev claims to be fighting for, were overtly hypocritical.”

The embassy went on to mock “the ex-comedian in a green sweatshirt now on tour around Europe” – and also had a warning for the UK government.

“We would like to remind London: in the event of such a scenario the death toll of yet another round of escalation, as well as and its military-political consequences for the European continent and the whole world will be on the United Kingdom’s hands. Russia will know how to respond to any unfriendly actions by the British side,” it said.

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Zelenskyy awards Ukrainian troops in UK

Zelenskyy calls for more weapons

This morning, Mr Zelenskyy is set to address the European Parliament in what will be his third stop on a surprise trip across the continent.

While Mr Zelenskyy is unlikely to secure immediate pledges to satisfy his requests, this will be his first opportunity to make the case in person to EU member states since the war began almost a year ago.

It follows a powerful speech in Westminster Hall on Wednesday, followed by talks with the leaders of France and Germany over dinner in Paris.

Rishi Sunak has said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to assisting the war effort in Ukraine and fighter jets “are part of the conversation”.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shake hands after meeting Ukrainian troops being trained to command Challenger 2 tanks at a military facility in Lulworth, Dorset. Picture date: Wednesday February 8, 2023.

Mr Zelenskyy received a standing ovation after his speech.

Later at a military site in Dorset alongside the Ukrainian president, the prime minister was asked “to provide absolute clarity” on whether Ukraine will receive jets from the UK and, if so, when.

“We’ve been very clear and we’ve been clear for a long time that when it comes to the provision of military assistance to Ukraine, nothing is off the table,” Mr Sunak said.

“When it comes to fighter combat aircraft of course they are part of the conversation.”

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Ukraine’s Zelenskyy meets King Charles

‘More military assistance needed’

After the Western world came together to agree on sending tanks to Ukraine, Kyiv is requesting warplanes to repel the Russian invasion.

Mr Zelenskyy told the news conference that without more military assistance “there will be stagnation, these people [Russian soldiers] will be living on our territory and this poses great risk to all of the world”.

Downing Street said the prime minister has asked Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to investigate what warplanes the UK could supply but stressed any potential move to do so would not happen immediately.

But according to Professor Michael Clarke, a defence and security analyst, the UK “doesn’t have” the right sort of jets to offer.

This is Mr Zelenskyy’s second trip outside Ukraine since Russia invaded last February.

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After visiting parliament, he travelled to Buckingham Palace for an audience with the King and later visited Lulworth Camp in Dorset with Mr Sunak, to meet Ukrainian troops being trained by the British Army.

Following his talks with Mr Macron and Mr Scholz, he said: “France and Germany have the potential to be game changers and that’s how I see our talks.

“The sooner we get heavy long-range weapons and our pilots get modern planes … the quicker this Russian aggression will end.”

Also on the agenda during Mr Zelenskyy’s visit to Brussels will be a discussion on Ukraine joining the European Union.

FlyBe collapse asks questions about the resilience of UK’s transport infrastructure | Business News

FlyBe is a smaller, less significant business than when it collapsed for the first time in March 2020, but a second failure in three years raises questions not just for prospective owners, but the connectivity of the UK.

Three years ago the failure of what was then Europe’s largest regional airline was blamed on the advancing pandemic, but in truth the company had been in trouble for years.

A government-brokered deal two months earlier with shareholders, including Virgin and the US hedge fund Cyrus Capital, kept planes in the air, but ultimately they couldn’t defy economic gravity.

Read more:
Flybe collapses and cancels all flights, with hundreds of jobs lost
What are passengers’ rights when flights are cancelled by a bankrupt airline?

Cyrus Capital bought the brand out of administration and, in April last year, resumed operations trying to do what FlyBe 1.0 had failed to do; turn a profit from an airline dedicated to serving the UK’s nations and regions.

Its strategy was to use the regional services as a bridgehead into international travel, filling spaces on flights to and from Belfast, Birmingham and London not filled by domestic travellers with passengers bound for the US and Europe.

A route to Amsterdam and slots at Heathrow were central to the plan, offering access to major hub airports from which FlyBe hoped alliances with larger airlines would follow.

With the airline industry still recovering from COVID and stiff competition from more established low-cost operators, that plan has not paid off.

FlyBe had been due to take delivery of 17 new aircraft this year, but delays to the new fleet limited the potential for partnership despite Cyrus putting in an estimated £50m to keep the enterprise airborne.

That cash has now run out, leaving administrators seeking a buyer willing to give the brand a third chance, and the UK facing a recurring question about the resilience of its transport infrastructure.

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The airline has gone into administration less than a year after returning to the skies following a previous collapse

It is a question of particular salience in Northern Ireland, where FlyBe was a major operator out of Belfast City airport.

In 2020 FlyBe’s future was a political issue, with ministers willing to discuss cutting passenger duty in order to make good on Boris Johnson’s election promise to level up the UK’s regions.

Three years on the political imperative, along with Mr Johnson, has largely moved on, but the economic imperatives remain. Transport infrastructure is a prerequisite of growth, particularly if you are trying to share it around, and the cutting of regional ties comes at a cost.

With the rail industry in turmoil and the train network a national embarrassment you might think there has never been a better time to offer an alternative.

FlyBe’s second grounding suggests otherwise.


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BBC chairman asks for review into any ‘conflict of interest’ over Boris Johnson loan role | Politics News

BBC chairman Richard Sharp has asked for a review into potential conflicts of interest over his role in helping Boris Johnson secure a loan.

Mr Sharp said he wanted to ensure “all the appropriate guidelines have been followed”.

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“We have many challenges at the BBC and I know that distractions such as this are not welcome,” he said in a statement read out on BBC News.

The Sunday Times reported Mr Sharp was involved in arranging a guarantor on a loan of up to £800,000 for Mr Johnson in late 2020, and that the then-prime minister went on to recommend him for the top job at the BBC.

A spokesperson for Mr Johnson called the report “rubbish” while both sides denied a conflict of interest.

In a letter to BBC staff, read out on the BBC News channel, Mr Sharp clarified some of the details surrounding the loan.

He confirmed he introduced multimillionaire Canadian businessman Sam Blyth to cabinet secretary Simon Case “as Sam wanted to support Boris Johnson”.

“I was not involved in making a loan, or arranging a guarantee, and I did not arrange any financing. What I did do was to seek an introduction of Sam Blythe to the relevant official in government,” he said.

“Sam Blyth, who I have known for more than forty years, lives in London and having become aware of the financial pressures on the then prime minister, and being a successful entrepreneur, he told me he wanted to explore whether he could assist.”

Mr Blyth is a distance cousin of Mr Johnson’s.

The statement was released moments after Mr Johnson said that Mr Sharp “knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances”.

Boris Johnson doorstep
Boris Johnson

Speaking to Sky News he said: “This is a load of complete nonsense – absolute nonsense.

“Let me just tell you, Richard Sharp is a great and wise man but he knows absolutely nothing about my personal finances – I can tell you that for 100% ding dang sure.

“This is just another example of the BBC disappearing up its own fundament.”

The BBC reported that Mr Sharp “has agreed with the board’s senior independent director” that the nominations committee will look at his appointment when it next meets and, “in the interests of transparency, publish the conclusions”.

It comes after Labour called for an independent investigation into the process for appointing the chair of the BBC.

The party has also reported Mr Johnson to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, saying the former prime minister’s financial affairs are “dragging the Conservative Party deeper into yet another quagmire of sleaze”.

The Cabinet Office has insisted Mr Sharp was appointed “following a rigorous appointments process”.

This included assessment by a panel of experts and “additional pre-appointment scrutiny by a House of Commons Select Committee”, according to a statement released yesterday.

Labour brand Rishi Sunak’s shelter visit ‘excruciating’ after PM asks homeless man if he works in business | Politics News

Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner has branded Rishi Sunak’s visit to a shelter “excruciating” after he asked a homeless man if he works in business.

Mr Sunak visited the homeless shelter in London run by The Passage on Friday and praised the “fantastic” work that the institution is carrying out during the festive period.

The PM got behind the counter and helped served food to people coming in for a hot meal – including a full English breakfast to one homeless man called Dean – but a rather awkward exchange ensued.

After a brief introduction, Dean asked the PM: “Are you sorting the economy out?

The PM replied: “That is exactly what I am trying to do.”

After Dean said that sorting the economy would be good for business, Mr Sunak then asked: “Do you have… do you work in business?”

Dean replied: “No, I’m homeless. I am actually a homeless person. But I am interested in business.”

The PM responded: “Yeah? What kind of business?”

Dean added: “I like finance, it’s good for the city and when finance and stuff is doing well, we all do well, don’t we, in London.”

Mr Sunak then proceeded to tell Dean how he “used to work in finance” and how jobs in finance can now be found “around the UK”.

Dean replied: “Like law associations, stuff like that?”

The PM then continues: “Is that something you’d like to get into?”

Dean responds: “Yeah I wouldn’t mind, umm.. but, I don’t know, I’d like to get through Christmas first.”

Mr Sunak then asks Dean what he is doing this weekend.

“No idea, but I’m hoping [St] Mungo’s can help me get into some temporary accommodation so I’m not on the street,” he replied.

Reposting the video of Mr Sunak’s exchange with Dean, Ms Rayner labelled the conversation “excruciating”.

While shadow Wales secretary Jo Stevens added: “He has no idea.”

Another Labour MP, Bill Esterson, said the exchange demonstrated Mr Sunak was “out of touch”.