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Exercise Vigilant Knife: British troops take part in cold weather training with Swedish and Finnish armed forces | UK News

British troops have taken part in Exercise Vigilant Knife, an exercise with Swedish and Finnish armed forces.

The Ministry of Defence said the manoeuvres, which offered a strengthening of “inter-operability” as both Sweden and Finland bid to join NATO, took place in Rovaniemi and Rovajarvi in northern Finland.

The exercise was staged against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, which has sharpened minds across Europe about security on the Continent in the face of Russian aggression.

In July, it emerged the RAF had sent four Typhoons and two F-35Bs to Finland and Sweden for joint training exercises.

Finland signed a mutual security assurance declaration with the UK in May, and is also a member of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force, a coalition of 10 nations.

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Undated handout photo issued by Ministry of Defence of British troops taking taken part in Exercise Vigilant Knife alongside Swedish and Finnish Armed Forces. The short notice command-post exercise took place in Rovaniemi and Rovajarvi, northern Finland from 29 August to 2 September 2022 and built on the success of Exercise Vigilant Fox which took place in July. Issue date: Sunday September 4, 2022.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Whilst there is war in Europe, it is more important than ever to strengthen our international partnerships.

Undated handout photo issued by Ministry of Defence of British troops taking taken part in Exercise Vigilant Knife alongside Swedish and Finnish Armed Forces. The short notice command-post exercise took place in Rovaniemi and Rovajarvi, northern Finland from 29 August to 2 September 2022 and built on the success of Exercise Vigilant Fox which took place in July. Issue date: Sunday September 4, 2022.

“We welcome Finland and Sweden’s application to join NATO and will continue to exercise together, so we are ready to face shared security challenges.

“Exercise Vigilant Knife is an invaluable opportunity for UK personnel to develop their skills and experience of war fighting in cold weather conditions, enabling them to be effective on the battlefield alongside their Finnish and Swedish counterparts.”

Online Safety Bill campaigners join forces to urge next prime minister to prioritise new legislation | UK News

A group of campaigners, survivors and families affected by abuse on social media have written to the Tory leadership candidates to urge the next prime minister to prioritise the Online Safety Bill.

Danielle Armitage is one of those who have signed the open letter addressed to the candidates.

She was only 14-years-old when she was groomed while playing an online interactive game for children.

The man claimed to be 16 years old, however he was in fact in his late 40s at the time.

Ms Armitage, who has waived her anonymity to warn others about what happened to her, told Sky News that initially “he arranged to meet me after school”.

“I got into his car and discovered that he was a lot older than what he said. I just froze from that point,” she said.

He drove Ms Armitage to a forest, and that’s when the first sexual assault took place.

More on Online Safety Bill

The situation then “escalated”, and subsequent assaults became more violent.

Ms Armitage said: “He said if I spoke out or told anybody, he’d threaten my family. I felt like I had to see him again.”

She added: “By coming together and speaking out, we want the next prime minister to know what happened to us was avoidable.

“It’s in their hands to protect our children, and to make sure there are safety measures in place for children using the internet.”

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March 2022: What is the Online Safety Bill?

Campaigners are calling on Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to resist calls to water down the planned internet safety laws and commit to delivering them without delay.

The proposed legislation had been scheduled to make its way through parliament before the summer recess but, due to competing demands in the chamber, has now been delayed until a new prime minister is in place.

It aims to regulate social platforms, to ensure they protect their users from harmful content, with fines and other potential penalties for those who fail to do so.

There are concerns in some quarters that the bill will damage free speech and enable censorship, while others believe it does not go far enough to curb the spread of harmful material online.

In their letter, the campaigners said it is “upsetting” to see some opponents of the bill “rejoicing at this delay and calling for the legislation to be scrapped altogether”.

The coalition is made up of 15 grooming and sexual abuse survivors, and parents of children who died by suicide after seeing harmful content online.

“We have long campaigned for laws to better protect children online and were frustrated and disappointed to see the Online Safety Bill delayed rather than pass through parliament last month,” the letter reads.

“With every month the legislation is delayed, the NSPCC say we will see more than 3,500 online child sexual abuse crimes against children. These offences have increased tenfold in just a decade. And bullying, pro-anorexia posts, harmful self-harm and suicide content continue to fill children’s streams.

“This level of harm against children would not be accepted in any other industry, which is why the next prime minister must make the Online Safety Bill a national priority and pave the way for urgent regulation to begin.”

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Concerns have been raised by experts on all sides of the debate around the bill after changes in government and ministers with different priorities overseeing the legislation.

In their letter, the campaigners insisted Ms Truss or Mr Sunak must move forward with the bill.

“Should you become the next prime minister, we urge you to keep the promise made to children and families and deliver a robust Online Safety Bill in full and without delay,” they said.

“Any watering down of the bill would be unacceptable and break the commitment made to children and families in the Conservative Party manifesto to deliver the strongest possible protections for children online.”

British troops in ‘high-readiness exercise’ with Finnish and US forces | UK News

British troops have taken part in a joint “high-readiness exercise” alongside Finnish forces, as Finland moves closer to joining NATO.

About 150 British Army and Royal Air force personnel joined US and Finnish counterparts in the four-day Exercise Vigilant Fox, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.

The joint exercise comes after NATO signed an accession protocol with Finland to join the military alliance earlier this month, which began the ratification process for members.

Finland and Sweden both confirmed their intention to join NATO following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier this month it emerged that the RAF has sent four Typhoons and two F-35Bs to Finland and Sweden for joint training exercises.

Finland signed a mutual security assurance declaration with the UK in May, and is also a member of the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force, a coalition of 10 nations.

The MoD said British troops based in Estonia as part of the British Army’s Project Unified Stance were flown into Finland in Royal Air Force Chinook helicopters as part of the exercise.

Defence minister James Heappey said: “Exercise Vigilant Fox has demonstrated the strength and interoperability of our armed forces with our US and Finnish allies and reaffirms our commitment to the defence and security of the Baltic Sea region.”

Wing Commander Stephen Boyle, the UK defence attaché in Helsinki, said: “Our soldiers, sailors and aviators have received a warm welcome in Finland over the last few months.

“Exercise Vigilant Fox is the latest activity in an ongoing series of events across the domains. As Finland moves towards full NATO Membership, we will continue to seek opportunities like this to show solidarity with Finland, learn from each other and improve our ability to operate together.”

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