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Nova Khakovka: ‘New low’ if Russia behind dam attack – Rishi Sunak | Politics News

The prime minister said Russia would have hit “new lows” if it turns out that Moscow is responsible for what he described as the largest attack on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine since the start of the war, following the destruction of a critical dam.

Speaking en route to Washington, Rishi Sunak told reporters that the intelligence agencies had yet to make a definitive judgement on whether President Putin was behind the “appalling attack” on the Nova Kakhova dam as he condemned the incident.

“If it’s intentional, it would represent, I think, the largest attack on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine since the start of the war, and just demonstrate the new lows that we would have seen from Russian aggression,” he told the press ahead of his two-day trip to Washington.

War latest: US working to share intel on dam disaster

“Attacks on civilian infrastructure are appalling and wrong. We’ve seen previous instances of that in this conflict so far, but it’s too early to say definitively.”

The prime minister also said that the UK’s immediate response to this attack was to offer humanitarian assistance.

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Why is the PM going to Washington?

“We had already put resources and funding in place to support both the UN and the Red Cross to respond to situations like this,” he said. “And they are now being able to divert those resources to particularly help humanitarian response and the evacuation in this area as a result of what’s happened.”

As with the G7 in Japan but two weeks ago, the matter of Ukraine and how Western allies can best support Kyiv in its battle against Russia will be a central part of discussions between the UK and US leaders when Mr Sunak holds bi-lateral talks in the Oval Office on Thursday.

“One of the things the prime minister and President Biden will discuss is how we can sustain the huge level of global support for Ukraine while providing them with the capabilities they need, including air defence,” the prime minister’s spokesperson said ahead of the trip.

These discussions come as allies intensify support before Ukraine’s expected summer counteroffensive.

A big breakthrough came at the G7 last month when the US signalled it and allies would provide training and F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, a request President Zelenskyy hammered home to allies for months before the US moved.

Read more:
Analysis: Dam attack could be most damaging single event of Ukraine war so far
US intelligence “leaning towards” Moscow being behind
Kyiv launches ‘offensive actions’ on frontline

Number 10 is keen to stress not just the Rishi Sunak reset after the testy era of the Boris Johnson and Liz Truss reigns, but the strengthening of relations between the US and UK under a Sunak premiership.

In his favour has been the resolution with the EU over post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland, and Mr Sunak’s steadfast support for Ukraine.

And this will certainly be a trip full of photo-ops to reinforce the “special relationship”. As well as the images of the prime minister on Capitol Hill and in the Oval Office finished off with a White House press conference, Mr Sunak will also attend the Washington Nationals baseball game as the guest of honour to celebrate the annual UK-US friendship day – although he won’t be throwing the ceremonial first pitch, instead leaving that task to a British veteran.

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak holds a bilateral meeting with the US President Joe Biden during his visit to Northern Ireland. Picture by Simon Walker / No 10 Downing Street
Rishi Sunak with Joe Biden during his visit to Northern Ireland. Pic: Simon Walker / No 10
Rishi Sunak talks with Joe Biden before a session on the first day of the G7 Leaders Summit in Hiroshima Japan 
Pic:No 10 Downing Street
Rishi Sunak talks with Joe Biden before a session on the first day of the G7 Leaders Summit in Japan. Pic: No 10

A prime minister with a background in finance and an interest in tech – he met his wife in California while studying at Stanford – Mr Sunak is trying to play to his strengths with his emphasis on greater economic interoperability and deeper trade ties, while also making a pitch to President Biden to get the UK more deeply involved in the regulation of AI.

But as he tries to forge a post-Brexit place in the world for the UK – Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak’s leadership on Ukraine an undoubted positive – London is disadvantaged: When it comes to AI, it is the US, China and the EU at the leading edge with the UK largely on the sidelines.

When it comes to trade, the Biden administration has put the much-vaunted US-UK free trade deal into the deep freeze, so much so that neither side plan to even raise it in these bilateral talks.

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Ukraine War: Major dam attack

While Mr Sunak will use the trip to try to drum up more US investment, with an announcement of £14bn of US backing into the UK and an address to the “business roundtable chief executive” forum, the absence of any trade deal is another broken Conservative manifesto promise.

Mr Johnson and his government had championed a US trade deal as a big Brexit bonus, while President Trump insisted in 2017 the UK was “at the front of the queue”.

It now appears that President Obama’s “back of the queue” warning ahead of the 2016 EU referendum is more apposite, with no timeline as to when, if ever, a bilateral trade deal will be dusted down.

“Neither side is pursuing a US free trade deal currently, but our trading relationship with the US is vital,” the prime minister’s spokesperson said.

Trade between the countries now stands at £279bn a year. Back in 2020, government analysis suggested a trade deal could increase trade – which then stood at £221bn – by £15.8bn and also said wages could get a long-term bounce worth £1.8bn from a US deal.

Pic: AP
Pic: AP

On Artificial Intelligence, the PM wants to take a lead in setting a regulatory framework, something he has raised as the G7, but post-Brexit, the UK has been locked out of key forums between the EU and The US where AI governance plans are negotiated on a bilateral basis. Britain’s requests for a similar dialogue with Washington have been repeatedly rebuffed, which has left Mr Sunak forced to pursue direct channels to president Biden, which he will do this week.

The PM hopes to make the UK the venue for an international summit on generative AI summit later in the year, and is also pushing for a new inter-governmental regulator for this emerging technology to be based in the UK.

And some do see a post-Brexit opportunity for Britain, offering the US a more flexible middle ground between the EU and US approach to standards and regulations, while also being potentially tougher on Beijing than Brussels might be.

AI could be a policy area where the UK could act as a transatlantic bridge between the US and Europe – if Mr Sunak can land it.

Darren Jones, chair of the business select committee, said a “key test” for the PM will be to “successfully pitch the UK as a useful partner that offers a different approach to the EU. Failure will leave us out of the room, not at the table and out in the cold.”

For the Prime Minister, the continue focus on Ukraine amplifies a global issue in which the UK has been able to demonstrate strong leadership post Brexit, and claim the US can work together on building stronger ties on trade and regulating AI.

But without a trade deal in sight, or even on the horizon, and struggling to insert the Uk into the EU-US discussions on AI, he really does have his work cut out.

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.

UK accuses Russia of ‘peddling false claims’ after Moscow blames Royal Navy for Nord Stream pipeline blasts | World News

Britain has denied Russian claims that Royal Navy personnel blew up the Nord Stream gas pipelines last month, saying the story is “invented”.

A Ministry of Defence tweet said: “To detract from their disastrous handling of the illegal invasion of Ukraine, the Russian Ministry of Defence is resorting to peddling false claims of an epic scale.

“This invented story says more about arguments going on inside the Russian government than it does about the West.”

The 760-mile pipelines run from Russia to Germany, via the Baltic Sea, at a depth as low as 110 metres.

They were the most important supply route for Russian gas supplies to Europe, with a joint annual capacity of 110 billion cubic metres – more than half of Russia’s normal gas export volume.

Russia suspends grain export deal – live updates

But Russia cut off supply via Nord Stream 1 at the end of August, and Nord Stream 2 never entered service, as Germany paused its certification process shortly before Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

On 26 September, the pipelines registered a sharp drop in pressure and seismologists detected explosions before four leaks were recorded.

Russia said on Saturday: “According to available information, representatives of this unit of the British Navy took part in the planning, provision and implementation of a terrorist attack in the Baltic Sea on 26 September this year – blowing up the Nord Stream 1 and Nord Stream 2 gas pipelines.”

It did not share any evidence to back up its claims.

Map showing North Sea gas network

Russia was initially blamed for sabotaging the pipelines as part of its efforts to deprive Europe of energy, but it dismissed these claims as “stupid”, instead blaming the US.

The US destroyed the pipelines, so it could sell more liquefied natural gas to Europe, Russia said – a claim denied by the US.

Sweden and Denmark concluded the leaks were caused by explosions, but did not say who might be responsible.

Swedish prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist called on Friday for a “supplementary crime scene investigation” at the site, adding: “It is important both for the preliminary investigation and for the various collaborations we have that we now get to work in peace and quiet.”

Read more:
What we know about the Nord Stream gas leaks and who was behind them
Fourth leak revealed on Nord Stream pipelines as Russia denies sabotage

Meanwhile, Russia has also claimed “British specialists” directed Ukrainian drone strikes on ships in the Black Sea Fleet in the Crimean city of Sevastopol early on Saturday.

Russia’s defence ministry said: “Nine unmanned aerial vehicles and seven autonomous marine drones were involved in the attack.

“The preparation of this terrorist act and the training of servicemen of the Ukrainian 73rd Special Center for Naval Operations were carried out under the guidance of British specialists located in the town of Ochakiv.”

Russia calls Queen’s funeral snub ‘profoundly immoral’ and ‘blasphemous’ | World News

Russia has described the decision not to invite its representatives to the Queen’s funeral as “profoundly immoral” and “blasphemous”.

Leaders and dignitaries from around the world have been invited to the late monarch’s state funeral, but Russia’s Vladimir Putin and others were snubbed.

Putin’s forces may have ‘advantages’ after Kharkiv withdrawal – Ukraine war latest

“We view this British attempt to use a national tragedy that has touched the hearts of millions of people around the world for geopolitical purposes to settle scores with our country during the days of mourning as profoundly immoral,” Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said.

“This is especially blasphemous to the memory of Elizabeth II, who is known to have served during World War II in the territorial defence ranks of the British Armed Forces fighting the Nazis,” she added.

Ties between the UK and Russia are strained following the February invasion, with Britain taking a lead among Western nations in sending weapons to Ukraine.

Read more on the Queen:
Nearly four-mile queue to see Queen – latest news live
Watch the Queen lying in state

“The unifying image of Queen Elizabeth II, who has not interfered with politics as a matter of principle during her reign, has not become an obstacle to London’s dissenting attacks, which are subject to accomplishing their own conjectural objectives,” Ms Zakharova said.

“For our part, we express our profound condolences to the British people for the great loss that befell them.”