Mon. Nov 28th, 2022
Ukrainian flag in blue and yellow, wrapped over sky and grain

Reports are adapted or condensed from Reuters, the Financial Times, Agence France Presse, and the Guardian.

What is happening in the fighting in Ukraine today?

Ukraine’s military warned the public today of more indiscriminate Russian shelling of critical infrastructure. Russian artillery continues to blast the eastern cities of Kharkhiv, Sumy and Chernihiv. In an earlier report, officials said Russian forces were holding the land corridor with Crimea and are blocking access to the Sea of Azov. The city of Sumy is also partially blocked while artillery shelling continues on the city of Kharkhiv. Kyiv continues to be under fire. Russian troops have failed to capture any major Ukrainian city more than four weeks into their invasion, and increasingly are resorting to massive destruction of residential areas with air strikes, long-range missiles and artillery. Odesa is now also under attack. A Ukrainian MP for Odesa, Oleksiy Honcharenko, has said he anticipates a Russian land operation against the city launched from the Black Sea. Residential areas in Odesa were reportedly targeted for the first time during the war on Monday.

What about Mariupol?

Satellite images show multiple explosions and rising smoke around an industrial compound in the south-eastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol where hundreds of thousands of increasingly desperate people have been trapped in Mariupol, many without water, heat or power, for three weeks. Officials have said at least 2,300 have died. It is unclear when the area was struck.

Reporters from Reuters who reached Mariupol on Monday described an “apocalyptic wasteland”, with bodies lying by the road in blankets, windows blasted out of charred apartment blocks, and groups of men digging graves by the roadside.

After the repeated failure of Russian forces to respect humanitarian corridors from the devastated port city of Mariupol, the world will be watching nervously as a convoy of 15 buses carrying 1,114 evacuees tries to escape today through Russian occupied territory.

The civilians are being from escorted by emergency services but not the Ukrainian military on a 200km trip from Berdyansk, a village on the outskirts of Mariupol, north west to the city of Zaporizhia

In Zaporizhia, people will receive food, medical and psychological support, as well as resettlement assistance, according to the local authorities.

The development came as Ukrainian MP Anton Gerashchenko claimed that the siege of Mariupol is being led by Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev, a favourite of Vladimir Putin, who was said to be responsible for Russian operations in Syria.

He has been the head of the National Center for Defense Management of the Russian Federation since December 2014 and has held the post of Colonel-General since 2017. The Russian government denies shelling civilians.

Ukrainian MP Dmytro Gurin has described the situation in his hometown of Mariupol as a “war crime”, telling Sky News in the UK that “the shelling never stops, the shooting never stops. Now there’s 300,000 people in Mariupol without food. It’s not war any more. We clearly see that Russia wants to start hunger just to force its diplomatic position.”

Gurin said he was currently “very pessimistic” about a diplomatic resolution to the situation, saying that any agreement with Vladimir Putin would be worth “less than the paper it was written on”.

What is being said about the use of chemical or biological weapons?

Biden issued one of his strongest warnings yet that Russia is considering using chemical weapons. Russian accusations that Kyiv has biological and chemical weapons are false and illustrate that Russian President Vladimir Putin is considering using them himself in his war against Ukraine, US President Joe Biden said on Monday, without citing evidence.

Reuters reports Biden as saying, “[Putin’s] back is against the wall and now he’s talking about new false flags he’s setting up including, asserting that we in America have biological as well as chemical weapons in Europe, simply not true. They are also suggesting that Ukraine has biological and chemical weapons in Ukraine. That’s a clear sign he’s considering using both of those.”

The remarks echoed prior comments by officials in Washington and allied countries, who have accused Russia of spreading an unproven claim that Ukraine had a biological weapons program as a possible prelude to potentially launching its own biological or chemical attacks.

Russia’s defence ministry has accused Kyiv, without providing evidence, of planning a chemical attack against its own people in order to accuse Moscow of using chemical weapons in the invasion of Ukraine.

Earlier this month, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with Nikolay Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, warning him of consequences for “any possible Russian decision to use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine.” The White House did not specify what those consequences would be.

Meanwhile, U.S.-Russia bilateral ties were on the brink of collapse, Russia’s foreign ministry said, summoning the U.S. ambassador after Biden called Putin a “war criminal.”

Can the Russian army continue the war?

Not according to Ukrainian military sources, who say that Russian supplies will last ‘no more than 3 days.’

The Ukrainian military has released its operational report as of 6am this morning, claiming Russian forces have stockpiles of ammunition and food that will last for “no more than three days.” Officials said the situation is similar with fuel and blamed Russia’s inability to organise a pipeline to meet the needs of troops as the reason behind the logistic failure.

Ukraine also claims that there is widespread disaffection amongst Russian troops. Citing a particular example in the Okhtyrka district of the Sumy oblast, Ukraine’s armed forces said “disobedience of Russian servicemen” led to about 300 servicemen who refused to carry out orders.

And in the temporarily occupied territories of Luhansk region, due to heavy losses of manpower, Ukraine said Russia “continues to mobilise citizens of the quasi-formation of the LPR” however “a large part of the population does not support the policy of the occupiers, does not want to take up arms and hides from the representatives of the occupying power.”

It is significant, military sources in Ukraine say, that mobilisation is carried out chaotically, the people who are mobilised are not distributed by specialties, most of them have no military specialty, because they have never served in the military. Contracts are signed with citizens who have Russian passports, and those who have only a pseudo-republic passport are registered as volunteers.”

Military officials said they estimate Russian lost about 300 personnel on Monday alone, and that in view of their losses on the ground, “It is expected that the enemy will continue to launch insidious missile and bomb strikes and carry out artillery shelling of critical infrastructure of Ukraine using jet artillery, aircraft, high-precision weapons and indiscriminate munitions.”

Will the EU impose more sanctions to try and stop Russia?

The European Union cannot agree on whether or how to impose sanctions on Russia’s lucrative energy sector. Germany and the Netherlands say the bloc is currently too dependent on Russian oil and gas to impose an embargo now. Other potential sanctions are being discussed including cutting off more Russian banks’ access to the SWIFT global messaging system. Russian energy giant Gazprom (GAZP.MM) said on Tuesday it was continuing to supply gas to Europe via Ukraine in line with requests from European consumers.

The European Union’s foreign ministers disagreed on Monday on whether and how to slap sanctions on Russia’s lucrative energy sector over its invasion of Ukraine, with Germany saying the bloc was too dependent on Russian oil to decide an embargo.

The EU and allies have already imposed hefty measures against Russia, including freezing its central bank’s assets, however, Russia’s siege and bombardment of Mariupol port, which EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called “a massive war crime”, is increasing pressure for action.

The problem is that targeting Russian energy exports, as the United States and Britain have done, is a divisive choice for the 27-nation EU, which relies on Russia for 40% of its gas. Some of those who want the EU to go further showed impatience at the pace of talks after a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels.

“Why should Europe give Putin more time to earn more money from oil and gas? More time to use European ports? More time to use unsanctioned Russian banks in Europe? Time to pull the plug,” Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said on Twitter.

But Borrell told a news conference that while that the bloc would “continue isolating Russia”, concrete decisions would be made later. One EU diplomat said some hoped that by June the EU would have found enough alternative sources of energy to seriously consider an oil embargo. No date has been agreed though, and other EU states may have different targets in mind.

Germany and the Netherlands said the EU was dependent on Russian oil and gas and could not cut itself off right now. “The question of an oil embargo is not a question of whether we want or don’t want (it), but a question of how much we depend on oil,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told reporters.

“Germany is importing a lot (of Russian oil), but there are also other member states who can’t stop the oil imports from one day to the other,” she said, adding that the bloc should instead work on reducing its reliance on Moscow for its energy needs.

Other potential sanctions being discussed, diplomats have said, include closing loopholes on trust funds used by oligarchs, adding new names to the sanctions list, stopping Russian boats from docking in EU ports, and cutting more banks’ access to the SWIFT global messaging system.

All this will be discussed again on Thursday, when U.S. President Joe Biden will be in Brussels for talks with transatlantic alliance NATO’s 30 members, the EU, and Group of Seven (G7) members including Japan, designed to harden the West’s response to Moscow.

It’s possible, however, that sanctions may have to include oil and gas from Russia at some point: diplomats have said a Russian chemical weapons attack in Ukraine, or heavy bombardment of the capital, Kyiv, could be a trigger for the EU to go ahead with an energy embargo. But they cautioned that energy was one of the most complex sectors to sanction because each EU country has its own red lines.

They said that while the Baltics want an oil embargo, Germany and Italy, which depend on Russian gas, are pushing back because of already high energy prices. Sanctions on coal are a red line for some, including Germany, Poland and Denmark, while for others, such as the Netherlands, oil is untouchable. Moscow itself has warned that such sanctions could prompt it to close a gas pipeline to Europe – another potential deterrent. It’s unlikely that it will be possible for Europe to do without Russian oil and gas in the short term: apart from anything else, removing the Russian source of supply would also impact the Eu’s ability to access energy supplies that it uses to help Ukraine, as Ukraine and Moldova have now been tied into the Eu’s electricity grid in an attempt to maintain supplies.

What is happening about peace talks?

Peace talks have resumed but there is no sign of significant progress. The Kremlin said on Monday that peace talks between Russia and Ukraine had not yet made any significant progress. Moscow has accused Kyiv of stalling peace talks by making proposals unacceptable for Russia. Ukraine has said it is willing to negotiate but will not surrender or accept Russian ultimatums.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said significant progress in the talks still had to be made for there to be a basis for a possible meeting between President Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“For us to speak of a meeting between the two presidents, homework has to be done. Talks have to be held and their results agreed upon,” Peskov said. “There has been no significant progress so far.”

Peskov also reiterated claims that Russia was showing more willingness than Ukrainian negotiators to work toward an agreement at the talks.

“Those (countries) who can should use their influence over Kyiv to make it more accommodating and construction at these talks,” he said.

Zelenskiy said on Monday that it would not be possible to negotiate an end to the war in his country without meeting Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin. He told European public television networks such a meeting could discuss the future of occupied Ukrainian territory, but more time would be required to resolve the issue.

“I am ready at a meeting with the president of Russia to raise the issue of occupied territories, but I am certain that a solution will not come at this meeting,” Zelenskiy said in his interview. He said several conditions would need to be met before such matters could be dealt with, namely, a cease-fire, the withdrawal of troops and security guarantees.

“If people are trying to stop a war, there is a cease-fire and troops are withdrawn. The presidents meet, reach an agreement on withdrawing troops and there are security guarantees of one sort or another,” he said. “Compromises must be found, one way or another of guaranteeing our security.”

He also repeated his acknowledgement made earlier this month that Ukraine could not now secure NATO membership, saying that Ukraine is well aware it cannot be admitted. NATO member states, Zelenskiy said, “understand that they do not want to fight with Russia and therefore cannot take us in…we have to reconcile ourselves to that and say ‘ok, other guarantees’.”

“I believe that until such time as we have a meeting with the president of the Russian Federation…you cannot truly understand what they are prepared to do in order to stop the war and what they are prepared to do if we are not ready for this or that compromise,” Zelenskiy said in the interview.

Zelenskiy has sought a meeting with Putin for nearly a year, but the Russian leader has refused and instead demanded the Ukrainian president resolve his country’s “civil war” with separatist territories linked to Moscow. Since Russian troops poured into Ukraine last month, Zelenskiy has issued increasingly urgent calls for talks to end the fighting. Last week he called for a meeting quickly so that Russia could “limit the losses caused by its mistakes”.

Russia’s assault on Ukraine has killed thousands and driven almost a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes. Germany predicted the refugee number could reach as high as 10 million in coming weeks.

Details of the talks: the main issues

1) Territory: This is the toughest part of the talks.

Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and on Feb. 21 it recognised two Russian-backed rebel regions of eastern Ukraine as independent states. Since the invasion, Russian forces have taken control of a swathe of territory across Ukraine’s southern flank north of Crimea, territory around the rebel regions and territory to the east and west of Kyiv. Russia claims it has at least another 170,000 square kilometres of territory – an area about the size of Tunisia or the U.S. state of North Dakota – under its control.

Ukraine has said it will never recognise Russia’s control over Crimea, the independence of the Russian-backed rebel regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, or the vast additional territory claimed to have been taken by Russia. Recognition of what amounts to effective Russian sovereignty over up to a third of its territory would be difficult for any Ukrainian leader.

“Our positions are unchanged,” Ukrainian negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak said. He has said Ukraine insists on a ceasefire, the withdrawal of Russian troops and strong security guarantees.

For Moscow, Ukrainian recognition of Russian control of Crimea, the rebel regions and probably the swathe of land north of Crimea which gives it a land bridge to Crimea and control over drinking water supplies for the peninsula would be essential.

The territory along the southern flank of Ukraine is of particular interest to Russia as it was added to Russia in 1783 by Russian Empress Catherine the Great after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire.

2) Neutrality:

Russia says it wants Ukraine to be a neutral country. Russia’s chief negotiator Vladimir Medinsky says Ukraine has suggested it could be neutral like Austria or Sweden but with its own army. Kyiv has disputed that characterisation.

It is unclear how that neutrality might look so the devil will be in the detail. As the Soviet Union crumbled, Ukraine’s parliament in its 1990 Declaration of State Sovereignty proclaimed its intention to be a permanently neutral state.

Putin said in February that he wanted written guarantees that Ukraine would never join the NATO military alliance. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said Ukraine would not become a NATO member soon because NATO members would not accept Ukraine. Russia has also repeatedly raised concerns about Ukraine developing nuclear weapons. In the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the United States, Russia and the United Kingdom gave Ukraine security assurances in exchange for Kyiv’s adherence to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. There are also issues with the size of the Ukrainian military: Russia wants to limit it.

3) Russian rights:

The status of Russian language and Russian-speaking people in Ukraine is a major issue for Moscow. A law passed by Ukraine in 2019 granted special status to the Ukrainian language and made it mandatory for public sector workers. The law obliges all citizens to know the Ukrainian language and makes it a mandatory requirement for civil servants, soldiers, doctors, and teachers.

4) “De-Nazification”

Putin says Ukraine has allowed Nazi-like groups to commit “genocide” against Russian speaking communities in Ukraine. The Azov Battalion, part of Ukraine’s national guard, has been accused by Moscow of being a Nazi organisation which has terrorised Russian civilians and carried out war crimes. Formed in 2014 from volunteers who fought against Russian-backed rebel regions, its founders have expressed extreme right wing white supremacist and anti-Semitic views. Ukrainian presidential aides have repeatedly mentioned the role of Azov in the defence of the port city of Mariupol where it is based. Ukraine dismisses such claims of genocide against Russian speakers. Zelenskiy says it is Russia that is behaving like the Nazis by visiting destruction on Ukrainian cities.

Who is talking and how?

Talks on trying to find an end to the conflict began on Feb. 28, four days after Putin ordered troops into Ukraine. Some talks have been in person at the Belarusian border or in Belarus while others have taken place via video conference.

The Russian negotiating team is led by Russian presidential adviser Medinsky, a Russian who was born in Soviet Ukraine but who casts modern Ukraine as a “historical phantom” because “the so-called history of Ukraine is not simply inextricably linked to the thousand year history of Rus/Russia/U.S.S.R. but it is Russian history itself”. He said last week there had been some progress.

Turkey is trying to push the two sides together as is Israel. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Turkish daily Hurriyet that Russia and Ukraine were nearing agreement on “critical” issues and he was hopeful for a ceasefire if the two sides did not backtrack from progress achieved so far. Ukraine’s negotiating team is Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov and presidential adviser Podolyak.

The concentration camp survivor killed in the Ukraine war . . .

This story from Reuters must be read . . .

He survived the Nazi Buchenwald concentration camp during World War II. He survived the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp in the same war. And the Bergen-Belsen camp (where Anne Frank died.)

Last week, Boris Romanchenko, a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor, was killed when shelling hit his ordinary flat in the war-ravaged Ukrainian city of Kharkhiv.

“It is with horror that we report the violent death of Boris Romanchenko in the war in Ukraine,” the memorial for the Buchenwald survivors said on Monday in a statement.

The multi-storey apartment building where Romanchenko lived was shelled and caught on fire,” said the statement.

Kharkhiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, has been under heavy fire from Russian artillery throughout the invasion, which Russian President Vladimir Putin calls a “special military operation” necessary to disarm and “denazify” its neighbour.

“Please think about how many things he has come through,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said late on Monday. “But [he] was killed by a Russian strike, which hit an ordinary Kharkhiv multi-storey building. With each day of this war, it becomes more obvious what denazification means to them.”

Romanchenko was born on Jan. 20, 1926, in Bondari, near the city of Sumy according to the statement from the Buchenwald memorial. He was deported to Dortmund in 1942, where he had to do forced mining labour. After an unsuccessful escape attempt, he was sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1943, where more than 53,000 people were killed during World War II. He was then sent to Peenemünde on the Baltic Sea island of Usedom, where he worked as a forced labourer on the V2 rocket programme, the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp and the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, the statement said.

“The horrific death of Boris Romanchenko shows how threatening the war in Ukraine is for the concentration camp survivors,” the memorial said in the statement. “We mourn the loss of a close friend.” According to the memorial, Romanchenko had served for many years as the vice president of the Buchenwald-Dora International Committee, devoting himself to documenting the Nazi crimes.

Both Ukraine’s foreign and defence ministries condemned the death.

“Putin managed to ‘accomplish’ what even Hitler couldn’t,” Ukraine’s Defence Ministry said on its Twitter account.

So much for Putin’s claims that he is “de-nazifying” Ukraine: not only is he targeting Zelenskiy, who is Jewish, but he kills indiscriminately – including killing those who previously survived the Nazis.

Meetings in Europe this week: will there be more than sanctions?

In advance of meetings this week of the EU, NATO and the G7, EU foreign and defence ministers adopted a security strategy meant to boost the bloc’s military clout, establishing a rapid reaction force with up to 5,000 troops to be swiftly deployed in a crisis.

“The war that is ongoing is a tectonic shift,” Borrell said. “We have to be able to react rapidly.”

Although this is not the “European army” so hated by Brexiters, it is a recognition that the bloc requires a co-ordinated defence against any further Russian aggression.

What’s going on with China? Will it be discussed in the meetings in Europe this week?

U.S. President Joe Biden’s bid to drive a wedge between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine war will be a key topic of discussion this week when Biden travels to Brussels for talks with European leaders. The United States and its allies will discuss providing weaponry and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian refugee crisis at an extraordinary NATO summit, meeting of the Group of Seven economies, and a European Council summit on Thursday.

But after his inconclusive talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, Biden also plans to coordinate a response to Beijing if it provides material support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with European leaders, U.S. administration officials say.

“During his visit to Brussels, President Biden will coordinate with our EU partners on all aspects of our response to President Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified war on Ukraine, and this includes the concerns we share with the EU if China provides material support to Russia,” said a senior Biden administration official.

The success of close coordination on economic sanctions, export controls and trade measures imposed on Russia have brought Europe and the United States closer together, a second senior U.S. official said. These democratic leaders have growing concerns about China’s potential role in the conflict.

“The challenges that we face … are the same ones the Europeans face. And so I really do think that there is … an inflection point here in many ways,” the second official said.

European nations and the United States have been working behind the scenes for weeks to try to convince Chinese officials not to back Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special operation,” and to push Putin for a cease fire. The war has killed hundreds of civilians, destroyed towns and displaced millions.

The Chinese ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, told CBS News’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that China was not sending arms or financial assistance to Russia. However, he and other Chinese officials have publicly rejected a push to change course, claiming China is on the right side of history.

Some diplomats and analysts see signs that Beijing is shifting. Recent statements from Beijing have called for a cease fire, and emphasized the war’s cost to the global economy, one European official noted, a split from Russia’s position.

In the year since Biden took office, Xi has shown no sign of buckling to various U.S. demands, and has been using closer ties with Russia as a counterweight against pressures exerted on China by the West.

Xi has rejected investigations into the origin of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, in 2019. He has refused to pressure North Korea to rein in its nuclear weapons program and rejected criticism of Chinese treatment of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. He has raised tensions with Taiwan and continued a quest to dominate the South China Sea. However, China’s close economic ties to Group of Seven wealthy democracies, which buy about one-third of its exports, could provide leverage in the bid to distance Xi from Putin.

Johnson puts both feet in it – again    

Johnson has been hit by a barrage of criticism at home and across Europe after he compared Ukraine’s fight for “freedom” to Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the EU. Sunak, on Sunday attempted to defend the prime minister, insisting that the two issues were “not directly analogous” and that Johnson had not intended to make a straight comparison.

But other senior Tories distanced themselves from Johnson’s comments at the Conservative party spring conference in Blackpool, while leading European politicians condemned them. Johnson said on Saturday it was the “instinct” of the British people, “like the people of Ukraine”, to “choose freedom”, citing recent events such as the 2016 EU referendum and the UK’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout.

“When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers, I don’t believe it was because they were remotely hostile to foreigners,” he said. “It’s because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself.”

Asked on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme on whether he believed the comments were “crass”, Sunak said Johnson “has taken a lead globally in standing up to Putin”.

But Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves said Johnson must apologise, adding that the remarks were “utterly distasteful and insulting” to both the Ukrainian and British public.

Johnson’s remarks are likely to reinforce the view held in some European capitals that the prime minister is a populist who is determined to keep scoring points against the EU, six years after the Brexit vote.

Philippe Errera, the political director at France’s foreign ministry, wrote on Twitter: “If I were Ukrainian, I would feel insulted. If I were British, I would feel ashamed. As a French diplomat, I will not comment on twitter . . ”

Lord Peter Ricketts, former national security adviser, said Errera’s comments suggested “the prime minister has not improved his chances of being invited to the European Council meeting with Biden this week. Just when there were signs of tensions easing on the UK-EU front.”

Johnson, who is in Brussels on Thursday for a NATO summit, has not been invited to attend an EU leaders’ summit on the same day, although US president Joe Biden will attend.

“There could be leaders of other NATO countries who are not EU members wanting to come,” said one EU official. “We cannot invite them all.”

Downing Street had indicated that Johnson was open to attending his first EU summit since Brexit took effect. The EU official added: “We could envisage a summit of the 27 plus the UK at some stage.” A spokesperson for Charles Michel, the European Council president, declined to comment. (Michel, reputedly, and as evidenced in Barnier’s tell-all book about negotiations, does not like Johnson, and attendance is in Michel’s gift.)

Carl Bildt, former Swedish prime minister, said on Twitter the remarks were: “Despicable. Any thought of inviting this man to a summit should be shelved.”

Alexander Stubb, former prime minister of Finland, said comparing the EU referendum to Ukraine’s quest for freedom from Russian aggression was “about as vulgar as it gets”. He added: “Winston Churchill, who understood freedom, must be turning in his grave.”

Tobias Ellwood, Conservative chair of the House of Commons defence select committee, said. “Comparing the Ukrainian people’s fight against Putin’s tyranny to the British people voting for Brexit damages the standard of statecraft we were beginning to exhibit.” (I take issue with the phrase “the standard of statecraft we were beginning to exhibit,” as what has been exhibited so far is neither statecraft, nor, indeed, the beginnings of it, but there you go: Tories can be expected to Tory, I suppose.) Johnson’s aides insisted the prime minister was making an argument about “freedom and democracy”, noting that the Ukraine embassy in London had not taken issue with his speech but had instead tweeted its thanks to the prime minister “for standing steadfastly with the Ukrainian people”. (Well, I don’t suppose they had any choice really.)

And so?

There are quite a lot of other things that we need to consider at the moment – net zero, and the fight against it from the same people who – colour me unsurprised – were pro-Brexit, ant-vax, anti-mask, anti-immigrant and just all-round purveyors of small, mean-minded envy, greed and hate, but for today, that’s your lot. Remember that we all need breaks from the news, and protect yourself where you can, looking for joy in small things and peace where you can find it.

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