UK inflation jumps to 10.4%, surprising analysts
Britain’s inflation rate rose for the first time in four months in February, surprising analysts and increasing pressure on the Bank of England to raise interest rates at its meeting on Thursday. The consumer price index jumped to 10.4% in the 12 months through February from 10.1% the previous month, as high energy prices continued to squeeze household budgets, the Office for National Statistics said Wednesday. While economists expect prices to drop rapidly later this year, inflation is more than five times higher than the Bank of England’s 2% target. The central bank will weigh the need to control inflation against concerns about the fallout from global banking troubles when it decides whether to raise interest rates on Thursday. The bank has approved 10 consecutive rate increases since December 2021, pushing its key bank rate to 4%. Michael Hewson, chief analyst at CMC Markets UK, said he expects the Bank of England to raise rates by at least a quarter of a percentage point. “A base rate of 4% barely seems adequate to act as a drag on this measure of price rises and will still increase the pressure on the Bank of England” to raise rates on Thursday, Hewson said in a note to clients before the inflation figures were released.
‘Nazi’ references: BBC sportscaster’s tweet revives debate
The references seem endless, and they can come from anywhere. In recent days, Pope Francis compared Nicaragua's repression of Catholics to Hitler's rule in Germany. In Britain, a BBC sportscaster likened the nation's asylum policy to 1930s Germany, resulting in his brief suspension and a national uproar. For Holocaust and anti-Nazi scholars and organizations, the two sentiments were understandable — but concerning. Invoking Hitler and Nazi Germany, they warn, often serves to revive a familiar and unwelcome line of argument. “We have to be aware of, and confront, contemporary instances of discrimination, hate speech and human rights abuses across the world,” says Rafal Pankowski, a Polish sociologist who heads the anti-Nazi NEVER AGAIN Association. But he added: “Of course, the historical analogies must not be overused and devalued. The label `Nazi' should not be trivialized and reduced to a term of abuse against anybody we don’t like.” Also Read: BBC crisis escalates as players, stars rally behind Lineker Last week, Pope Francis was quoted as criticizing the government in Nicaragua, where religious leaders have been arrested or fled, for acting as “if it were a communist dictatorship in 1917 or a Hitlerian one in 1935.” Nicaragua responded by proposing to suspend Vatican ties. Around the same time, the BBC's Gary Lineker tweeted that a plan announced by Britain's Conservative government was “immeasurably cruel” and included language "not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s.” The bill, intended to stop tens of thousands of migrants a year from reaching the country in small boats across the English Channel, would bar asylum claims by anyone who reaches the United Kingdom by unauthorized means and compel the government to detain and deport them “to their home country or a safe third country.” Also Read: Lineker off flagship BBC soccer show after Twitter posts At first, the broadcaster suspended Lineker, its highest paid TV commentator. But it reversed itself on Monday and praised Lineker as a “valued part of the BBC.” ALTERNATIVE WORDING Peter Fritzsche, author of “An Iron Wind: Europe Under Hitler,” among other books, calls Lineker's comments poorly expressed and misguided, given that "Nazi Germany had no immigration policy"." Rather than comparisons to the Nazis, Fritzsche believes Lineker would have been better off describing the policy with the words "racist” or “inhumane.” “Great Britain, in its rhetoric about immigrants and its policies regarding asylum-seekers ... generates quite rightly enormous outrage, because we believe Great Britain is in the family of democratic humane nations,” says Fritzsche, a history professor at the University of Illinois. “The sportscaster’s sentence is inaccurate. The spirit is laudable.” Sometimes, scholars and activists say, events do call for Nazi comparisons, whether it's the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 or the annual Independence Day march in Warsaw, Poland organized by extreme-right groups. But Nazi references have also been used to criticize fiscal policy (anti-tax activist Grover Nordquist once invoked the Holocaust when criticizing estate taxes) or insult rival heads of state (Saudi Arabia and Iran recently re-established diplomatic ties, six years after Prince Mohammed bin Salman referred to Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the “new Hitler”). On the Internet, Nazis have been mentioned so often, and for so long, that in 1990 author-attorney Mike Godwin formulated “Godwin's Law” for them: “As an online discussion continues, the probability of a reference or comparison to Hitler or Nazis approaches 1.” They come up so often that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. has crafted a standard response, which it cited when contacted this week by The Associated Press. "Nazism represented a singular evil that resulted in the murder of 6 million Jews and the persecution and deaths of millions of others for racial and political reasons," the statement reads. “Comparing contemporary situations to Nazism is not only offensive to its victims, but it is also inaccurate and misrepresents both Holocaust history and the present," the statement says. "The Holocaust should be remembered, studied, and understood so that we can learn its lessons; it should not be exploited for opportunistic purposes.” A RANGE OF REFERENCES Nazi references can be outlandish (actress Megan Fox once compared “Transformers” director Michael Bay to Hitler); self-evident (Kanye West, who years ago complained of being looked at like “he was Hitler,” declared in 2022 that there were “good things about Hitler"); and strategic (Russian President Vladimir Putin listed “denazification” of Ukraine as one of the main goals of his “special military operation,” falsely alleging that there are Nazis in Ukraine’s leadership). The Putin accusation isn’t new. It has been part of the Kremlin’s propaganda effort for years, used to justify a Moscow-backed insurgency in Ukraine’s east and bash Kyiv’s pro-Western government, which took over after a popular uprising ousted a pro-Russian president in 2014. Analysts say the narrative appears to play well in Russia, where the Soviet army’s defense against Nazi Germany forces in World War II is still a fundamental part of the national identity. Officials and state media routinely use the term “Nazi” to describe the Ukrainian government and its army. Moscow’s rhetoric has prompted some international backlash. Asked in an interview with an Italian news channel about Russian claims that it invaded Ukraine to “denazify” the country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Ukraine could still have Nazi elements even if some figures, including the country’s president, were Jewish. “So when they say, ‘How can Nazification exist if we’re Jewish?’ In my opinion, Hitler also had Jewish origins, so it doesn’t mean absolutely anything. For some time we have heard from the Jewish people that the biggest antisemites were Jewish,” Lavrov said, speaking to the station in Russian, dubbed over by an Italian translation. Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid called Lavrov’s statement “unforgivable and scandalous and a horrible historical error,” adding that “the government of Russia needs to apologize.” In Israel, the Holocaust is seen as unique, and comparisons to the Nazis or Nazi Germany in the modern context are typically dismissed as cheapening the victims' memory. But comparisons do happen. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has likened Iran to Nazi Germany, and ultra-Orthodox protesters call the police in Israel “Nazis” when they arrest people. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Jerusalem, says Lineker’s comparison is flawed. The Conservatives’ proposal, he says, is more like the British policy toward Holocaust survivors who tried to enter British Mandate-era Palestine after 1945 on boats such as the Exodus — and were turned back. The larger issue, Zuroff says, is that people like Lineker cite the Holocaust to draw attention to their own issues. Perhaps, Zuroff says, the BBC figure “should be punished by being put in a library and forced to read 10 accurate history books.”
China says AUKUS on ‘dangerous path’ with nuclear subs deal
The United States, Australia and the United Kingdom are traveling “further down the wrong and dangerous path for their own geopolitical self-interest,” China's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, responding to an agreement under which Australia will purchase nuclear-powered attack submarines from the U.S. to modernize its fleet. Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said the arrangement, given the acronym AUKUS — for Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States — arises from the “typical Cold War mentality which will only motivate an arms race, damage the international nuclear nonproliferation regime, and harm regional stability and peace.” “The latest joint statement issued by the U.S., U.K., and Australia shows that the three countries have gone further down the wrong and dangerous path for their own geopolitical self-interest, completely ignoring the concerns of the international community," Wang told reporters at a daily briefing. Also Read: China’s Xi wants bigger global role after facilitating Saudi-Iran deal U.S. President Joe Biden flew to San Diego to appear with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as they hailed an 18-month-old nuclear partnership that enables Australia to access nuclear-powered submarines, which are stealthier and more capable than conventionally powered vessels, as a counterweight to China’s military buildup. Biden emphasized the ships would not carry nuclear weapons of any kind. Albanese has said he doesn’t think the deal will sour its relationship with China, which he noted had improved in recent months. Wang repeated China's claims that AUKUS poses a “serious risk of nuclear proliferation and violating the object and purpose of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.” “The three countries claim that they will abide by the highest nuclear non-proliferation standards, which is pure deception,” Wang said, accusing the three of “coercing” the International Atomic Energy Agency into giving its endorsement. Also Tuesday, Australia’s defense minister said AUKUS was necessary to counter the biggest conventional military buildup in the region since World War II. Australian officials said the deal will cost up to $245 billion over the next three decades and create 20,000 jobs. Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles said it had made a huge diplomatic effort for months ahead of Monday’s announcement of the deal, including making more than 60 calls to regional and world leaders. Australia had even offered to keep China in the loop, he said. “We offered a briefing. I have not participated in a briefing with China,” Marles said. Speaking in a video call with reporters late Monday, U.S. Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel J. Kritenbrink said the degree of transparency involved was one of the key features of the arrangement. “AUKUS partners have made our intentions clear, including our commitment to regional peace and stability," Kritenbrink said. “We have committed ourselves to the highest safety and nonproliferation standards, and we look forward to continuing to engage with our friends, partners, and allies in the region," he said. AUKUS is one of several U.S.-led security arrangements that have drawn fire from Beijing, which routinely rails against regional blocs from which it is excluded as vestiges of the Cold War. Along with Russia, China has denounced the Quad — a grouping of Australia, India, Japan and the United States — whose foreign ministers earlier this month made clear they aim to be an alternative to China. The ministers said they viewed with concern “challenges to the maritime rules-based order, including in the South and East China Seas,” in a reference to China's aggressive moves to assert its territorial claims in a quest to replace the U.S. as the region's preeminent military force. China has also been unsettled by an agreement between Washington and the Philippines, giving U.S. forces greater access to Filipino bases along what is called the “first island chain” that is key to Chinese control of the region. U.S. military and political support for Taiwan have also drawn more threatening responses from Beijing in recent years. A 2022 visit to the island by then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi prompted Beijing to fire missiles over the island, send ships and warplanes into the area and hold military exercises in a simulated blockade of the island. Amid tensions over the U.S. shooting down a suspected Chinese spy balloon in February, China refused to accept a phone call from U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to discuss the matter. Recent days have seen officials from President Xi Jinping down issue dire pronouncements on U.S. China relations and Chinese security in general. Foreign Minister Qin Gang warned Washington last week of possible “conflict and confrontation” if the U.S. doesn’t change course to mend relations strained over Taiwan, human rights, Hong Kong, security, technology and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A day earlier, Xi told delegates of China's rubber-stamp legislature that “Western countries led by the United States have implemented all-round containment, encirclement and suppression of China, which has brought unprecedented grave challenges to our nation’s development.” On the legislature's closing day Monday, Xi said it was necessary to modernize the armed forces and "build the people’s army into a great wall of steel" that protects China's interests and national security. Xi also reiterated China's determination to bring Taiwan under its control by peaceful or military means amid rising concern abroad over a possible attack on the island Beijing claims as its own territory. China must “resolutely oppose interference by external forces and Taiwan independence separatist activities, and unswervingly promote the process of reunification of the motherland,” Xi said.
Momen urges UK to play more decisive role in ensuring early repatriation of Rohingyas
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Sunday urged the international community, including the UK to play a more decisive role in ensuring the voluntary, safe and sustainable repatriation of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas, temporarily sheltered in Bangladesh, to their homeland in Myanmar at an early date. Momen made the call as UK Minister of State for Indo-Pacific Anne-Marie Trevelyan met him at the foreign ministry. The foreign minister also briefed the UK minister about the facilities created in Bhasan Char for the Rohingyas.
Here’s why it’s so hard to buy vegetables in the UK
When European Union chief Ursula von der Leyen visited Britain last week, some joked on social media: Can you please bring us some tomatoes? People in the U.K. have had to ration salad staples like tomatoes and cucumbers for the past two weeks amid a shortage of fresh vegetables. Shelves of fresh produce in many stores have been bare, and most major supermarkets have imposed limits on how many salad bags or bell peppers customers are allowed to buy. Officials blame the problem on recent bad weather in Spain and North Africa, saying the shortages could persist for up to a month. But many people were quick to point out that other European countries don’t seem to be suffering the same challenges, leading some to wonder if it was a consequence of Britain’s divorce from the EU. Britain’s government has rejected the suggestion that Brexit is to blame. But shoppers aren’t happy, and Environment Secretary Therese Coffey’s suggestion that consumers should “cherish” British produce and eat more turnips instead of imported food drew widespread mockery. Experts say Brexit likely played a part in the food shortage, though a more complex set of factors — including climate change, the U.K.’s overreliance on imports during the winter, soaring energy costs and the competitive pricing strategies at British supermarkets — are more salient explanations. A look at some of the factors contributing to what one European broadcaster has called Britain’s “vegetable fiasco”: COLD WEATHER, HIGH ENERGY BILLS Unusually cold temperatures in Spain and heavy rain and flooding in Morocco — two of the biggest tomato suppliers to the U.K. — have led to poor yields and are cited as the primary cause of the shortage. In Spain, farmers blame recent freezing temperatures following record heat and dry conditions last year. In the southern province of Almeria, which grows 40% of Spain’s fresh vegetable exports, the production levels of tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants fell by over 20% during the first three weeks of February compared with the same period in 2022, according to FEPEX, an organization representing Spanish fruit and vegetable exporters. The group said the situation is improving. Heat and drought in Europe last year also are affecting vegetable harvests in other countries, including Germany. Separately, the Netherlands, another major tomato producer, has seen a drop in output because skyrocketing energy bills tied to Russia’s war in Ukraine meant many growers couldn’t justify the cost of turning on the LED lights in their greenhouses this winter. Vegetable growers in the U.K. have reported that they, too, were forced to leave their greenhouses empty. Richard Diplock, managing director at the Green House Growers based in southern England, said his energy costs are some six times higher compared with previous winters. “We made the decision that we couldn’t afford to heat the greenhouses in December and January, and we’ve held back planting until February. Lots of tomato growers are in a similar position,” he said. BLAMING BREXIT The shortages in Britain — and contrasting pictures of full vegetable shelves in supermarkets in mainland Europe — led to a degree of Brexit schadenfreude in some EU news outlets. Experts say extra bureaucracy and costs associated with Brexit have played a part, though they stress it’s not a main factor. “One hypothesis for fewer exports to the U.K. is that if supply is constrained, why would you go to extra paperwork (to export to Britain)?” said Michael Winter, a professor of agricultural change at the University of Exeter. “If transaction costs are greater for exporting to one country compared to another, that’s going to dictate where you go.” “Brexit has exaggerated the problem, without a doubt,” Winter added. “But I don’t want to overplay that. It’s more to do with climate change and lack of investment in our industry.” SUPERMARKET PRICING Farmers say another factor is how Britain’s biggest supermarkets have sought to stay competitive by keeping prices as low as possible even as food costs have spiked, a major driver of inflation that’s at the highest levels in decades. In some EU countries, like Germany, there are no empty shelves, but the prices for fresh vegetables have shot up massively. British supermarkets are reluctant to pay more or charge customers so much, Diplock said. “Being in the U.K., you know every week the price of a cucumber is 75p ($0.90) no matter what time of year it is,” Diplock said. “North African and Spanish producers will see a better return for supplying European supermarkets.” “WHERE’S THE INVESTMENT?” Even if energy costs hadn’t risen so much, British growers would not come close to making up for the shortfalls in imported produce, Diplock said. During the winter, domestic U.K. production only accounts for 5% or less of tomatoes and cucumbers sold in British supermarkets. The National Farmers’ Union has warned for months that overreliance on imported fresh produce leaves the U.K. vulnerable to unpredictable weather events and other external factors like the war in Ukraine. Farmers also have complained about the lack of government investment in the sector and funding to help them cope with painfully high energy bills. The government has spent billions to help consumers and businesses as European natural gas prices soared to record highs on Russia’s curtailed supplies. “The bigger question is why have we, in this country, neglected horticulture,” Winter said. “This is a bit of a wake-up call.”
Shamima Begum who joined ISIS as a teen loses UK citizenship appeal
A British woman whose U.K. citizenship was revoked after she traveled to Syria as a teenager to join the Islamic State group has lost an appeal in her fight to have her citizenship restored. Shamima Begum, now 23, was 15 when she and two other girls from London joined the extremist group in February 2015. Authorities withdrew her British citizenship on national security grounds soon after she surfaced in a Syrian refugee camp in 2019. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission, a tribunal which hears challenges to decisions to remove someone’s British citizenship on national security grounds, ruled there was a “credible suspicion” that Begum was trafficked to Syria for “sexual exploitation.” It said there also were “arguable breaches of duty” by state bodies in allowing her to travel to the country. But Judge Robert Jay said that evidence was “insufficient” for Begum to win the argument that the deprivation of her British citizenship failed to respect her human rights. Given that she remains in Syria, UK authorities are not compelled to facilitate her return, the judge said. Also Read: Shamima Begum and Mueen Uddin: Academics, international affairs experts in Bangladesh decry UK’s double standards “Reasonable people will differ as to the threat she posed in February 2019 to the national security of the United Kingdom, and as to how that threat should be balanced against all countervailing considerations,’’ Jay said in delivering the decision of the tribunal. “However, under our constitutional settlement, these sensitive issues are for the secretary of state to evaluate and not for the commission.” Arguing the ruling gave far too much power to the Britain’s home secretary, Begum’s lawyers promised an appeal. Daniel Furner, part of Begum’s legal team, said the case was “nowhere near over.” “What else this judgment calls out for though is some courage and some leadership from the Home Secretary to look at this case afresh in light of the clear and compelling factual findings this court has made,″ Furner said. “We are going to challenge this decision.” Begum had challenged the action of Sajid Javid, the U.K.’s home secretary at the time, arguing that it left her stateless and that she should have been treated as a child trafficking victim, not a security risk. The British government claimed she could seek a Bangladeshi passport based on family ties. But Begum’s family argued that she was from the U.K. and never held a Bangladeshi passport. Javid expressed satisfaction with the decision. “This is a complex case, but home secretaries should have the power to prevent anyone entering our country who is assessed to pose a threat to it,” he said. The immigration tribunal held a hearing in November on Begum's appeal. The case threw into sharp relief the larger question of how Western societies deal with people who joined IS but want to go back to their home countries. Thousands remain in camps in northeast Syria. Begum fled east London with two friends to marry IS fighters in Syria at a time when the group’s online recruitment program lured many impressionable young people to its self-proclaimed caliphate. Begum married a Dutch man fighting for IS and had three children, who all died. But her apparent lack of remorse in interviews soon after she surfaced in the refugee camp triggered criticism in Britain. Her tone has changed since then as she reflected on her actions and fought to return home.
UK wants level-playing field for foreign companies in Bangladesh
The United Kingdom (UK) on Sunday underlined the importance of maintaining a level-playing field for foreign companies interested in investing and operating in Bangladesh. The UK invited Bangladesh to engage with the UK private sector to pursue a commercial dispute resolution system to unlock the full potential of Foreign Direct Investment into Bangladesh. At the Bangladesh-UK Trade and Investment Dialogue 2023 held in Dhaka, the UK stressed the importance of Bangladesh putting in place economic policies and systems to achieve its ambition of rapid, sustainable and green economic development; and pledged its ongoing cooperation, according to a joint communique. Also read:; UK to review security after unknown objects puzzle N America
UK’s Sunak set to say security guarantees need for Ukraine
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Saturday will call on world leaders to “double down” on support for Ukraine, saying arms and security guarantees are needed to protect the country and the rest of Europe from Russian aggression now and in the future. Sunak will deliver the message in a speech to the Munich Security Conference, an annual meeting of heads of state, defense ministers and other world leaders. This year’s meeting will focus on threats to the accepted rules of international relations a year after Russian troops invaded Ukraine. Highlighting Britain’s recent commitment to provide battle tanks, advanced air defense systems and longer-range missiles to Ukraine, Sunak will urge other nations to follow suit before Russia launches an expected spring offensive. “Now is the moment to double down on our military support,” Sunak said in excerpts released ahead of the speech. “When Putin started this war, he gambled that our resolve would falter. Even now he is betting we will lose our nerve.” Sunak will also call on NATO to provide long-term security guarantees for Ukraine. Such commitments are necessary to shield Ukraine from future Russian aggression and to protect the system of international rules that have helped keep the peace since the end of World War II, Sunak is expected to say. “It’s about the security and sovereignty of every nation,” Sunak says in the excerpts. “Because Russia’s invasion, its abhorrent war crimes and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric are symptomatic of a broader threat to everything we believe in.”
Zelenskyy to visit UK for first time since Russia’s invasion
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will visit Britain on Wednesday, his first trip to the U.K. since Russia’s invasion began nearly a year ago and only his second confirmed journey outside Ukraine during the war. The British government says Zelenskyy will hold talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, address Parliament and meet with U.K. military chiefs. The U.K. is one of the biggest military backers of Ukraine and has sent the country more than 2 billion pounds ($2.5 billion) in weapons and equipment. The visit comes as Sunak announced that Britain will train Ukrainian pilots on “NATO-standard fighter jets.” Ukraine has urged its allies to send jets, though the U.K. says it’s not practical to provide the Ukrainian military with British warplanes. More than 10,000 Ukrainian troops have also been trained at bases in the U.K., some on the Challenger 2 tanks that Britain is sending. “I am proud that today we will expand that training from soldiers to marines and fighter jet pilots, ensuring Ukraine has a military able to defend its interests well into the future,” Sunak said. “It also underlines our commitment to not just provide military equipment for the short term, but a long-term pledge to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine for years to come.” Zelenskyy addressed the U.K. Parliament remotely in March, two weeks after the start of the invasion. He echoed World War II leader Winston Churchill’s famous “never surrender” speech, vowing that Ukrainians “will fight till the end at sea, in the air. We will continue fighting for our land, whatever the cost.” Before Sunak took office, Zelenskyy had formed a bond with Boris Johnson, who was one of Ukraine’s most vocal backers while he was U.K. prime minister. Sunak took office in October and has pledged to maintain the U.K.’s support. It will be Zelenskyy’s second known trip visit abroad since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24. He visited the U.S. in December. Zelenskyy may be seeking Western pledges of more advanced weapons before potential spring offensives by both Russia and Ukraine. In Brussels, there were increasing expectations that the Ukrainian leader might also make his first visit to European Union institutions since the war began. Leaders from 27-nation bloc will be gathering for a summit in Brussels on Thursday. That would enable Zelenskyy to meet with all major leaders of the bloc in one day. Zelenskyy has often addressed EU summits only through video calls from Ukraine. The EU’s legislature has also slated a special plenary session in Brussels for Thursday in the hopes that Zelenskyy will come following his trip to Britain. The London visit came as Russian forces blasted areas of eastern Ukraine with more artillery bombardments, Ukrainian officials said Wednesday, in what Kyiv authorities believe is part of a new thrust by the Kremlin’s forces before the invasion anniversary. Russian forces over the past day launched major shelling attacks on areas near the front line in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region, killing a 74-year-old woman and wounding a 16-year-old girl in the border town of Vovchansk, local Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said. Russian forces in Ukraine are focusing their efforts on “waging a counteroffensive” in the country’s industrial east, with the aim of taking full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that make up the Donbas, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said. Russian troops launched assaults near Bakhmut and Vuhledar, two mining towns in the Donetsk region that have been among Moscow’s key targets, Ukrainian officials said. Seizing Bakhmut could severely disrupt Ukraine’s military supply routes. It would also open a door for Moscow’s forces to drive toward key Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk. Ukrainian authorities say the Kremlin’s goal is to complete full control of the Donbas, an expansive industrial area bordering Russia. That would give Russian President Vladimir Putin a major battlefield success after months of setbacks and help him rally public opinion behind the war. Military analysts say that after a Ukrainian counteroffensive that started last summer and recaptured large areas from Russia, the war has been largely static in recent months. Russia is now also trying to break through Ukrainian lines near the towns of Avdiivka and Marinka in Donetsk, as well as near Kreminna, a front-line town in the Luhansk region which lies along a key Russian supply route, the Ukrainian General Staff said. ___ Raf Casert contributed to this report from Brussels.
UK police officer, exposed as serial rapist, jailed for life
A former London police officer was sentenced Tuesday to life in prison with a minimum term of 30 years for raping and sexually assaulting a dozen women over a 17-year period. Metropolitan Police officer David Carrick, 48, admitted last month he was a serial rapist in what prosecutors described as one of the most shocking cases involving a serving police officer. Carrick, who joined the force in 2001, pleaded guilty to 49 offenses including 24 counts of rape and charges including assault, attempted rape and false imprisonment. His crimes took place between 2003 and 2020. During Tuesday's sentencing hearing, Justice Bobbie Cheema-Grubb said the former officer “took monstrous advantage of women” behind a public appearance of propriety and trustworthiness. “You brazenly raped and sexually assaulted a number of women, some very brutally, and you behaved as if you were untouchable. You were bold and at times relentless, trusting that no victim would overcome her shame and fear to report you," the judge told Carrick. “For nearly two decades, you were proved right but now a combination of those 12 women, by coming forward, and your police colleagues, by acting on their evidence, have exposed you and brought you low," she added. Authorities said Carrick used his status as a police officer to control and coerce his victims. The Metropolitan Police said his crimes had a “devastating impact” on the force, and apologized to victims after it emerged that nine allegations of rape and other crimes were made against Carrick between 2000 and 2021. He was only suspended from the force after his arrest for a rape complaint in 2021.