Portrait of the week

Portrait of the week: Spring statement, weapons for Ukraine and no more free-range eggs

26 March 2022

9:00 AM

26 March 2022

9:00 AM

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Britain had provided Ukraine with more than 4,000 Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapons, the Ministry of Defence said. Shell reconsidered its decision to pull out of investing in the large Cambo oil field, 75 miles off the west coast of Shetland. The government was expected to put into special administration Gazprom Marketing & Trading Retail Ltd, with which several councils have contracts to buy gas, though it does not come from Russia. Among those seeking to buy Chelsea Football Club, on sale after the sanctioning of its owner Roman Abramovich, a group called the True Blue Consortium was given support by John Terry. On one day, 213 non-Ukrainian migrants arrived in Britain after setting out in small boats from France, and 394 the next day, bringing the total for 2022 to 3,838.

Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, said in his spring statement that he would ‘stand by’ families anxious at the soaring cost of living. But he noted the rise in the cost of public borrowing. National Insurance would increase as planned but the threshold to pay it would rise by £3,000. Fuel duty would be cut by 5p a litre. The annual rate of inflation had increased to 6.2 per cent. The Bank of England had raised interest rates to 0.75 per cent. The Chancellor said ‘We stand with Ukraine’, but he warned: ‘The steps we have taken to sanction Russia are not going to be cost-free.’ Growth was predicted by the OBR to be 3.8 per cent this year. The government said it was taking legal action against P&O Ferries, which had sacked 800 workers and bussed in cheaper foreign crew; P&O denied it had broken the law, as the ships are registered abroad. Morad Tahbaz, a British-US national, returned to prison two days after being released on parole on the day that Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoor were allowed to fly to Britain. In the seven days up to 21 March, 806 people had died with coronavirus, bringing total deaths (within 28 days of testing positive) to 163,679. In the previous week 726 had died. Numbers with Covid remaining in hospital in the United Kingdom rose from about 12,000 to about 15,000. Free-range eggs were relabelled as ‘barn eggs’ because hens have had to be kept indoors for more than 16 weeks in response to outbreaks of bird flu.

Abroad


Russia ‘increased its indiscriminate shelling of urban areas’ in Ukraine, according to Britain’s official Defence Intelligence bulletin. President Joe Biden of the United States, setting off to visit Poland, saw ‘a clear sign’ that President Putin of Russia was considering using chemical or biological weapons. Perhaps 90 per cent of the city of Mariupol had been damaged or destroyed by bombardment, and 100,000 of the population were unable to leave because of the Russian encirclement. ‘There is nothing left there. Only ruins,’ President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address to the Italian parliament. The mayor of Boryspil, population 63,000, 25 miles east of Kyiv, called on its people to leave if they could. Next to Lviv airport, a facility able to mend Ukrainian MiG aircraft was destroyed by Russian cruise missiles. Russia said it had used two hypersonic missiles to destroy a weapons facility and a fuel depot. More than ten million people in Ukraine had fled their homes. Poland had taken in more than two million. Crowds gathered in occupied Kherson chanting: ‘Kherson is Ukraine’; Russians opened fire on one demonstration. Ukrainian military officials said that 15,300 Russian troops had been killed; US defence officials estimated the number as at least 7,000. Russian shoppers were told not to panic at shortages of sugar and buckwheat.

The total in the world reported to have died with coronavirus reached 6,101,640 by the beginning of the week. Hong Kong saw 200 Covid deaths a day. In China, Shenzhen lifted a week-long lockdown but Shenyang, pop. ten million, was then locked down. A Chinese plane with 132 people on board crashed into a hill in Guangxi province and caught fire.

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria visited the United Arab Emirates, his first trip to an Arab country since the Syrian civil war began 11 years ago. A car was driven into a crowd at Strépy-Bracquegnies in Belgium, killing six. Two teachers were murdered in a school in Malmo, Sweden. Four people were killed in a shopping centre in Beersheba, Israel. The high court in India’s Karnataka state upheld a state government ban on headscarves in classrooms. CSH

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