Ten Things You Need to Know Today: 26 February 2022

The Week’s daily digest of the news agenda, published at 8am

1. Fighting intensifies in Kyiv

Russian attacks on the Ukrainian capital Kyiv have been met with fierce resistance, reported the BBC this morning. The Ukrainian military said that an army unit has managed to repel Russian forces near its base on a major city street. Explosions were reported across some parts of Kyiv early this morning as Russian forces close in on the city. Hours earlier, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, had warned that Russia would try to “storm” Kyiv.

2. China abstains from Ukraine vote

China has abstained from voting on a UN Security Council draft resolution telling Moscow to stop attacking Ukraine and withdraw its troops. India and the United Arab Emirates also abstained from the vote on the US-drafted text, which was vetoed by Russia. The remaining 11 council members voted in favour. Sky News said the resolution’s failure paves the way for backers to call for a swift vote on a similar measure in the 193-member UN General Assembly, where there are no vetoes.

3. New reports criticises lockdowns

Covid lockdowns imposed across Europe were neither “necessary” nor “defensible”, Sweden’s official inquiry into its handling of the pandemic has concluded. The Coronavirus Commission found that Sweden’s pandemic strategy to rely primarily on “advice and recommendations which people were expected to follow voluntarily” had been “fundamentally correct”. However, the commission was critical of the speed of Sweden’s Covid response, finding that measures were “too few and should have come sooner”.

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4. Chaos as BA website goes down

British Airways’ website went offline last night and passengers reported chaotic scenes at Heathrow’s Terminal 5. The airline said it suffered a system-wide “technical issues” as information boards stopped operating and passengers were prevented from checking in online. The carrier said that the failure, the second in 10 days, was not a cyber attack related to Russia or its invasion of Ukraine. It apologised to customers for what it said had been a “very difficult week”.

5. Biden nominee sets up ‘fierce battle’

Joe Biden has moved to elevate a black woman to the nation’s highest court for the first time in its 232-year history. The US president’s decision to nominate Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to succeed Justice Stephen Breyer, for whom she clerked, sets up a “fierce confirmation battle in the deeply partisan and evenly-divided Senate”, said The Guardian. Biden described his nominee as “the daughter of former public school teachers” and a “proven consensus-builder”.

6. Mullin defies police request

Chris Mullin has refused to divulge the sources of his information about the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings in a hearing at the Old Bailey. The 74-year-old former MP and investigative journalist is challenging a bid by West Midlands police to require him to disclose source material from his 1980s investigation that identified the true bombers. He said that if the application were to succeed it would “set a precedent which could be used to undermine the freedom of journalists to investigate alleged miscarriages of justice and other matters in cases involving terrorism”.

7. Panic buying returns to pumps

Anxiety over the impact of the Ukraine war has led to panic buying at petrol pumps. Six garages in Ashford, Kent, were sold out and long queues formed at other forecourts across the UK. Petrol prices have risen to a record high of around £1.50 a litre of unleaded this week, after the tensions between Moscow and Ukraine pushed up global oil prices. The Petrol Retailers’ Association, which represents independent retailers, said it would “continue to ensure the price of fuel was as competitive as possible”.

8. John Lewis scraps iconic pledge

John Lewis is abandoning its Never Knowingly Undersold price pledge after almost 100 years. The department store is replacing the price match promise with a new “Quality & Value” pledge, which it said will apply to both in-store and online sales. John Lewis introduced the Never Knowingly Undersold motto as in 1925, when the company had just two stores, but, said The Telegraph, the phrase has become increasingly obsolete as more people shop online.

9. Watchdog ‘investigating Musk’

Elon Musk and his brother are under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for possibly violating insider trading rules, according to the Wall Street Journal. The investor watchdog agency is reportedly looking into sales of Tesla shares by Kimbal Musk, just before his brother, Elon, announced that he would sell 10% of his own Tesla holdings, a move that sent Tesla shares sharply lower. However, the Financial Times reported that Musk denied wrongdoing.

10. Warning over drugs in Moët

Bottles of Moët champagne have been found to be laced with fatal doses of Ecstasy, reported The Times. The Dutch food safety authority has warned that the bottles, which cost over €400, are dangerous after MDMA poisoning cases that made 11 people seriously ill and killed one person in Germany. It said “it cannot be ruled out that there are other bottles of the same brand in circulation that also contain MDMA”.

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