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'Dirty money!' Starmer blasts Boris Johnson for 'protecting Kremlin' in furious warning

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The Labour leader’s call for the Tories to address Russian finance flowing into Government came amid diplomatic efforts from Western nations — including the UK — to defuse tensions over the crisis in Ukraine. While Boris Johnson spoke of his impressions about the Kremlin’s intentions following an emergency Cobra meeting, Sir Keir blamed the Prime Minister for “enabling” Vladimir Putin to “damage” British institutions.

He said on Tuesday night: “Labour stands united with the government and our allies in the attempts to deal with the threat of Russian aggression. But alongside action abroad, there must finally be proper action to tackle corruption at home.

“For a decade, the Tories have not just failed to challenge Russian influence – they have enabled it.

“As a result, the UK is seen as a laundromat for kleptocrats’ dirty money, our institutions have been damaged and an entire cottage industry has grown up dedicated to lobbying for and protecting those close to the Kremlin.”

This is not the first attempt by the opposition to shed light on what it describes as an unacceptable “openness to illicit finance”.

Earlier this month, David Lammy, the shadow foreign secretary, and Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, called on ministers to return money from donors with ties to Moscow.

READ MORE: PMQs cancelled: Why Boris Johnson isn’t facing Keir Starmer

They wrote in a joint letter to their counterparts, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak: “Donors who have made money from Russia or have alleged links to the Putin regime have given £1.93million to either the Conservative party or individual Conservative associations since Boris Johnson took power in July 2019.

“Will the Conservative party agree to return it?”

Measures to tackle money laundering in the UK were first announced by David Cameron in 2014 and 2015 but Labour argues promises have not been met and “much more” must be done.

Mr Lammy and Ms Reeves, recalling how Labour has repeatedly raised the alarm about the role of dirty money in the country, claimed: “Despite repeated warnings, the government has been asleep at the wheel and needlessly left our defences down at home.”

Mr Johnson, as MPs from across the House blasted London’s reputation as a money-laundering hub, said in January he would bring forward an economic crime bill in the third session of Parliament. Labour responded this should already have happened.

Speaking ahead of an emergency meeting of Nato defence ministers in Brussels on Wednesday, Sir Keir asked the Prime Minister to return an estimated £5m in Russian donations.

He said: “If Boris Johnson is now serious about tackling Russian dirty money and influence, he should immediately get his own house in order.

“That means returning the millions of pounds of Russian-linked cash that has been donated to the Tories and their MPs since he became prime minister, and reversing his plans to allow unlimited donations from abroad.”

Sir Keir stressed failure to act now “will only further strengthen Vladimir Putin in his attempts to stalk and menace his neighbours and democracies around the world”.

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As NATO ministers meet, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has emphasised the need for vigilance in the coming days and weeks.

After a build-up near Ukraine’s borders that significantly raised fears of an invasion, Moscow has this week said it is pulling back some of its troops.

But a wary Mr Wallace warned: “We will take them at their word, but judge them by their actions.

“I would be the first to be delighted by a de-escalation, we have all been working towards that, but we see 60 percent of Russia’s land forces amassed on the Ukrainian and Belarus borders.

“I am an ex-soldier, that is not normal exercising, especially when you see the depth of deployments.”

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky joined the defence secretary’s cautious approach, saying the forces’ exit was not visible.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg echoed their words: “So far we have not seen any de-escalation on the ground – on the contrary, it appears that Russia continues the military build-up.”

According to Mr Johnson’s assessment, the Kremlin is sending “mixed signals”.

While there was intelligence of “more [Russian] battalion tactical groups actually been brought closer to the border with Ukraine”, the Prime Minister also said “we are seeing a Russia openness to conversations” that brings hope to “an avenue for diplomacy”.



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'Have to kick the pedal to the metal' Ex-Ukrainian leader slams Macron tank aide hesitancy

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Ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk sat down on LBC Radio to discuss NATO leaders. NATO has been allying themselves with Ukraine, sending help and weaponry and taking fleeing Ukrainian refugees. NATO members held a conference on the Russian invasion earlier this week to discuss more ways to help Ukraine.

Mr Yatsenyuk pushed for Macron to send over military tanks as promised, slamming him for dragging his feet, and claiming that the war in Ukraine affects the security of every European country.

Mr Yatsenyuk said: “That’s what Putin is closely watching, as for now, Putin didn’t expect this kind of unity and consolidated and concerted actions against the Russian federation.

“But you know, the time is running and we don’t have enough time to wait until some EU member states decide to supply more weapons to Ukraine.

“Or to impose tougher and stronger sanctions on the Russian Federation, so the EU has to be decisive and they have to speed up the process of new sanctions.

“And the shipment and delivery of weapons to Ukraine, because it’s not just about Ukraina and they realise it clearly, this is about the free world.

“And this is about the security of every single nation in the European Union, so the French have to kick the pedal to the metal.”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky explained this week that he expected “serious steps” from Western-allied countries.

Mr Zelensky repeated the calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to be imposed by NATO forces and complained that the Western allies had not yet provided Ukraine with sufficient planes, up to date modern anti-missile systems, tanks or anti-ship weapons.

Mr Zelensky added: “At these three summits we will see who is our friend, who is our partner and who sold us out and betrayed us.”

President Zelensky also expressed that he was grateful for the support Ukraine was continuing to receive from individual NATO member countries from around the world.

Mr Zelensky added: “But NATO has yet to show what the alliance can do to save people,” he said. “It feels like we’re in the grey zone between the West and Russia, but we’re protecting all our and your shared values.

READ MORE:Mum left fuming after letter describes her ‘active’ four-year-old daughter as overweight

Mr Johnson added: “We’ve got to tighten the economic vice around Putin, sanctioning more people today, as we are, sanctioning the Wagner Group, looking at what we can do to stop Putin using his gold reserves, and also doing more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been playing an active role in trying to de-escalate the war with Russia by imposing tight sanctions on Russia to try and stop Putin’s warpath of destruction.

Ms Truss has warned that infighting between NATO countries at the moment could be highly detrimental for progress in ending the war.

Mr Truss said: “Russia’s targeting of critical national infrastructure is calculated and dangerous.

“It shows Putin is prepared to risk lives to sow division and confusion among allies.”



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Brexit news: What happens when Article 16 is triggered?

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After Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) was confirmed, the two parties have been attempting to renegotiate terms for a special Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland. Coined the Northern Ireland protocol it’s been a point of contention that’s led to threats from each side of triggering a mechanism called Article 16. But what is it?

What is Article 16?

The UK and EU agreed to the creation of the Northern Ireland protocol, in October 2019.

By allowing goods to flow freely between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland the deal removed the threat of a hard border.

But the arrangement has also resulted in what’s been labelled as an ‘Irish Sea border’.

READ MORE: ‘Totally undeniable’ MPs colluded with Remainers to try stop Brexit

Goods that now arrive into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK are subjected to more stringent checks and controls.

In the scenario that either the UK or EU feel that the protocol is leading to significant issues or hampering their capacity to trade, then they have the option of activating Article 16.

The component sets out the process for taking unilateral “safeguard” measures, which in reality would amount to suspending parts of the deal.

Specifically, Article 16 says safeguard measures can be taken if the protocol is leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties” that are liable to persist.

He said: “Triggering Article 16 now would severely disrupt the unity of the UK and EU response to the war in Ukraine.

“It is thus perhaps not surprising that key US figures chose this week to restate that any uncertainty around the stability of the Good Friday Agreement would hinder a future UK-US trade deal.”

In recent months talks between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic have stalled, leading to calls from Brexiteers for the UK to act.

However, Professor Menon cautioned that triggering Article 16 won’t “rid” Britain of the protocol.

He added: “I think the British Government if it triggers Article 16 will do something relatively small and contained.

“And then there’s not a massive bust-up. You don’t end up getting rid of the protocol. You end up with months if not years of negotiations, mediation and arbitration.

“So, it’s a way of doing something but it’s not a way of solving anything. In a sense you’re still stuck with the protocol and you’re still negotiating about the future of the protocol.”

In essence, were Article 16 to be triggered it wouldn’t have a huge impact on the ground.

Many of the checks on goods flowing from Britain to Northern Ireland have already been unilaterally suspended.

Triggering the mechanism itself would only start a formal dispute process that requires both sides to go into talks to resolve.



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NATO slammed as former US Army chief exposes ‘two big issues’ in united Russia response

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US Army vice chief of staff general Jack Keane, sat down on LBC radio to talk about the NATO conference which took place earlier this week. Mr Keane discussed the possibility that Putin could deploy chemical biological weapons on the battlefield. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already used the highly condemned thermobaric weapons since the war started just over a month ago.

The US Army chief acknowledged there had been no public policy declaration on the consequences Putin would face if he was to take such a barbaric action.

Mr Keane said: “Listen I was very disappointed by the NATO summit.

“I totally applaud the fact that they’re going to increase by 40k troops in Eastern Europe.

“And they’re increasing sanctions and it seems like a sense of unity.

“But on two big issues, it’s got to be disappointing, there’s no NATO public policy declaration.

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Mr Keane added: “At the end of that summit to deal with this particular issue, chemical biological weapons and nuclear weapons which the Russians have been waving in front of our face now for almost 30 days.

“What we need is… Think policy statement, not something that’s left to a reporter to ask a question on.

“And then you get a statement that you just repeated, which leads to more confirmation than anything else.

“A much better statement, using my words… I don’t want to put words into other people’s mouths.

READ MORE: Mum left fuming after letter describes her ‘active’ four-year-old daughter as overweight

“But with me, the use of any form of WMB would be unacceptable.

“We will not let it stand, it will result in decisive consequential actions and all options are on the table.

“Words to that effect, in a public policy statement, and we didn’t get it and it’s really unfortunate.

“And what it does it leaves in the minds of Putin and his  leaders just what would the reaction be, ambiguous like that and I think it’s very unfortunate.”

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Fear of the Russian military deploying chemical biological weapons has been heightened.

Ukrainian outlet InformNapalm has warned that: “Our conclusions may sound premature or too apocalyptic, but after the missile attacks and bombing of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, which the Russian army resorted to, we believe that it is necessary to make these data public and try to thwart any such intentions of Russia.”

And NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels on Thursday: “We’ve tried to be very clear about the gravity of the use of any such chemical weapons.

“These are agents that should never be employed and certainly not on the battlefield, as we are concerned Russia might.”



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