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‘Straight Out of Russia’s Playbook’: Johnson Fears Putin May Use Chemical Weapons in Ukraine

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Boris Johnson has said he fears Vladimir Putin may deploy chemical weapons in Ukraine as that would be “straight out of Russia’s playbook”.

Speaking on Sky News’ Beth Rigby Interviews programme, the prime minister said the only way the war in Ukraine can end is if the Russian president realises he has made a “catastrophic mistake”.

Putin could use chemical weapons

Mr Johnson reiterated Western officials’ fears that Mr Putin could use chemical weapons in Ukraine after Moscow accused Kyiv of planning to deploy them in the battlefield.

“The stuff that you’re hearing about chemical weapons is straight out of their playbook,” he said.

“They start saying that there are chemical weapons that have been stored by their opponents or by the Americans.

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“And so when they themselves deploy chemical weapons, as I fear they may, they have a sort of maskirovka – a fake story – ready to go.

“You’ve seen it in Syria. You saw it even in the UK. That’s what they’re already doing. It is a cynical, barbaric government.”

On Wednesday, Moscow said it had uncovered a military biological weapons programme in Ukraine involving deadly pathogens such as plague and anthrax and called on the US to explain the “Ukrainian biological weapons lab”.

A US official dismissed the claim as “absurd propaganda” and accused Russia of seeking retroactive pretexts for the war.

But on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said of the Kremlin: “They have the capacity and the capability.”

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Putin: Sanctions causing ‘problems’

Asked about Mr Johnson’s warning, former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele told Sky News: “I certainly think if you look at what’s happened in Syria and Chechnya and of course, what happened on our own streets in Salisbury, I wouldn’t rule it out at all.

“I think as the Russian army becomes bogged down and clearly not realising its objectives militarily you are likely to see more indiscriminate killing and bombardment and possibly the use of a chemical weapons.”

Key developments:
o Diplomatic talks in Turkey between Ukraine and Russia end without agreement
o Russia could use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, US warns
o Roman Abramovich sanctioned by UK government amid crackdown on Russian oligarchs
o British troops must not go to Ukraine to fight and ‘take some selfies’, Armed Forces minister warns
o Fleeing Ukrainian refugees can apply for digital visas to come to the UK

Analysis: PM’s warning is likely counter attempt to Putin’s misinformation

Former chief of UK defence intelligence Air Marshall Philip Osborne told Sky News the PM may have been warning about a chemical weapons attack because he has “really high-grade intelligence”.

“What is more likely is this is part of information warfare so Boris Johnson is trying to pre-empt or respond to information Putin is going to use chemical weapons,” he said.

“So he could go really hard on the rhetoric, structured around Russian misinformation about chemical weapons facilities being in Ukraine.

“It’s more likely this is a narrative/counter-narrative escalation.”

He added that Russia’s accusation Ukraine has chemical weapons could either be a narrative to “pre-empt” their use in Ukraine by the Kremlin or an excuse for why the invasion happened in the first place.

“The challenge is knowing which one – and that’s part of what the West now has to grapple with, and what does it mean for Ukraine and the rest of the world,” he said.

He added that if Russia did use chemical weapons it would be a “significant escalation and would be disproportionate to anything we’ve seen”.

However, he said: “We can never know what Putin’s thinking, you know what he’s saying and doing, but not what he’s thinking. It’s really dangerous to be really definite.”

Only Putin can accept he has made a ‘catastrophic mistake’

On whether there is a compromise to make Russia halt the invasion, the PM said it “depends on Putin and it’s up to him and to him alone”.

“I think he needs to understand that he’s made a disastrous miscalculation and that everybody can see that things aren’t progressing in the way that he hoped,” he added.

“His best bet, I think, is to withdraw, to cease the violence and to allow a peaceful negotiation to begin.”

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Sky’s Beth Rigby interviews Boris Johnson

He added that Mr Putin could either choose to accept he has made a “catastrophic mistake now…or a bit later on” but it is “up to the Kremlin”.

Mr Johnson warned the Russian president “needs to understand that his options are not good” but Mr Putin himself has “made it very difficult to find an offer”.

:: Watch Beth Rigby Interviews… on Sky News – on TV, online and the app – at 9pm tonight

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Article: news.sky.com

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WHO Estimates 15m People Have Died Directly or Indirectly From COVID – More Than Double Official Death Toll

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The World Health Organisation estimates that 15 million people worldwide have now died of coronavirus – or as a result of its impact on health services.

WHO data shows the number of excess COVID mortalities to be somewhere between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people from 1 January 2020 to 31 December 2021. This is more than double the official death toll of around six million.

Excess mortality refers to the number of people who have died of the virus either directly or indirectly by being unable to access health services for other conditions.

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The figures were compiled using country-reported data and statistical modelling, the WHO said.

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There were 14.9 million excess deaths associated with COVID-19 by the end of 2021, the UN body said on Thursday.

Most excess COVID deaths (86%) happened in Asia, Europe and the Americas, according to the figures.

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Middle-income countries accounted for 81% of deaths, with 28% occurring in upper-middle-income countries and 4% in low-income ones.

Some 68% of all excess deaths worldwide happened in just 10 countries.

There was a higher rate for men (57%) than there was for women (43%), with more excess deaths among the elderly than younger generations.

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WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus commented: “These sobering data not only point to the impact of the pandemic but also to the need for all countries to invest in more resilient health systems that can sustain essential health services during crises, including stronger health information systems.

“WHO is committed to working with all countries to strengthen their health information systems to generate better data for better decisions and better outcomes.”

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Original Source: news.sky.com

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Pope Francis Seen Using Wheelchair for the First Time for Mobility Reasons

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The Pope has been pictured using a wheelchair – the first time he’s used one in public due to the knee pain that’s made it hard for him to walk and stand.

Francis, 85, was wheeled on stage and helped into a seat during an audience with a group of nuns and religious superiors from around the world at the Vatican.

He appears to be having a flare-up of sciatica, a nerve condition he suffers with that he’s called his “troublesome guest”.

The Pope has had to cancel or cut short activities several times in the last month because of pain in his right knee.

He was pictured in a wheelchair last July after major intestinal surgery, but this is believed to be the first time he’s used one in public due to his mobility problems.

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Before Thursday’s event, he was able to walk the roughly 10 metres or so from the side entrance of the stage to his seat with some help.

He recently received some injections to try to relieve the pain but has continued to struggle.

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His impaired movement was apparent over Easter when he attended but did not take charge of masses at St Peter’s Basilica, instead delegating a cardinal or archbishop to preside.

During a trip to Malta in April he was also pictured using an elevator platform to get on and off the plane.

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Original Article: news.sky.com

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Woman Pulled Alive From Rubble Six Days After Building Collapsed

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A woman has been found alive in the rubble of a building that partially collapsed almost six days earlier, Chinese state media has said.

At least five people are confirmed to have died and possibly dozens are still missing following the disaster in the city of Changsha, in central China‘s Hunan Province, on 29 April.

The unidentified woman has become the 10th survivor and was rescued shortly after midnight today, about 132 hours after the rear of the six-storey building suddenly caved in, the official Xinhua News Agency has reported.

The woman was conscious and told rescuers how to pull her out without causing further injury, Xinhua added.

Teams had used dogs and hand tools as well as drones and electronic life detectors in the search.

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All the survivors were reportedly in good condition after being treated in a hospital and it is thought intermittent rain showers over the last few days may have helped their chances of survival without food or water.

At least nine people have been arrested in relation to the collapse of what Xinhua has described as a “self-built building”.

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This includes its owner, on suspicion of ignoring building codes or committing other violations.

Three people in charge of design and construction were also held, along with five others who allegedly gave a false safety assessment for a guest house on the building’s fourth to sixth floors.

The building also housed residences, a cafe and shops.

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An aerial photo shows the site of the collapsed residential building in Changsha, central China’s Hunan Province

There has been increase in the number of collapses of self-built buildings in recent years.

Last month, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for additional checks to uncover structural weaknesses.

Following the building collapse at the weekend, he urged for more victims to be found in the rubble “at all costs”.

Poor adherence to safety standards, including the illegal addition of extra floors and failure to use reinforcing iron bars, is often blamed for similar disasters.

China also suffers from decaying infrastructure such as gas pipes that has led to explosions and collapses.

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Source: news.sky.com

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