The Telegraph 2024-02-09 16:01:24

Putin threatens World War Three if US deploys troops in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has threatened the United States with a global war that will “bring humanity to the brink” if it deploys troops to Ukraine.

The Russian president appealed to the US to stop the fighting in Ukraine and push for peace, telling US TV personality Tucker Carlson: “We have to look for a way out of this situation.”

Speaking in his first interview with a Western media figure since invading Ukraine in February 2022, Putin appeared to signal for the first time that Washington and Moscow were involved in back-channel peace talks on the war.

“Certain contacts are being maintained,” Putin told Carlson, but declined to go into further detail.

However, the Russian president added: “If somebody has the desire to send regular troops, that would certainly bring humanity to the brink of a very serious global conflict.”

Putin accuses Boris Johnson of sabotaging peace deal

Putin, 71, also accused Boris Johnson of sabotaging a peace deal with Ukraine in the spring of 2022.

Carlson asked Putin about reports that Ukraine was “prevented from negotiating a peace settlement by the former British prime minister acting on behalf of the Biden administration”.

The claim first surfaced after David Arahamiya, Ukraine’s chief negotiator in the peace talks, cited Mr Johnson’s surprise trip to Kyiv in 2022 among the reasons the talks stalled.

Mr Arahamiya told a journalist that while talks between Kyiv and Moscow were under way in Istanbul, Mr Johnson told leaders in Kyiv that Ukraine “shouldn’t sign anything with them at all – and let’s just fight”.

The former prime minister has previously vehemently denied the claims as “total nonsense” and “Russian propaganda”.

Mr Johnson said he merely “expressed concerns” about the nature of the potential agreement during a conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

He added that he had assured Mr Zelensky of the UK’s unwavering support for Ukraine, stating that Britain would back Kyiv “a thousand per cent”.

Raising the issue, Carlson asked Putin whether Ukraine was merely a “satellite” for the West.

Putin replied: “If the Zelensky administration in Ukraine refused to negotiate, I assume they did it under instruction from Washington.”

The Russian leader went on to claim a peace deal was settled in Istanbul with Ukraine’s chief negotiator but scuppered by Mr Johnson, prolonging the war by another 18 months.

Putin said: “Prime Minister Johnson came to talk us out of it and we missed that chance. Well, you missed it.”

Discussing a potential path to peace, Putin added: “If Washington believes it to be the wrong decision, let it abandon it. Let it find the delicate excuse so that no one is insulted. Let it come up with a way out. It was not us who made this decision. It was them. So let them go back on it.”

He added: “And now we have to look for a way out of this situation to correct their mistakes. They did it, so let them correct it themselves. We support this.”

Release of Evan Gershkovich possible

Elsewhere in the more than two-hour interview, Putin hinted that he could be open to releasing Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter who has been held in a Russian prison for almost a year.

Putin signalled back-channel conversations were ongoing with Washington over Mr Gershkovich’s release, as he said:

“Special services are in contact with one another.

“They are talking about the matter in question,” he said, adding: “I believe an agreement can be reached.”

Putin believes Russia has historic claims to Ukrainian territory

Putin spent the first half an hour of the interview giving a centuries-long historical account of Russian territory which he claimed justified his claims on Ukrainian territory.

More than once, Carlson pressed the Russian leader on how his response was “relevant” to the invasion.

Putin replied: “Are we going to have a serious talk or a show?”

He went on to argue that Romania and Hungary “had some of their lands taken away… and they still remain part of Ukraine”.

The Right-wing American commentator asked: “Do you believe Hungary has a right to take its land back from Ukraine, and that other nations have a right to go back to their 1654 borders?”

Putin replied: “I’m not sure whether they should go back to their 1654 borders. But … one can say that they could claim back those lands of theirs while having no right to do that. It is at least understandable.”

No interest in expanding war

The Russian president also said it was “out of the question” for Russia to invade Poland or Latvia, telling Carlson: “We simply don’t have any interest” in expanding the war in Ukraine.

“Can you imagine a scenario where you send Russian troops to Poland?” Carlson asked in the interview.

“Only in one case, if Poland attacks Russia,” Putin responded, adding: “We have no interest in Poland, Latvia or anywhere else. Why would we do that? We simply don’t have any interest… It is absolutely out of the question.”

But he said defeating Russia in Ukraine is “impossible” and Nato must accept Moscow’s territorial gains there.

“There has been the uproar and screaming about inflicting a strategic defeat to Russia on the battlefield,” Mr Putin said.

“In my opinion, it is impossible by definition. It is never going to happen.”

‘My memory is fine’, shouts Biden as he confuses Mexico and Egypt

A bombshell report that found Joe Biden had “significant limitations in his memory” has handed the White House to Donald Trump, a senior Democrat believes.

Dean Phillips, who is Mr Biden’s only remaining challenger for the Democratic presidential nomination, called on other members of his party to “face the truth” about the President.

It comes after a report into the US president’s handling of classified documents found he struggled to remember when he was vice president, or when his son died.

Mr Phillips told Fox News: “The Report simply affirms what most Americans already know, that the President cannot continue to serve as our Commander-in-Chief beyond his term ending January 20, 2025.

“Already facing the lowest approval numbers in modern history and losing in each of the key battleground states, this Report has all but handed the 2024 election to Donald Trump if Joe Biden is the Democratic nominee — and I invite fellow Democrats to face the truth.”

Mr Biden angrily defended himself last night, saying his memory was “fine” – but in the process confused Mexico and Egypt when talking about the Middle East.

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Piers Morgan leaves TalkTV, calling his low-rating daily show a ‘straitjacket’

Piers Morgan is leaving television and heading to YouTube, saying that his nightly TalkTV show has been a “straitjacket” with lacklustre ratings.

Piers Morgan Uncensored has attracted some of the biggest names in politics and entertainment, beginning with a Donald Trump interview for the launch programme.

This week he interviewed Rishi Sunak, and made headlines by persuading the Prime Minister to make a bet on Rwanda flights leaving before the next election.

However, ratings for the daily 8pm slot are small; the Sunak interview was watched by barely 50,000 viewers on television, but has been viewed 335,000 times on YouTube.

Morgan announced that he would make the show YouTube-only, in a move that will raise questions about the future of Rupert Murdoch’s TalkTV. He is the station’s star name.

He said that the decision was his own, although Murdoch is said to have been equally displeased with Morgan’s ratings. The presenter was reportedly being paid £50 million over three years for work across various News UK outlets.

Morgan joined TalkTV after quitting ITV’s Good Morning Britain in a row over the Duchess of Sussex, and before that left CNN after audiences were turned off by his championing of gun control.

‘I just want to go full digital’

“I’ve just decided that I no longer want to create my show for linear television. I just want to go full digital globally,” Morgan told the Semafor website.

“There’s something quite anachronistic about … still trying to create old-fashioned TV for a pre-scheduled time slot each night for a relatively small audience, when we’re getting such gigantic audiences digitally.

“The frustration for me has been continuing to create a TV-format show when that’s not how 95 per cent of my audience is watching it.”

Speaking to The Times, Morgan added: “It’s clear there’s a huge global demand for the content we’re making, but the commitment to a daily show at a fixed schedule, with all the editing and time sensitivities that involves, has been an unnecessary straitjacket.

“People are watching the content on YouTube rather than conventional television and I have no problem with that.”

The Piers Morgan Uncensored channel on YouTube has 2.35 million subscribers. His recent interview with Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef, regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict, has had 22 million views after going viral on social media, while other popular interviews include Andrew Tate (14 million), Kanye West (8.7 million) and Cristiano Ronaldo (5.7 million).

The YouTube move would allow Morgan to do more expansive interviews and not be constrained by an hour-long running time, he said. “I could happily interview Elon Musk for three or four hours tomorrow and the audience would lap it up.

“But the nightly restriction of having to go into a studio at 8pm when sometimes there is nothing happening and literally fill time? Nobody wants that.”

TalkTV deal ‘worth $50 million over three years’

TalkTV launched in April 2022 but has struggled to get a foothold in the market, despite its expensive production values. A revamp last year which put Julia Hartley-Brewer, Mike Graham and Jeremy Kyle into prime slots has failed to revive interest.

Viewing figures have lagged well behind rivals including GB News and there has been speculation that Murdoch could pull the plug.

Figures from ratings body Barb show that the audience averaged just 11,100 for a Monday in January, compared to 58,000 for GB News, 62,500 for Sky News and 76,000 for BBC News.

Dangerous criminals in secure hospitals get cold weather payments at taxpayers’ expense

Dangerous criminals being treated in secure hospitals rather than held in prison are getting cold weather payments at the expense of the taxpayer.

They are entitled to the payments as part of the benefits package which they can get by being treated as “patients” in secure psychiatric hospitals under “restricted” conditions rather than being sent to prison.

The payments are worth £25 for each seven-day period of very cold weather of at least zero degrees celsius and are awarded based on the temperatures in the postcode where they are living even if it is a secure hospital with central heating.

The disclosure comes after The Telegraph revealed that triple killer Valdo Calocane will be entitled to claim thousands of pounds in benefits a year after being sent to Ashworth high security hospital, in Merseyside, rather than being jailed.

It subsequently emerged that up to 2,700 killers, sex offenders and other violent criminals are receiving benefits because they have been sent to secure hospitals rather than prison.

Mel Stride, the Work and Pensions Secretary, is understood to be urgently reviewing Calocane’s case and the wider entitlement of offenders to benefits in secure hospitals.

The latest payments were revealed by a longstanding staff member at a medium secure mental health unit who said that convicted criminals being treated were “in receipt of universal credit and some are getting PIP [Personal Independence Payment] and most recently cold weather payments and help with living costs.”

They added: “Patients get four hot meals a day, have no bills to pay and also get money from the hospital for therapeutic reasons for cooking sessions.

‘Disposable incomes’

“Some patients have disposable incomes of £800 a month. Some [get] more than this which is paid direct into hospital finances or into their private bank account. Many patients don’t have budgeting skills and spend the money as soon as they get it. Some accumulate thousands [of pounds].

“I have known some patients to have a host of tech gadgets in their rooms and now they can have access to mobiles, smartphones and expensive trainers.

“My belief has always been that [people with] mental health issues should not be treated the same way as prisoners, but I also believe that benefits should be given in the community. Anyone else going into hospital will have benefits stopped after a few weeks.”

Julian Hendy, founder of the Hundred Families charity, which supports families in mental health-related killings, said: “This just seems to go from bad to worse. How can cold weather payments be possibly justified for serious offenders detained in psychiatric hospitals?

“We need to know just exactly what is going on. We need much greater transparency and openness. It seems even more money is now being given to offenders with no possible need for it. This is money that surely could be much better spent on supporting victims or preventing further tragedies.”

A government spokesman said: “We have been clear that questions need answering in all aspects of this case. Entitlement to benefit is, by law, dependent on sentences handed out, and the Work and Pensions Secretary is looking at the specifics of this case.”