The Telegraph 2024-03-05 04:30:27

German leaks putting British troops at risk are ‘tip of the iceberg’

German military leaks that have put British troops at risk could be the tip of the iceberg, Berlin’s former intelligence chief warned on Monday night.

August Hanning said more Nato secrets may have been compromised after Russia intercepted and published a video call disclosing military information, telling Bild newspaper: “This leak could have been just the tip of the iceberg.” 

On Monday, sources claimed that Russia had identified Germany as the “weakest link” in Nato and was using Olaf Scholz as a “useful idiot”.

The German chancellor was under major pressure on Monday after the German air force accidentally leaked details of British “troops on the ground” in Ukraine in an unsecure video conference call.

Lord Cameron, the Foreign Secretary, will travel to Berlin on Thursday for a meeting with his German counterpart at which the leaks are expected to be raised.

The Foreign Office sought to play down a possible clash, saying: “There will be detailed discussions about both the big issues of the moment: Ukraine and Gaza.”

Last week, Mr Scholz suggested that British troops were helping to fire cruise missiles, leading to the Kremlin claiming Western allies were entering the war with Russia.

In the leaked video call, the head of the German air force said Britain “have a few people on the ground [operating] in reachback” – a military term that suggests units deployed deep into Ukraine.

Military experts warned that the revelations put British troops at risk, as their role on the ground was previously assumed to be limited.

Russian propagandists broadcast the intercepted video conference call between German air force officers, which took place using off-the-shelf WebEx commercial software.

Meanwhile, security experts warned that Britain was not ready for a “high-casualty scenario” if a wider conflict broke out in Europe.

Experts from the Rusi think tank said contingency plans were “ill-suited” to dealing with returning injured soldiers and the possibility of attacks closer to British soil.

On Monday, the video leak was described as a “wake-up call” for Germany by Christian Lindner, Mr Scholz’s coalition partner. The Free Democrat Party leader said Vladimir Putin was targeting Germany.

Downing Street described the German leak of British military secrets as a “very serious matter”. A diplomatic source said: “More worryingly, Russia has identified Germany as the weakest link in the alliance and Scholz as a useful idiot to take Germany out of the equation.

“And they [Russia] might not be wrong, given the way he positions Germany and his party in this debate.”

Ben Wallace, the former defence secretary, has previously warned that Russian agents have a foothold within the country’s security services.

The leaked audio was released amid a mounting political row in Berlin over the deliveries of Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine.

Mr Scholz is under pressure at home and abroad to match Britain and France’s donations of Storm Shadow missiles. He has insisted such a move would drag his country into a direct war with Moscow.

The leaked audio clip contained discussions on whether German troops would be needed on the ground to help Ukrainian forces operate the missiles.

The officials on the conference call also appeared to discuss whether Kyiv could use the precision weapon to strike the Kerch bridge, which connects occupied Crimea with mainland Russia.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, said the leak “confirms once again that the countries of the collective West are being drawn into the conflict around Ukraine”.

He said it also demonstrated that it was “more than obvious” that Germany was “discussing substantive and specific plans to strike Russian territory”.

Germany dismissed Moscow’s claim that it was preparing a strike on Russia as “absurd propaganda”.

A spokesman for Rishi Sunak said the leak would not deter Britain’s support for Ukraine and its work with Germany.

Asked about the security breach – one of the worst by Berlin since the Cold War – the Prime Minister’s spokesman said: “It’s obviously a matter for Germany to investigate, and you’ve got Chancellor Scholz’s words on this.

“I think he said that it’s clearly a very serious matter, and that’s why it’s now being investigated very carefully. The UK was the first on our part to provide long-range precision strike missiles to Ukraine, and we would encourage our allies to do the same.

“We’ve been clear from the outset that the UK will provide Ukraine with the necessary aid, including lethal support, to defend itself and reclaim its sovereign territory.”

The spokesman declined to be drawn on whether there were any plans to restrict intelligence-sharing with Berlin, and said the incident was “one for Germany to investigate”.

“More broadly, we’ve got a long-standing and very close defence relationship with Germany, we’re two of the biggest providers of military aid to Ukraine, and we will continue to work together to support Ukraine in its defence against Russia,” he added.

EU sources said the bloc’s intelligence practices were under constant review because of the threat of Russian attacks. A Nato official said: “We don’t comment on intelligence matters.”

Warnings were also issued on Monday night that the NHS must prepare for a “high-casualty scenario” in case war breaks out in Europe.

Colonel Si Horne, who served as an emergency doctor in Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone and South Sudan, said the health service and Ministry of Defence’s plans to deal with military casualties were insufficient and “Afghanistan-era”.

Gen Sir Patrick Sanders, the head of the British Army, had previously said it was time to consider conscription and suggested that Britain “train and equip” a “citizen army”, with the number of fully trained soldiers set to fall to 72,500 by 2025. Downing Street ruled out such a move and insisted the Army would remain voluntary.

Now military medical experts have raised further concerns about Britain’s capacity for war. Col Horne, the Chief of the General Staff’s visiting fellow at Rusi, and Ed Falconer, a European security research fellow at the think tank, said the Government must increase the UK’s resilience ahead of a possible conflict in a way that it failed to do for the pandemic.

“Recent warnings on the potential of war have focused on the military’s fighting capability and physical component, rather than the arguably more critical enablers and moral component needed to win a war,” the pair wrote in an editorial.

In recent conflicts, including Afghanistan, most Army personnel were treated at bases nearer to the warzone because of “air supremacy” allowing helicopter extraction of the injured, the “minimal, long-range threat” to attack bases and a “negligible” cyber threat.

However, the editorial said a future conflict was likely to present very different challenges to the military and the NHS, which was already “increasingly strained”.

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Princess of Wales’s uncle says Harry ‘threw his family under a bus’

Gary Goldsmith, the Princess of Wales’s uncle, has criticised the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for “having a pop” at his niece when she could not defend herself.

As he entered the Celebrity Big Brother house, the 58-year-old businessman suggested that Prince Harry had “thrown his family under a bus”.

He said that the Princess was “beautiful on the inside” and a doting mother, describing the monarchy as “family-centric”.

“That’s why I got so upset with Harry and Meghan because you don’t put a stick into that spoke and reinvent history,” he said.

“I’ve got pretty miffed when they had a pop at my beautiful niece who couldn’t say anything for herself.”

Mr Goldsmith also revealed that he had spoken to his elder sister, Carole Middleton, before taking part in the prime-time show and insisted that he would not cause the family any further anxiety as the Princess recovers from abdominal surgery.

“We talked about Kate given what’s going on,” he told The Sun.

“There’s lots going on in the family at the moment. So she’s spinning a lot of plates right now, it’s quite stressful. So the last thing I’m going to do is bring any stress to them.”

But Mr Goldsmith wasted no time in exploiting his royal connections as he made his grand entrance on the live ITV1 show.

Introducing himself to viewers as “uncle to the future Queen of our country, Catherine Middleton, the current Princess of Wales”, he said of his niece: “She is simply perfect.” 

Asked if the Princess would be watching the show, he said: “If she is, it will be behind the sofa, I guess… It will be a nice one in a nice house, I can guarantee that.”

Mr Goldsmith revealed: “The first time I met William, Catherine was cooking and William said, ‘Hi, do you want a cup of tea?’ Very normal.”

In comments that may send a ripple of fear through Kensington Palace, he added: “Every part of me is just riddled with mischief and danger.”

He said he was “an absolute nightmare to live with”, noting: “There’s a reason I’ve had four wives.”

Mr Goldsmith, wearing a white polo neck and matching jacket, then danced down the “runway” into the house with his arms outstretched, like a child pretending to be an aeroplane.

He is said to have been “read the riot act” by Carole Middleton, amid apparent concern that he will be unable to resist spilling family secrets on the prime-time television show.

He did little to allay such fears as he used the newspaper interview to admit that he has got “a self-destruct mode”, “opinions about opinions” and a mouth that “runs away with me”.

The Prince and Princess of Wales have never publicly reacted to the volley of criticism that has been aimed at them from the Sussexes, via their 2021 Oprah Winfrey interview, their Netflix documentary series, or Harry’s memoir, Spare.

The couple have suggested that the Prince and Princess are cold behind the scenes and jealous of Meghan’s success. The Princess has also been accused of commenting on their son, Prince Archie’s skin colour.

“Kate is 100 per cent not racist, neither is Carole,” Mr Goldsmith said.

“My family is not racist and for Kate to be portrayed as that is just so far removed from the truth, it’s ridiculous.”

Goldsmith ‘does not like being controlled’

Mr Goldsmith is not thought to have had any contact with Kensington Palace about his Big Brother appearance, either to ask permission to take part or to thrash out the terms of his deal.

The tattooed father-of-one, known to his royal niece as Uncle G, has often been described as the “black sheep” of the family.

In 2009, he was filmed by undercover reporters at his Ibiza villa, La Maison de Bang Bang, apparently cutting up cocaine on the kitchen worktop and in 2017, he narrowly avoided jail after being convicted of attacking his wife during a drunken street row.

He has admitted he does not “take instruction or being controlled very well”. Mr Goldsmith was joined on the show by an array of celebrities including TV personalities Sharon Osborne and Fern Britton, broadcaster Louis Walsh and chef Levi Roots.

A Kensington Palace spokesman refused to be drawn into a conversation about Celebrity Big Brother, which first aired on Channel 4 in 2000.

The series, hosted by AJ Odudu and Will Best, will be on television for almost three weeks.

Celebrity Big Brother airs Sunday to Friday, 9pm on ITV1 and ITVX. Celebrity Big Brother: Live Launch is available now on ITVX.

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‘Jean queen’ firm facing £236,000 bill after row over mansion restoration

A company co-owned by an Australian fashion tycoon known as the “jean queen” is facing a £236,000 bill following a row with a builder over the restoration of her 19-bedroom Jacobean mansion.

Donna Ida Thornton, 50, whose denim has been worn by Dame Kelly Holmes, the Olympian, and the model Jodie Kidd, is embroiled in a feud with Keith Elliott, a Plymouth-based contractor who claims he has not been paid a penny for work on the £1.2 million property.

Ms Thornton bought the Grade II listed Langdon Court in south Devon with her husband Robert Walton, a 67-year-old restaurateur in 2021 and hired Mr Elliott that April to help turn the property into a boutique hotel.

However, Ms Thornton and Mr Elliott parted ways in December 2022, two-thirds of the way into the project, following an “amicable” disagreement about costs.

Their relationship then deteriorated, with Mr Elliott going on to complain about his treatment on social media. He claimed his company, Keith Elliott Construction (KEC), had shouldered the full cost of the renovations but had not been paid for the work.

In November last year, Mr Elliott applied to an adjudicator at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to decide who was responsible for the costs.

In January, the adjudicator ruled in Mr Elliott’s favour, saying that Langdon Court Ltd, a private company owned by Ms Thornton and her husband, was liable to pay accumulated costs of £236,000.

Documents seen by The Telegraph show that Langdon Court Ltd was instructed to pay 100 per cent of the bill claimed by KEC, as well as the adjudicator’s fee. Counter-claims by Langdon Court Ltd for a similar sum, which argued that some of the works were defective, were thrown out.

KEC was also awarded interest on money owed. Both KEC and Langdon Court Ltd agreed that their contract had been ended by mutual consent.

Mr Elliott posted a photo of “a bar and ban” letter on Facebook, reportedly issued by Ms Thornton, prohibiting him from setting foot on the estate.

He is now taking legal action in the High Court against Langdon Court Ltd, claiming he has not received any funds following the adjudication.

Mr Elliott wrote in a Facebook post: “What they have tried to do to us at KEC has been horrendous. I believe that they tried to take us out of business, either way, what they have done could have, and it showed complete disregard to myself, my family, our staff, their families and also our supply chain.

“They simply didn’t care about if there was a knock on affect (sic) of their non-payment, thankfully in that case, we have limited any affect (sic) to just KEC & myself. We protected every other party, at great cost.

“They thought that they could bully us into submission. Yet not only did we stand up to them, at great cost and huge losses, but we won hands down, in fact we destroyed them.

“Now we will see this through, continuing to follow the elongated legal process despite all its failings.”

A representative for Ms Thornton declined to comment when approached by The Telegraph.

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Princess of Wales seen for first time since abdominal surgery

The Princess of Wales has been photographed by paparazzi for the first time since her abdominal surgery in January, seen being driven by her mother near Windsor Castle as she continues her recovery.

The Princess, wearing sunglasses, was photographed at long range in the passenger seat, with Carole Middleton at the wheel.

The images have been published on a US gossip website after global speculation about the Princess’s health. The accompanying report states that she is “maintaining a low profile … or trying to, anyway”.

The photographs are reported to have been taken shortly before 9am on a Monday, suggesting the Princess and her mother may have been on their way back from the school run. 

It is the first time she has been photographed since Christmas Day, when she walked to Sandringham with the rest of the Royal family.  The photographs were not authorised by Kensington Palace, which has regularly emphasised the Princess’s wish for privacy.

She has been recovering at home at Adelaide Cottage since undergoing surgery and is not expected to return to public duties before Easter.

Her whereabouts have been the subject of extreme social media conspiracy theories, from intended jokes to offensive speculation about her health and well-being.

Members of the public have been calling for updates on the Princess, with some suggesting the palace should release a photograph to prove all is as it seems.

On Jan 17, Kensington Palace said in a written statement: “The surgery was successful, and it is expected that she will remain in hospital for 10 to 14 days before returning home to continue her recovery. Based on the current medical advice, she is unlikely to return to public duties until after Easter.

“The Princess of Wales appreciates the interest this statement will generate. She hopes that the public will understand her desire to maintain as much normality for her children as possible and her wish that her personal medical information remains private.

“Kensington Palace will, therefore, only provide updates on Her Royal Highness’ progress when there is significant new information to share.”

Since then, a spokesman has reiterated that the Princess is “doing well”, saying there are no changes from that original statement.

The Princess and her mother were photographed hours before her uncle, Gary Goldsmith, was due to appear on Celebrity Big Brother.

The images are likely to cause some alarm at the Palace. The Prince of Wales has been determined to ensure his wife is given privacy and rest during her recovery, attending engagements alone once she was safe and settled at home.

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Bullseye host Tony Green dies aged 85

Bullseye game show co-host Tony Green has died at the age of 85, according to a statement posted to the TV show’s social media accounts.

Green was a former amateur darts player, who was also a darts commentator at the BBC, and was most well-known for being the co-host of ITV’s dart-based show Bullseye from 1982.

A statement on Monday, announcing his death, said: “It’s with a very heavy heart that we announce the passing of our dear friend and much loved colleague Mr Tony Green.

“Tony passed away peacefully today after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

“Our love, thoughts and prayers go out to all of Tony’s family, who we hold such affection for, to all of Tony friends and those who were lucky enough to work with him.

“Thank you Tony for all the memories, all the laughs (and trust us there were many!) and all the special times filming Bullseye together, what wonderful years those were and we are honoured to have shared them with you.

“You will be missed our dear friend.”

English professional darts player Steve Beaton, who was nicknamed the Bronzed Adonis on the oche, paid tribute to the star on his X account and posted a picture of the two together.

He said: “So sad to hear the news that Tony Green has passed away my thoughts are with Jacky and all the family.

“Such a nice guy did plenty of exhibitions together and golf days and he gave me my nickname. RIP my friend.”

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Government defeated in Lords over Rwanda Bil

The Government has been defeated multiple times in the House of Lords over the Rwanda Bill as peers voted add tougher safeguards to the scheme.

Amendment 2, which was supported by 274 peers to 172 on Monday, states: “This amendment seeks to ensure that the eventual Act is fully compliant with the rule of law while maintaining full compliance with international and domestic law.”

Peers proceeded to back Amendment 4, which requires there to be proof that Rwanda is safe before any deportation flights take off.

Then they voted with a majority of 91 to allow Parliament’s designation of Rwanda as a safe country to be “rebutted by credible evidence presented to decision-makers, including courts and tribunals”.

The vote is likely to set into motion ‘ping pong’ between the Lords and the Commons when the Bill eventually returns for votes by MPs, although it is unlikely the Lords will be able to scupper the plan altogether as this back and forth can only happen three times before the Government can invoke the Parliament Act and override the Upper House.

It came as Lord Clarke, a former Tory chancellor, said the Supreme Court was “likely” to “strike down” Rishi Sunak’s flagship deportation policy again.

You can follow the latest updates below and join the conversation in the comments section here

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Grandchildren whose lack of visits ‘hurt’ retired soldier lose legal battle over his will

A retired soldier who was “hurt” that his grandchildren did not visit him more often was entitled to leave them only £50 each of his £500,000 fortune, a judge has ruled.

“Strong-willed” Frederick Ward Snr died in 2020, splitting almost all of his estate between his children, Terry Ward and Susan Wiltshire.

However, his late son Fred Jnr’s five adult children were handed just £50 each in envelopes, leading to a family row.

Mr Ward, who died aged 91, told his legal representatives he was upset because he had not been visited by Fred Jnr’s children when he was in hospital three times with a lung condition.

After learning they had been all but disinherited, the five – sisters Carol Gowing, Angela St Marseille, Amanda Higginbotham, Christine Ward and Janet Pett – sued, claiming they should get their late father’s one-third share of their grandfather’s money.

They argued that their uncle and aunt had “unduly influenced” their relative into changing his will at their expense.

‘Entirely rational’

However, their case was thrown out by High Court judge Master James Brightwell, who said it was “entirely rational” for the “disappointed” grandfather to cut out his grandchildren because of their “very limited contact” with him in his last years.

He said that “the evidence does not come close to persuading me” that Terry Ward had “coerced” his father or that Mrs Wiltshire had “controlled” him such as to cast doubt on his will.

In his ruling, Master Brightwell described the 2018 will as “rational” in the circumstances, given that Fred Jnr’s children had not seen much of their grandfather after their father died in 2015.

They had not visited him in hospital because they were not informed he was there, but that was because of how often he was admitted and also “because contact between the parties had stopped in any event”, he said.

The five sisters had made only “very occasional short visits” to see their “disappointed” grandfather, while he was on close terms with his son Terry and Mrs Wiltshire was his full-time carer.

‘Became disappointed’

“It is most likely that given the changed circumstances following Fred Jnr’s death and the limited contact with the claimants after then that Fred became disappointed with the claimants,” he said.

Clearing both Terry Ward and Mrs Wiltshire of influencing their father into effectively cutting his granddaughters out of the will, he said: “The evidence does not come close to persuading me that it is more likely than not that the 2018 will was procured by the undue influence of the defendants or either of them.”

The judge also rejected claims that Mr Ward did not have “capacity” to make the will in 2018 or that it was invalid for “want of knowledge and approval” of its effect.

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