INDEPENDENT 2024-03-25 01:04:12


Two Russian warships hit in Crimea strikes, Ukraine says – live

Two Russian warships have been hit in attacks on the annexed Crimean peninsula on Sunday, Ukraine has said.

Moscow said air defences had shot down more than 10 missiles over the port of Sevastopol during the incident in the early hours.

“The defence forces of Ukraine successfully hit the Azov and Yamal large landing ships, a communications centre and also several infrastructure facilities of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in temporarily occupied Crimea,” Ukraine’s military said.

The attack came after Poland accused Russia of violating its airspace on Sunday morning with a cruise missile launched at targets in western Ukraine.

Russia launched 57 missiles and drones on Ukraine in early on Sunday, including attacking Kyiv and the western region of Lviv that is near the Polish border.

The Polish Foreign Ministry said it would demand explanations from Russia over the airspace violation.

The incident came two days after Poland’s government announced it was preparing new legislation to boost the nation’s capacity for self-defence.

Kate Garraway speaks out on £800k debt after caring for late husband

Kate Garraway has spoken out about the large debt she faces following the long-term care of her late husband Derek Draper.

The Good Morning Britain anchor took on significant care duties when Draper became seriously ill with Covid in March 2020. After spending nearly 100 days in a coma, the former Labour lobbyist and psychotherapist remained in need of constant care for the rest of his life, from professionals and from Garraway.

He died in January, aged 56, and is survived by Garraway, also 56, and their children: Darcey, 18, and 14-year-old Billy.

In a new interview with The Times, Garraway shared some insight into her last interactions with Draper and noted that his health seemed to be improving.

“We were in a very different place, health-wise, from the year before – and it felt like the happiest place,” she said.

“We had more of Derek back. We always knew his injuries could take him, but it all felt so positive at that point, it was the furthest from my mind that anything could happen.”

However, Draper suffered a cardiac arrest while staying at a brain cell clinic in Mexico as Garraway was mid-flight to collect him. Though doctors were able to restart his heart, Draper never regained consciousness and “slipped away” on 3 January.

On Tuesday, the third of Garraway’s films about her late husband, titled Derek’s Story, will air on ITV1. Shot in the final year of Draper’s life, the film will delve deeper into his experiences, as well as highlight the costs of caring for a loved one.

Despite needing round-the-clock care, Draper was not eligible for funding, which left Garraway to incur debts to ensure he had the help he needed.

The interview said that Garraway estimates the care debt to be between £500,000 and £800,000.

“It’s supposed to be a system that’s meant to catch you if you fall,” she says. “But actually, it feels like it’s trying to catch you out. You feel like you’re in the dock answering questions about things that will literally mean life or death to someone you love.

“Derek’s needs were clearly so great, yet he didn’t warrant funded care — so you think, ‘If he isn’t getting it, then who is?’”

As well as the film being a vehicle for Draper to “be heard” as he’d wanted, Garraway said that she went ahead with completing the documentary after his death as a way to honour the wishes of the thousands of carers who have asked her to continue campaigning for change.

“I can’t just abandon this because Derek no longer needs it,” she said. “We have to all understand that this level of abandonment of care is coming for us all, or for someone we love, unless we make it our priority. Because, flipping heck, when you’re in it and you need it, it’s the only thing that counts.”

Kate Garraway: Derek’s Story will air on ITV1 and ITVX on Tuesday 26 March at 9pm.

Russia violates Poland’s airspace while Ukraine hits two warships

Poland has demanded an explanation from Moscow after a Russian cruise missile violated its airspace as it launched an attack on western Ukraine, the Polish armed forces said.

Missiles targeting the Lviv region during the early hours of Sunday morning passed close to the Polish border, with one entering its airspace for as long as 39 seconds.

The violation led to the Polish air force placing their F-16 fighter jets on high alert, with a warning that increased noise levels were expected in the southeastern part of the country.

“On 24 March at 4.23am (3.23am GMT), there was a violation of Polish airspace by one of the cruise missiles launched overnight by long-range aviation of the Russian Federation,” the Polish armed forces said in a post on X/Twitter.

“The object entered Polish space near the town of Oserdow (Lublin Voivodeship) and stayed there for 39 seconds. During the entire flight, it was observed by military radar systems,” it said, adding that all necessary procedures were launched to ensure the safety of Polish airspace.

“Polish and allied aircraft have been activated, which may result in increased noise levels, especially in the southeastern part of the country.”

Poland’s defence minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz said the missile would have been shot down if there was an indication it was heading towards a target.

The foreign ministry has also said it will demand an explanation from Russia.

The ministry spokesperson said Poland has called on Russia “to stop terrorist air attacks on the inhabitants and territory of Ukraine, end the war and address the country’s internal problems”.

Russia’s missile attack on Ukraine was their third in the past four days, and the second to target the capital, Kyiv.

The governor of the Lviv region, Maksym Kozytskyi, said on the Telegram platform that critical infrastructure was hit, while no deaths or injuries were reported. Later, authorities said that rescuers had just put out a fire at a critical infrastructure facility in the Lviv region, which had been attacked with missiles and drones at night and in the morning.

An air raid siren in the capital lasted for over two hours as rockets entered in groups from the north.

Shortly afterwards, the Ukrainian military said that two Russian warships had been hit in attacks on the annexed Crimean peninsula.

“The defence forces of Ukraine successfully hit the Azov and Yamal large landing ships, a communications centre and also several infrastructure facilities of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in temporarily occupied Crimea,” the armed forces said.

Moscow said air defences had shot down more than 10 missiles over the port of Sevastopol during the incident in the early hours.

Mikhail Razvozhayev, the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol, said on the Telegram messaging app that a 65-year-old man was killed when three homes were hit by shrapnel.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin continued to peddle claims throughout the weekend that Ukraine had been involved in the Moscow terror attack, which saw 137 innocent civilians killed at a concert venue on Friday evening.

Appearing on TV on Saturday, Putin alleged a link between the gunmen and Ukraine, saying the assailants planned to flee there. He made no mention of the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility, or of Kyiv’s denial of involvement.

In a video statement, Volodymyr Zelensky angrily rejected the claims, stating: “Instead of taking care of his Russian citizens and addressing them, this duffer Putin remained silent for a day, thinking about how to link this to Ukraine.

“Those hundreds of thousands of Russians who are now killing on Ukrainian soil would certainly be enough to deter any terrorists.”

What is ISIS-K and why has it attacked Russia?

In the weeks leading up to the tragedy at a Moscow music venue on Friday night, warnings had been relayed to Russia that a terror attack perpetrated by extremists was imminent.

Despite this, it appears their intelligence services were caught unaware when a group of four gunmen opened fire at Crocus City Hall, where 7,000 concertgoers had gathered to watch the progressive rock band Picnic.

At least 137 people have been killed, while over a hundred more have been wounded with the jihadist group ISIS-K claiming responsibility in a series of videos and messages.

The four suspects have since been arrested and hauled before a court, just hours after footage emerged of them being dragged into an intelligence headquarters whilst blindfolded.

Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), named after an old term for the region that included parts of Iran, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, emerged in eastern Afghanistan in late 2014 and quickly established a reputation for extreme brutality.

While the group has seen a decline in membership since 2018, it remains one of the most active regional affiliates of Islamic State. Over the years, it has been increasingly targeted by US forces and the Taliban, both of whom have inflicted heavy losses upon the group.

Despite this, the US continues to view the group as a threat, with Congress told last March that ISIS-K was developing the ability to carry out “external operations” in Europe and Asia.

General Michael Kurilla, the commander of US Central Command predicted it would be able to attack U.S. and Western interests outside Afghanistan “in as little as six months and with little to no warning.”

Jihadist terror groups have often posed a challenge to Russia’s security, with ISIS-K previously carrying out the 2017 St Petersburg metro bombing in 2017, which left 15 dead.

Largely based in central Asia, ISIS-K has come to view Russia on a similar level to the US, which they believe espouses “hatred” towards the Muslim faith.

They have also cited Russia’s support of the Assad regime which saw them intervene in Syria in 2015, with airstrikes occurring as recently as last year.

Michael Kugelman of the Washington-based Wilson Center said ISIS-K “sees Russia as being complicit in activities that regularly oppress Muslims.”

He added that the group also counts as members a number of Central Asian militants with their own grievances against Moscow.

Earlier this year, the US intercepted communications confirming the group carried out twin bombings in Iran that killed nearly 100 people who had gathered to mourn the anniversary of Iranian military officer Qasem Soleimani’s assassination by US forces.

In September 2022, ISIS-K militants claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing at the Russian embassy in Kabul.

The group was also responsible for an attack on Kabul’s international airport in 2021 that killed 13 US troops and at least 169 civilians during the chaotic US evacuation from the country.

£200m boost to UK nuclear industry amid defence concerns

Rishi Sunak will declare a “critical national endeavour” as he unveils a £200m package of investment aimed at securing the future of the UK’s nuclear industry and boosting jobs.

The prime minister will introduce a new fund backed by £20m a year in public money for the next decade to support growth in Barrow-in-Furness, the Cumbrian town that is home to Britain’s Astute class submarines and forthcoming Dreadnought programme.

Downing Street says the money will provide grants to local organisations and improvements to transport and health projects in the area.

The nuclear industry is expected to require 50 per cent more skilled workers in the next decade as it becomes more central to UK energy and national security.

The move comes amid concerns about the UK’s level of defence spending as two serving ministers have urged Mr Sunak to increase defence spending to at least 2.5 per cent of GDP in the face of escalating Russian aggression and concerns about stability in the Middle East.

There was no uplift for defence spending in the spring budget as chancellor Jeremy Hunt told MPs, “Our spending will rise to 2.5 per cent [of GDP] as soon as economic conditions allow,” without detailing how that would happen.

Defence secretary Grant Shapps has also conceded that he’d like to see a “bigger budget” from the current level of just over 2 per cent, and called for military spending to be increased to 3 per cent of GDP.

Mr Sunak has said the government has already announced the largest sustained increase in defence spending since the Cold War and “recently topped up with billions of pounds to strengthen our nuclear enterprise and rebuild stockpiles.”

Today’s announcement also includes a significant injection of cash from industry leaders including BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, EDF and Babcock, who will be investing £763m between them in skills, jobs and education.

Ahead of a visit to Barrow-in-Furness on Monday, the prime minister said: “Safeguarding the future of our nuclear deterrent and nuclear energy industry is a critical national endeavour.

“In a more dangerous and contested world, the UK’s continuous at-sea nuclear deterrent is more vital than ever. And nuclear delivers cheaper, cleaner homegrown energy for consumers.

He added: “That’s why we are investing in Barrow, the home of UK submarines, and in the jobs and skills of the future in the thriving British nuclear industry.

“Today we usher in the next generation of our nuclear enterprise, which will keep us safe, keep our energy secure, and keep our bills down for good.”

Industry leaders have warmly welcomed the plans. Charles Woodburn, BAE Systems chief executive, said: “Barrow is at the heart of the UK’s submarine enterprise and as the custodian of our submarine design and build capability, we’re incredibly proud of the role we play in the Astute, Dreadnought and now SSN-AUKUS programmes.”

David Lockwood, CEO of Babcock International, said the measures were a “fantastic opportunity for the UK to deliver a stronger nuclear industry that will contribute to the resilience of the UK’s independent deterrent and will support the UK’s energy security ambitions and net zero targets.”

History, heritage, cuisine and culture in Split, Croatia

Historical buildings, pine forest hills and breathtaking views of the Adriatic Sea are just a few things to expect on a fun-filled trip to the old-world coastal city of Split. This ancient sliver of the country is steeped in eclectic history and blessed with abundant natural beauty, a dynamic food scene, and more cultural attractions you can shake a stick at. It’s an all-rounder, ideal to visit no matter the season and even for a quick city break since there are plenty of direct flights from UK cities, including Birmingham, Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London and Manchester. Here’s our must-see, must-do guide to this stunning city…

Split is Croatia’s sportiest city, often referred to as The City of Sport, thanks to the number of professional athletes that hail from the city. In fact, Split is the city with the highest number of Olympic medal winners per capita. You can see their names proudly presented on Sports Walk of Fame on the city’s west coast, including Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanišević, double world high jump champion Blanka Vlašić, and ex–NBA star Toni Kukoč.

Catch a basketball game featuring the legendary KK Split, one of the most successful clubs in Europe, at the Gripe Sports Hall, or watch a football match with HNK Hajduk Split at the Poljud Stadium to feel the electrifying passion of local fans. If you’d rather participate, take advantage of Split’s drop-dead coastal location by trying windsurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding or sailing; many places offer equipment rental or lessons. Or, to keep it traditional, try your hand at ‘picigin’ – a local ball game from Split that is played at the beach.

For a more cerebral experience, immerse yourself in the city’s rich history, from Roman walls to UNESCO heritage sites and historical Old Towns. Wander through preserved Roman streets lined with Gothic and Renaissance buildings and visit the oldest cathedral building in the world, Diocletian’s Palace, built between 295 and 305 A.D. The beautiful basement halls here (more commonly known as the substructures) are one of the world’s best-preserved complexes from the era of classical antiquity and central to the historical centre of Split being added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1979.

Dip your toe into the world of Croatian art at the Ivan Meštrović Gallery, wholly dedicated to the sculptor himself, renowned for his powerful and expressive works. There’s also the Museum of Croatian Archaeological Monuments, which delves deep into the city’s history across more than 20,000 artefacts. Plus, the museum itself is an architectural masterpiece.

If you want to learn all about the city’s history and citizens, the City Museum of Split is a must-visit. It was founded in 1947 at the stunning palace of the Papalić family and is a stunning example of late-Gothic style architecture.

There’s also the Ethnographic Museum of Split, situated inside a former residential complex in the southeastern quarter of Diocletian’s Palace. The museum holds a vast collection of artefacts that showcase the traditional way of life, customs, and cultural practices of the people of the Dalmatia region and beyond. You’ll find everything from household items and religious objects to traditional tools and clothing.

Leave some time in your itinerary to explore the city’s natural wonders and incredible beaches. Ideally situated on the Adriatic coast, Split houses some of Croatia’s finest and most picturesque beaches. Bačvice Beach is one of the most popular in the area, perfect for shallow bathing and basking in the sun; plus, there are many bars and restaurants along the front, and concerts take place throughout the summer months.

There’s also Bene Beach, located on the northeastern part of the leafy Marjan Forest Park, often referred to as the green oasis of Split. It’s usually a little quieter, so it’s perfect for finding a secluded spot, sheltered beautifully by the trees that border the shoreline. Hiking or biking in the forest park Marjan is also a great way to experience the natural landscape of the Dalmatian Coast. You can follow many routes through fragrant pine forests and scenic viewpoints – the Marjan Hill Viewpoint overlooks the entire Old Town. Finish off with a dip in the sea to cool off.

Kašjuni Beach is known for being particularly beautiful, surrounded by lush greenery and rocky cliffs. It tends to be a little quieter and less crowded with calm, crystal-clear water, ideal for snorkelling and swimming. While on the southern side of Marjan, you’ll find Kaštelet Beach, a small but peaceful fine-pebbled beach with shallow banks, perfect for dipping in and out of between basking in the sun.

Follow the scenic coastal promenade from the city centre, and you’ll eventually reach Trstenik, home to a well-equipped, picturesque beach popular amongst water sports enthusiasts. Here, you can enjoy windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking, paddle boarding and more. The surrounding neighbourhood is chock full of restaurants, shops and places to stay should you want to spend a few nights here.

Split also serves as an ideal hub for day excursions, offering easy access to the stunning Dalmatian islands and hinterland, each brimming with natural and cultural treasures. From the city, you can visit several of Dalmatia’s spectacular islands, including Brac, Hvar, Vis, Solta and many more. Bisevo Island is one of the most popular to visit, where the remains of a 1050 AD Benedictine monastery lay, and the Blue Cave, one of the must-see natural attractions in the country, renowned for its incredible glowy sun rays that shine through cracks in the cave, creating a magical blue glimmer.

Just a half-hour drive from the city centre, you’ll find idyllic hiking trails on mountains such as Mosor, Kozjak, and Biokovo. There’s also the Cetina River, where you can participate in heart-pumping rafting and canyoning adventures.

As a cultural hub, Split boasts a diverse timetable of not-to-be-missed events throughout the year, including Sudamja, Stories of Diocletian, Advent – Winter Joys, Split Summer Festival, the Split Carnival, Month of Gastronomy and the Split Marathon.  In recent years, the city has also emerged as a sought-after filming destination, hosting productions such as Game of Thrones and the Dark Tower movie. So it’s pretty fitting that the city is home to the Mediterranean Film Festival and the International Festival of New Film.

Food-wise, Croatia’s diverse and delicious cuisine varies significantly from region to region, with coastal areas focusing more on seafood dishes like grilled fish, octopus salad, and black risotto. Learn all about Croatian fare at a local cookery class, where you’ll get to sample and make delicious dishes and take recipes back home.

Split’s culinary scene is constantly evolving, with many restaurants opening in the city, especially in the historic centre and its surroundings. Several restaurants have been recognised by the world-famous Michelin Guide, but there are many more worth visiting, with menus brimming with local Mediterranean cuisine, often with a creative twist added by some of Croatia’s best chefs. Most of the local restaurants’ menus are made with regional, fresh produce, including just-caught seafood.

For an authentic Croatian experience and the most local atmosphere, travellers should dine at a traditional tavern-style konoba restaurant, the Dalmatian version of a tavern, where you can enjoy fresh fish and seafood and popular local meat dishes.

The local diet is also rich in seasonal vegetables, which vegetarians can enjoy in many of the city’s restaurants, with plenty of spots specialising in vegetarian and vegan fare.

Wine and olive oil are essential components of Split’s gastronomic makeup, meaning that restaurants are always stocked with exceptional Croatian wines, particularly those produced within Dalmatia. You can enjoy them with dinner or at a local wine tasting.

If you’re looking for local produce, Ribarnica is stocked with fresh seafood plucked out of the neighbouring Adriatic Sea. While Pazar Green Market is the place to go for fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs, cheese, cured meat, honey, and sweet treats, for delicious eats you can sample on the spot, or take home for a slice of Split you can reminisce with.

For more Split travel ideas and inspiration, head to Visit Split or check out Instagram or Facebook

The Tories may need more than economic growth to change their fortunes

It was revealing that Jeremy Hunt was put forward by the government for the Sunday political shows on TV – unusually, only three weeks after his last Sunday media round on the eve of his Budget.

The chancellor’s latest appearance was a tacit admission that his package, including a two-percentage-point cut in national insurance contributions, has failed to move the political dial – to the frustration of the Conservative MPs who are starting to fear that nothing will dent Labour’s 20-point lead in the opinion polls.

True, Mr Hunt wanted the opportunity to bask in the brighter economic news since his Budget – a sharp drop in inflation and a return to limited economic growth which should soon bring the UK’s recession to an end. Ministers hope that wages outpacing inflation will generate a “feelgood factor”, and that the Bank of England will soon start to bring down interest rates so mortgage rates fall, undoing some of the damage from Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-Budget.

Is there clear water between Tory and Labour economic policies?

The Labour Party has faced accusations of mirroring the Conservative Party’s economic strategies.

Last week, shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves outlined her economic approach in her Mais lecture, prompting some to liken her to Margaret Thatcher.

Echoing Labour’s commitment to a “decade of national renewal”, Ms Reeves promised substantial reforms akin to Thatcher’s era, aiming to reverse the nation’s economic decline and foster robust growth.