INDEPENDENT 2024-03-27 16:04:03


Princess of Wales is ‘thrilled’ by messages of support, Queen says

The Queen said the Princess of Wales “will be thrilled” after receiving posters from well-wishers while on a visit to Shrewsbury this afternoon.

Camilla made the comments on a visit to a farmers’ market as she met two young sisters who made signs with the poignant words “send our love to Kate” in the wake of her cancer announcement.

The Princess of Wales revealed in a video statement on Friday that she is undergoing preventative chemotherapy.

Her visit comes as it was claimed Prince Harry is waiting for an ‘apology’ from Prince William following ‘years of tension’.

According to royal author, Tom Quinn, the Duke of Sussex is keen to reunite with his family but is expecting William and Kate to ‘apologise’ as part of the reconciliation process.

Neither Harry nor Meghan were informed in advance of Kate’s video, laying bare the extent of the painful rift between the once inseparable brothers.

The Sussexes reached out to their brother and sister-in-law in the wake of the news, but received a ‘cool response’ in return, according to reports.

According to Quinn, the contact between the estranged siblings didn’t include any suggestion that they “should make up and let bygones be bygones”. He added that it was “hardly the kind of warm, informal response” one may have expected.

Despite the rift, a reunion of sorts is likely when Harry returns to the UK for a celebration of the Invictus Games in May, the Mirror reports.

Meanwhile, King Charles is set to return to his public duties on Easter Sunday. The monarch, who is also undergoing cancer treatment, will attend an Easter service at the chapel at Windsor Castle with Camilla on Sunday.

The appearance will be the first major event for Charles, 75, since his cancer diagnosis.

Scientists reveal astonishing image of black hole in our galaxy

Scientists have revealed an astonishing new image of the black hole in the middle of our galaxy.

The object – known as Sagittarius A* – is shown in polarised light for the first time, in a profound breakthrough.

It offers a new view of that supermassive black hole that lies at the heart of our own Milky Way. The swirling image shows the magnetic field structure around the black hole and suggests that it might have a hidden jet.

The image was created by the scientists as part of the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration. That produced the first image of a black hole – when in 2019 it produced a picture of the one at the heart of the Messier 87 galaxy – and followed it in 2022 with an image of the one at the heart of our Milky Way.

Our galaxy’s Milky Way is a thousand times smaller than Messier 87’s. But the new picture suggests they might be remarkably similar: as well as sharing a common look, they appear to have kindred magnetic field structures – suggesting those processes might be homogenous across black holes.

“What we’re seeing now is that there are strong, twisted, and organised magnetic fields near the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy,” said Sara Issaoun, Nasa Hubble Fellowship Program Einstein fellow at the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard & Smithsonian and co-lead of the project.

“Along with Sgr A* having a strikingly similar polarisation structure to that seen in the much larger and more powerful M87* black hole, we’ve learned that strong and ordered magnetic fields are critical to how black holes interact with the gas and matter around them.”

University College London’s Dr Ziri Younsi, a co-author on the papers, and a member of the EHT collaboration said: “It is very exciting to see the first polarised images of the black hole in the heart of our galaxy.

“These observations reveal much more information about the magnetic fields surrounding the black hole, and will improve our ability to model accreting black holes in the future.

“It is remarkable that the polarisation structure of Sgr A* is so similar to that of the M87 black hole, which we know possesses a prodigious relativistic jet.

“This exciting new study hints at the possibility of a jet hiding near the event horizon of Sgr A*.”

Seen in polarised light for the first time, the image shows orange swirls around the black hole, said to resemble the Eye of Sauron from the film adaption of JRR Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

Light is an oscillating or moving electromagnetic wave that allows us to see objects, while polarised light is light in which the electric and magnetic fields each vibrate in a single plane.

Although it surrounds us, human eyes cannot tell it apart from normal light.

Around the black holes, particles whirling around magnetic field lines give off a polarisation pattern, allowing astronomers to see what is happening in black hole regions in increasing detail and map their magnetic field lines.

The EHT collaboration involves more than 300 researchers from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America.

The international collaboration is working to capture the most detailed black hole images ever obtained by creating a virtual Earth-sized telescope.

The Atacama Large Millimeter Array (Alma), in which the European Southern Observatory (ESO ) is a partner, and the ESO-hosted Atacama Pathfinder Experiment, both in northern Chile, were part of the network that made the observations, conducted in 2017.

The findings are published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Additional reporting by agencies

Russia-Ukraine war live: Moscow ‘tortures’ 5,000 Ukrainians

More than 5,500 Ukrainians have reportedly been tortured by Putin’s troops, while over 10,000 peaceful civilians are being held in occupied territories, Kyiv has said.

Prosecutor general Andriy Kostin told Interfax-Ukraine: “There are different figures. We estimate tens of thousands, more than 10,000 for sure. We are talking only about those who were forcibly relocated, not about those who made this decision at their own discretion.”

He added that 164 torture sites and forced detention centres had been documented in liberated territories, while a UN human rights report found that at least 32 prisoners of war were executed in Russia this winter.

The Kremlin has strongly denied any allegations of torture or maltreatment.

It comes after a Ukrainian navy spokesperson claimed they had sunk or disabled a third of all Russian warships in the Black Sea, with four ships hit in the latest strike over the weekend.

Meanwhile, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) made the bizarre claim that the US, the UK and Ukraine were all somehow involved in the terror attack on a Moscow concert hall that killed 139 people on Friday.

An Isis affiliate has already claimed responsibility for the attack, including publishing purported video of it being carried out, and Western intelligence agencies say the claim is credible.

MP George Galloway accuses UK of involvement in Moscow terror attack

Newly-elected MP George Galloway has accused the UK of being involved in last week’s Moscow terror attack in comments quoted in a Kremlin-linked newspaper.

The Rochdale MP accused the US and the UK of lying about the involvement of Isis in the attack, which killed 139 people and injured 360, in quotes in Rossiyskaya Gazeta, a newspaper published by the Russian government.

In the month after his return to parliament, described as a “dark day” for Britan’s Jewish community, Mr Galloway has espoused conspiracy theories about the Princess of Wales being dead and likened Israel to Nazi Germany.

MPs slammed his latest intervention as irresponsible, reckless and playing into the Kremlin’s hands. The foreign secretary, David Cameron, also described claims that the West and Ukraine were involved in the Crocus City Hill Attack as “utter nonsense” in a post on X.

In an article in the Russian newspaper, Mr Galloway is quoted as saying: “When the US, UK and others quickly tried to assure me that it was only Isis (banned in the Russian Federation) that committed this massacre in Moscow, I automatically realised that they were lying.

“And this is what I discovered: First of all, no one has explained the unannounced visit of former President Barack Obama to meet British politicians and security officials in Downing Street three days before this terrorist crime was committed.

“Researching even further, I discovered that Victoria Nuland [former senior US diplomat], this harbinger of death, this angel of death, who, if she approaches you, you can be sure that civil war is coming in your country. And she promised the Russians some unpleasant surprises in the coming weeks and months.”

The article says Mr Galloway claims to have “four pieces of evidence that lead me to believe that the United States, its Nato allies, and their puppet stump state Ukraine are, in fact, responsible for this massacre”.

A press spokesperson for Mr Galloway declined to comment on the article. Mr Galloway told The Independent he had never heard of the Rossiyskaya Gazeta or given the newspaper a comment. He added: “I have never heard of nor spoken to this Russian newspaper. Or any other Russian newspaper.”

The new MP’s comments align with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spurious claims that Ukraine is somehow responsible for the attack, despite there being no evidence to suggest this.

Western analysts have warned that Putin has a history of using terrorist attacks to justify wars of aggression, and is likely planning to do the same for the latest Moscow incident.

The remarks prompted a series of criticism from MPs.

Tobias Ellwood, the former chairman of parliament’s defence committee, said the claims were irresponsible and reckless: “Whilst his words will be quickly dismissed as a typically far fetched, factually incorrect rant, Moscow will exploit this to spin its own domestic narrative that Nato is to blame.

“Galloway’s words are not only irresponsible but reckless.”

Conservative Bob Seely, who sits on the foreign affairs committee, said he “completely disagreed” with Mr Galloway’s claims. He added: “There is absolutely no evidence that the US or the UK or Ukraine or Nato were in any way responsible, and sadly this sort of wild speculation plays into the hands of the Kremlin and will be used to support this absolute fiction of a claim.”

Senior Tory MP Henry Smith added that it was outrageous for a British MP to “wave the flag for Russia by claiming this was a Nato act”.

On Tuesday night, Mr Galloway replied directly to Lord Cameron’s statement on X describing claims of British involvement in the attack as “utter nonsense” by writing: “Of course you do.”

Despite trying to pin the blame on Ukraine, two days after the attack Putin admitted that radical Islamist terrorists were responsible for the killings, but added: “Now we want to know who ordered it.”

In the article including Mr Galloway’s claims were quotes from Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of Russia’s security council, and FSB director Alexander Bortnikov, attempting to link Ukraine to the attack. Mr Bortnikov has gone as far as making the bizarre claim that the US and UK were behind the attack alongside Ukraine.

The article led with a response from Patrushev to a question of whether Isis or Ukraine was responsible for the Moscow attack. “Of course, Ukraine,” said Patrushev, without providing evidence. The article then runs quotes from FSB director Bortnikov claiming that Ukrainian special services had been training terrorists in the Middle East – again, without providing evidence.

A top advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky later accused both Patrushev and Bortnikov of “officially spreading lies”.

Isis have claimed responsibility for the attack on the Crocus City Hall last Friday, and the US, UK, Ukraine and several other Western nations have corroborated this claim.

Multiple counterintelligence analysts have also told The Independent that the attack bore all the hallmarks of Isis Khorasan, an offshoot of the terrorist group with a heavy presence in Tajikistan, which is also the nationality of all four of the suspected gunmen.

Mr Galloway was controversially returned to parliament this month after winning the Rochdale by-election, in which Labour was forced to drop its own candidate. After contest, the Board of Deputies of British Jews condemned Mr Galloway’s win as a “dark day” for the UK’s Jewish community, while Rishi Sunak warned democracy is under attack from far-right and Islamist extremists.

The prime minister said it was “beyond alarming” voters had backed a candidate who “dismisses the horror of what happened on October 7”, when Hamas murdered 1,200 people in Israel.

Mr Galloway was a Labour MP until being expelled in 2003 for his opposition to the invasion of Iraq. His independent camapign in Rochdale was heavily focused on the war in Gaza, where Israel has undertaken a near-six month bombardment and blockade with the aim of eradicating Hamas following a terror attack inside Israel during which around 1,200 people were killed and another 250 taken hostage.

More than 32,000 Palestinians have died in the Israeli assault that has followed, according to health officials in the Hamas-run territory.

Painting the Rochdale by-election as an opportunity to send a message of support to those inside Gaza, after winning the contest Mr Galloway declared: “Keir Starmer, this is for Gaza.”

But since being elected Mr Galloway has been absent from multiple Commons debates about the conflict. He has long been a critic of Nato and called for Britain to withdraw from the military alliance.

He has also repeatedly been accused of spreading conspiracy theories, including recently speculating that the Princess of Wales was “dead” and that the April 2022 Russian massacre of civilians in Bucha, just north of Kyiv, was likely staged.

A couple of months after Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Mr Galloway threatened to sue Twitter after the social network labelled his account “Russian state-affiliated media”.

Mr Galloway, whose radio programme The Mother of All Talk Shows was broadcast on the Russian state-owned Sputnik service during the first months the invasion, said he would sue Twitter for defamation unless it rescinds the label.

“I work for NO Russian media. I have 400,000 followers. I’m the leader of a British political party and spent nearly 30 years in the British parliament,” he tweeted at the time.

China has soured what was once a promising relationship

Speaking, appropriately enough, at the launch of a new generation of nuclear-powered and armed submarines in Barrow, the prime minister warned of the “epoch-defining challenge” from China. With palpable frustration, Rishi Sunak declared that the country is “behaving in an increasingly assertive way abroad” and that it represents “the greatest state-based threat to our economic security”.

He is entirely right about that. The curious case of the Electoral Commission hack in 2021, blamed by the security services on Chinese actors, confirms just how keen these agents are on probing the digital infrastructure of the British state, and, in this instance, harvesting the personal details of 40 million voters.

More targeted has been their fairly blatant hijacking of the email accounts of parliamentarians such as Sir Iain Duncan Smith and crossbench peer David Alton. They then impersonated them in almost comically crude fashion – proving that even a superpower has its limits.

Why is Johnny Mercer facing jail over the special forces inquiry?

Johnny Mercer, the veterans minister, has been given until 5 April to reveal the names of special forces officers who told him about war crimes in Afghanistan – and he faces being fined or up to a year in jail if he refuses.

He is understood to have promised whistleblowing troops that he would protect their identity if they came forward with what they knew about the unlawful killings by British troops of unarmed Afghans, information that he has passed to the public inquiry into allegations of such crimes.

However, Lord Justice Haddon-Cave, the former judge who is chairing the inquiry, has accused Mercer of a “misguided understanding of the term integrity and an inappropriate sense of loyalty”, and has served the minister with a notice under the Inquiries Act 2005 requiring him to supply the names to the inquiry in confidence.