INDEPENDENT 2024-06-11 18:15:49


Russian bombers breach airspace of Nato member Finland

A Russian military plane has breached Finnish airspace for the first time since the country joined Nato, flying at least 2.5km inside the country’s territory, officials in Finland said.

Russia confirmed that it had multiple bombers and missile carriers operating in the Baltic region but did not specifically comment on the alleged airspace breach.

Finland’s defence ministry said one of the aircraft entered Finland’s airspace for approximately two minutes on Monday morning. Finnish officials said they are taking the “suspected territorial violation seriously” and an investigation has been started.

The Kremlin uses such operations to deliberately undermine Finland’s territorial and sovereign integrity, the US-based think-tank The Institute for the Study of War said.

It comes after Kyiv said it had struck a Russian Su-57 stealth fighter worth up to £28m around 370 miles from the frontline using long-range drones.

On Tuesday, Germany is hosting a two-day conference to gather support for Ukraine’s recovery in a signal of solidarity witth Kyiv.

Escaped Cavalry horses could endanger public at parade, charity warns

Allowing the escaped Household Cavalry horses to perform among the Trooping the Colour’s “noisy, unpredictable crowds” would be a danger to the public, an animal rights charity has warned.

Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) have called for the five horses injured in the panic to be retired from duty and not made to return for the King’s Birthday parade in a letter to the regiment’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mathew Woodward.

The warning comes days after the British Army said three of the injured horses – Trojan, Tennyson, and Vanquish – are already back on duty and “against all expectations, are looking likely to take part” in the annual parade on 15 June.

The other two horses – Vida and Quaker – are also expected to return to work, but they continue to recuperate in the countryside, as the army revealed in a photograph of the horses looking well.

However, as Trooping the Colour is a large-scale military event involving guns and soldiers, PETA have argued that the horses should not participate and all five of them should be retired permanently.

Dramatic scenes unfolded when the horses were spooked by noise from a nearby building site in April, which prompted them to throw off their riders and gallop through London, injuring themselves and various pedestrians in the process.

This prompted widespread public concern for their welfare, despite experts insisting that such incidents are rare.

The animal rights group is now arguing that should the horses participate in Trooping the Colour, they could be a danger to themselves and other people.

Kate Werner, PETA’s senior campaigns manager, wrote to Lieutenant Colonel Mathew Woodward: “Clearly, these horses are easily agitated and sensitive to noise.

“Forcing them to perform at a crowded event marked by drums and a 41-gun salute would place them and the public at risk.

“The whole world was rightly shocked to see images of scared, blood-soaked horses running through the streets of London after getting spooked during April’s failed exercise.”

The group also took the opportunity to argue that the military’s continued use of horses is no longer a necessity in the modern world.

“Tradition is never an excuse for animal suffering, and each horse deserves to live free from the stress they endure when paraded through a busy, loud capital city with a human on their back, all for the amusement of noisy, unpredictable crowds,” the letter added.

As revealed by the army themselves, over 200 horses will take part in this weekend’s event as well as one “extremely large dog” – an Irish wolfhound who is the official mascot of the Irish Guards.

While the King typically rides on a horse too, because of his ongoing cancer treatment, he will inspect the soldiers from a carriage this year instead.

The army said in a statement: “After weeks of gruelling rehearsal and painstaking preparation, two hundred and fifty musicians, twenty pipers, two hundred and forty military working horses, an extremely large dog, and almost a thousand dual role soldiers of the British Army’s Household Division will deliver a magnificent spectacle for The King, the Nation, and the World in London on Saturday 15 June.

“The King’s Birthday Parade is a gift from the British Army’s Household Division to His Majesty on the occasion of The King’s official birthday. Held traditionally on the second Saturday in June, regardless of the Sovereign’s actual date of birth, the parade is an opportunity for The Household Division to demonstrate their professional excellence and loyalty to the Crown.”

The Independent has reached out to the Household Cavalry and PETA for further comment.

Kate gives Trooping the Colour update as Harry and Meghan face snub

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle appear to have been snubbed for the second time in a week after it was revealed that the pair have not been invited to the Trooping of the Colour parade.

According to reports, the Sussexes, who are now based in LA, were not invited to the King’s official birthday parade, which will take place this Saturday, 15 June.

American PR expert Michael Levine told the Mirror: “This continued exclusion of Meghan and Harry from Trooping the Colour is a poignant reflection of their ongoing estrangement from the core of the British monarchy.”

The news come as it emerged Kate Middleton may be “considering” a surprise appearance at the annual event having apologised in a heartfelt letter on for missing the final rehearsal, known as the Colonel’s Review, last weekend.

The Princess of Wales, who is the honorary Colonel of the Irish Guards, wrote: “Please pass my apologies to the whole Regiment, however, I do hope that I am able to represent you all once again very soon.”

It comes after Prince Harry turned down an invitation to the wedding of Hugh Grosvenor, the Duke of Westminster, and Oliva Henson, at Chester Cathedral last week.

According to reports, he did not want ongoing family tensions to overshadow the “society wedding of the year” where Prince William served as usher.

Southgate makes admission on England future – if they don’t win Euros

Gareth Southgate has admitted Euro 2024 is likely his “last chance” to win a trophy as England manager and that he will probably leave his post if he does not lead them to glory in Germany.

Southgate has been in charge of the national team for eight years, leading them to a semi-final at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the final of Euro 2020, before a quarter-final exit at the hands of France at the Qatar World Cup 18 months ago.

The Football Association would like Southgate to continue his role beyond his contract’s expiry in December and take England to the 2026 World Cup in USA, Canada and Mexico. But the manager says he must win the Euros to keep his job, or else the pressure on his shoulders will grow too heavy.

“If we don’t win, I probably won’t be here any more,” he told the German newspaper Bild. “So maybe it is the last chance. I think around half the national coaches leave after a tournament — that’s the nature of international football.

“I’ve been here almost eight years now and we’ve come close. You can’t constantly put yourself in front of the public and say, ‘A little more please’, as at some point people lose faith. If we want to be a great team and I want to be a top coach, you must deliver in big moments.”

The FA deliberately installed an extra six months beyond the Euros on Southgate’s contract to allow some breathing room for both parties to consider the future after the tournament, and to alleviate speculation this summer.

Southgate’s immediate concern is getting his team ready for Sunday’s game against Serbia. England produced a disappointing final display in their Wembley warm-up last week, losing 1-0 to Iceland, and they also picked up a concerning injury as John Stones limped off at half-time.

England will train on Tuesday in Jena, in the centre of Germany, in front of thousands of fans.

Plane suffers severe damage flying through hailstorm

An Austrian Airlines flight on its way to Vienna suffered significant damage from an unexpected hailstorm on Sunday.

The aircraft, which was carrying 173 passengers and six crew, was on its way from Palma de Mallorca in Spain when it sustained damage to its nose, front cockpit windows and panelling.

“I think we were about 20 minutes from landing when we got into a cloud of hail and thunderstorm, and the turbulence started,” Emmeley Oakley, a passenger on the flight, told ABC News.

Those onboard could “feel the hail coming down on the plane and it was quite loud and [of course] super rocky for a minute,” she told the outlet via text message.

The pilot of the Airbus A320, managed to land safely, despite the severe damage to the aircraft that included heavily cracked front windows.

Praising the pilots and cabin crew for their efforts in calming distressed passengers, Ms Oakley said: “The pilots really did an excellent job keeping things as smooth and safe as they could.”

The airline confirmed that no passenger was injured in the incident.

“Airbus A320 aircraft was damaged by hail on yesterday’s flight OS434 from Palma de Mallorca to Vienna,” Austrian Airlines said in a statement to CNN Monday.

“The aircraft was caught in a thunderstorm cell on approach to Vienna, which according to the cockpit crew was not visible on the weather radar.”

“According to current information, the two front cockpit windows of the aircraft, the nose of the aircraft [the “radome”] and some paneling were damaged by the hail.”

The incident comes weeks after a Singapore Airlines flight carrying 211 passengers and 18 crew from London to Singapore ran into sudden turbulence leading to the death of a passenger, while dozens were left injured.

The Boeing 777 jet ran into sudden turbulence over the Irrawaddy basin on 20 May, hurling people and items around the cabin. The plane diverted to Thailand.

A 73-year-old British man died of a suspected heart attack and dozens were hospitalised including those with spinal, brain and bone or organ injuries. Nineteen people remained hospitalised in Bangkok.

Singapore Airlines said on Tuesday it has offered $10,000 in compensation for passengers with minor injuries.

“For those who sustained more serious injuries from the incident, we have invited them to discuss a compensation offer to meet each of their specific circumstances when they feel well and ready to do so,” it said in a statement.

Nature-spotting and island hopping in the wonderful Dubrovnik Riviera

When summer comes, sometimes all you want to do is escape city life and immerse yourself in nature. So for secluded golden beaches, stretches of shaded forest and peaceful national parks, look no further than the Dubrovnik Riviera.

Of course, Dubrovnik itself boasts myriad charms: a UNESCO heritage town with ancient fortified walls, beautiful Baroque architecture, and a spectacular main street, the Stradun. But the Riviera region beyond also has a huge amount to offer, particularly if you’re looking for that getting-away-from-it-all feeling and a slower pace of life. It falls under the domain of Dubrovnik-Neretva, Croatia’s southernmost county, and with only 127,000 residents scattered across an area of nearly 700 square miles, there’s a true sense of space, freedom, and utter relaxation.

The Riviera’s natural beauty will captivate you, and its handful of islands have this in spades. Start with the stunning landscapes of Korčula, reached by a two-hour catamaran journey from Dubrovnik. You can also catch a ferry here from Orebić in Pelješac, which takes just 20 minutes, or alternatively from Split. This idyllic spot got its name when the Ancient Greeks saw its dense oak and pine forests and called it Korkyra Melaina, meaning ‘Black Corfu’. The mediaeval main town offers picturesque cobbled streets and a 15th century Gothic Renaissance cathedral, but away from its quiet charm you’ll find unspoiled beaches and coves, and acres of vineyards and olive groves which produce the island’s excellent local olive oil and wine.

Don’t miss the archaeological site of Vela Spila, on the west coast, a large, domed cavern which housed prehistoric communities over 18,000 years ago. Korčula has an archipelago of its own, called Škoji: hop on a water taxi from the old town’s marina to explore the idyllic isles of Badija, home to a 15th century Franciscan monastery and a flock of fallow deer, the busier Stupe which has a beach club with a restaurant and bar, and small, delightful Vrink, with a pebbled beach perfect for paddling and sunbathing.

Another pretty island is Mljet, located just off the Pelsejac peninsula, which boasts Mediterranean vegetation, crystal-clear seas, and soft, sandy shorelines. At its western end you’ll find 13,000 acres of tranquil National Park, criss-crossed with sheltered walking and cycling tracks, a ruggedly beautiful coastline, ancient ruins and two saltwater lakes.

One of the most popular hikes is the trail that leads to the summit of Montokuc, the highest point of the island, which will reward you with a stunning panorama, but if you prefer to explore on two wheels, there are several bike trails which take you through forests, along the lakeshore, and past beautiful viewpoints.

If you enjoy swimming and snorkelling, dive right into the calm, crystal clear waters of Veliko Jezero (Big Lake) and Malo Jezero (Small Lake). Alternatively, you can explore them by kayak, taking in the scenic forest and cliff views at your own pace; look out for the small islet of St Mary’s in the middle, home to an ancient Benedictine monastery.

Lastovo is a tiny paradise which is Croatia’s most remote inhabited island. With a population of less than a thousand people, this is where to head when you want absolute quiet and seclusion. Here you’ll find thick forests, craggy coastline, and peaceful walking trails, where the only sounds you’ll hear are the waves rolling in, and occasional birdsong. Together with its surrounding archipelago, it makes up the Lastovsko Otocje, or Lastovo Nature Park, one of the best-preserved marine areas in the Adriatic. Think cliff top views, woodland hikes, and swimming around sea caves and coral reefs, all within a chain of small islands.

For another secluded spot that offers natural beauty, shade and a gorgeous beach then take a trip to Betina Cave, not far from Dubrovnik’s Old Town. Only accessible by sea, you can take a boat trip or even paddle there on a guided kayak trip, then enjoy its sheltered surrounds and crystal-clear waters, perfect for snorkelling and swimming.

Last, but not least, make time for the Elaphite Islands: Šipan, Lopud, and Koločep. Populated with just a handful of people (between them, there are fewer than a thousand residents), they truly offer the chance to switch off and unwind. The islands get their name from the Greek word elafos, meaning deer; and quiet beaches, serene pine forests, and calm, turquoise waters make up their unspoiled landscape.

Lopud is car-free, but you can rent bikes or kayaks to explore your surroundings; there are also a few churches dating from the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as the remains of the Rector’s Palace, and the ruins of a fortress. The smallest of the islands is Kolocep, which provides the ultimate in tranquillity; take a trip to its Blue Cave, so-named because the water within it is a startling shade of azure.

Finally, Sipan has a bit more buzz, mainly because it’s bigger, and also allows cars, but you can still find relaxing beaches and quiet coves. Its two main villages, Sudjuradj, on the southeastern tip of the island, and Sipanska Luka, on the western side, are each centred around a bay, where you’ll find cafes, bars and restaurants, perfect for relaxing and replenishing after a day enjoying the great outdoors.

For more Dubrovnik travel inspiration and information, head to Visit Dubrovnik

Macron’s gamble begs uncomfortable questions about Europe’s future

President Emmanuel Macron has been, since Angela Merkel’s retirement as Germany’s chancellor in 2021, the pre-eminent political personality in Europe. Heading the EU’s only nuclear power, in charge of its second biggest economy and assuming the traditional French posture of political leadership, Mr Macron has shown a sure touch… at least in European affairs.

Lately, he has taken it upon himself to stiffen European resistance to Russian aggression in Ukraine, after an earlier unsuccessful attempt to become the Putin-whisperer. Mr Macron is still a powerful figure, at home as well as abroad. After all, he placed himself at the head of a breakaway centrist vehicle, En Marche!, now renamed Renaissance, and, against the odds, captured the Elysee Palace. In 2022, he secured a second presidential term – again, against the odds. He lost his parliamentary majority soon after, but his grip on his country’s affairs, despite some dismal polling, remained firm.

Has he now lost that grip? At first sight, his surprise decision to hold fresh elections to the French parliament appeared an act of panic in response to disastrous results for Renaissance and its allies in the European elections. The pronounced swing to the hard right, mirroring a similar humiliation of Olaf Scholz in Germany, is certainly a clear repudiation of the president’s record. Faced with such a popular vote of no confidence in his leadership, Mr Macron’s call for another such vote in quick succession looks a little quixotic. Indeed, on the face of it, it seems to have been inspired by a similar decision by the British prime minister, calling an earlier general election than widely assumed – and which is not going well. Surely, observers wondered, Macron can’t have done a Sunak?

What is the Liberal Democrats’ masterplan?

The Liberal Democrats look forward to general elections more than most parties, even in bad times. Their manifesto, a programme for a Lib Dem government that will not be formed this time round, contains lots of ideas, is rather bolder than their main rivals, and is enjoying some publicity.

Thanks to the Representation of the People Act, the party gets much more broadcast coverage at election time, and even the press, still dominated by Tory-supporting interests, gives them some glancing attention.

This time they also seem to be enjoying themselves, with leader Ed Davey’s unprecedented programme of attention-grabbing stunts. Davey says each has a message attached – paddleboarding to highlight water pollution, tennis to promote new national parks, and so on.

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