INDEPENDENT 2024-07-02 18:28:10

Russia is ordering troops to kill Ukrainian prisoners of war – why?

Russian commanders are ordering their forces to kill surrendering Ukrainian soldiers in a plan to “terrify” droves of Russian troops into not giving themselves up.

Many newly conscripted and poorly trained Russian soldiers realise their lives are being squandered in human-wave attacks, according to Ukrainian officials.

Petro Yatsenko, a spokesperson for Kyiv’s Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War, says orders to kill Ukrainians who could be taken prisoner come from the “highest level” – the Kremlin. The instructions are designed to “terrify” their own soldiers, he adds.  

Viktor Orban arrives in Kyiv as British medic Peter Fouche killed

A British charity founder who was providing military and humanitarian support in Ukraine has succumbed to his injuries while fighting in the war-hit nation, the organisation has said.

Peter Fouche died on Thursday “in the battlefield” after getting badly injured “in combat against Russian forces”, Halyna Zhuk, commercial director and co-founder of Project Konstantin, said in a video message.

His charity organisation had a team of independent volunteers that provided essential supplies such as drones and food to Ukrainian soldiers. It also evacuates the soldiers and civilians and delivers humanitarian aid to conflict zones near the front line.

This comes as the Netherlands is set to supply Ukraine with the first of 24 promised F-16 fighter jets soon, the outgoing Dutch government said. All necessary permits needed to send the jets to Ukraine have been granted, defence minister Kajsa Ollongren said.

In Kyiv, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban is set to meet Volodymyr Zelensky as he makes his first trip to the Ukrainian capital today since Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbour in 2022.

Tourists evacuated on Greek islands amid ‘apocalyptic’ wildfires

Tourists have been evacuated from hotels in Greece as wildfires break out across the country.

Firefighters battled blazes on the eastern Aegean islands of Chios and Kos on Monday and injured five people, as Greece’s prime minister warned of a dangerous summer ahead and said the public’s help was essential in limiting the impact of wildfires.

Last year 20 people were killed in wildfires during the summer months.

Wildfires are common in the Mediterranean country, but hotter, drier and windier weather that scientists link to the effects of climate change has increased their frequency and intensity.

Emergency services issued evacuation orders for those in the Metohi area of western Chios on Monday morning, urging them to head to a nearby beach.

By the evening, more than 140 firefighters, along with eight teams of firefighters specializing in wildfires, seven water-dropping planes and three helicopters were fighting the blaze.

Fire department spokesman Vasilis Vathrakoyiannis said two firefighters had been lightly injured, while dozens more firefighters were heading to the island by boat from the nearby island of Lesbos and from Athens. State-run ERT television later reported that another two firefighters and a volunteer had suffered non life-threatening burns.

“The situation remains difficult in Chios, and all Civil Protection forces will make great efforts to limit it,” Vathrakoyiannis said during an evening briefing.

Another fire broke out further to the south in the Aegean, on the resort island of Kos, and by late Monday had forced the evacuation of several people, including tourists from hotels, as a precaution. That blaze was being tackled by more than 100 firefighters, including reinforcements sent from Athens, as well as six water-dropping planes and two helicopters, Vathrakoyiannis added.

Clare Smith, 38, who is on holiday in Kos with her husband and nine-year-old daughter, told Sky News the situation had “got significantly worse” over the day, with “thick plumes of black smoke” billowing into the sky.

“It’s really windy here, it will be like a tinderbox,” she said. “The sky is covered in smoke. You feel like you’re in the apocalypse, or some sort of war film.”

In total, Greece saw 52 wildfires breaking out in the previous 24-hour period, 44 of which were tackled in the early stages, Vathrakoyiannis said. Authorities were still battling a total of eight fires by Monday evening.

The blazes come a day after the fire department managed to tame two large forest fires near Athens that had been fanned by strong winds.

“We have had an exceptionally difficult June regarding weather conditions, with high levels of drought and unusually strong winds for this season,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Monday during a Cabinet meeting. This year’s summer, he said, “is predicted to be particularly dangerous” for wildfires.

Mitsotakis said the use of drones as part of an early warning system for wildfires had been particularly useful this year and credited better coordination between authorities and volunteer firefighters for limiting the extent of fire damage so far.

“We are entering the tough core of the anti-fire period, and this will certainly not be won without the help of the public as well, particularly in the field of prevention,” Mitsotakis said.

Slapping therapist ‘failed to get help as woman lay dying’ at workshop

An alternative healer failed to get medical help as a 71-year-old diabetic woman lay dying while attending a workshop he led which “evangelised” a slapping therapy as an alternative to life-saving insulin medication, a court has heard.

Danielle Carr-Gomm, died at Cleeve House in Seend, Wiltshire, where she was taking part in the workshop in October 2016 which promoted Paida Lajin therapy, which sees patients being slapped or slapping themselves repeatedly.

Hongchi Xiao, 61, of Cloudbreak, California, is on trial at Winchester Crown Court accused of the manslaughter by gross negligence of Mrs Carr-Gomm, from Lewes, East Sussex.

Duncan Atkinson, prosecuting, told the jury that Mrs Carr-Gomm had sought alternatives to her insulin medication for type 1 diabetes because of her vegetarianism and fear of needles.

She had first joined a Paida Lajin workshop – which means “slap and stretch” – run by the defendant in Bulgaria in July 2016.

Mr Atkinson said: “It is said to be a method of self-healing in which ‘poisonous waste’ is expelled from the body through patting and slapping parts of the body.”

He explained that during the Bulgarian session, Mrs Carr-Gomm stopped taking her insulin.

He said: “She became extremely unwell, starting to vomit and became hard to reason with.

“She had to be persuaded to start taking her insulin again before she recovered.

“The defendant was present, spoke to her about taking insulin, and was in a position to see the effects on Mrs Carr-Gomm both of her ceasing to take her insulin and of restarting the injections.”

Mr Atkinson said that Mrs Carr-Gomm went on to attend the defendant’s workshop in Wiltshire in October of that year.

Again she stopped taking her insulin and fell seriously ill before she died on the fourth day after Xiao had failed to seek medical help for her, Mr Atkinson said.

He continued: “He knew that Mrs Carr-Gomm was risking death, and he knew that he had an influence over her decision.

“In short, therefore he chose to congratulate a diabetic who stopped injecting, rather than to persuade them not to take so grievous a risk to their life.”

Mr Atkinson explained that prior to Mrs Carr-Gomm’s death, he had been prosecuted in Australia for the manslaughter of a six-year-old boy who died in 2015.

The boy had also stopped taking insulin after his parents took him to another of Xiao’s workshops in Sydney.

Mr Atkinson said that both the child’s death and the incident in Bulgaria “would have made abundantly clear to him that her (Mrs Carr-Gomm’s) life was increasingly in danger”.

He described how Mrs Carr-Gomm became “increasingly and seriously unwell” and by the second day she “could be heard crying and yelling whilst laying on her bed”.

By the third day, “she was vomiting, tired and weak, and by the evening she was howling in paid and unable to respond to questions,” Mr Atkinson said.

He continued: “She was moved from her bed to a mattress on the floor because she fell from the bed.

“Those who had received and accepted the defendant’s teachings misinterpreted Mrs Carr-Gomm’s condition as a healing crisis.”

He added: “In that period of increasing danger, the medical evidence is that Mrs Carr-Gomm’s life could have been saved if medical aid was called.

“By the time that such medical aid was finally called on day 4, October 20, 2016, it was too late, and Danielle Carr-Gomm had died of diabetic ketoacidosis as a direct result of the decision to stop taking her insulin injections.

“That decision was taken in the context of Mrs Carr-Gomm’s exposure to the evangelism, the confident belief, of this defendant that insulin was poison and that Paida Lajin represented an alternative, an alternative which she sought, to injecting insulin.

“The defendant knew at first hand that it did not represent such an alternative, but rather it carried with it an obvious and serious risk of death.

“He assumed a position of leadership and control over Mrs Carr-Gomm and her care as she declined and died, and he owed her a duty, which he failed to meet, to help and care for her.”

Mrs Carr-Gomm was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1998 and she was told that “if she did not take her insulin, she would die”, Mr Atkinson said.

He said that her son, Matthew Carr-Gomm, had said she had sought alternative and holistic medicines to address her diabetes.

Mr Atkinson explained: “She was, as her son put it, an obsessive vegetarian, and it was this, together with her fear of needles, that made her anxious to find an alternative to injection with insulin.”

The prosecutor said that Xiao had been an “exponent” of Paida Lajin for 10 years and had written a book on it.

He said: “He does not have medical qualifications or training.

“In a book that he wrote about Paida Lajin, the defendant asserted that the taking of insulin leads to liver and eye problems, and that in contrast the Paida Lajin was ‘safer and more reliable than existing healing practices’ which would result in ‘significant improvement’ or full recovery in 90% of cases, including cases of diabetes.”

Xiao denies the charge of manslaughter and the trial continues.

Why probe into Captain Tom Foundation is taking so long – and why no end is in sight

A charity watchdog’s investigation into a foundation set up in honour of Captain Sir Tom Moore is still going two years after it was launched.

The Captain Tom Foundation was registered in 2020 to continue raising cash for good causes in the Second World War veteran’s name.

Captain Tom raised £39.3m for the NHS when a mission to walk 100 lengths of his garden gained worldwide exposure.

His story touched the heart of the nation during the darkest days of the pandemic – but his legacy threatens to be tarnished.

In June 2022, the Charity Commission launched a statutory inquiry amid concerns Captain’s Tom’s family may have profited from using his name.

Captain Tom gained international fame when he did a fundraising walk at his home in the village of Marston Moretain, Bedfordshire, during the first Covid lockdown.

He set the goal of raising £1,000 by his 100th birthday but, thanks to worldwide exposure, his fundraising reached £39m for the NHS and its charities.

In 2021, he died after contracting Covid while in hospital being treated for pneumonia.

A month after the fundraising walk, The Captain Tom Foundation was established to continue his legacy.

Its aim was to raise money and promote causes that were “close to Captain Tom’s heart”, including those addressing loneliness and mental health.

In its first 13 months, the foundation had an income of £1.1m, followed by £403k in the 18-month period from June 2021 to November 2022.

Captain Moore’s daughter, Hannah Ingram-Moore, and her husband, Colin, became trustees of the charity in February 2021.

Ms Ingram-Moore stepped down as a trustee in March 2021 to become its interim CEO.

Just over a year after the Charity Commission launched its investigation, in July 2023, it stopped accepting donations.

The Charity Commission launched an investigation into the foundation over concerns about the charity’s management and about independence from Captain Tom’s family.

Accounts submitted to the commission showed in the first year more than £54,000 was paid to two companies controlled by the Ingram-Moores, called Club Nook Limited and Maytrix Group Limited.

It also emerged that Ms Ingram-Moore was paid £18,000 via Maytrix Group Limited for an appearance for the Virgin Media O2 Captain Tom Foundation Connector Awards, out of which the foundation received a £2,000 donation.

And proceeds from a series of books written by Captain Tom also went to Club Nook, Ms Ingram-Moore admitted in an interview with Piers Morgan.

The Charity Commission said it was concerned that a failure to consider intellectual property and trademark issues when the foundation was established may have provided Club Nook the opportunity to use the name to generate significant profit for the company.

Charity law expert Liz Brownsell, of Birketts LLP, told The Independent it was “very normal” for investigations to take more than two years, especially when they are so high profile and have a number of aspects.

She said a team of investigators would be examining whether decisions were taken appropriately and were “objectively reasonable”. For this purpose, they will be looking at minutes of meetings, records of advice received, financial and other internal records and even bank accounts, Ms Brownsell said.

In this case, she believed they would be checking whether the trustees acted within their powers and managed conflicts of interests appropriately, in particular in relation to matters involving both the Foundation and the family’s business ventures that used Captain Tom branding.

The investigation, she said, could take a while longer, comparing it with other probes including the seven-and-a-half year investigation into Kids Company.

She said: “They [Charity Commission] will be very aware of the public profile, and it is important to remember that the Charity Commission has a statutory objective to increase public trust and confidence in charities.

“As such, they will take care to consider everything in detail and undertake a thorough, fair and balanced investigation that takes into account both the public interest and the facts and circumstances surrounding the issues under investigation.”

If mismanagement is identified during the inquiry, the starting point is usually for the commission to provide support and guidance to charity trustees to help them to rectify the identified issues, Ms Brownsell said.

In some cases, charity trustees can face sanctions, such as disqualification, repaying money or an action plan to “turn things around”.

Asked whether the charity, effectively closed in July last year, could return to being fully functional, Ms Brownsell said: “I think it might be difficult for the trustees to rebuild public trust in the charity, but I do think it is possible. We have seen charities go through difficult times and recover.

“It would also depend on the appetite of the trustees – it has been reported that they plan to close the charity. If that is the case, it might be that they simply do not wish to continue.”

This looks unlikely with Scott Stemp, barrister for the Ingram-Moore family, saying in October 2023: “It’s not news to anybody that the (Captain Tom) foundation, it seems, is to be closed down following an investigation by the Charity Commission.”

The Independent approached Ms Ingram-Moore for comment, but has not received a response.

In March, she posted an Instagram video in which she expressed her “sincere thanks” to everyone who had supported her family “during these incredibly tough times”.

A month later, Ms Ingram-Moore put up the family home in Bedfordshire for sale, listed at £2.25m. It remains up for sale today.

The property, which boasts four bathrooms and four reception rooms, no longer comes with an outdoor building built after planning permission was acquired in Captain Tom’s name with the stated aim of it serving the community. It was demolished after the family was refused permission for it to be used as a spa.

Why EVs could be the perfect solution for the modern family

These days, a family car has to do more than simply accommodate 2.4 children and a Labrador – to really pass the test of a ‘proper family car’ it’s got to be a future-facing vehicle that meets the expectations of the whole squad, aesthetically, practically and environmentally. Which is why EVs like Vauxhall’s New Grandland and New Frontera SUV are the stand-out choices for the modern family, as both are zero tailpipe emission cars that do everything that you need them to do today, while safeguarding our collective tomorrow.

In terms of lifestyle, they are absolutely on point. Take for example, the New Frontera, Vauxhall’s all-electric SUV. Boldly designed with a striking silhouette and packed with cutting edge technology, it’s thoroughly contemporary in aesthetic, from the Vizor grille to the eco headlights. Plus it’s been put together with families in mind: the car has 1600 litres of storage space and there are plans to make seven-seaters available in the Mild Hybrid versions.

Environmentally, EVs are the clear winners – as well as having zero tailpipe emissions in terms of greenhouse gases, they also reduce fine particle pollutants that have an adverse effect on human health, particularly among children. For extra eco points in terms of the materials used, Vauxhall’s top-of-the-range SUV, the New Grandland, has a fully vegan interior. Vauxhall has phased out chrome usage, due to the plating process producing hazardous by-products, yet the car still very much grabs the attention aesthetically.

In addition to all the environmental plus points, electric vehicles are great to drive. They’re almost silent, which is perfect for families with young children who need to sleep on-the-go, and they run smoothly in all road conditions. And at their best they’re packed with tech. The New Grandland has Pure Connect wireless mobile charging and a full range driver assistance pack that includes automatic cruise control with a stop and go function, extended traffic sign recognition, and intelligent speed adaptation.

With battery technology improving at pace, their range is increasingly impressive too. The New Grandland does up to 435 miles on a single charge, making it ideal for families who can do without the stop-starting. It can also be charged from 20 per cent to 80 per cent in less than 30 minutes – cutting out long waits to get going on your journey. This also means that if you do need to charge at a service station en route, by the time you’ve ushered the kids in, done the toilet stops and bought snacks for the next leg of the journey, 20-30 minutes will have flown by, giving you enough charge to complete your journey.

For those with off-street parking, charging is simple and cost-effective, particularly when done at night. For those without off-street parking, an existing infrastructure of lampposts can be converted into charging points. Vauxhall is keen to accelerate on-street charging infrastructure, and has launched the Electric Streets Campaign, a massive nationwide survey on current and future demand for EVs. The Electric Streets Campaign will give charge point operators and councils the information they need to make smart and effective investments into our charging infrastructure.

So, if you drive an electric vehicle today or would consider driving one in the future, fill in the simple form below to help accelerate the electrification of the UK’s roads and create a better environment for all.

To find out more about Vauxhall’s EV range, and the Electric Streets Campaign, visit Vauxhall

Macron’s gamble will tarnish his legacy and destroy his credibility

For a man who started his very own political movement from scratch, took the presidency within a year, and then won again in difficult circumstances, it is hard to believe that Emmanuel Macron could have taken such a senseless gamble with his legacy and, rather more to the point, with the future of his political project and his country.

Humiliated in the European parliament elections, when his Ensemble alliance finished a poor second to the neo-fascists, President Macron took everyone by surprise by calling a snap election for the National Assembly. It was at this point that, so used to winning, he overplayed a weak hand and lost. Few others thought it would pay off; they were right.

At this first stage in two rounds of parliamentary elections due to be completed on Sunday, it seems that he will lose the control he currently has over parliament, and thus the domestic agenda. In a few more days, he may also end up with the worst of all possible worlds – a nation without a functioning government, and far-right leader Marine Le Pen ready to finish the job and seize power at the next presidential election in 2027.

Is there real reason to fear a Labour ‘supermajority’?

Wisely or not, the Conservatives have tacitly conceded not just defeat but an appalling humiliation on polling day, and are now begging for mercy. Somewhat unconvincingly.

The prime minister himself, in the dying days of his administration, has declared: “I don’t want Britain to sleepwalk into the danger of what an unchecked Labour government with a supermajority would mean.”

The home secretary, James Cleverly, agrees and says that Labour would “distort” the constitution: “I think there’s a real risk that they take a majority, if that’s what they get, to try to lock in their power permanently, because they don’t really feel confident they’re going to be able to make a credible case to the British people at the next election.”

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