Ukraine continues to dominate coverage, but a re-election bid in France, a significant societal shift in Scotland, and a controversial knighthood in the UK has also got people talking.
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UKRAINE - WHAT'S THE LATEST?
- Overnight the Russian military attacked a nuclear plant in Ukraine. BBC News described it as "the largest nuclear plant in Europe". The shelling has been widely condemned by Western leaders, and Russians are understood to have now seized the plant. Prime Minister Johnson described it as a "reckless attack" that could "directly threaten the safety of all of Europe".
- President Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron held a 90-minute phone call on Thursday. Following it, Macron expressed a belief "the worst is to come," believing Putin was intent on taking the entire country of Ukraine.
- During talks on Thursday, Russia and Ukraine agreed on the need to set up safe humanitarian corridors for aid to be delivered, and to secure a safe passage for those fleeing the country. Al Jazeera described the news as "the first apparent sign of progress in talks between the warring sides".
- What about the convoy to Kyiv? You might remember two days ago we reported a 40-mile convoy of Russian tanks was heading south to Ukraine's capital. It still hasn't reached Kyiv. The Times said the delay was caused by “staunch Ukrainian resistance, mechanical breakdown and congestion".
COVERING THE COVERAGE
TV Rain - a channel described as "one of Russia's last independent news outlets" aired its final show on Thursday, after coming under increasing pressure by the Russian government.
The channel finished by playing Swan Lake. For anyone wondering why that is significant;
"The ballet was infamously used in Soviet-era radio and television broadcasts during the 1980s to mark the death of leaders, and later in a 1991 coup that would contribute to the end of the Soviet Union." - BBC context
IKEA has joined a number of other companies in halting business in Russia for the moment. The furniture giant also stopped its business in Belarus, in response to the invasion of Ukraine. The 15,000 staff will continue to be paid for at least three months, according to Reuters.
Which other companies have suspended business in Russia? H&M, Jaguar Land Rover, Coca Cola, Apple, Diageo, Boohoo.com, ASOS and others. Here is an excellent article on this topic.
UKRAINE'S PUBLIC FIGURES
- Actor Mila Kunis and her husband Ashton Kutcher have pledged to match donations to Ukraine up to $3 million. The Ukrainian-American actor said the goal was to raise $30 million. Earlier this week, married actors Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds said they would match donations up to $1 million.
"The people of Ukraine are strong and brave, but being strong and brave doesn't mean you're not worthy of support." - Mila Kunis
- A recently-retired tennis professional has returned to Ukraine from Hungary to fight in the war. Sergiy Stakhovsky - who was at one point ranked #31 in the world - said he felt torn about leaving his wife and three young children and returning to Kyiv.
THE POWER OF A PHOTO
The harrowing photo below shows a man crying over the body of his teenage son, who was killed in Mariupol, a city in the south east of the country.
WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING?
French President Emmanuel Macron finally announced his bid for re-election in April. Today was the deadline to do so.
The New York Times reported he is leading in the polls, and "betting that the French won’t want to change horses in the midst of the Ukraine conflict". The first round vote will take place on April 10.
ON TODAY'S AGENDA...
The Paralympic Winter Games begin in Beijing today.
In Scotland, new legislation simplifying the process for a person to change their gender has been introduced.
As The Guardian noted, the bill "proposes dropping the need for medical and psychiatric reports, reducing the waiting time from two years to three months and allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to apply for the first time".
Supporters of the bill said the process for transgender people will now be less intrusive. Critics - including author JK Rowling - argue it will "fundamentally alter who can access women-only services".
Meanwhile in Iowa, the governor announced a ban on transgender women competing in female sports both in high school and university.
According to multiple reports, it passed in both the state's house and senate "with only Republican support".
- BBC News: 'Worst is yet to come' as Russian attacks escalate
- The Guardian: More than 500 international students trapped in Ukrainian town - as it happened
- The Financial Times: Xi unlikely to ditch his 'best friend' Putin despite Ukraine pressure
- Al Jazeera: Fire at Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia power plant extinguished
- The Irish Times: Russia and Ukraine eye humanitarian 'corridors' amid conflict as Putin vows to fulfil war aims
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Why? Because the Conservative MP is going to receive a knighthood, with the news sparking a lot of backlash. Williamson served as Defence Secretary under Theresa May's government, but she sacked him after learning of compelling evidence he leaked highly sensitive information. He was then Education Secretary until September last, overseeing a "Covid exams debacle".
The Guardian said the honour was "because of his loyalty to the prime minister".
ON A LIGHTER NOTE...