Zelensky accuses Russia of genocide in hospital bombing
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The Russian President warned of rocketing costs if economic pressure intensifies on his country as UK experts claimed inflation here could hit 9.5 percent. Boris Johnson last night admitted Putin’s war will inflict further cost of living pain on Britons, adding: “It may be a bumpy period, but we’ll get through it as fast and as well as we possibly can.”
The Prime Minister pledged to ease the burden on consumers – and to ditch Russian oil and gas.
Responding to a question by Sky’s Beth Rigby over household energy bills soaring to potentially £3,000 a year, he said: “Now is the time to unleash an extraordinary programme of energy independence through massive investment in renewables, in more nuclear, a lot more nuclear, and also in sensible use of our own hydrocarbons, with our own oil and gas and without busting our carbon budget.”
Putin vowed to send world food prices soaring if Western countries tighten economic curbs.
In a Kremlin address he said: “Russia and [its ally] Belarus are some of the biggest suppliers of mineral fertilisers. If [Western countries] continue to create problems for the financing and logistics of the delivery of our goods, then prices will rise and this will affect the final product, food products.”
Russia last night banned exports of 200 types of goods including telecoms, medical items and timber plus motor, agricultural and electrical gear until the end of this year.
Further measures may stop foreign ships docking. The economy ministry said: “These measures are a logical response to those imposed on Russia”, adding that curbs on countries that have “committed unfriendly actions” were “aimed at ensuring uninterrupted functioning of key sectors of the economy”.
Premier Mikhail Mishustin made clear the ban includes exports of goods made by foreign firms operating in Russia such as cars, railway carriages and containers.
While former president Dmitry Medvedev warned assets owned by Western companies may be nationalised if they pull out of Russia. Firms including Caterpillar, Rio Tinto, Starbucks, Sony, Unilever and Goldman Sachs have all quit.
He said: “The Russian government is already working on measures, which include bankruptcy and nationalisation. Foreign companies should understand that returning to our market will be difficult.”
Russia is the UK’s 19th largest trading partner, with deals totalling £15.9billion over a year. The Kremlin is halting exports of wheat, rye, barley and corn to post-Soviet-countries in the Eurasian Economic Union until August 31 to ensure it has enough food at home.
Putin’s revenge is likely to further squeeze UK families with inflation tipped to top 9.5 percent, Goldman Sachs bankers warned.
Dan Crossley, executive director of the Food Ethics Council charity, said: “The spiralling cost of food was already a challenge in the UK and across Europe but is now being pushed even higher. Governments need to consider what measures they can take to ensure price inflation doesn’t put good food beyond the reach of even more people.”
The Bank of England had said that inflation would peak at seven percent next month but most economists revised up their predictions following the invasion.
Inflation hit a 30-year high of 5.5 percent in January, with steep rises expected soon. This “will exacerbate the cost-of-living crisis by reducing households’ real incomes”, said Paul Dales, UK economist at Capital Economics.
Millions are being battered by soarinig energy bills and by rising fuel prices. Mr Johnson said: “We will do everything we can to help households…particularly elderly vulnerable people. So the best thing for dealing with the cost of living, I mean big picture, is to have a strong economy, good high-wage, high-skilled jobs.”
He toured a Merseyside shipyard with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace yesterday.
The Federation of Wholesale Distributors said that dearer fuel will raise the price of groceries and restaurant food as its members pass on transport costs.
Food producers face surging prices for fertiliser, animal feed and for carbon dioxide used in packaging and livestock slaughter.
Ukrainian farmers – the world’s top producers of wheat, maize, barley and cooking oils – have stopped work to fight off Russian invaders.
Britain’s National Pig Association urged shops to pay more for pork to save the industry after feed costs soared.
Wheat rose to £300 a ton from £215 in a few days. Rob Mutimer, the body’s chairman, said: “We are staring down the barrel of a total collapse of the British pig industry.
“Retailers will not be able to rely on EU pork either as it gets shorter in supply and more expensive. They need to act now.”
Mark Spencer, Leader of the Commons, said that there was “no prospect of food shortages” and Environment Secretary George Eustice said the UK is “largely self-sufficient” in wheat.
Sandra Horsfield, economist at banking group Investec, said: “The longer the war lasts and the bigger the sanctions on Russia are, the greater the hit to UK activity.”
Oil prices by more than five percent yesterday.
This followed a 17 percent drop on Wednesday after confusion over whether major producers would help to plug the gap left by a ban on oil supplies from Russia.
The United Arab Emirates had appeared to push members of the Opec producer group to raise output, only for its energy minister to quash hopes. The UAE and neighbouring Saudi Arabia are among the few nations in Opec with spare capacity that could increase output and potentially offset supply losses.
The UAE’s US ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba said: “We favour production increases.”
Shock after diesel tops £2 a litre
MOTORISTS on the Isle of Wight are paying a staggering £2 a litre for diesel – believed to be the most expensive in the UK, writes Steph Spyro.
Drivers at Osborne Garage in East Cowes felt a pinch at the pumps yesterday when diesel reached 201.5p. This is 10p more expensive than the previous day. Further pump price rises are likely in coming days as a result of crude oil hitting $139 a barrel earlier this week – the highest it has been in 14 years.
But the price plummeted to $109 on Wednesday.
Simon Williams, RAC fuel spokesman, said: “There was a hint of better news on Wednesday. But drivers will continue to see high prices on forecourts as retailers pass on their increased wholesale costs.”
Petrol was an average of 159.6p per litre on Wednesday, up 3.2p since Monday, data firm Experian Catalist said. Diesel averaged 167.4p – up 5.1p.
Bills hurdle too high for 1 in 4 OAPs
ONE in four pensioners will struggle with soaring energy bills when prices rise next month, campaigners warn, writes Sarah O’Grady.
A quarter of older people in England will be living in fuel stress – spending more than 10 percent of their after-tax income on heating – up from 12 percent.
Age UK says that figure is due to go up to 35 percent after the second scheduled price rise in October. Some 51 percent of the poorest 10 percent of OAP households are already in fuel stress. That is expected to soar to 91 percent in April if no intervention comes.
Age UK Director Caroline Abrahams said: “The support package offered by the Chancellor last month falls several hundred pounds a year short of the bill rises. How is an older person on a low fixed income supposed to make up the difference?”
Jan Shortt, General Secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention said: “The Chancellor must do more to alleviate rising fuel costs for our oldest and most vulnerable. His measures to date are far from enough.”
Cadbury owner faces customer backlash as it fails to join Jamie Oliver and Yorkshire tea in quitting Putin’s Russia
CADBURY owner Mondelez has come under fire for failing to halt all operations in Russia, writes Steph Spyro.
The US confectionery giant has “scaled back all non-essential activities” and will instead focus on “basic offerings”.
David Fraser, of public relations firm Ready10, said: “It remains to be seen which firms are pulling out of Russia in a half-hearted way. But one thing is for sure – if they are, consumers will see through it pretty quickly and in some cases, vote with their feet.”
Mondelez boss Dirk Van de Put said the firm “condemns this unjust aggression”. He said it will cut operations “while helping maintain continuity of the food supply in the challenging times ahead”.
Mr Van de Put added: “We recognise this is a highly dynamic and very concerning situation that we will continue to assess and adjust as needed.”
This follows rivals Procter & Gamble and Unilever halting investment.
Packaged food giant Nestle, cigarette company Philip Morris and Sony said pledge to cut operations and stop investment. But they would continue to provide essentials.
PR guru Mark Borkowski said: “Companies like Mondelez, Kraft, and Unilever wield the power to decide how disruptive Western sanctions will be on the everyday lives of Russians, and therefore how quickly this war might end.”
Yorkshire Tea has suspended trade, while celebrity chef Jamie Oliver is pulling the plug on a franchise restaurant in Moscow.
Goldman Sachs said it plans to close its operations in Russia – the first big Wall Street bank to quit.
Comment by Matt Williams, Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit
THE invasion of Ukraine has focused minds on ending the UK’s reliance on Russian oil and gas. Now President Putin is turning fertiliser into his newest geopolitical weapon threatening the West with soaring food costs.
Around 10 percent of the UK’s fertiliser imports came from Russia in 2020, and it is one of the world’s largest exporters. Methane is an ingredient of many fertilisers, meaning that as gas prices have rocketed, so have fertiliser prices.
Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit
This newest threat shows the risks of a food system reliant on fossil fuels and fertilisers from unstable countries.
Fertiliser prices reached eye-watering levels in 2021 and have already climbed close to £1,000 per tonne in recent days. They could go higher still if Putin acts on this threat.
It’s time to look again at our food system, and what it costs farmers, families, and the climate. Innovative British companies, like CCm Technologies in Swindon, are doing just that.
Their low-carbon fertilisers use captured carbon dioxide and wastes to cut emissions by up to 90 percent compared to conventional methods. If this could be scaled up it could make a big difference for cutting the climate impact of food production.
Meanwhile, some farmers are reducing their use of these chemicals, replacing them with low-carbon, natural soil management.
As if these challenges weren’t enough for the farmers who feed the nation, another dark cloud is hanging overhead.
Extreme weather affected wheat and orchard fruit production in the UK last year, and flooding in western Europe damaged potato crops.
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Only limiting climate change, and supporting farmers to adapt, can shield them from these extremes and consumers from high prices or, even worse, food shortages.
These steps will make the UK more food secure, while cutting emissions.
But in the short term the ingredients of high-carbon fertilisers, inflation and climate change could spell lean harvests and high prices.
Once the immediate crisis has passed we may find fertile ground for growing food differently, reaching our net zero emissions target, and taking the power out of Putin’s hands.
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