Day 2 of war — Bombs in Kyiv — Sanctions split – POLITICO

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By ELENI COUREA

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Good Friday morning.

BREAKING OVERNIGHT

In Kyiv: POLITICO’s reporters on the ground reported multiple explosions in Kyiv in the early hours of the morning, as the Russians launched an assault on Ukraine’s capital. Earlier yesterday evening Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy ordered full military mobilization and published a decree forbidding Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country. In an address just after 11 p.m. London time he said Russian “saboteurs” had entered Kyiv and vowed not to flee despite being a top target. He questioned the West’s resolve and said: “Who is ready to fight with us? Honestly, I don’t see anyone … They say they are with us but they are not ready to take us in the [NATO] military alliance. All of them are afraid.”

Latest update: In a video published on his Telegram account just after 5 a.m. London time this morning, Zelenskiy said Russian forces had resumed attacks across Ukraine, hitting both civilian and military targets. “This morning we are defending our state alone. Like yesterday, the world’s most powerful forces are watching from afar. Did yesterday’s sanctions convince Russia? We hear in our sky and see on our earth this was not enough,” he said. But Zelenskiy also said Ukraine had not been defeated, claiming its forces had stopped Russian troops from advancing in “most directions.” He said: “It will not be possible to destroy our character. Kalibr missiles are useless against our freedom.” The latest on POLITICO’s essential live blog.

In London: Russia is unlikely to have achieved its objectives for the first day of its invasion, the ministry of defense said in an intelligence update issued at 1 a.m. The MoD said Ukrainian forces had presented “presented fierce resistance across all axes of Russia’s advance,” and are thought to have halted it toward Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, with fighting continuing on the outskirts of the city.

In Brussels: EU leaders announced they had agreed a “massive” package of sanctions against Russia just after 2 a.m., including a freeze on Russian assets in the bloc, blocking Russian banks’ access to European financial markets and introducing export controls. But as my Brussels Playbook colleagues report, the sanctions are in reality unlikely to be sudden and painful enough to act as a deterrent against further aggressions. Oil and gas imports won’t be curbed, Jakob Hanke Vela and Suzanne Lynch write, SWIFT was left off the table, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, who ordered the invasion, will not be sanctioned personally.

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INVASION DAY 2: Boris Johnson will hold calls with the Joint Expeditionary Force of northern European countries in the morning and NATO in the afternoon. Leaders will discuss further action against Moscow and support for Ukraine after splits emerged yesterday on which sanctions to impose.

Cabinet readout: At an emergency Cabinet meeting last night Johnson warned that Thursday had been “a dark day in the history of our continent” and that Putin “must fail.”

Swift decisions: A major dividing line has emerged on whether to ban Russia from the SWIFT international payment system, a measure which the U.K. pushed for only to meet resistance from some European countries including Germany and Italy (more on that from POLITICO’s Hans von der Burchard and Jacopo Barigazzi here). The measure, which would harm the Russian economy by making transactions costly and arduous is still under discussion and U.K. officials are hopeful it could be introduced later down the line. This thread by Twitter user JohannesBorgen explains the impact the move would have and the Guardian also has a useful Q&A.

Biden their time: Asked by a reporter about cutting Russia off from SWIFT last night, Joe Biden’s reply was that it was “not the position that the rest of Europe wishes to take” — but the U.S. position has been ambivalent too (more on the U.S. sanctions here from my Stateside colleagues). The FT reports Biden did not comment on the measure at the G7 meeting yesterday, and that Washington is concerned about its potential impact on petrol prices. There are also fears that throwing Russia out of SWIFT could spur it to create a rival payment system alongside China that does not use the U.S. dollar.

Punishing oligarchs: Meanwhile, European diplomats are rolling their eyes at the U.K.’s announcement of sanctions against just five Russian oligarchs with links to Putin. In total 100 individuals, entities and subsidiaries will face asset freezes. In a dramatic Commons moment yesterday, Labour MP Chris Bryant used his parliamentary privilege to read out a leaked Home Office document which suggested that Chelsea FC owner Roman Abramovich should not be allowed to base himself in the U.K. because of concerns about alleged links to corruption. POLITICO and the BBC have write-ups.

Other UK sanctions announced yesterday: Asset freezes for major Russian banks … Block on Russian companies borrowing money … Ban on Aeroflot flights … Suspension of dual-use export licenses for military components … End to exports of high-tech items and oil refinery equipment … Limit on bank deposits made by Russian nationals … Economic Crime bill brought forward to crack down on “unexplained wealth.”

In degrees: The thinking in the Foreign Office is that these sanctions will “squeeze the life out of the Russian economy” and hit domestic markets as Putin fights a drawn-out conflict in Ukraine, a government source said. This in turn would sap political support for him among both Russian elites and the wider public. In her analysis, the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg says the “likely short-term outcome therefore is Russia messily occupying the country, with a dogged Ukrainian insurgency and the West’s sanctions surely — but slowly — squeezing Russia’s economy.”

Ukrainian defenses: Could Putin have bitten off more than he can chew? In words that chime with the MoD’s overnight intelligence assessment, former CIA Director General David Petraeus said yesterday he was “a little underwhelmed” by what Moscow had achieved in the first day of its invasion. He told Newsnight that Ukrainian forces had delayed the Russian advance “fairly impressively,” that NATO is more united than at any point since the last years of the Cold War and that this was going to be “a much more difficult challenge than perhaps some of the Russians thought.”

Alternatively: But the other scenario is that Russian forces very quickly capture Kyiv and install a puppet government, effectively bringing an end to the invasion and turning it into an occupation against which the Ukrainians must mount an insurgency. The Times’ Defense Editor Larisa Brown has a detailed account of how the attack unfolded on three fronts and suggests in her analysis that the Ukrainian military is so outgunned and outnumbered that it could be destroyed within 72 hours. The Mail splash anchored by Jason Groves predicts that Putin will seize the Ukrainian capital within days. In either case, the conflict is likely to carry on for a long time.

Nuclear threat: Russia has “a doctrine of violent overmatch” in that “the more resistance it meets, it just goes for big, big violence, to overwhelm,” Armed Forces Minister James Heappey’s warned on this week’s Chopper’s podcast. The chair of the joint intelligence committee and the chief of defense staff shared a very similar assessment with Cabinet ministers last night.

Cost of living: Petrol prices could rise to above £1.60 a litre as a result of the war, the Times reports, while industry forecasters believe that household energy bills could reach £3,000 a year. Food prices could also be affected.

Refugee flows: Europe should prepare for “a much larger scale refugee flow in Europe than was the case in Balkans in the 90s,” David Miliband, former Labour foreign secretary and president of the International Rescue Committee, warned on Newsnight. The U.N. estimates 100,000 people in have already been internally displaced and announced an immediate $20 million humanitarian package for Ukraine in the early hours of the morning. The Mail cites intelligence sources saying there could be 5 million refugees as a result of the conflict.

Now read this: The Times’ war correspondent Anthony Lloyd reports on how Ukrainian civilians reacted as Putin announced the invasion. “The first Russian shells exploded beyond the edge of the eastern town even before President Putin had finished his speech announcing the attack on Ukraine. My watch said 04.50,” he writes.

And this: The editor of the BBC’s Ukrainian Service Marta Shokalo describes how she experienced the invasion. “I dressed my 10-year-old son. We had some breakfast, sitting as far from the windows as we could, but he was so scared he vomited. We took a candle and some water to our cellar, which will be our refuge if things get worse.”

In pictures: Several papers carry photo galleries from Ukraine yesterday, including the FT, the Times, the Tel and the Guardian.

Truss talks: Liz Truss is due to hold calls with foreign counterparts including the Chinese foreign minister today. Beijing has spoken against NATO expansion and criticized the characterization of Russia’s actions in Ukraine as an “invasion.” The foreign secretary will remain in London after canceling plans to travel to Budapest for a meeting of the Visegrád Group of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, although she is planning a round of “shuttle diplomacy” next week. In an article for the Telegraph she says the Russians have “lied to the world and their own people again and again.”

Take that, Volodya: Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has taken the decision to “suspend” his Russia Today show, amid mounting pressure from former colleagues including his successor Nicola Sturgeon. Salmond, now leading the Alba Party, said in a statement that his Alex Salmond Show will be off air until “a peace is re-established,” while also taking swipes at those who criticized his decision to host a talk show that goes out on Kremlin TV for four years. Worth reading his statement here (h/t Chris Musson) — what it lacks in condemnation of Putin or Russian aggression it more than makes up for in attacks on virtually everyone else.

What to do about RT? Europe is increasing the pressure on the Kremlin-backed broadcaster, report POLITICO’s Laura Kayali and Clothilde Goujard.

WESTMINSTER INSIDER: As Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine plunges Russia’s relations with the West into crisis, Jack Blanchard talks to the historian and former U.K. Foreign Secretary David Owen about the turbulent history of the Anglo-Russian relationship. Lord Owen charts the many ups and downs of the 19th and 20th centuries, a period through which Britain and Russia fought side by side in three major wars while also coming close to outright conflict on multiple occasions. He recalls his first visit to Moscow as foreign secretary at the height of the Cold War, and his subsequent run-ins with Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Vladimir Putin while working as an EU diplomat and as a businessman. And he offers a damning verdict on Putin’s latest act of aggression, with a chilling warning of what it might mean for the months ahead.

EU CONFIDENTIAL: POLITICO’s EU Confidential podcast also focuses on Ukraine, and features a first-hand report from Playbook’s own Ukraine-born editor Zoya Sheftalovich.

FOLLOW THE LATEST BREAKING NEWS: For the second day on POLITICO’s live blog.

AID FOR UKRAINE: The Ukrainian Institute has a list of charities to donate to and other ways to demonstrate support (h/t Sophia Gaston). Save the Children warns that some 7.5 million Ukrainian children are at risk of physical harm, trauma and displacement — you can raise awareness or donate here. Meanwhile, Inclusion Europe reports that 80,000 Ukrainians with disabilities in institutions are at risk of abandonment and need support for basic things such as epilepsy medicine. More details on how to help here and here.

TODAY IN WESTMINSTER

HOUSE OF COMMONS: Sits from 9.30 a.m. with a day of private members’ bills, starting with Tory MP Pauline Latham’s marriage bill which would increase the minimum age for marriages and civil partnerships from 16 to 18.

LORDS: Sits from 10 a.m. with the report stage of the Health and Care Bill, followed by a debate on the situation in Ukraine led by Defense Minister Annabel Goldie. One to watch: Former Cabinet Secretary and National Security Adviser Mark Sedwill is down to make his maiden speech during the Ukraine debate.

PARTYGATE UPDATES: Chancellor Rishi Sunak has been asked by the Met Police to fill in a questionnaire over his attendance of Boris Johnson’s birthday party on June 19, 2020 during the lockdown. The Telegraph reports that at least one civil servant is being investigated over organizing illegal gatherings rather than just attending them.

STONEWALL WARS: Government departments are being instructed to withdraw from Stonewall’s diversity schemes by Cabinet Office guidance, Dan Martin reports in the Mail. Until now it has been left up to individual departments to decide whether to take part in Stonewall programs, but a source tells Martin this is “the first serious attempt by the government to get Whitehall to change course by cutting out the wokery.” (The problem with that, of course, is that ministers themselves are split on the issue.)

PREMIUM TWITTER: The government wants to force social media sites to give users the option to block interactions from all anonymous accounts, as part of new measures in the Online Safety Bill aimed at cracking down on trolls “polluting platforms.” The Times’ Tom Knowles has more.

FUNDING LABOUR: Keir Starmer hosted a swanky drinks reception for the Rose Network of around 300 or 400 private donors at the British Library on Wednesday night, Playbook hears.

Speech to donors: In his speech to those present, Starmer joked that Labour needed “passion, talent and momentum — with a small m” and vowed to do “a Kinnock and a Blair in one run” by turning the party around and winning the next general election.

Cast list: The Rose Network’s joint chairs Emily Thornberry, Anneliese Dodds and Rosena Allin-Khan all addressed donors. Shadow Cabinet Ministers Wes Streeting, Rachel Reeves, Bridget Phillipson and Pat McFadden were at the reception too, as was party Chairman David Evans.

Reality check: It’s fair to say Labour’s efforts to attract more private donors over the past two years haven’t born much fruit. The party has registered few significant major contributions, even as unions cut back their payments and the party launched a charm offensive to win back those who left during the Corbyn and Miliband years.

The challenge: One source said shadow Cabinet ministers were “constantly being told they need to court donors” and added: “The problem is that donors aren’t altogether thrilled about giving the party money if it’s all going to be used to fight lawsuits.” LOTO sees this at its biggest challenge to attracting more funds. The Rose Network is growing, however, with one source telling Playbook it has surpassed 500 members with around 30 new ones this month.

Speaking of turning the party around: “Let there be no doubt whose party this is now,” a Labour source declared last night after 11 Labour MPs who signed a letter criticizing NATO over the invasion of Ukraine withdrew their names within an hour of being told to do so by the opposition chief whip. Patrick Maguire has a blow-by-blow account of the whole hour in question.

Catching up: Separately, Playbook hears that around 20 Labour MPs from the centrist wing of the party met last month to discuss Labour policy at a gathering organized by Commons business committee Chairman Darren Jones in Ditchley Park. The group talked about the Ditchley Foundation’s work programs and had “a general discussion about what we could all be doing individually and collectively to help the cause of getting into government,” according to one of those present.

Interview: Starmer’s hour-long interview with LBC’s James O’Brien, recorded on Monday on stage at Leicester Square Theatre to raise money for charity, will be released today in podcast form.

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MEDIA ROUND

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace broadcast round: Sky News (7.05 a.m.) … Times Radio (7.20 a.m.) … BBC Breakfast (7.30 a.m.) … LBC (7.50 a.m.) … Today program (8.10 a.m.) … ITV GMB (8.30 a.m.) … talkRADIO (8.45 a.m.) … GB News (9.20 a.m.).

Labour leader Keir Starmer broadcast round: ITV GMB (7.50 a.m.) … Sky News (8.10 a.m.) … BBC Breakfast (8.30 a.m.).

Also on the Today program: Former MI6 chief Alex Younger (7.50 a.m.).

Also on BBC Breakfast: Former British Ambassador to Russia Robert Brinkley (7.15 a.m.) … Former British Ambassador to France Peter Ricketts (8.15 a.m.).

Also on Good Morning Britain (ITV): Former Lib Dems leader Vince Cable (7.15 a.m.).

Also on Kay Burley at Breakfast (Sky News): Defense committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood (8.20 a.m.) … Former British Ambassador to Ukraine Leigh Turner (8.30 a.m.) … Former Ukraine Finance Minister Oleksandr Danyliuk (9.20 a.m.) … EU Ambassador to Ukraine Matti Maasikas (9.30 a.m.).

Also on Nick Ferrari at Breakfast (LBC): Golos Party leader Kira Rudik (7.10 a.m.) … Former Treasury economist Jeevun Sandher (8.35 a.m.).

Also on Times Radio Breakfast: Former Defense Minister of Ukraine Andriy Zagorodnyuk (7.10 a.m.) … Abbas Gallyamov, former speechwriter for Putin (7.35 a.m.) … Prof Jamie Shea, former deputy assistant secretary-general for emerging security challenges at NATO (8.05 a.m.) … Former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett (8.35 a.m.) … Bernie Ecclestone, former chief executive of the Formula One Group (8.40 a.m.) … Chess champion and Kremlin critic Garry Kasparov (9.45 a.m.).

Also on Mike Graham breakfast show (talkRADIO): Former British Ambassador to Russia Roderic Lyne (7.05 a.m.) … Former head of U.K. Joint Forces Command Richard Barrons (8.05 a.m.) … Former Victims’ Commissioner Helen Newlove (8.33 a.m.) … Defense committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood (9.33 a.m.).

Reviewing the papers tonight: Sky News (10.30 p.m. and 11.30 p.m.): Fleet Street Fox Susie Boniface and the Spectator’s Freddy Gray … Times Radio (10.35 p.m.): Journalist Afua Hagan and Deputy Political Editor at the Daily Express Sam Lister.

TODAY’S FRONT PAGES

(Click on the publication’s name to see its front page.)

Daily Express: Redrawing map of Europe in blood.

Daily Mail: Putin to seize capital in days.

Daily Mirror: Her blood … his hands.

Daily Star: Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Putin.

Financial Times: Putin’s forces storm Ukraine.

HuffPost UK: U.K. unveils ‘severe’ new sanctions on Russia.

i: Ukraine’s agony.

Metro: War in Europe.

POLITICO UK: Ukraine gets SWIFT rejection from EU leaders.

PoliticsHome: U.K. announces ‘largest and most severe package’ of sanctions on Russia after Ukraine invasion.

The Daily Telegraph: New cold war as Putin strikes.

The Guardian: Putin invades.

The Independent: The bloodshed begins.

The Sun: Her blood on his hands.

The Times: A dark day for Europe.

TODAY’S NEWS MAGS

The Economist: Where will he stop?

THANK POD IT’S FRIDAY

Brexit and Beyond: Anand Menon talks to Global Institute for Women’s Leadership Director Rosie Campbell.

Chopper’s Politics: Christopher Hope interviews Armed Forces Minister James Heappey.

Desperately Seeking Wisdom: Former No. 10 spinner Craig Oliver is joined by Clear View Research boss Kenny Imafidon.

EU Confidential: The POLITICO team reports from inside Ukraine, discuss the European response and analyze the global repercussions.

House of Lords: The Lords media team talks to Tory peer and former government Whip Timothy Kirkhope.

Iain Dale All Talk: Dale talks to former No. 10 spinner Craig Oliver.

Inside Briefing: The IfG team talks Russia/Ukraine with former Attorney General Dominic Grieve.

Newscast: The BBC team report from Ukraine.

Politics Weekly UK: The Guardian’s John Harris, Dan Sabbagh and Zoe Williams discuss the invasion of Ukraine.

The Bunker: Andrew Harrison and more are joined by West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin.

The Political Party: Matt Forde interviews former Tory MP Edwina Currie.

Westminster Insider: Jack Blanchard talks to former Foreign Secretary and historian David Owen about the history Russia-Britain relations.

Women with Balls: Katy Balls talks to Fiona Hill, former Russia adviser to Donald Trump.

YOUR WEEKEND IN POLITICS

SUNDAY SHOWS: No guest news yet for Sophie Raworth (BBC One, Sunday 9 a.m.) or Trevor Phillips (Sky News, Sunday 8.30 a.m.).

T&G host Carole Walker and co-presenter Paul Waugh will be talking to the FT’s George Parker and Guardian columnist Gaby Hinsliff (Times Radio, Sunday 10 a.m.).

Westminster Hour host Carolyn Quinn will be talking to former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland … Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry … Former European Commission VP Catherine Ashton … The Mirror’s Pippa Crerar (Radio 4, Sunday 10 p.m.).

LONDON CALLING

WESTMINSTER WEATHER: ☀️☀️☀️ Sunny all day. Highs of 11C.

NEW GIG: MailOnline has appointed Danny Groom — the 13-year U.K. editor — as acting global editor, after Martin Clarke’s departure. PressGazette has a write-up.

BIRTHDAYS: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab … Former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls … Rochdale MP Tony Lloyd … Newcastle-under-Lyme MP Aaron Bell … Tory peer and former party Chairman Andrew Feldman … Retired Labour peer David Puttnam … Unaffiliated peer Lewis Moonie … Welsh government Climate Change Minister Julie James … DfE Director General Paul Kett … Former BBC Chairman David Clementi … Channel 4 public affairs manager Stephen Lynch … BBC Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty … Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland.

Celebrating over the weekend: COVID Recovery Group Chairman Mark Harper … Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier … Crossbench peer Lynda Clark … Daily Mail deputy political editor John Stevens … The Guardian’s political cartoonist Steve Bell … Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan … City of Durham MP Mary Foy … Vale of Clwyd MP James Davies … Tory peer David Young … Tory peer and Defense Minister Annabel Goldie … London’s Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Sophie Linden … Crossbench peer Julia Neuberger … Liam Fox aide David Goss … Public Health Minister Maree Todd … Scottish Tory MSP Liz Smith … Former Newsnight presenter Gavin Esler … Environmental activist and former U.S. presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

PLAYBOOK COULDN’T HAPPEN WITHOUT: My editor Zoya Sheftalovich, reporter Andrew McDonald and producer Grace Stranger.

**Margrethe Vestager and Didier Reynders will take part in the fourth edition of POLITICO Live’s AI & Tech Summit on April 21. With a half-day focused on AI and a half-day centered around broader tech themes, you won’t want to miss our flagship tech event, featuring top speakers from across the Register today.**

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