Prince William reveals ‘saddest of circumstances’ following the Queen’s poignant funeral

Prince William has shared a heartfelt message of thanks after cancelling an appearance following the Queen’s poignant funeral service at Westminster Abbey.

The dad-of-three had planned to make an appearance at The Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit in New York on Wednesday, but regrettably pulled out owing to his grandmother’s mourning period.

In a pre-recorded video, the royal shared a touching message in which he mentioned the late monarch. William gushed: “Although it is the saddest of circumstances that means I cannot join you in person today, I am pleased to be able to join you in video form as you gather in New York for the Earthshot Prize Innovation Summit.

“During this time of grief, I take great comfort in your continued enthusiasm, optimism and commitment to The Earthshot Prize and what we are trying to achieve.”


Prince William is mourning the loss of his grandmother

Paying tribute to Her Majesty, the 40-year-old added: “Protecting the environment was a cause close to my grandmother’s heart, and I know she would have been delighted to hear about this event and the support you are all giving our Earthshot Finalists – the next generation of environmental pioneers.”

Prince William’s heartfelt message comes ahead of the hotly anticipated Earthshot Prize finals which will take place in December this year.

The Prince and Princess of Wales are expected to travel to Boston where they’ll announce the second annual cohort of Earthshot Prize winners. In anticipation, William added: “We look forward to seeing you all very soon.”


The royal attended Her Majesty’s state funeral at Westminster Abbey

The Earthshot Prize has been inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s ‘Moonshot’ programme in the 1960s, which urged millions of people to support the US space programme.

It is based on five ‘Earthshot’ goals: Protect and restore nature; fix our climate; clean our air; revive our oceans and build a waste-free world.


William and Kate attended the Earthshot Prize awards ceremony in 2021

Five £1 million prizes will be awarded each year for the next ten years, providing at least 50 solutions to the world’s greatest environmental problems by 2030.

Welcome to spider season: Why you should never catch and kill

Flic Everett
 and Hannah Millington

Wed, 21 September 2022 at 2:22 pm

Spider season. (Getty Images)
Refrain from swatting that spider in your home. (Getty Images)

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Spider season is here, with daddy long legs and house species popping up in homes throughout September and October.

Invertebrate charity Buglife revealed that as many as 200 billion spiders could be making themselves comfortable across the UK at the moment, which sounds far less than ideal.

This of course means that arachnophobia season is also in full swing, because no matter how remarkable the eight-legged scuttlers may be, for those who live in fear, every new piece of information just adds to the alarm.

For instance, there are 38,000 species of spider in the world, and many more to be discovered. They’re also found on every continent ‘except Antarctica’, and in one acre of land, there are around one million of them. The list could go on.

A Giant House Spider Near A Plughole
Unfortunately, your bathroom is the perfect home for daddy long legs. (Getty Images)

Why you shouldn’t catch and kill spiders

The arachnophobes out there (over 6% of the global population have ‘an intense fear of spiders’) will know all too well the screaming dread of seeing that dark shape whisk by across the floor, noiseless and seemingly directionless.

Fortunately, for much of the year, spiders lurk unseen, or outdoors, busy building their webs between plants, being part of the eco-system, and causing no trouble.

But come autumn – mating season – the weather turns chilly and the spider population wants to be warm and cosy, find somewhere to settle down and raise their many eight-eyed kids.

Understandably there is the urge to charge at them with a heavy hardback or the desire to leap onto a chair, and stay there until we finally feel we are ‘safe’ again.

Read more: Man burns his house down after trying to kill spiders with a blowtorch

Arachnophobia starts young.... (Getty Images)
Arachnophobia starts young…. (Getty Images)

There are, however, good reasons not to do this. For a start, spiders are the Henry Hoovers of the ‘minibeast’ world, catching and eating all the annoying flies, bluebottles, midges and mosquitoes in your home. Say what you like about spiders, but are probably far more noisy and irritating disturbances you could have to deal with at night.

They also keep crops safe, by gobbling up pests that threaten the harvest, and protect plants by eating more insects than birds and bats combined. They have a vital place in the ecosystem – and they themselves provide nutritious food for birds, which won’t work if they’re smeared all over your heaviest encyclopaedia.

In fact…shudder alert… it has been estimated that spiders eat more insects than ‘the weight of the human population’ every year. As long as they don’t come for us next.

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How to safely get rid of spiders

However, while they may be essential to maintaining bio-diversity and balancing the entire eco-system on their eight little legs, many of us don’t want them shacking up in our houses. So how do we gently persuade them out?

You could try conkers, which are said to contain saponin, a substance spiders hate to smell. Though while you might put them in every corner if your home, just in case, there is no evidence to prove this works.

And if you don’t have a partner/child/parent/flatmate who’s willing to gently carry them outside while you breathe into a paper bag, there’s only one solution: The spider catcher. Luckily, it’s brilliant. Suck up Mr Spider, seal the tube, carry outside and release.

Then walk away and don’t look back.

Paloma Faith fined £1,000 after being caught speeding at 52mph in her Skoda

Chart-topping singer Paloma Faith has been fined £1,000 after being caught speeding through north London.

The 41-year-old star was behind the wheel of a Skoda when she passed a speed camera on the A10 in Enfield at 52mph, above the 40mph limit.

The singer-songwriter – who signed up as a brand ambassador for Skoda in 2018 – admitted the speeding offence and was convicted behind-closed-doors at Lavender Hill magistrates court on September 5.

After entering a guilty plea in writing, she was ordered to pay a £1,000 fine, plus £190 in court costs and fees. The magistrate also imposed three points on her driving licence.

Faith – prosecuted under her full name Paloma Faith Blomfield – has been a fixture in the music charts since breaking through with her double platinum debut album Do You Want The Truth Or Something Beautiful?

Paloma Faith’s car when she was caught speeding (Court)
Paloma Faith’s car when she was caught speeding (Court)

She scooped the Best Female Solo Artist award at the Brits in 2015 after the release of hit song Only Love Can Hurt Like This, from her third solo album A Perfect Contradiction.

Away from singing, Faith became a judge on the fifth season of ITV’s The Voice and has starred in films including St Trinian’s in 2007.

After linking up with Skoda in 2018, Faith won an advertising award for an acclaimed TV campaign featuring her recording of Make Your Own Kind of Music.

Court papers show Faith was caught out by a speed camera at 11.43am on January 26 this year, as she drove the silver Skoda northbound between Southbury Road and Caterhatch Lane on the A10.

“A Notice of Intended Prosecution was received from Miss Paloma Blomfield who confirmed that they were the driver at the time”, said Jan Schartau, a Met Police caseworker.

In court papers which were sent to Faith’s £2 million home in Clapton, east London, which she shares with husband Leyman Lahcine and their two children, she pleaded guilty and offered no mitigation or excuses for the offence.

The case was dealt with via the Single Justice Procedure, with Faith spared a day in court and prosecuted instead on the papers by a magistrate sitting in a private hearing.

Faith was given until October 3 to settle the court bill, and the DVLA has been notified of three points on her licence.

The Evening Standard has contacted Faith through her agents for comment.

BBC responds to complaints over Queen’s death coverage ‘monarchy bias’

Katie Archer

·TV Reporter, Yahoo Entertainment UK

Wed, 21 September 2022 at 10:53 am

The State Gun Carriage carries the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped in the Royal Standard with the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign's orb and sceptre, in the Ceremonial Procession following her State Funeral at Westminster Abbey, London. Picture date: Monday September 19, 2022.
The BBC cleared its schedules to report on the Queen’s funeral. (PA)

The BBC has responded to viewer complaints that its coverage of the Queen’s death was biased in favour of the monarchy.

BBC One interrupted its programming on 8 September to announce that the Queen was under medical supervision and then extended its news coverage until later that evening, when her death was announced.

Schedules for the rest of the day and much of the following day were cancelled to cover the story, with various programmes cancelled or moved during the 10-day period of national mourning and the broadcaster clearing its channels to report on the state funeral on 19 September.

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II died on 8 September. (PA)

Many of the BBC’s other channels and radio stations followed suit in clearing schedules and providing extensive coverage.

On the BBC complaints site, it states: “We received complaints from people who felt our coverage of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and the accession of King Charles III, has been biased in favour of the monarchy, and should have featured more republican viewpoints.”

The response read: “Our coverage of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has reflected the strength of feeling this has generated from across the country and around the world; we have featured tributes from world leaders, politicians from across the political spectrum and members of the public.

King Charles III, the Princess Royal and the Duke of Sussex (back left) follow the State Gun Carriage carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped in the Royal Standard with the Imperial State Crown and the Sovereign's orb and sceptre, as it leaves Westminster Hall for the State Funeral at Westminster Abbey, London. Picture date: Monday September 19, 2022.
The BBC was accused by some of being biased towards the monarchy. (PA)

“It is important that our reporting includes a range of perspectives, so we have also heard from those who do not believe in the institution of monarchy, their reasons for this, and their views on the accession of the King Charles. We have offered detailed analysis on what this transition means for the future of the monarchy.

“We believe our reporting has been fair and duly impartial, reflecting the impact Queen Elizabeth II has had on public life and the historic nature of the end of the reign of the longest serving monarch in British history.”

The BBC faced similar criticism over their coverage of the death of Prince Philip in April 2021.

Changing schedules following the Queen’s death included postponing the Celebrity MasterChef final and moving the Strictly Come Dancing launch date from 17 September to 23 September.

Baker forgets to make wedding cake 2 hours before bride arrives: ‘My heart was pounding’

A baker documented how she got out of a serious bind at work.

‘Tenniscore’ is taking over the internet — here’s how to nail the look

TikToker Manila Ibrahimi is a custom cake maker. In a recent video, described by many as a “roller coaster of emotions,” Ibrahimi shared what happened when she forgotto make a wedding cake.

One morning, Ibrahimi got a call from a bride saying she was ready to pick up her cake — in two hours. It prompted the baker to kick it into overdrive and get the wedding cake done. Here’s how it turned out.

In the 5-minute video with sped-up footage of Ibrahimi making the wedding cake, she described how she pulled it off. There were a lot of hiccups. Fortunately, she had the cake sponges “ready to go,” but that was pretty much the only thing.

She had to go to the store to buy supplies and also had to make two types of buttercream. When she could finally stack the cakes, she ran into another issue: The cake boards were showing. So Ibrahimi thought quickly and added pearl fondant icing to cover them up.

When the bride told her she was 10 minutes away and only needed her apartment number, there was another issue. She remembered the bride requested fresh sunflowers. Ibrahimi sent her husband out to get them, but he could only get synthetic sunflowers.

The baker left the bride hanging for 20 minutes before sending the apartment number to buy time. Then, she only had two minutes to put the giant cake in its box. Somehow, it all worked out.

“I still have no idea how I managed to do this within the two hours,” Ibrahimi said, adding that the bride “absolutely loved it.”

People on TikTok applauded Ibrahimi’s perseverance. Apparently, wedding guests, including the bride, did, too. The video received 15.5 million views.

“IT WAS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!! I couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful cake! Give yourself some credit lady!” the bride wrote. Ibrahimi responded, “This means a lot! Thank you, beautiful.”

“I was at that wedding, and I have to say that was one of the best cakes I have ever tasted, rushed or not you did an incredible job!” a person commented.

“This is just a testament to how talented and professional you are. EVERYONE makes mistakes. But the way you handled the situation was spot on,” a user said.

“That was a roller coaster of emotions,” another wrote.

“My heart was pounding. I personally wouldn’t have been able to cope. I would have been crying on the floor. Props,” a person added.

Businesses welcome ‘short-term fix’ as Government slashes energy bills in half

August Graham, PA Business Reporter

Wed, 21 September 2022 at 8:08 pm

Thousands of companies might avoid collapse this winter after the Government announced a new package of energy bill support, but business groups warned it is just a “short-term fix”.

Ministers said the new scheme could roughly halve the price paid for wholesale gas and electricity by non-domestic customers, which include schools and charities.

The Government will foot part of an organisation’s bill if the wholesale price of gas and electricity stays above a set level.

The support will work differently depending on what kind of energy tariff an organisation is on.

Ministers said the support will approximately match the per-unit price households will pay to cover the wholesale price of their energy from the start of October.

But unlike the two-year household support scheme, businesses will only be helped for six months from the start of October.

Trade groups welcomed the support, but many worried that it would not be enough or last long enough.

“We welcome Government’s quick and decisive action to provide hard-pressed businesses with a substantial short-term fix to a long-term problem,” said Matthew Fell, chief policy director at the Confederation of British Industry.

Shevaun Haviland, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Six months support is not enough to make plans for the future.

“We understand there are a range of unknowns for the Government in looking ahead, but without further reassurance very few firms will make plans to invest or grow.

“Some businesses will still struggle to meet their bills despite this Government intervention. The Chancellor must prioritise those firms in his mini-budget on Friday.

Kate Nicholls, boss of UKHospitality, said businesses will get “some confidence” from the support, but “we will not relent in our pursuit of a more comprehensive package to safeguard businesses and jobs”.

The Government should reduce VAT and provide relief on business rates, she said, and ensure there is no cliff edge when support is removed after six months.

Ministers said companies on a fixed-term contract signed on or before April 1 this year will see the wholesale part of their bill capped automatically.

Around three in four companies are on fixed-term contracts.

The wholesale cost is only part of the bill. It will be capped at £211 per megawatt hour (MWh) for electricity and £75 per MWh for gas.

This is around half the expected wholesale price on the open market, and equivalent to the wholesale cap on household energy bills that will be set in October for two years.

Those who enter new fixed-price contracts after October 1 will get the same support.

Companies on default, deemed or variable tariffs will be given a per-unit discount, but the amount of support is limited.

This means that if the price on wholesale gas and electricity markets keeps soaring, their bills will go beyond those on fixed-price deals.

The Government said it is working with suppliers to ensure they offer businesses the opportunity to switch to a fixed contract.

Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng said: “We have stepped in to stop businesses collapsing, protect jobs and limit inflation.

Kwasi Kwarteng
Kwasi Kwarteng said the Government has acted to ‘stop businesses collapsing’ (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

“And with our plans to boost home-grown energy supply, we will bring security to the sector, growth to the economy and secure a better deal for consumers.”

The level of support offered to companies with flexible purchase contracts, which include some of the biggest energy users, will also be capped, the Government said.

It said a pub using 4 MWh of electricity and 16 MWh of gas that signed a fixed-price contract in August could see its bill drop from £7,000 to £3,900.

Companies that are not connected to the gas or electricity grid will get some kind of equivalent support, although details will be announced later.

The support scheme will last for six months, with a review halfway through.

The Government will decide how to continue supporting the most vulnerable businesses after the scheme ends.

The green levy on companies’ energy bills will also be removed, the Government said.

Darren Jones, a Labour MP who chairs the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said: “Capping the price for all businesses is a waste of taxpayers’ money, which should be targeted at those which need it the most.

“Why should British taxpayers collectively get into even more debt to hand over public funds to Amazon?”

Liz Truss ‘to scrap proposed bans on fur and foie gras imports’

Liz Truss ‘to scrap proposed bans on fur and foie gras imports’

Liz Truss is set to scrap proposed bans on importing fur and foie gras to the UK, according to a Tory insider, sparking outrage from animal lovers.

The new prime minister will also reportedly ditch a ban on live animal exports in her first weeks in office.

The decisions will be a massive blow to campaigners who have spent decades lobbying for the reforms to spare animals from suffering.

Production of both fur and foie gras is considered so cruel that they are already banned in the UK.

All four measures were promised in the party’s animal-welfare action plan, announced last year to wide acclaim.

And curbs on live exports were promised in the Conservatives’ election manifesto, together with an end to hunting trophy imports.

But a senior Conservative told Politico: “Banning things seems very socialist. Informing people is the way to go.”

In February this year, right-wing cabinet members including Jacob Rees-Mogg intervened to block the Animals Abroad Bill, which contained the curbs on fur, foie gras, hunting trophies, and adverts for foreign theme parks that cause animal suffering.

The Kept Animals Bill, which banned live exports and keeping primates as pets and tackled puppy smuggling, could also be dropped. It had been due to be debated on Monday, which became the day of the Queen’s funeral, and no new date has been given.

A ban on cruel exports of live animals for slaughter and fattening had been hailed as a benefit of Brexit.

It would be a huge let-down, not only for those who work for these campaigns daily but also for millions of animals

Lorraine Platt

The government says it is still looking at the fur and foie gras bans, but the source said the measures would not go ahead under Ms Truss, who appointed Mr Rees-Mogg as business secretary and promoted Mark Spencer, understood to have been another of those blocking the Animals Abroad Bill.

However, MP Scott Mann, who has spoken out in favour of a ban on live exports, has been promoted to environment minister.

Last week, Ms Truss sacked Zac Goldsmith as animal-welfare minister after he introduced reforms including an ivory sales ban and higher jail terms for cruelty. He also wanted to crack down on religious slaughter without stunning.

“A lot of his causes were very worthy, but you can be worthy when you’re the son of a billionaire,” the MP said in a bizarre comment. Lord Goldsmith’s father was financier James Goldsmith.

Lorraine Platt, co-founder of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, told The Independent she was bitterly disappointed by news the bans would be dropped.

Foie gras is considered too cruel to be legally produced in the UK (Getty Images)
Foie gras is considered too cruel to be legally produced in the UK (Getty Images)

“It would be a huge let-down, not only for those who work for these campaigns daily but also for the millions of animals involved,” she said.

“Banning live exports and hunting trophies were manifesto commitments, and some people vote on manifesto commitments at elections.”

She said the foundation had often heard reports the measures could be scrapped or watered down.

Sir Roger Gale, patron of the foundation, condemned the “let them choose” argument as “a little spurious” and perverse when the UK has bans on producing fur and foie gras.

He told Times Radio he was concerned about the direction of travel of animal welfare under the new government, and millions of votes including in red-wall seats would be lost to the Tories if they reneged on animal welfare.

Foie gras production involves force-feeding ducks and geese with pipes pushed into their throats to fatten their livers.

Fur farms have been exposed as leaving animals suffering infected, bloody wounds, spreading disease and literally driving animals mad from confinement.

Claire Bass, executive director of Humane Society International/UK, said it was surprising and perplexing that senior Conservatives wanted to row back on the popular measures in last year’s animal welfare action plan.

“Animals matter to voters, and people will not be content with oft-recycled rhetoric about being a ‘world leader in animal welfare’ if it’s not accompanied by meaningful action,” she said.

“Banning fur imports is not un-Conservative, it’s simply the right thing to do in line with the British public’s moral compass.”

Around 6,400 live animals were exported for slaughter from the UK in 2018 (Getty)
Around 6,400 live animals were exported for slaughter from the UK in 2018 (Getty)

Under Boris Johnson, the government said it wanted to consider compulsory animal-welfare labelling on food and promised to consult on proposals next year.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) ran a 12-week consultation last year on new labelling standards for produce now that EU regulations no longer apply.

It also ran a consultation on banning fur imports, but has not released the results.

Ministers had at one stage said they would press ahead with the hunting trophy imports ban, but that pledge appears also to have been dropped.

Instead, they are backing a private members’ bill by backbencher Henry Smith that bans hunting trophy imports – body parts of wild animals killed by paying hunters. Mr Smith has called such hunting barbaric.

On foie gras, Defra said it was considering any further steps that could be taken, “building on the opportunities presented” by Brexit, and was still gathering information.

“The government has made clear that the production of force-fed foie gras raises serious welfare concerns,” a spokesman added.

On fur, the department said: “We are continuing to build our evidence base on the fur sector, which will be used to inform any future action on the fur trade.”

It also said the Kept Animals Bill would continue its passage through Parliament.

The Independent has also asked the office of the new Defra secretary, Ranil Jayawardena, to confirm whether the proposals will go ahead.

Despite Disagreements, Biden Tells Truss The UK Is ‘Our Closest Ally In The World’

Liz Truss holds a bilateral with US president Joe Biden at the UN building in New York, during her visit to the US to attend the 77th UN General Assembly. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire/PA Images)
Liz Truss holds a bilateral with US president Joe Biden at the UN building in New York, during her visit to the US to attend the 77th UN General Assembly. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire/PA Images)

Liz Truss holds a bilateral with US president Joe Biden at the UN building in New York, during her visit to the US to attend the 77th UN General Assembly. (Photo: Stefan Rousseau via PA Wire/PA Images)

US president Joe Biden has told Liz Truss the UK is “our closest ally in the world”, despite sharp disagreements between the leaders of the two countries.

Ahead of a one-to-one meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Biden and the new UK prime ministers spoke to reporters before sitting down to talks centring on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the energy crisis it has provoked.

Though Biden’s words were reassuring, the president told Truss he is “looking forward to hearing what’s on your mind” about the row over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland, underlining tensions over post-Brexit arrangements.

The prime minister sought to reassure the US president by telling him how she would be explaining how the Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the island would be upheld.

Biden and Truss were meeting after the president sent a tweet just as the PM was discussing her economic policy, which said he was “sick and tired of trickle-down economics”.

“It has never worked,” he said.

The comments underlined the differences between the two leaders’ stances after Truss made clear her economic agenda had the trickle-down theory – tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations will benefit everyone – at its heart.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said it was “ludicrous” to suggest Biden was criticising UK policy, arguing each country is facing different economic challenges.

The prime minister is pushing ahead with the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol Bill which the EU and other critics say will breach international law by suspending elements of the agreement.

There have also been suggestions she could unilaterally trigger Article 16 of the protocol, to override parts of the agreement brokered as part of the Brexit divorce deal.

In opening marks at the top of their meeting, the US president told Truss: “We are both committed to protecting the Good Friday Agreement of Northern Ireland.

“And I’m looking forward to hearing what’s on your mind.”

He congratulated her on becoming prime minister, adding: “I look forward to working closely with you. You’re our closest ally in the world and there’s a lot we can continue to do together.”

Truss told the president the UK and the US are “steadfast allies” as she thanked him for his support following the death of the Queen.

“Of course I’m looking forward to discussing the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and how we make sure that’s upheld into the future,” she added.

Biden said their “full agenda” for the meeting includes Ukraine’s defence against Vladimir Putin’s invasion, China and preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.

“We also want to talk about energy, which understandably is of significant consequence to all of Europe and the United Kingdom in particular,” he added.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan made it clear Biden would discuss the protocol “in some detail” with Truss.

Sullivan told reporters the president “will encourage the UK and the European Union to work out an effective outcome that ensures there is no threat to the fundamental principles of the Good Friday Agreement”.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

Putin makes nuclear threat to West

David Harding and Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

Wed, 21 September 2022 at 5:09 pm

In a dramatic escalation of Russia’s war in UkraineVladimir Putin announced a partial mobilisation of military forces in a special address to the nation on Wednesday.

Putin said members of the military reserve, some 300,000 people, especially those with experience of active duty, would be called up, a move which comes after Moscow has faced a number of military setbacks seven months after it invaded Ukraine.

And in an apparent threat to the West, he warned against “nuclear blackmail”, threatening to respond with the might of his own vast arsenal. He said he was not bluffing over using all the means at his disposal to protect Russia’s territory, in what appeared to be a veiled reference to Russia’s nuclear capability.

“We are talking about partial mobilisation, that is, only citizens who are currently in the reserve will be subject to conscription, and above all, those who served in the armed forces have a certain military speciality and relevant experience,” Putin said.

His address alarmed many across the world and caused thousands of Russians to try and flee the country.

In a strongly-worded address to the United Nations General Assembly, US president Joe Biden said the Ukraine war was down to “one man” and accused Russia of making overt nuclear threats to Europe.

“We will stand in solidarity with Ukraine, we will stand in solidarity against Russia’s aggression,” said Biden.

He added: “This war is about extinguishing Ukraine’s right to exist as a state, and Ukrainians’ right to exist as a people… that should make your blood run cold.”

Putin’s address came a day after the Russia-controlled separatist regions in eastern and southern Ukraine announced plans to hold votes to become parts of the Russian Federation.

The referendums are expected to begin on Friday in Luhansk, Kherson and the Russia-controlled portions of the Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.

Vladimir Putin addresses Russian nation (AP)
Vladimir Putin addresses Russian nation (AP)

Ukraine and Western leaders have said the results of the votes would not be recognised.

The president claimed his aim was to “liberate” east Ukraine’s Donbas region as most people in the region did not want to be ruled by Kyiv.

It is the first time Russian conscripts have been called-up since World War Two.

People gather at a tram stop in front of a board displaying a portrait of Russian service member Sergei Tserkovniy in Saint Petersburg, Russia September 21, 2022. A slogan on the board reads:
People gather at a tram stop in front of a board displaying a portrait of Russian service member Sergei Tserkovniy in Saint Petersburg, Russia September 21, 2022. A slogan on the board reads:

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is due to address the gathering in a pre-recorded address today. Kyiv said on Thursday morning that Russia’s move was “absolutely predictable”.

Western officials said Putin’s address was a sign of panic on the part of the Russian leader following reverses on the ground, and growing international criticism of his invasion as well as the first consistent signs of dissent at home against his war.

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace described Putin’s mobilisation announcement as “an admission that his invasion is failing”. Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said Putin was in a “panic”.

Germany’s vice-chancellor Robert Habeck called it “another worng and bad step”, while China called for “dialogue” on all sides.

Last sweek, Putin revealed China had “questions and concerns” about Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine. India has called on Russia to end the war.

Moscow also said on Wednesday that 5,397 Russian soldiers had been killed since the start of the conflict, its first update on casualties since the beginning of the war in February.

The US Pentagon claims up to 80,000 Russian personnel have been killed or wounded.

Moscow’s war in Ukraine has destabilised post-World War Two European security, killed thousands of civilians, caused a looming energy crisis, driven up food prices worldwide and raised fears of a nuclear catastrophe.

One-way flights out of Russia ‘selling out fast’ as Putin calls up 300,000 troops to Ukraine

In this image made from video released by the Russian Presidential Press Service, Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. (Russian Presidential Press Service via AP)
Russian president Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in Moscow in a televised address. (Russian Presidential Press Service via AP)

One-way flights out of Russia have reportedly started selling out after Vladimir Putin ordered the immediate call-up of 300,000 reservists.

On Monday, the Russian president announced the partial mobilisation of the country’s military reserves following a humiliating defeat in Kharkiv.

In a chilling threat, he added Moscow would respond with the might of its vast arsenal if the West pursued what he called its “nuclear blackmail” over the conflict, adding: “I’m not bluffing.”

Putin added: “If there is a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and for protecting our people, we will certainly use all the means available to us.”

The mobilisation is Russia’s first since the Second World War and signifies a major escalation of the conflict, which is now in its seventh month.

However, the early-morning television address appears to have led many Russians to see to flee the country.

The Russian government has yet to announce which citizens will be exempted, though defence minister Sergei Shoigu said the call-up would be limited to those with experience as professional soldiers, and that students and those who had only served as conscripts would not be called up.

Nevertheless, according to the Reuters news agency, Google Trends data showed a spike in searches for Aviasales, which is Russia’s most popular website for purchasing flights.

Other analysts have reported other flights already being sold out.

RTE Europe editor Tony Connelly tweeted: “All tickets for flights to Yerevan, Armenia and Istanbul, Turkey as well as to Tbilisi, Georgia from Russia reportedly sold out shortly after speech given by President Putin.”

Tickets to Azerbaijan Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have also been selling fast, according to Aviasales.

New York Times correspondent Valerie Hopkins added: “Direct flights from Moscow to Istanbul & Yerevan, which allow Russians visa free entry, were sold out on Weds.

“Some routes w stopovers, like Moscow-Tbilisi, were also unavailable. Cheapest flights MSK- Dubai were >300K RUB ($5,000) – 5x avg monthly wage.”

Maria Antonova, a former journalist for the AFP news agency, tweeted: “Panic in Russia over announced mobilisation (which is not really ‘partial’ if you read the decree carefully rather than listen to speeches).

In this handout photo taken from video released by Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu speaks in televised remarks in Moscow, Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022. Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilization of reservists in Russia, in a measure that appeared to be an admission that Moscow’s war against Ukraine isn't going according to plan after nearly seven months of fighting. Only those with relevant combat and service experience will be mobilized, Russian Defense Minister Shoigu said. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said the call-up would be limited to those with experience as professional soldiers. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

“First reports of eligible men turned away from border crossings to Georgia. People are still able to fly out but tickets are sold out.”

Despite rumours of border closures circulating social media, Russian Railways and airline Aeroflot denied reports that they had been ordered to ban men aged 18 to 65 from buying tickets.

Latvia, a member of the European Union which borders Russia, will not offer refuge to any Russians fleeing Moscow’s mobilisation due to security concerns, the country’s foreign minister Edgars Rinkevics said.

Putin was initially due to deliver his televised address to the nation on Tuesday night, but for an unknown reason, postponed it to Wednesday morning.

During this time, Google searches for “how to leave Russia” spiked in the country, as pointed out by Mozhem Obyasnit.

The Telegram channel founded by Russian dissidents said residents in Russia’s far eastern territory of Khabarovsk, which borders China, had a particular interest in fleeing.

In a statement on Twitter, Ukraine’s defence ministry said: “The Russians were given 12 hours of rest, so Google could answer all the questions, including the question of what is the average life expectancy of a Russian a soldier in Ukraine.”

Meanwhile, UK defence secretary Ben Wallace said Putin’s call-to-arms was an “admission that his invasion is failing”.

In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces have staged a fierce counter-offensive in south and east of the country, forcing Moscow to concede swathes of territory.

A firefighter extinguishes a fire after a flat was hit by a missile strike in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on September 15, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. - Thick white smoke, visible for miles around, rises over Bakhmut: this Ukrainian-controlled town in the Donbas is still under Russian offensive pressure despite the retreat of Moscow's troops in the northeast. (Photo by Juan BARRETO / AFP) (Photo by JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images)
A firefighter extinguishes a fire after a flat was hit by a missile strike in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, on 15 September. (AFP via Getty Images)

Russian troops left behind valuable military equipment and vehicles as they retreated from the region surrounding the city of Kharkiv, suggesting they were forced to leave in a hurry.

It is unclear whether Russian frontline forces have “sufficient reserves or adequate morale” to withstand another concerted assault in eastern parts of Ukraine, UK defence intelligence analysts said.

They believe Moscow has established a defensive line between the Oskil River and the town of Svatove after being pushed back by Ukraine.

The zone is viewed as important partly because it sits along the border of the Luhansk region, part of the Donbas, which Russia has sought to “liberate” as one of its key war aims.

Any substantial loss of territory here would “unambiguously undermine” Putin’s strategy for the conflict, the experts say.