news (34)

 

The Met Office is warning Londoners to prepare for the risk of flooding as winter approaches, following recent extreme weather.

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People are encouraged to plan ahead by checking their flood risk online and signing up for flood warnings.

It follows a heatwave and flooding in the capital this summer, with temperatures above 40C recorded.

More than 1,500 homes and two hospitals were flooded after heavy rainfall across the capital in July.

The London Climate Change partnership says London is especially prone to surface water and sewage flooding following heavy rainfall, due to the large number of "impermeable surfaces" like roads and pavements, and Victorian drainage systems that aren't equipped to cope with increased water flows.

During the extreme weather, sewage came up through manhole covers and toilets in people's homes and flooded streets in Woodford, Walthamstow and Battersea.

Whipps Cross and Newham hospitals asked patients to stay away after their emergency departments were hit by flooding.

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Japan's Government Pension Investment Fund (GPIF) reported on Friday an investment loss of 1.722 trillion yen ($11.64 billion) in July-September, the third consecutive quarter of negative returns.

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The loss came as monetary tightening in the United States as well as in Europe hit bond prices, while fears of recession weighed on global stock markets, GPIF said.

The world's largest pension fund lost 0.88 per cent for the three months, trimming its overall assets to 192.097 trillion yen, it said in a statement.

The loss narrowed from 1.91 per cent in the previous quarter.

The fund is closely watched by global financial markets because of its mammoth size.

During the July-September period, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 6.7 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 1.7 per cent.

The GPIF's foreign stock portfolio posted a loss of 0.49 per cent, while its Japanese stock portfolio had a loss of 0.84 per cent.

Its Japanese bond portfolio posted a loss of 0.79 per cent, while its foreign bond portfolio lost 1.54 per cent.

As of end-September, Japanese bonds accounted for 27.26 per cent of its portfolio and foreign bonds accounted for 25.04 per cent. Foreign equities accounted for 23.86 per cent and domestic equities 23.84 per cent.

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Artificial joints from cremated help save lives

 

Thousands of pounds' worth of metal recycled from cremations in Bath has been sold to potentially save lives.

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The money raised has come from the sale of items like artificial joints and metal plates, and has been given to The Children's Air Ambulance.

The donation of £12,000 means the service can fly several crucial missions.

The recovered metal came from Haycombe Crematorium, with permission from the families of the deceased.

It comes after Bath and North East Somerset Council joined the not-for-profit Recycling of Metals Scheme run by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management.

Members of the scheme collect metal from the cremators and the money raised from recycling is divided between members for distribution among charities.


'Support is vital'
The Children's Air Ambulance said the donation would make a huge difference.

Its community fundraising executive Fiona Franklin, said: "The support of our local communities is so important to our charity as we receive no government funding and rely solely on generous donations like these to remain operational.

"Each potentially lifesaving mission costs £3,500 so, on behalf of the charity, I'd like to say a huge thank you to the wonderful team at Haycombe Crematorium and Bath & North East Somerset Council for their generous donation which will help save young lives.

"The charity often transfers patients from all over the south west, including Bath, so support from the local community is vital."

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Pfizer expects to raise the price of its COVID-19 vaccine to about US$110 to US$130 per dose after the United States government's current purchase programme expires, Pfizer executive Angela Lukin said on a call with analysts on Thursday (Oct 20).

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Lukin said she expects the vaccine will be made available at no cost to people who have private insurance or government paid insurance.

The US government currently provides the vaccine for free to all but pays about US$30 per dose to Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE. In 2023, the market is expected to move to private insurance after the US public health emergency expires.

It is not yet clear what kind of access people without health insurance will have to the vaccine.

Pfizer said it expects the COVID-19 market to be about the size of the flu shot market on an annual basis for adults, but that the pediatric market would take longer to build based on shots given so far.

Reuters earlier on Thursday reported that Wall Street was expecting such price hikes due to weak COVID vaccine demand.

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In the blood red dust of central Australia, mining firm Arafura is planning to build a mine and processing facility for highly sought-after elements.

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Located 80 miles north of Alice Springs, the Nolans Project will be in one of the hottest and driest parts of the country.

Despite the extreme conditions, Arafura believes the investment will be worth it. The planned mine and processing facility could satisfy up to 5% of global demand for neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr), which are used in high-power magnets.

They are two of a group of so-called rare earth elements, that are essential to the electronics industry.

NdPr, europium, terbium and other rare earth metals that were once barely heard of are now commonplace in the manufacture of phone touchscreens, wind turbines and other modern technologies.

The mining of these minerals is an industry currently dominated by China, but geopolitical and trade forces are at work that could reshape the international market.

Australia, a superpower exporter of iron ore and coal with rich mining traditions believes it is well-placed to join the race to exploit minerals that provide critical parts for electric vehicles and wind turbines.

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K-pop stars to take time out for military service

 

The world's biggest boy band BTS will be abandoning their fandom "army" to join the South Korean military for national service, their agents say.

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The confirmation ends years of debate over whether the K-pop stars might be exempted from military duties.

In South Korea, all able-bodied men aged 18-28 must serve about two years.

The seven BTS members had been allowed to put off starting their military service until they turned 30. The oldest, Jin, is currently 29.

He will begin preparations next month, the band's management revealed on Monday. All seven members of the group - the youngest of whom is 24 - also plan on following through with their service, it said.

South Korea retains compulsory military service mainly because the country is still technically at war with its nuclear-armed neighbour, North Korea.

The band had previously won a deferral - when in 2020, South Korea's parliament passed a bill allowing the biggest K-pop stars to delay their duties until the age of 30.

The announcement by BTS comes just months after the band announced they would be taking a break, with some members pursuing individual projects.

The K-pop group have been the world's best-selling artists for the past two years - known for catchy, upbeat hits like Dynamite and Butter. They've also been praised for their advocacy on young people's mental health.

Viewed by many South Koreans as national treasures - some lawmakers had suggested the band could be granted an exemption so they could keep performing. Such exemptions have been given to Olympic medallists and other high-achieving sports stars, classical musicians and dancers.

However, the statement from the band's managers on Monday said the musicians were content to carry out their duties. Jin - who had originally applied for his service start date to be delayed - had cancelled that request, their agency said.

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Patients with incurable diseases want more support

 

"It was a little bit like well, you're dying anyway, so there's nothing much we can do for you."

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This is how Tassia Haines felt when she was diagnosed with incurable breast cancer two years ago.

The 30-year-old was then given support by one of Wales' two specialist nurses for secondary breast cancer.

But she wants everyone in her situation to be given help too, and a petition launched by her will be debated in the Welsh Parliament next week.

"She made me feel heard and like I do matter. She reassured me I wasn't going to die next week," she said.

"She was a translator when I felt overwhelmed, and my voice when I wanted to say something but felt like I couldn't because I was just the silly patient. I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't for her."

Ms Haines was treated in Swansea where a clinical nurse solely dedicated to secondary breast cancer is in post.

Secondary cancer means that the cancer has spread to another part of the body and can no longer be cured.

Her treatment has now moved to Cardiff, where the latest data shows the role does not exist.

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Green groups paint us as villains, minister says

 

The climate minister has said "extreme green groups love to paint us as villains" on net zero, in a debate over the UK's use of fossil fuels.

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Graham Stuart was defending the government's decision to allow more oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.

During a committee hearing, one Labour MP quoted scientists who say fossil fuel projects should be closed down, not expanded.

But Mr Stuart insisted the move was "compatible" with climate targets.

The testy exchange came as Mr Stuart answered questions about the government's energy polices from MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee.

He defended the government's decision to grant new licences for oil and gas exploration in the North Sea and its move to lift the ban on fracking, a controversial method of mining shale gas.

Prime Minister Liz Truss is seeking to expand UK production of fossil fuels in an attempt to increase energy supplies and lower bills, which are at record highs amid global economic turmoil.

Mr Stuart told the committee the UK would still be burning gas in 2050, when the country is committed to reaching net zero carbon emissions.

Asked by one Conservative MP if banning fracking in 2019 was a mistake, Mr Stuart repeated his claim that granting new oil and gas licences was "good for the environment".

This was because production emissions from extracting oil and gas in the North Sea were lower than those associated with imported fossil fuels, he said.

A 2020 report by the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) found the production of natural gas from the UK created less than half the emissions of imported liquefied natural gas (LNG).

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China's auto sales rose 25.7 per cent in September from a year earlier, a slower pace of growth compared to the previous two months when electric car sales grew at a faster rate because of government incentives.

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Auto sales in the world's biggest car market increased to 2.61 million vehicles last month, data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) showed on Tuesday.

While sales were still buoyant compared to the year before, the slower year-on-year growth versus July and August suggests falling demand in a weakening economy. Sales in the first half of the year were impacted by stringent lockdowns in Shanghai and other Chinese cities.

September sales of new energy vehicles (NEV), which include pure electric vehicles (EV), plug-in hybrids and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, increased 93.9 per cent from the previous year.

Total auto sales for the first nine months of 2022 rose 4.4 per cent from the same period in 2021.

CAAM tracks broader auto sales including passenger vehicles, buses and trucks. The China Passenger Car Association (CPCA), which focuses on retail sales of cars, said earlier on Tuesday that China's passenger car sales in September rose 21.2 per cent to 1.95 million.

CPCA said on Sunday that Tesla's deliveries of China-made EVs in September rose 8 per cent from August, smashing its monthly record.

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Nissan presses partner Renault to sell down stake

 

Nissan Motor Co Ltd is pressing partner Renault SA to cut its stake in the Japanese automaker and revamp their more than 20-year-old alliance, the Wall Street Journal said on Friday, citing people with knowledge of the talks.

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French car firm Renault owns about 43 per cent of Nissan, while the Japanese firm owns 15 per cent of its top shareholder, but without voting rights.

In June, Nissan revealed for the first time some details of its alliance pact with top shareholder Renault that keep the latter from unilaterally increasing its stake beyond 44.4 per cent.

Their talks cover the question of whether Nissan will join Renault's new unit being set up to its house electric vehicle (EV) assets in exchange for its French ally winding down the Nissan stake, the paper said.

Nissan's Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta was among the firm's executives who visited France last month and discussed whether the Japanese car maker would invest in Renault's new EV business, the paper added.

Renault is pushing ahead with plans to split its EV and combustion engine businesses in its bid to catch up with rivals such as Tesla and Volkswagen in the race to cleaner driving.

It expects to unveil a detailed blueprint for the new EV entity this autumn.

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Most of Japan's regional economies are picking up moderately with some firms considering raising wages, the central bank said in a quarterly report, underscoring its hope that household income will grow enough to compensate for rising living costs.

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In the report released on Thursday (Oct 6), the Bank of Japan (BOJ) raised its assessment for one of the country's nine regions and left its view unchanged for the remaining eight.

"Many regions saw their economies pick up moderately as supply constraints ease," the BOJ said, adding that firms saw consumption recover as COVID-19 infection cases fell.

"Companies enjoying strong earnings or facing labour shortages have raised summer bonuses or considering raising wages next spring," the BOJ said. "On the other hand, some companies said they were cautious of raising wages due to the severe business environment such as rising raw material costs."

The BOJ remains an outlier among a global wave of central banks tightening monetary policy to combat soaring inflation.

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Foreigners resumed selling in Asian equities ex-China stocks in September as investors were deterred by U.S. interest rate hikes, a firmer greenback and a weaker regional growth outlook.

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Data from stock exchanges in South Korea, India, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Thailand showed that foreigners sold equities worth a net $8.83 billion last month - their first monthly selling since June.

The regional equities have so far faced total outflows of $69.7 billion in the first three quarters of the year, a massive jump in outflows of $47.63 billion faced in 2008, when the global financial crisis occurred.

Last month, the U.S. Federal Reserve raised its benchmark interest rate by 75 basis points, marking the third such hike in a row. Analysts expect the U.S. central bank to keep hiking rates to tame rising inflationary pressures.

The region grapples with mounting inflationary pressures, interest rate hikes, and slowing economic growth, said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer, UBS Global Wealth Management, and added that aggressive U.S. rate hikes have also hurt the region's currencies and its export markets.

Goldman Sachs cut the region's 2022 and 2023 EPS growth by 2 per centage points (pps) and 3 pps respectively at the end of last month, citing the negative impact of rising rates, a stronger dollar, and slower growth on earnings.

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Prince William says online safety for young people should be "a prerequisite, not an afterthought" after an inquest into 14-year-old Molly Russell's death.

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A coroner concluded that the teenager from London died from an act of self-harm while suffering depression and the negative effects of online content.

Molly's father Ian called for urgent changes to make children safer online.

The prince said: "No parent should ever have to endure what Ian Russell and his family have been through."

It is unusual for any member of the Royal Family to comment following any legal proceedings - but mental health is a topic on which the new Prince of Wales has campaigned on regularly in the past.

Prince William, who met Mr Russell in November 2019, tweeted: "They have been so incredibly brave. Online safety for our children and young people needs to be a prerequisite, not an afterthought."

Molly took her own life in 2017, and coroner Andrew Walker said the images of self-harm and suicide she viewed online "shouldn't have been available for a child to see".

After the hearing finished on Friday, Mr Russell said: "It's time to protect our innocent young people instead of allowing [social media] platforms to prioritise their profits by monetising the misery of children."

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Japan has accused Russia's security services of blindfolding and restraining one of its diplomats in the eastern city of Vladivostok.

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Motoki Tatsunori, its consul in the city, was freed from custody on Tuesday after being accused of espionage - and given 48 hours to leave Russia.

Moscow alleges he received secret information about its co-operation with an unnamed Asian country.

Japan denies the allegation and is demanding a formal apology.

Russia's FSB security service said it had detained Mr Tatsunori on Monday for soliciting information about "the impact of Western sanctions" on Moscow after its invasion of Ukraine in February.

"A Japanese diplomat was detained red-handed while receiving classified information, in exchange for money, about Russia's co-operation with another country in the Asia-Pacific region," the agency said in a statement.

But Japan said the detention of its consul for political affairs violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and had been carried out in "an intimidating manner".

"The official was blindfolded, with pressure applied to both his hands and head so he was unable to move while being detained, and then he was questioned in an overbearing way," chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters.

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Train passengers saw flames from window

 

Passengers described seeing flames from the window of their train during an incident which closed the Severn Tunnel.

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Some told BBC Wales they heard a "bang" before a carriage window shattered on the journey from Bristol to Cardiff on Wednesday.

The tunnel was closed while the track was inspected.

Great Western Railway did not comment on a fire, but said a fault was being investigated.

Steven Medway said he happened to be looking out of the window as they went through the tunnel, and saw the flames.

"It felt like we had driven through some fire," he said, "we had hit something, and there was a bang, then one of the windows opposite me shattered."

He said passengers where then moved from the carriage by a guard, and the train stopped once it had left the tunnel.

Mr Medway said passengers were told the impact had caused an engine leak, and an engineer had been called from Cardiff.

"It was getting late so I got my wife to come and pick me up," he said, adding they offered a lift to a family who were waiting at the next train was almost an hour later.

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A 'bathroom video' shuts down an Indian institution

 

An Indian university has been shut for a week after massive protests broke out over allegations that a female student secretly filmed other women in a hostel bathroom.

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Thousands of students at Chandigarh University, a privately-run institution in the northern state of Punjab, protested on Sunday after rumours began spreading - both at the university and online - that several videos of women bathing had been posted on the internet without their knowledge. These, according to several tweets, had been filmed by the woman and shared with her boyfriend.

Both the university and the Punjab police have denied this. Police officials said on Sunday that they have only found videos of the woman on her phone, but she, her boyfriend and another man have since been arrested on charges that include sharing private photos of others without their consent.

"The investigation is under way and the accused's phone has been sent for forensic examination," said Rupinder Bhatti, a senior Punjab police official who heads a special investigation team looking into the case.

Ms Bhatti also denied a newspaper report which cited anonymous police officials who said that a second video, which appeared to be of another girl, had been found on the woman's phone.

The students ended their protest late on Sunday after the administration and police accepted some of their demands. But it is still a trending topic online, where it had kickstarted a whirlwind of misinformation.

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Putin warns Ukraine: The war can get more serious

 

President Vladimir Putin on Friday (Sep 16) brushed off a lightning Ukrainian counter-offensive with a smile but warned that Russia would respond more forcefully if its troops were put under further pressure.

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Speaking after a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in the Uzbek city of Samarkand, Putin cast the invasion as a necessary step to prevent what he said was a Western plot to break Russia apart.

Moscow, he said, was in no hurry in Ukraine. And its goals remained unchanged.

"The Kyiv authorities announced that they have launched and are conducting an active counter-offensive operation. Well, let's see how it develops, how it ends up," Putin said with a grin.

It was his first public comment on a rout of his forces in northeastern Ukraine's Kharkiv region a week ago that has prompted unusually strong public criticism from Russian military commentators.

Russia hit Ukrainian infrastructure in response - including a reservoir dam and electricity supplies - and Putin said those attacks could get worse.

"Recently, the Russian armed forces have inflicted a couple of sensitive blows. Let's assume they're a warning. If the situation continues to develop like this, then the response will be more serious," he said.

Putin also said Russia was gradually taking control of new areas of Ukraine.

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On patrol with the celebrity 'water police'

 

More than 2,000 people in an exclusive Californian neighbourhood, including celebrities such as Kevin Hart and Kim Kardashian, have been put on a list of water offenders as drought ravages the state.

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The BBC went on patrol with the people residents have labelled the 'water police', who are tasked with reducing water use and educating people about how to cut back.

In a blistering third year of drought, Californians have been asked to limit their indoor water usage to 55 gallons (208 litres) per person per day. It takes about 30 gallons to fill a bathtub, so forget about a deep Jacuzzi experience.

Yet in the gated communities of Calabasas and Hidden Hills - exclusive enclaves in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu - lush lawns and filled swimming pools and koi ponds make it clear that some are ignoring the rules.

So officials have created a device to take power showers away from rich and famous water hogs. A small metal disc with a pinhole drilled through the middle, it has seriously reduced the flow of water into some multimillion dollar homes.

People here call Derek Krauss the 'water police'.

He works for the municipal utility, the Las Virgenes Water District, and his job is to install and remove the water flow restrictors if homeowners ignore repeated warnings to cut back.

The utility can also issue fines - but according to Mr Krauss, his main job is to educate the public about ways to reduce their use so there's enough water to drink, bathe and fight wildfires.

This summer, more than 2,000 people in Las Virgenes have been put on a list of water offenders - including comedian Kevin Hart, actor Sylvester Stallone and the entrepreneurs Kim and Kourtney Kardashian.

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said developing nations were paying a "horrific price" for the world's reliance on fossil fuels, as he toured parts of Pakistan hit by floods blamed on climate change.

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Nearly 1,400 people have died in flooding that covers a third of the country - an area the size of the United Kingdom - wiping out crops and destroying homes, businesses, roads and bridges.

Guterres hopes his visit will galvanise support for Pakistan, which needs at least US$10 billion to repair damaged infrastructure.

"Pakistan and other developing countries are paying a horrific price for the intransigence of big emitters that continue to bet on fossil fuels," Guterres said in a tweet, shortly before heading to see some of the most flood-affected areas.

"From Islamabad, I am issuing a global appeal: Stop the madness. Invest in renewable energy now. End the war with nature."

Pakistan receives heavy - often destructive - rains during its annual monsoon season, which is crucial for agriculture and water supplies.

But downpours as intense as this year's have not been seen for decades.

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Vladimir Putin has condemned Western sanctions imposed because of Russia's war in Ukraine as a fever that poses a threat to the entire world.

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In a speech to an economic forum in Vladivostok, he said Russia was coping with the West's economic "aggression".

But the Russian president warned the quality of life for Europeans was being sacrificed to sanctions while poorer countries were losing access to food.

He also said Europe was cheating poor countries out of Ukraine's grain.

For months Ukraine's sea ports were blockaded by Russian forces, but since exports resumed at the start of August Russia's leader asserted that only two grain ships had gone to Africa - which is not the case. He said he wanted to discuss revisiting the deal, in remarks rejected by Ukraine as groundless.

Russia launched its invasion on 24 February and now occupies around a fifth of Ukrainian territory. Six months on, it has been pushed back from areas around Kyiv and the north and now faces a Ukrainian counter-offensive in the south and east.

Western nations responded to the war by imposing sanctions on a large number of Russian individuals, businesses and state-run enterprises. The European Union has sought to cut its reliance on Russian gas and oil and Moscow has shut its key Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline to Germany, blaming it on technical issues.

Energy prices have soared and EU ministers meet on Friday to respond to the crisis. The Russian leader condemned one proposal for a cap on Russian gas prices as stupid.

Mr Putin told his audience the West was trying to impose its behaviour on other countries. Many companies had rushed to leave Russia, he said, but "now we are seeing how production and jobs in Europe are closing one after another". However, Russia is also feeling the pinch, with inflation rising and companies struggling to import much needed parts.

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