welcome to newsday. reporting live from singapore, i'm karishma vaswani. the headlines: police launch an investigation into whether downing street parties broke covid rules. a spokesman says borisjohnson didn't think he had broken the law. president biden says he would consider imposing sanctions on president putin directly if russia invades ukraine. covid has broken out aboard an australian warship carrying humanitarian aid to assist virus—free tonga after the tsunami. and a clinical trial of a vaccine that's tailored to target the omicron covid variant gets under way.
live from our studio in singapore, this is bbc news. it's newsday. it's 8am in the morning in singapore and midnight in london, where the metropolitan police is now investigating multiple events since 2020 at downing street — and across government — to see whether there were breaches of covid restrictions. the commissioner of britain's biggest police force confirmed that her officers are now looking into potential rule—breaking — after civil servants who are also compiling a report on what happened passed on information. the bbc understands the met police has no objection to that report, by sue gray, being published while their investigation is ongoing. here's our political editor, laura kuenssberg.
the law applies in every town, every city, every road and every house, and in the sm postcode of number 10. and the police have concluded they've seen enough about what happened behind closed doors when the law was lockdown — that it merits a full and proper look. i can confirm that the met is now investigating a number of events that took place at downing street and whitehall in the last two years. so, for only the second time in a century... can you survive the police - investigation, borisjohnson? ..a serving prime minister will be investigated for what happened under his own roof, after months and months of claims about rule—breaking during a national emergency. i now call the prime minister. i believe this will help to give the public the clarity it needs and help to draw a line under matters. but i want to reassure the house, mr speaker, and the country, that
i and the whole government are focused 100% on dealing with the people's priorities. who's been trying to get to the bottom of what happened for weeks and enough evidence about gatherings or parties contemplate prosecutions. in downing street, ms dorries? and cake around the cabinet table for the prime minister's birthday, have emerged. investigation he already had been told about. those loyal to him have been louder in recent days. the vaccine roll—out, the furlough programme, the economy having bounced back to pre—pandemic levels, has been so brilliant.
yet one former minister said, "there is no universe where a police investigation into downing street is a good thing in the real world." the tories, who like to be seen as the party of law and order, are facing serious political disorder of their own. laura kuenssberg, bbc news, westminster. if you'd like to keep up with the latest delevolpments on this story — including when sue gray's report is due to be published — go to our website. that's bbc.com. or download the bbc news app. president biden has said he's prepared to sanction his russian counterpart vladimir putin directly if moscow invades ukraine. it's the first time that western powers have suggested that the extra measures they've threatened against moscow could go right to the top of the kremlin. french president emmanuel macron said dialogue would continue and he would be speaking to mr putin on friday.
here's our diplomatic correspondent caroline hawley. the might of the russian army on display in its ally belarus, ukraine's northern neighbour, where military exercises are planned next month. moscow has been building up troops on ukraine's eastern border, too, and fears of a new war in europe are growing. the kremlin is still denying it'll invade, president putin keeping the world guessing about what his intentions really are. if russia invades ukraine, we would look to contribute to any new nato deployments to protect our allies in europe. but if president putin were to choose the path of bloodshed and destruction, he must realise that it would be both tragic and futile. russia's now amassed around 100,000 troops near its border with ukraine, leading to huge international concern. moscow used to control much of the region, but many countries have since joined nato, the military alliance of european and north american countries of which the uk
is also a part. and president putin has demanded that ukraine never be allowed to join nato. so the west is now ramping up its response, the defensive counter build—up growing by the day. warships and fighterjets from several nato members are now heading to eastern europe. this is american military equipment and munitions arriving in kyiv. it's been called "lethal aid". the us has now put 8,500 troops on alert to deploy at short notice if they need to. russia's also been threatened with unprecedented economic sanctions which could target president putin himself, the us says, if he does give the order to invade. for russia, not only in terms of economic consequences and political consequences, but there will be enormous consequences worldwide. this would be the largest... if he were to move in with all those forces, it would be the largest invasion since world war ii. it would change the world. some in ukraine think
the west is being alarmist. others are growing increasingly nervous. translation: we have to stick together - because we have enemies. our big neighbour, russia, it is like a cancer on our soil. moscow today accused the americans of whipping up tensions over ukraine but suggested that diplomacy isn't dead yet. caroline hawley, bbc news. richard mcgregor is senior fellow for north asia at the lowy institute. he gave us more insight to how this issue was being viewed in asia. i think it's pretty hard to escalate tensions much more than having 1,000 troops on ukraine's borders. i think president biden is simply trying to refine his message publicly to create some sort of sense of hesitancy with mr putin. but we'll see if it works. what do you think the biden administration might be looking for in terms of political
support, or rhetorical support, i should say, here in asia? well, i think the biden administration wants as much support as it can get. as we know, in germany, there's some equivocation in some countries, but i think, for the most part, there will be little high—profile support in asian countries, unless you include australia as part of asia. i think australia has been quite active in its public statements. but other countries, like japan, might be at the forefront. they're traditionally reticent, but i think they've become a stronger us ally in recent times. other asian countries, i think, would confine their focus to the united nations, and even then, i think, would be reluctant to take too strong a position in the immediate term. if it goes on for much longer, that might change. indeed. i thought we lost you there for a while, richard, in terms of audio, but it seems we do have you back, which is fantastic.
how closely do you think china is watching all of this? and what sorts of implications might there be for beijing, from this escalation of tensions between the us and russia? well, china is the key country in asia, and it's the key country to watch in this particular conflict. china and russia have become increasingly closer in recent years. xijinping and mr putin have met 37 times, either in person or virtually, since 2013, stronger trade ties, stronger defence ties. most importantly, they're very explicit about seeing the us as a shared threat. now, having said that, china certainly has an interest in seeing the us weakened and humiliated by russia, but i'm not so sure that translates into china, in reality, supporting a russian invasion of ukraine, because china could see that as very destabilising for energy markets, for the world economy
and the like, and that is something they don't want in the short—term. indeed, and that's precisely the point that we are hearing in some analysis in the region. in terms of concrete action on this, do you see china taking anything substantially concrete, or making any concrete action on this? no, i don't. i think they will be supportive of russia up to a point. they do not want any... i'm sorry there's noise outside! they do not want any conflict and division between themselves and russia, they want to see the us put on the back foot, and, of course, later, they will be looking for russian support in asia, in taiwan. that's some years off, but i think they see great value in the partnership with russia, to fend off and push the us out of asia longer—term.
richard mcgregor there, a seniorfellow at the richard mcgregor there, a senior fellow at the lowy institute. let's take a look at some other stories in the headlines. sri lanka says it will pay compensation to more than a million rice farmers for the failure of their crops after the government banned the import of chemical fertilisers. the agriculture minister said around $200 million would be distributed to the affected farmers. the government last year attempted to convert the country into a 100% organic farming nation by banning imported fertilisers. kurdish forces in northeast syria say that in the coming hours, they expect to regain control of more sections of a prison where islamic state fighters have tried to mount a takeover and mass break—out. there have been fierce clashes since is overran the jail in hasakah last thursday. the siege has continued despite reinforcements from the kurdish—led syrian
democratic forces and backing from us fighter jets. the netherlands will relax covid—19 measures on wednesday, despite the country recording record infection rates in recent weeks. hospitality venues, such as bars and restaurants and even museums, have been shut since mid—december. the dutch prime minister says nearly 90% of people have now been vaccinated, and it's hoped the surge in infections won't impact on already overwhelmed hospitals. the singer eltonjohn has cancelled two performances on his farewell tour after contracting covid. a spokesman for the arena in the us city of dallas where the concerts were to be staged said sir elton was fully vaccinated and boosted and had mild symptoms. still to come on newsday: it took more than 300 people to rescue him — the story of a man trapped in a welsh cave for sa hours.
the shuttle challenger exploded soon after liftoff. there were seven astronauts on board, one of them a woman schoolteacher. all of them are believed to have been killed. by the evening, tahrir square, the heart of official cairo, was in the hands of the demonstrators. they were using the word revolution. the earthquake singled out buildings and brought them down in seconds. tonight, the search for any survivors has an increasing desperation about it as the hours pass. the new government is firmly in control of the entire - republic of uganda. survivors of the auschwitz concentration camp have been commemorating the 40th anniversary of their liberation. they toured the huts, gas chambers and crematoria and relived their
horrifying experiences. this is newsday on the bbc. i'm karishma vaswani in singapore. our headlines: police launch an investigation into whether downing street parties broke covid rules. president biden says he would consider imposing sanctions on president putin directly if russia invades ukraine. i want to tell you another story now. the president of cameroon has ordered an investigation into the crush that killed eight people outside a stadium in the capital on monday. the crush happened when supporters tried to force their way into the stadium before the africa cup of nations match between host nation cameroon and comoros. more than 30 people were injured. piers edwards reports.
it was half an hour before kick—off of cameroon�*s first knockout match of the africa cup of nations against comoros that this tragedy unfolded. for some reason, only one gate — the main entrance — was open. people trying to break down the barriers that the security personnel had established. whenever there was a possibility, people ran to wherever there was an opening in the gate. we met a survivor who was near the solitary and narrow entry point. and we were asked not to show her face. people started pressing, squeezing each other. then, the force from that forced us who were in front to fall. and those who were behind walked over us, smashing us. most of us got choked in the dust. ultimately, eight spectators died — the youngest of whom was an eight—year—old boy — with another 38 injured, seven of them seriously.
the good news is that, today, those seven are on the mend, including a very young child. actually, they are better than when they come. and their lives is not in danger. we have also a woman who had a baby of two years old, and this baby is alive. african football great samuel eto'o was recently elected president of cameron's football federation. earlier today, he spoke to the bbc about the worst incident at the nations cup since a gun attack on the togolese delegation in 2010 left two of their members dead. translation: it's sad, but we know that will i bring a bit of comfort to the families that we go to the end of the competition. we have a duty to find out, as you correctly said, exactly what happened and, i think more importantly, to put in preventative measures to ensure that what happened never happens again. the next match at the brand—new
multi—million—dollar olembe stadium, earmarked to host the final, has been moved. world governing body fifa has sent condolences, so too cameron's players, and there will now be a minute's silence before matches. piers edwards, bbc news, yaounde. the us coast guard says it's looking for 39 people missing after a boat reportedly capsized off florida. the coast guard said it's thought those missing were being trafficked from the bahamas into the united states. one person has been rescued and said the boat had left bimini in the bahamas on saturday night but encountered rough weather and capsized. covid has broken out aboard an australian warship carrying humanitarian aid to assist virus—free tonga after last week's volcanic eruption and tsunami. the australian defence minister, peter dutton, said the relief effort would not be allowed to put tongans at risk of covid and the ship would remain at sea while it was decided how
to deliver the supplies safely. he said 23 crew out of 600 personnel on hmas adelaide had tested positive. shaimaa khalil reports from neighbouring fiji. the outbreak on board the australian navy ship is exactly what the tongan government has been nervous about. this is why, so far, the tongan authorities have been adamant that much—needed supplies have been allowed in but that aid workers have not been allowed into the country. and this is because, as you say, covid—19, so far, has been mostly outside this country and they've only had one case. otherwise they have been covid—free. and what they don't want to do is they don't want to be dealing with the aftermath of the destruction, after the volcanic eruption and the subsequent tsunami, only to invite covid—19 in with aid workers and aid, so they've been really careful and really reluctant about inviting personnel in.
and then case in point, what happened with the hmas adelaide, the australian navy ship that was carrying aid to tonga. 23 personnel have tested positive for covid—19, and now we've heard from the australian defence minister, peter dutton, who said, "we're currently in conversation with the tongan authorities about what to do next, whether we actually port and deliver the aid, including, crucially, chinook helicopters that could airdrop aid and supplies to further parts of tonga or we just stand off." shaimaa khalil reporting on that story for us. we turn next to the pandemic. the vaccine makers pfizer and biontech say that they've started a clinical trial of a vaccine that's tailored to target the omicron covid variant. it's part of research into whether the companies need to replace their current covid—19 jab. it's the first human study of variant—specific vaccine by big western drugmakers.
john moore is a professor of microbiology and immunology at weill cornell medicine in new york. he says the modified vaccines could become important in a worst—case scenario in which the omicron variant mutates to become as lethal as the delta variant. we don't know if we need this, but one of the ways we will find out if we do need it is to test it, to see if it does give a superior immune response against omicron and any future omicron—like variants. so that's one part of the need for making a decision in future months. the other is the trajectory of the pandemic at that time, because this kind of variant specific vaccine would not be available for the public to use in any country before mid to the the end of march at the earliest, so what will be the state of the pandemic be at that time?
and how does this type of variant vaccine perform? and then governments can make a decision on whether to roll it out or not, but it's an exploratory trial and that's worth doing. it's really hard to predict the future of the pandemic. we could see, for example, a variant rise from omicron that is more dangerous than omicron. it could acquire the lethality that we associate with the delta variant. now, that is neither impossible nor inevitable. we just don't know. but planning for the eventuality, by having an omicron—specific vaccine, is a prudent thing to do. a man who spent more than 50 hours underground after being badly injured while caving in the brecon beacons has been back to meet some of the volunteers who saved his life. george linnane fell last november and broke his leg, jaw and several ribs, leaving him in agony and wondering if he'd ever get out. more than 300 volunteers from around the ukjoined
the extraordinary rescue effort. our correspondent hywel griffith reports. little did i know it was going to turn into a 50, 60—hour epic, whatever it was, where, you know, i could have never come out of there again. this is where george linnane's life changed in an instant. ogof nynnon ddu, britain's deepest cave system. somewhere he'd been dozens of times before, but, last year, deep underground, the rock beneath him crumbled and he fell into the darkness. the first thing i knew about it was this instantaneous feeling of legs whirling around in midairand arms grabbing for something. one second, i was caving, the next, the world went mad. it all went black and, two minutes later, i woke up in a very different state to when i'd started. george broke his leg, jaw and several ribs. he was bleeding heavily. as a friend went for help, he wrestled with the pain. did you think that
you might not survive? honestly? yes, at times. it was kind of dark times initially, i guess, until the help started arriving. what followed was britain's longest ever cave rescue. in all, 300 volunteers from across the uk turned out to help. they included becky, a doctor with a local rescue team, who was one of the first to help him. my immediate thought was there's a chance that he's not going to survive this and then the thought also went through my mind that i'm the only medical professional here and that, if he does become more unwell, that everyone's going to be looking to me to do something, so, yeah, it was a big weight of responsibility. after 5a hours underground and being carried on a stretcher for 3,500 metres, this is the exit where george finally came to the surface. from here, he was transferred into a rescue vehicle, then into an ambulance, then on to hospital. but his journey
to a full recovery is going to be a long one. george still faces months of treatment but is determined to return to caving and become a rescue volunteer, joining the team which saved him. if there was a message you wanted to give them, the people who turned out and travelled to come and help you, what would it be? i would just say thank you from the bottom of my heart, really, and i'd also just let them know that the beer that i owe them is on the way. yep, it's in the pipeline. hywel griffith, bbc news, at ogof nynnon ddu. what a wonderful rescue story there with a happy ending. rare heavy snowfall has blanketed much of the eastern mediterranean. it's caused blackouts, traffic havoc and closures. in turkey, istanbul's main airport is covered, cancelling flights for a second day. a cargo terminal roof collapsed under the weight of the snow.
greece has declared a public holiday. that's it from us. thanks so much for watching. do stay with bbc news for the latest global headlines. hello there. wednesday brings the promise of a bit more brightness, some sunshine even, across parts of england and wales after what has been a very stagnant and cloudy and cold few days. you can see that haze of grey on the earlier satellite picture. bright white cloud up to the north—west, though. that's indicative of frontal systems approaching, eventually bringing some rain into scotland and northern ireland with a strengthening wind. so, through wednesday, england and wales having a better chance of some sunny spells, although towards the south—east corner, it may stay cloudy for a good part of the day. strengthening winds across northern areas, rainjust getting into northern ireland, certainly setting in across western and north—western scotland through the afternoon. gusts of wind in excess of 50 mph in exposed north—western parts.
but milder than it has been, certainly across england and wales, 8—10 degrees. northern ireland and scotland up to 10—11. through wednesday night, it will turn very, very windy in the far north. gales, even severe gales, close to the northern isles. our band of cloud and increasingly light and patchy rain will be sinking its way southwards through the night. with some fairly windy weather and relatively cloudy weather as well, temperatures should stay above freezing in most places. so, into thursday, this frontal system pushing its way southwards, taking cloud and patchy rain across england and wales. low pressure still close to the north east of scotland, so a very blustery start to the day here. that wind will only slowly ease as the day wears on. our band of cloud and patchy rain clinging on for a time across southern counties of england. it should clear out into the english channel by the afternoon to allow brighter skies to develop. some showers feeding in on the north—westerly breeze. temperatures for most of us between 7—12 degrees. now, thursday night could get a little bit chilly. this ridge of high
pressure building in. that could allow for some frost and some fog, but there's another frontal system approaching from the west. that will be freshening up the winds as we go through the day, particularly across northern ireland and scotland. rain getting into north west scotland. in fact, some quite heavy rain through the north west highlands. further south and east, increasing amounts of cloud, best of the sunshine in eastern counties. 8—9 degrees along the east coast of england, more like 10—11 for western parts of the uk. the weekend looks unsettled and changeable. some rain at times, but not all the time. could be quite windy and generally, particularly on saturday, very mild.
this is bbc news. we'll have the headlines and all the main news stories for you at the top of the hour, as newsday continues straight after hardtalk. welcome to hardtalk, i'm stephen sackur. it seems there is no room for political opposition or dissent in today's hong kong. legislative elections at the end of last year saw pro—beijing candidates sweep the board. pro—democracy activists have