West should PAY Russian soldiers to defect -MEP unveils radical £2,500 plan to lure troops

Damian Hinds squirms on LBC as he's quizzed on Russian donations

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Polish MEP Radek Sikorski urged the European Commission President to approve a special visa permit and offer remuneration to defecting Russian soldiers in a bid to weaken Vladimir Putin’s power.

Russia’s advance on the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv has made little progress over the past three days and the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol remain in Ukrainian hands, according to British military intelligence.

Reports of Russian soldiers refusing to fight and defecting to the other side of the battle have prompted Mr Sikorksi’s proposal.

He wrote on Twitter: “Let us strategically use the EU’s soft power, Ursula von der Leyen.

“We can offer every defecting Russian soldier €3000 and a 3 year work permit.

“The way West Germany welcomed East Germans crossing the Wall. Ready to back you in the European Parliament.

“I mean it.”

In an intelligence update on Thursday, Britain’s defence ministry said: “The main body of the large Russian column advancing on Kyiv remains over 30km from the centre of the city having been delayed by staunch Ukrainian resistance, mechanical breakdown and congestion.

“The column has made little discernible progress in over three days.

“Despite heavy Russian shelling, the cities of Kharkiv, Chernihiv and Mariupol remain in Ukrainian hands.

“Some Russian forces have entered the city of Kherson but the military situation remains unclear.

“The Russian defence ministry has been forced to admit that 498 Russian soldiers have already been killed and 1,597 wounded in Putin’s war.

“The actual number of those killed and wounded will almost certainly be considerably higher and will continue to rise.”

A war crimes investigation has begun after Boris Johnson accused Putin of committing atrocities by bombarding cities in his invasion of Ukraine.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened an investigation on Wednesday night after Britain and 37 allies referred Russia over what the Prime Minister described as “abhorrent” attacks.

The move came as Kyiv braced for a siege, its second-largest city Kharkiv reeled from further strikes and the control of port city Kherson was contested by the Russian military.

While according to the UN refugee agency, one million people have now fled Ukraine – making it the swiftest exodus of refugees this century.

The tally from UNHCR amounts to more than two percent of Ukraine’s population on the move in under a week.

The World Bank counted the country’s population at 44 million at the end of 2020.

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ICC prosecutor Karim Khan said work would begin “immediately”, with his team already collecting evidence, after the co-ordinated referral freed him to get to work without the need for judicial approval.

Mr Johnson warned the Russian president he “cannot commit these horrific acts with impunity”.

A second round of talks aimed at ending the fighting was expected on Thursday, but there were little hopes of a breakthrough.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will meet counterparts from the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania as part of the UK’s effort to demonstrate support for eastern Nato allies.

The Prime Minister had spoken to Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, promising further support and weapons for the forces resisting Russia’s military and sharing his “disgust” at the Kremlin’s attacks.

Strikes that damaged the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial in Kyiv and the central square in Kharkiv have caused revulsion, and Western allies fear it is a sign of a shift in Russian tactics further towards the indiscriminate targeting of urban areas.

Moscow’s international isolation was further displayed when the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to demand it immediately withdraws its military from Ukraine, with 141 nations backing the motion and only five, including alleged co-aggressor Belarus, opposing it.

For the first time the UK explicitly accused Mr Putin of war crimes, with Downing Street claiming “horrific acts” were occurring on an almost hourly basis as population centres are targeted.

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