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Two British nationals were killed while attempting a “humanitarian evacuation” from the Ukrainian town of Soledar, a family statement has said.

Chris Parry, 28, and Andrew Bagshaw, 47, were reported missing on 7 January amid heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces.

A statement issued by Mr Bagshaw’s family said the pair’s car was hit by an artillery shell while they were attempting to rescue an elderly woman.

Chris Parry has been evacuating Ukrainian civilians from recently liberated villages
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Chris Parry
Andrew Bagshaw has also gone missing in Ukraine
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Andrew Bagshaw

A statement issued on behalf of Mr Parry’s family said: “His selfless determination in helping the old, young and disadvantaged there has made us and his larger family extremely proud.

“We never imagined we would be saying goodbye to Chris when he had such a full life ahead of him. He was a caring son, fantastic brother, a best friend to so many and a loving partner to Olga.

“He found himself drawn to Ukraine in March in its darkest hour at the start of the Russian invasion and helped those most in need, saving over 400 lives plus many abandoned animals.

“It is impossible to put into words how much he will be missed but he will forever be in our hearts.”

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Mr Bagshaw, a resident of New Zealand, was in Ukraine to assist in delivering humanitarian aid.

“Andrew selflessly took many personal risks and saved many lives; we love him and are very proud indeed of what he did,” his family said in a statement.

“Andrew, age 47, was single, with a brother, two sisters and seven nephews and nieces. He was a scientific researcher in Genetics but had been working as a volunteer aid worker in Ukraine since last April.

“We intend that his death shall not be in vain. We are amongst many parents who grieve the deaths of their sons and daughters. We urge the civilised countries of the world to stop this immoral war and to help the Ukrainians to rid their homeland of an aggressor.”

Earlier this month Russia’s Wagner Group said its forces had found the body of one of the workers.

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Mr Parry spoke to Sky News about his volunteer work evacuating residents in November 2022

Parry spoke of terrifying conditions under Russian bombardment

Mr Parry previously spoke to Sky News about his time evacuating people near the front line, often in terrifying conditions as Russian artillery bombarded Ukrainian positions.

Originally from Cornwall, he had been working as a running coach in Cheltenham when Russia invaded on 24 February last year.

He told Sky News he knew he had to go and help.

His daring actions on the frontline saw him evacuate residents from the besieged city of Severodonetsk before it fell in June and later operating east of Lyman.

Speaking three days before he went missing, Mr Parry said he had to choose between going on foot and being slow, but less visible, or going by car and being fast, but risk being spotted by drones on his way into Bakhmut to provide aid.

Speaking to journalist Arnaud De Decker he described the decision as a “toss-up” saying: “You can either go on foot, which is what some volunteers do, but that means you’re spending a lot more time there, and I feel more vulnerable because you are just walking around completely naked.

“By car, you are more of a target, but you can fly to your destination in two minutes and be back in two minutes.

“Hopefully you can just do it quick enough so that the drones don’t spot you and then you can just park it in a building and hide.

“But, yeah, a lot of volunteers won’t go any more, but there are people there who want to get out, so I’m willing to go.”

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British Army has ‘fallen behind’ and ‘needs investment’ – Defence Secretary Ben Wallace tells Sky News

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British Army has 'fallen behind' and 'needs investment' - Defence Secretary Ben Wallace tells Sky News

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has told Sky News that the British Army has “fallen behind its peer group” and “needs investment”.

It comes after Sky News yesterday revealed a US general privately told Mr Wallace that the UK’s armed forces are no longer regarded as a top-level fighting force.

Defence sources revealed the US general said this decline in war-fighting capability needed to be reversed faster than planned in the wake of Russia’s war in Ukraine.

US criticism of UK military ‘will be music to Putin’s ears’ – Ukraine war latest

A convoy of Challenger Two tanks drive along a road during media day at.the British army training ground near the northern German town of Belsen

They told Sky News’ defence and security editor Deborah Haynes this should include increasing the defence budget by at least £3bn a year and halting a plan to shrink the size of the army further.

Mr Wallace agreed on the need for “urgent recapitalisation”, but said the government was already investing £34bn into the army’s equipment plan between now and 2033.

“The criticism of ‘it needs to happen now’ is these things don’t ‘happen now’,” he said. “There’s no magic wand, there’s no factories whirring away like car factories where you just press buttons and they come.

“There are only about two countries on the earth that can sustain almost constant production lines – that’s China and the United States. Of course we can seek to buy from abroad, but then there won’t be a UK defence and aerospace industry and we won’t be able to necessarily give our troops the exact equipment they want, so we always have to make that balance.”

Mr Wallace also said countries across Europe were facing “challenges” with their supply chains, adding: “That is what that new money is going towards and that’s why it is important to send a signal to industry to say we are investing – that’s what we did with the defence command paper in 2020 and we will continue to do so.”

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Speaking in the Commons earlier, his defence minister James Heappey said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt understand the army is “in urgent need of recapitalisation” and “there is a budget coming”.

Downing Street said the PM still believes the British Army is a “top-level fighting force” despite the US general’s warning.

Asked about the US general’s private comments on Monday, the prime minister’s official spokesman said “yes” to Mr Sunak believing that the British Army is a top-level fighting force.

He said the government is “ensuring our armed forces have the equipment and capability they need to meet the threats of tomorrow including through a fully funded £242bn 10-year equipment plan”.

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British army is still ‘formidable’

Former secretary general of NATO, Lord Robertson, also disagreed with the US general’s view.

He said: “The fact is that the British armed forces might have been weakened recently but they are still a formidable fighting force – and I think our country can be proud of them.”

Sky News also asked the Pentagon where it places the British army and whether it is becoming too weak to perform its role as a NATO member.

Defense Spokesman, Brigadier-General Patrick Ryder said: ” The United Kingdom is an exceptionally capable and committed ally in NATO and has been second only to the United States in providing military aid to Ukraine.

“The unparalleled defence and security alliance between the US and the UK continues to promote stability and prosperity worldwide.”

Earlier today, Conservative defence committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said people should be “very concerned” about the armed forces’ current capabilities.

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Tory MP: Army is in a ‘dire state’

The senior Tory called on the government to reverse “swathing cuts” to the army because its equipment has become “obsolete”.

Mr Ellwood said there had been “huge investments” into the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force in recent years, but added: “The army is in a dire state.”

He continued: “Our army is simply too small, we have cut down by 10,000 troops.”

European powers like France and Germany have announced plans to boost defence spending significantly following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year.

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Why is the British Army shrinking?

Mr Sunak has yet to make any meaningful pledge to expand his defence coffers, instead pursuing a “refresh” of a review of defence policy that is due to be published on 7 March ahead of a spring budget that will signal whether there is any new money for the military.

The crisis in defence has been a generation in the making following repeated reductions in the size of the three armed services since the end of the Cold War by successive Conservative, coalition and Labour governments to save money for peacetime priorities.

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British Army ‘no longer top level’

In 2020, Boris Johnson, as prime minister, increased defence spending by £16bn – the biggest uplift since the Cold War, but not enough to plug the gaps.

Mr Sunak has so far resisted calls to follow his predecessor, Liz Truss, to lift defence spending to 3% of GDP by 2030 up from just over 2% at present.

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Firefighters and teachers to strike over pay as public sector walkouts continue

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Firefighters and teachers to strike over pay as public sector walkouts continue

Teachers and firefighters are the latest public sector workers to announce they will go on strike in disputes over pay.

The biggest teachers’ strike in years will go ahead after unions said the education secretary “squandered the opportunity” to avoid action – while firefighters have voted overwhelmingly to walkout after experiencing what their union says is a 12% drop in real-terms earnings.

The latest strikes have been announced as Sky News polling suggests support for trade unions is rising, even though walkouts are bringing public services to a standstill.

The teachers’ strike comes after last-minute talks were held by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan on Monday in a bid to resolve the pay dispute before planned strikes this week.

Members of the National Education Union (NEU) in England and Wales will now walk out on Wednesday, with more industrial action planned in the following weeks.

Wednesday’s strike is expected to include up to half a million workers, with teachers due to be joined by train drivers, civil servants, university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards from seven trade unions in what will be the biggest day of industrial action in more than a decade.

Government ‘squandered’ chance to avoid strike by teachers

The NEU has announced seven days of strikes in England and Wales in February and March, with the walkout on Wednesday expected to affect over 23,000 schools.

Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the NEU, said: “Gillian Keegan has squandered an opportunity to avoid strike action on Wednesday.

“The government has been unwilling to seriously engage with the causes of strike action.

“Real-terms pay cuts and cuts in pay relativities are leading to a recruitment and retention crisis with which the education secretary so far seems incapable of getting a grip.

“Training targets are routinely missed, year on year. This is having consequences for learning, with disruption every day to children’s education.”

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Meanwhile, a headteachers’ union boss has described the talks with Ms Keegan as “deeply disappointing”.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Parents will have been looking for the government to avert the planned strike on Wednesday.

“Instead, the government continues to talk around the issues rather than putting anything on the table which allows for any meaningful negotiation.”

Mr Barton added: “We are sorry to report that there is therefore no resolution to the dispute and the strike is set to go ahead.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said after talks failed: “It is hugely disappointing the NEU is continuing with strike action. These strikes will have a significant impact on children’s education, especially following the disruption of the past two years, and are creating huge uncertainly for parents.

“With talks ongoing on a range of issues, including around future pay, workload, behaviour and recruitment and retention, it is clear that strikes are not being used as a last resort.

“I have been clear today that unions do not need to strike to meet with me. I also reiterated my call to union leaders to ask their members to let headteachers know if they intend to strike, helping schools to minimise the impact on children.”

Firefighters likely to strike for first time in nearly 20 years

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Firefighters vote for strike action

Firefighters also overwhelmingly backed strike action, with 88% voting yes on a 73% turnout, it was announced today.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) said it has given the government and employers 10 days to to come up with an improved offer which could be put to a vote of members in an effort to avoid strikes.

The last time there was a nationwide walkout by firefighters was in 2003.

Firefighters have experienced a 12% drop in real-terms earnings since 2010, the union says, while around one in five firefighter jobs have been cut in the same period.

It comes after members rejected an offer of a 5% pay increase in November, which unions argued was below-inflation and would be felt as a real-terms cut by workers.

The FBU argued polling has previously shown there is strong public support for strike action by firefighters, with around three in five people backing action.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said: “This is an absolute last resort for our members. The responsibility for any disruption to services lies squarely with fire service employers and government ministers.

“Rishi Sunak’s government has refused to make funding available for a decent pay offer to firefighters and control staff.

“Firefighters were among Britain’s COVID heroes who kept frontline services going during the pandemic. The prime minister has badly misjudged the public mood by imposing pay cuts on key workers.”

The strike announcement comes after research by the FBU and the University of Central Lancashire found firefighters are more likely to die of cancer than the general public.

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Teachers’ strike to go ahead after education secretary ‘squandered the opportunity’ to avoid action, union says

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Teachers' strike to go ahead after education secretary 'squandered the opportunity' to avoid action, union says

Talks between the education secretary and the teaching unions have failed and the biggest teachers’ strike in years will go ahead.

Last-minute talks were held by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan on Monday in a bid to resolve a teachers’ pay dispute ahead of planned strikes this week.

Members of the National Education Union (NEU) in England and Wales will now walk out on Wednesday, with more industrial action planned in the following weeks.

The strike on Wednesday is expected to encompass up to half-a-million workers, with teachers due to be joined by train drivers, civil servants, university lecturers, bus drivers and security guards from seven trade unions in what will be the biggest day of industrial action in over a decade.

The NEU has announced seven days of strikes in England and Wales in February and March, with the walkout on Wednesday expected to affect over 23,000 schools.

Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint general secretaries of the NEU, said: “Gillian Keegan has squandered an opportunity to avoid strike action on Wednesday.

“The government has been unwilling to seriously engage with the causes of strike action.

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“Real-terms pay cuts and cuts in pay relativities are leading to a recruitment and retention crisis with which the education secretary so far seems incapable of getting a grip.

“Training targets are routinely missed, year on year. This is having consequences for learning, with disruption every day to children’s education.”

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Fresh wave of strikes this year- who is taking action and when
Firefighters set to strike for first time since 2003 after real-terms earnings ‘drop by 12%’

In a separate comment, Mr Courtney said: “I regret to say that we didn’t hear anything that enables us to say that the strike shouldn’t go ahead on Wednesday.

“There’s no offer from the secretary of state trying to bridge the gap between us.”

Meanwhile, a headteachers’ union boss has described the talks with Ms Keegan as “deeply disappointing”.

Following the meeting with the education secretary, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Parents will have been looking for the government to avert the planned strike on Wednesday.

“Instead, the government continues to talk around the issues rather than putting anything on the table which allows for any meaningful negotiation.

“It is deeply disappointing.”

Mr Barton added: “We are sorry to report that there is therefore no resolution to the dispute and the strike is set to go ahead.”

The teachers’ strike was confirmed shortly before British firefighters voted to carry out nationwide action in a dispute over pay.

About 88% of members of the Fire Brigades Union had voted in favour of strike action, on a 73% turnout, the union said.

Its members had rejected a 5% pay offer in November.

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