Good evening. One of Vladimir Putin's closest allies has claimed that Russia is "not at war with Ukraine", but is fighting Britain and the US. We have the latest on the comments from the Kremlin hardliner, amid warnings of a second global recession this decade.
Evening briefing: Today's essential headlines
Strikes | The TUC has said the Government's proposed anti-strike legislation represents an attack on the right to strike and urged MPs to block it. TUC general secretary Paul Nowak warned that if it becomes law, the legislation "will prolong disputes and poison industrial relations - leading to more frequent strikes". However, Downing Street said the laws are not designed to prevent people from striking but rather to act as a "safety net" to ensure critical services continue to run during walkouts. No 10 also defended Rishi Sunak after the Prime Minister used an RAF plane to fly to Leeds yesterday for an NHS-related visit.
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The big story: Russia 'at war with Britain and US'
A Kremlin hardliner has made the bizarre claim that Russia is "not at war with Ukraine", adding that Moscow was in fact fighting Britain and the US. Nikolai Patrushev, the Russian Security Council Secretary, told the Argumenti i Fakti newspaper: "The events in Ukraine are not a clash between Moscow and Kyiv - this is a military confrontation between Russia and Nato, and above all the United States and Britain."
Patrushev, who is seen by diplomats as one of the major hardline influences on Putin, added: "The Westerners' plans are to continue to pull Russia apart, and eventually just erase it from the political map of the world."
The comments come as the US considers sending Stryker armoured combat vehicles to Kyiv. James Crisp writes that Washington is mulling deliveries of the Stryker, which can carry nine soldiers but is not a tank, to fend off an expected offensive from Russia in the spring.
There have also been renewed calls for the UK to step up its military assistance to Kyiv by sending tanks. Dominic Nicholls assesses that Britain's Challenger II will be the most capable armoured vehicle gifted to Ukraine, if Rishi Sunak's government decides to increase military support.
There will be some in Whitehall's security establishment fearful such advanced military secrets will fall into Russian hands. However, it seems as if Kyiv's dogged resistance has convinced external supporters of the need to provide more advanced combat power; to shift from ensuring Ukraine doesn't lose, to ensuring the country is victorious.
US officials said Russian artillery fire is down by nearly 75 per cent, suggesting Moscow's position on the battlefield is weakening. We asked three experts their opinion on scenarios facing Russia if their war effort is unsuccessful.
Missing Brits were 'evacuating civilians'
Two British aid workers missing in Ukraine were trying to evacuate civilians from the front line when Russian forces "mounted an offensive", according to a colleague.
Christopher Parry, 28, and Andrew Bagshaw, 48, who worked rescuing Ukrainians trapped in high-conflict areas, have not been seen since Friday.
Joe Barnes writes that humanitarian worker Christian Campbell, who worked with the pair to save people in terrifying conditions, said they had been "pushing into" Soledar to "perform an evacuation as Russian forces unfortunately mounted an offensive on the village".
Mr Campbell, who is from Tennessee, said "teams are working to find them" and urged people to "pray for Chris and Andrew's return as well as for their families during this time".
Russia borrows record $56bn
Russia's budget deficit widened to a record in December as revenues plunged amid restrictions on oil exports and spending on its war effort grew. The fiscal gap reached a record 3.9trn roubles ($56bn) last month, according to Bloomberg calculations based on preliminary government data released today.
Meanwhile, petrol prices have fallen below 150p a litre for the first time since the invasion of Ukraine. The fuel rose to a record of 191.53p a litre in July as Western sanctions against Russian oil impacted supply chains. Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writes that a fall in gas prices means it is now time to end catastrophism on the issue, as Putin's gas weapon has been spiked.
Comment and analysis
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World news: 'Storm Biden's homes', Trump tells FBI
The FBI should "storm" Joe Biden's properties, Donald Trump has said after classified documents from the Obama administration were found in an office linked to the president. Lawyers for Mr Biden discovered the documents last November while clearing out office space sometimes used by the president at a Washington think tank. The documents were subsequently handed to the National Archives, which handles all such materials, Mr Biden's special counsel Richard Sauber said. Mr Trump responded with a post on his Truth Social platform writing: "When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House? These documents were definitely not declassified."
Tuesday long read
'A health scare motivated me to lose two stone - and it all came down to my diet'
From Midlife Fitness Files: The Telegraph's health series, where we glean advice from midlifers as they talk us through their weekly regime
Read the piece
Sport news: Counties told to embrace 'Bazball'
Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum have told the 18 first-class counties to embrace their new fearless 'Bazball' philosophy as part of a major attempt to bring greater alignment and collaboration within English cricket. Stokes and McCullum, the England Test captain and coach, addressed a meeting of county directors of cricket about the way that they are seeking to play and the qualities that they are looking for in potential international players. Meanwhile, Coventry Rugby said they were "incredibly sad" to hear of the death of David Duckham, the England and Lions great, at the age of 76.
Film | The glorious history of Ricky Gervais's Golden Globes insults
Sport | Why top women's players want to leave tennis
Opera | Why touring is essential to opera's survival in the UK
Business news: Second global recession looms
The World Bank has warned that a second global recession looms this decade, as it slashed its growth forecasts for almost all advanced economies this year and next. David Malpass, president of the World Bank, said Russia's war in Ukraine, stubbornly high inflation and global interest rate rises threatened to add to the "already devastating" legacy of Covid and resulting global lockdowns. Meanwhile, Amazon is to shut three UK warehouses, putting 1,200 jobs at risk, as the online retail giant restructures its operations in Britain during an economic slowdown.
Tonight starts now
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And finally... for this evening's downtime
10 things we used to do as a matter of course, from phoning friends to polishing silver | Kiwi shoe polish will no longer be sold in the UK because we're all wearing trainers. It makes you think: what we no longer do can be more revealing about the way we live now than the things we do. Here are 10 examples.
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