Newspaper headlines: RAF, Russia and Ukraine tensions on front pages

The scrambling of RAF jets to "see off" Russian bombers, as the defence secretary puts it, prompts some dramatic front-page headlines.

For the i, it was a "clash in skies off Britain". Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reports that Britain is "at the mercy of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's planes", using a graphic to show the seven recent "shows of military strength" near the UK. It quotes former RAF head Sir Michael Gaydon saying he doubts the UK could "sustain a shooting war against Russia", given the number of RAF base closures since the end of the Cold War.

Image copyright MOD

Writing in the Daily Express, Sarah Lain of the Royal United Services Institute says Russia's "muscle-flexing" has violated no international rules. But she says Moscow wants "to remind the world not only of its military might but also of its nuclear capability" in response to Nato and the EU's "perceived encroachment on Russia's traditional sphere of influence". She adds: "The prospect of such probes evolving into an overt Russian attack is unlikely but the near misses, as experienced by a Norwegian pilot in November 2014, are certainly of concern."

The Independent's Kim Sengupta writes that with defence budgets under pressure, the RAF is "only too glad" to get publicity for its Typhoon fighters. However, one security analyst tells him: "The more this goes on, more is the danger from something going wrong."


'Dangerous and unpredictable'

Some papers analyse the Russian president's motives in "buzzing" Nato countries. Times defence editor Deborah Haynes says he's using an old tactic of the Soviet Union to gain intelligence and test the alliance's ability to respond. Meanwhile, Simon Tisdall writes in the Guardian: "He is an opportunist and an ideologue - a passionate, patriotic Russian nationalist, determined to restore lost greatness. It is this sense of mission that makes him dangerous and unpredictable."

Image copyright Reuters

Noting Michael Fallon's warning that Russia could yet attempt to expand into the once-Soviet Baltic states, Independent cartoonist Dave Brown imagines the defence secretary as a weatherman watching a "cold front" in the form of Mr Putin's outline expanding over Britain.

The Daily Telegraph's David Blair spells out the consequences for the UK of any Russian aggression in the Baltic, saying that because of the Nato alliance: "Britain is legally obliged to defend Estonia's 203-mile border with Russia just as surely as we would fight for the White Cliffs of Dover." The key to protecting the Baltic states, he says, is "responding to everything". He explains: "If Mr Putin feels that he can ever act without consequence, then he will ratchet up his aggression."

However, Prof Peter Rutland writes in the Daily Mirror that Britons should not fear Russia: "Putin's behaviour may be reprehensible, but it is not irrational. His goals are quite specific - to stop Ukraine joining Nato and to deter it from closer integration with the EU at the expense of Russia."

Not everyone is treating the threat so seriously. Noting that the Russian bombers were spotted off Cornwall, the Sun's headline uses a West Country accent to declare "World Ooh-ar 3". Meanwhile, Telegraph cartoonist Matt imagines a couple complaining to a Cornish tea room waitress: "The Russian bomber that just flew overhead curdled our clotted cream."


'What just happened?'

A "flashback" episode of EastEnders revealing, at long last, who killed Lucy Beale provided the "ender the mystery" for the Daily Express. And, as the Sun puts it, the culprit proved to be a "Bobby-faced killer" in the form of her 11-year-old brother.

The paper's Will Payne says the show was filmed live so the result could be kept secret until the last moment. "The actors involved in that scene were told just a couple of days before, giving them hardly any time to rehearse for the historic moment. Other cast members were still not told prior to broadcast."

"Viewers were also left stunned by the return of Kathy Beale, played by Gillian Taylforth, who was last seen in 2000 before returning to South Africa, where it was thought she was killed in a car crash," the Express says. "The BBC went to enormous lengths to keep her appearance under wraps, the scenes were shot live on location to prevent her being seen prior to her episode transmitting."

As Sun TV critic Ally Ross sees it: "Ruddy Hell. It's Gillian 'Kathy' Taylforth, back from the dead, and she says she 'wants to come home'. And who can blame her, after ending up in Hollyoaks?"

Ten million people might have tuned in, but was it any good? "They took way too long to solve the mystery of which cartoon caricature bumped off tragic Lucy Beale," says Mirror TV columnist Kevin O'Sullivan. "But when the world's longest running TV whodunnit finally reached last night's eagerly awaited conclusion there was a serious sense of occasion... But the big reveal wasn't even the most memorable moment. That came when Jane Beale was frozen in confusion as Tanya Branning returned to the fray and asked her, 'how's Adam?' as in Adam Woodyat, who plays Ian Beale."

It was all a little too much for the Daily Star, however, which leads its front page with the headline: "You must be kidding!" With half the country reportedly "scratching their heads", it quotes one viewer asking: "What just happened? That's ridiculous."


Eye-catching headlines

  • "This is a stick-up" - the Sun's take on the jailing of a man who tried to hold up a hotel with a stick wrapped in a plastic bag
  • "Have-a-go hip op hero leaps wall to drag thief out of his car"- the Daily Express describes how a 75-year-old tried to stop his car being stolen
  • "The vast supper" - the Mirror describes the Burger King final meal ordered by US death row prisoner Kelly Renee Gissendaner
  • "Bigger than Jesus? Pete Doherty crucified for art" - A life-sized marble sculpture of the ex-Libertines frontman on a cross goes on display in a church, reports the Independent

Fur enough?

Sun fashion editor Sally-Anne Argyle wonders "what the fox is going on?" with all the fur on the catwalk, after supermodel Naomi Campbell - who once posed for animal rights activist group Peta - wore fox fur at New York Fashion Week. "In the 1990s fur was a dirty word and something to be kept firmly in the closet," the writer says. But she describes the "murderous trend" taking off with "renewed vigour".

The paper allows Peta space to put forward its argument against the "cruel and heartless" look but also hears from British Fur Trade Association boss Mike Moser, who says: "I'm an animal lover, if I saw cruelty I wouldn't work in the industry. Whenever we see cruelty in animal campaign videos we ask where it was filmed so we can investigate. They never get back to us."

Ralph Lauren's New York show wouldn't go down well with the animal rights lobby. Times fashion director Anna Murphy writes: "At first the feel was trapper chic - earthy separates accessorised with shearling hats - mixed with touches of Native American. Kanye West looked on from the front row, dressed to match in a fur-trimmed parka. Though in fact the 'fur' on the catwalk was all shearling (hide of sheep shorn shortly before slaughter)."

Jess Cartner-Morley has better news for campaigners in the Guardian, writing: "There was an abundance of fur - at the cuffs of sweaters, at the collars of jackets, in draped shawls - but it was all fake, since the label has a long-standing commitment not to use the real stuff."

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