Crimea assault, Budget fall out and Wenger's 'nightmare' in the papers

Events in Crimea are back on the front pages with dramatic photographs and eyewitness accounts of Russian troops storming one of the last Ukrainian military bases in the region.

In the Mail on Sunday, Ian Birrell describes how the assault on the Belbek base, near Sevastopol was the "first real clash involving the two countries's armies since the Russians invaded the region".

But he adds "the game was up" after an "unequal struggle" that lasted for about 35 minutes.

"The Ukrainians were ordered not to return fire by their officers. There was no panic, however, merely anger and abuse towards the invading army, punctured by bursts of nervous joking."

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The Sunday Times' correspondent Mark Franchetti reports how the base's commander Colonel Yuli Mamchur became a national hero three weeks ago after leading a group of unarmed men out of the base to confront the Russian troops then besieging them.

"Mamchur had vowed not to give up his base until the very end. That moment had now come," he writes. "As the Russians looked on, the Ukrainians turned their backs and stood to attention in front of a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag... the men - some dejected, some emotional, some angry - sang the national anthem."

Kim Sengupta in the Independent on Sunday said the Russian troops took the media out through the hole in the fence created by their armour.

"Photographers and camera operators had memory cards taken away from them, although some managed to smuggle them out. One Russian soldier, his face covered by a bandana, said in broken English: 'I am sorry, but I am doing my job, you are doing yours.'"

Reporting from Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, the Observer's Luke Harding says there are fears among commentators that Moscow still intends to absorb further areas of the country.

But he says while the city's pro-Russian supporters have "acquired a distinctly separatist tinge", they make up a minority of its residents.

"Over the next week, it may become clearer whether organised protests in the east of the country continue or begin to abate, following US and EU sanctions on Moscow," he writes.

Meanwhile, in an article in the Sunday Telegraph, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the UK and its allies "must be prepared to contemplate a new state of relations with Russia that is very different to the last 20 years".

'Alarming lapses'

Image caption Could the Thames be about to provide a "game changing" new source of power

A warning by the leader of Britain's family doctors that GP services are "under severe threat of extinction" because they cannot cope with the growing demand for care is the lead story in the Observer. Dr Maureen Baker, who chairs the Royal College of GPs, urges the governments in Westminster, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast to ensure the NHS's GP surgeries are better funded and "wake up to the critical state that general practice is now in".

The Sunday Times says it has found "alarming lapses" in cancer care in England. The paper says its research indicates that thousands of patients are at risk of premature death because of delays in treatment and failings in diagnosis.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS England medical director, is backing the paper's campaign for improvements, saying that although survival rates have significantly improved, more action was required.

The Daily Telegraph is worried by the news that Islamic law is to be effectively enshrined in the British legal system for the first time under guidelines for solicitors on drawing up "Sharia compliant" wills. The advice by the Law Society will permit solicitors to write wills that deny women an equal share of inheritances and exclude unbelievers altogether, it says.

In an editorial, the Telegraph says diversity is welcome but "this should not mean adopting legal practices that are hostile to our values".

On its front page, the Independent on Sunday reports that a carbon-free technology that draws energy from rivers and lakes is to be installed on the Thames, providing heating and hot water for 150 homes and a hotel in south London.

It is the first time the Japanese equipment has been used on such a scale and Energy Secretary Ed Davey describes it as "game changing" in relation to Britain's need for renewable energy, with a suggestion the technology could help household bills fall by 20%.

The Independent says in an editorial that "scientific innovation may yet have more to offer to minimise climate change than we thought".

'Clearest shape'

Wednesday's Budget continues to attract headlines, with the change that allows people to cash in their pension pots instead of buying an annuity a particular focus for the leader writers.

Polls suggest Chancellor George Osborne's measures have helped boost the popularity of the Conservatives, who are now said to be one percentage point behind Labour, with the Sunday Times putting the Tories on 36%, while the Mail on Sunday have them on 35%.

According to the Sunday Times, the Budget contained a "prudent and well-judged set of announcements" and had the effect of "exposing the paucity of Labour's economic thinking". But it says "the Tories still have a lot of work to do on their image" and the majority of people will only feel the economic recovery gradually.

The Mail on Sunday says the Tories "must show the decision to liberate pensioners from the annuity straitjacket is not just a flash in the pan but a herald of many similar policies.... The striving classes are utterly sick of being penalised for hard work and thrift".

The pension reforms are welcomed by the Sunday People and it says Labour is right to offer its qualified support.

But the Daily Mirror wonders if a collapse in living standards under the Tories means millions of people coming up to retirement will cash in their pots as they "grasp any chance" to pay off their debts.

In the Observer, Will Hutton questions the move, suggesting that "by far the best way of ensuring the certainty and continuity of income in retirement is via an annuity".

He says Mr Osborne's decision has "enormous ramifications" and it would have been better to "redesign" the "frayed" annuity market.

In its leader column, the Observer says "Osbornism took on its clearest shape yet" in the Budget... traditional Tory paternalism is dead". If given a mandate beyond 2015, the chancellor will mount a savage attack on the welfare state and shrink the public sector.

The alternatives "deserve to be better explained", it says, calling on Labour leader Ed Miliband to "articulate a much-needed different direction for society".

Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Rachel Reeves, writing in the paper says ministers' "total lack of understanding of the cost-of-living crisis means that they do not get the point that falling wages and rising rents are pushing up the welfare bill".

The wrong man

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's remark that his 1,000th match in charge of the Gunners had turned into a "nightmare" is widely reported.

The game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge ended in a 6-0 defeat and saw the mistaken sending off of defender Kieran Gibbs.

Chelsea "helped by referee Andre Marriner ruined Arsene Wenger's 1,000th game in charge," says the Sunday Express.

The Sun on Sunday is among the papers to report Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho's call for video technology to be brought in after the referee's "blunder".

The Observer says the "horror show" will be remembered for Mourinho's biggest ever win for Chelsea and the "extraordinary moment" when Gibbs was sent off in a case of mistaken identity after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's handball.

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