Good evening. More strike dates have been added to the calendar of when key services will not be available this month. But, first, the headlines – including how an egg is believed to have been thrown in the direction of the King on a walkabout today.
Evening briefing: Today's essential headlines
Ukraine war | A Russian deserter fleeing Ukraine has reportedly opened fire on police with a machine gun. The man was said to have been running through a forest when he encountered Russian officers near a customs post. It follows a spate of attacks by Russian army recruits on their superiors since the outbreak of war with Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin met his security officials after the Kremlin said Ukrainian drone attacks presented a danger to the country.
Just Stop Oil | Police tell off drivers for honking horns at protest
Strep A deaths | Five-year-old becomes ninth child victim
Jailed for 21 years | Gunman shot Lady Gaga's dog walker
The big story: Lynch turns the screw on rail bosses
The rail nightmare before, during and after Christmas has worsened. After the RMT union announced a fresh bout of strikes, it has emerged that almost one in three trains face cancellation on non-strike days over Christmas – as trade unions exploit the rail industry's dependency on staff volunteering to work overtime.
Rail chiefs are assessing the impact of an overtime ban imposed by the union on workers at train operators. Up to 30pc of train services are expected to be cancelled on non-strike days between December 19 and January 3 if workers stick to their hours.
Talks between train operators and the RMT restarted today after the union not only refused to call off industrial action – but announced three additional days of strikes over Christmas.
Chief business correspondent Oliver Gill reports on the services that are expected to be worst hit. It came as RMT boss Mick Lynch admitted that strike action over the Christmas period will cause "real damage" to ordinary people.
In its response, Downing Street told the RMT to take its latest pay offer "seriously" as it labelled the announcement of new rail strikes "incredibly disappointing".
Number 10 said the latest pay offer is "generous and fair", adding that "the RMT risk driving away more people from the railways at a time when passengers and businesses should be taking advantage of this festive period". Read the full comments in our politics live blog.
Ambulance unions announce action
In a fresh round of coordinated strike action, tens of thousands of ambulance workers across the country will walk out on December 21 in a dispute over pay.
Around 25,000 NHS workers belonging to three unions – the GMB, Unison and Unite – will walk out at 10 of the 11 ambulance trusts across England and Wales.
At some trusts, strike action will take place for 24 hours. It will be the biggest ambulance strike for 30 years. The unions stopped short of staging a walk out on December 20 to coincide with the Royal College of Nursing's industrial action.
But, as Lizzie Roberts reports, the announcement of coordinated NHS strikes will increase pressure on an already overstretched emergency system.
Timetable of all December's strikes
With walkouts announced almost every day, it can be hard to keep up to speed with all the ways the country will be crippled.
There is some form of industrial action planned for every day in December as nurses, teachers, security guards handling cash, driving examiners and rural payments officers join rail unions in announcing strikes.
The disruption is set to be significantly worse, as the union representing civil servants – including Border Force officers, Passport Office staff and National Highways employees – has backed strike action, but is yet to confirm dates.
Comment and analysis
Tom Harris | Nicola Sturgeon is losing control of her MPs
Charles Moore | A royal Palace can never afford to be unfair
Richard Ekins | Nothing un-Christian about stopping small boats
Michael Deacon | Why Hancock was right about Covid all along
Celia Walden | Making WFH an employee 'right' will be a disaster
World news: El Salvador troops seal off city
El Salvador's increasingly dictatorial leader has sent heavily-armed soldiers and police to surround an entire city in the latest chapter of his offensive against warring street gangs. Wielding machine guns and wearing body armour, helmets and balaclavas, 8,500 troops and 1,500 elite police officers laid siege to Soyapango, which is a satellite city on the edge of San Salvador with 300,000 residents. As Simeon Tegel reports, the area has long been notorious as a no-go area for law enforcement.
Tuesday interview: 'Nobody reads a book to get to the middle'
In this interview with Etan Smallman, bestselling crime author Jeffery Deaver talks James Bond, Anglophilia, animal killing – and incorporating a shorter, 'streaming' style into his writing. Read the interview
Sport briefing: RFU seek new head coach
Eddie Jones' seven-year reign as England head coach has come to an end after a dismal 2022. Chief rugby correspondent Gavin Mairs can exclusively reveal that Steve Borthwick is expected to be confirmed as his replacement by the end of the week after the Rugby Football Union opened negotiations with his club Leicester Tigers. Despite a recent dip, Jones remains England's most successful coach in terms of winning percentage. Jake Goodwill analyses the statistics that mark him out as a coaching great (but one in decline). And follow the latest from Qatar as Morocco take on Spain before Portugal face Switzerland at 7pm.
Duke and Duchess's revolving door | Why can't Harry and Meghan hang onto staff?
Lockdown hounds 'taking over' | 'Owning dogs in the city? You must be barking'
Lies, love and deception | Inside the cut-throat world of international adoption
Business briefing: Farmers warn of food supply crisis
Farmers have warned the UK is "sleepwalking" into a food supply crisis amid soaring fuel, fertiliser and feed costs. The National Farmers Union has urged the Government to step in and provide aid for its members – warning that fruit and vegetable shortages could follow the current egg shortage, with yields of tomatoes and other crops set to fall to a record low this year. The union today claimed it was told by business secretary Grant Shapps that "there wasn't time to meet" about their concerns.
Tonight starts now
Plan a festive day out | Whatever the season, market day is an excellent time to visit many of our most attractive towns. In winter, they become great places to pick up festive gifts. And you will get a real feel for what makes each town different, whether it is the seasonal produce, handmade crafts or the local specialities at pop-up cafés and food stalls. Markets also bring a vibrancy, colour and bustle to our town centres. So here are 10 of Britain's best – a great excuse to liven up a short break.
Three things for you
And finally... for this evening's downtime
Ways to keep warm without breaking the bank | With a cold front on its way from Norway at the same time that energy bills are soaring, Britain is facing a perfect storm. Sarah Rainey shares nine methods for staying snug without cranking up the heating.