Boris Johnson Says "Our Worst Fears Have Come True" After Russian Invasion Of Ukraine
Boris Johnson has warned a "tough" sanctions package has been prepared
6 min read
The Prime Minister has promised the West will not allow democracy to be "snuffed out" after President Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine by "land, sea and air".
"Our worst fears have now come true and all our warnings have proved tragically accurate," Boris Johnson said in a TV address today.
"President Putin has unleashed war in our European continent. He has attacked a friendly country without any provocation and without any credible excuse. Missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population.
"A vast invasion is underway by land, by sea and by air. And this is not in the infamous phrase, some far away country of which we know little. We have Ukrainian friends in this country, neighbours, co-workers. Ukraine is a country which has for decades has enjoyed freedom and democracy."
Johnson added the West would now agree a "massive package of economic sanctions designed in time to hobble the Russian economy". He is due to address the House of Commons this afternoon where an update on sanctions is expected.
"To that end we must also collectively cease the dependence on Russian oil and gas that for too long has given Putin his grip on western politics," Johnson continued.
"Our mission is clear, diplomatically, politically, economically – and eventually, militarily – this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure."
Addressing the Ukrainian people, Johnson said the UK was "on your side".
"If the months ahead are grim, and the flame of freedom burns low, I know that it will blaze bright again in Ukraine," he said.
"Because for all his bombs and tanks and missiles I don't believe that the Russian dictator will ever subdue the national feeling of the Ukrainians and their passionate belief that their country should be free."
MPs including foreign affairs committee member Alicia Kearns have called for humanitarian aid for people affected in Ukraine. "Preventing atrocities and saving lives is key. We should expose atrocities, and ensure evidence collection in place, but key is to support civil society / NGOs to protect & save lives," she wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning.
In his address, Johnson also sought to reassure people in the UK in the face of today's escalation by Russia.
"I say to the British people and all who have heard the threats from Putin against those who stand with Ukraine we will of course do everything to keep our country safe," he said.
On Thursday morning Johnson held a meeting of the government's emergency Cobra committee following what he described as the "horrific attacks" against Ukraine.
Russian forces have advanced quickly across the country, with Ukranian officials confirming Putin's troops had already breached the Kyiv region.
Lithuania, which is a Nato member and shares a border with Ukraine, has already declared a state of emergency and announced plans to send troops to defend its border.
Nato general secretary Jens Stoltenberg also announced the alliance had for the first time activated its defence plans for eastern Europe as he warned the "deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned invasion" was a "grave moment for the security of Europe".
He added: "We now have war in Europe on a scale and type we thought belonged to history."
Earlier this week the UK announced sanctions against five Russian banks and three "high-net worth" individuals with close links to the Kremlin were announced on Monday. The government had promised "decisive" futher action in the event of Russian escalation.
Speaking in a TV address, Labour leader Keir Starmer said western sanctions should "cripple" Putin's regime.
"The hardest possible sanctions must be taken against the Putin regime. It must be isolated, its finances frozen, its ability to function crippled," he said.
"For too long our country has been a safe haven for the money Putin and his fellow bandits stole from the Russian people. It must end now, and this must be a turning point in our history.
"We must look back and say that this terrible day was when Putin doomed himself to defeat."
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss summoned the Russian Ambassador to the UK, Adrei Kelin, but a Foreign Office source said the "heated meeting" had ended with Truss having "kicked him out".
Truss told him "he should be ashamed of himself, that Russia has lied repeatedly and lost its last shred of credibility with the international community".
In a TV address on Thursday morning, Putin issued a warning to the west where he cautioned foreign leaders not to "interfere".
"If you do, you will face consequences greather than any you have faced in history," he said.
"All relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me."
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has also ordered British airlines to avoid Ukrainian airspace following the increased in fighting.
"Following the horrific events overnight in Ukraine, I've instructed the UK Civil Aviation Authority to ensure airlines avoid Ukraine airspace to keep passengers and crew safe," he said.
"We continue to stand with the people of Ukraine and work with our international partners to respond to this act of aggression."
The announcement follows pressure from MPs to increase the severity of sanctions, with Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, saying the "really weak" sanctions had "encouraged" further Russian aggression because it "made clear that we weren't willing to do anything serious".
Tugendhat added: "We need to make sure they are harshly and severely applied. We need to make sure they also apply to manufactured goods, ever Russian civilian aircraft ... uses Rolls Royce or General Electric engines, they shouldn't be able to be resupplying parts.
"We need to make sure that Russians who drive BMWs or Peugeots can't get spare parts for their vehicles. We need to make sure this is what it is, which is a reflection of an act of war of a militarised state and the first invasion of a European country since 1939."
Speaking earlier this morning Foreign Office minister James Cleverly said he believed the initial tranche of sanctions had not worked as a deterrent because Putin was making decisions "in isolation and illogically".
"What became evident in the days leading up to this invasion is that Vladimir Putin is increasingly isolated," he said.
"That bizarre video of him berating his senior officials shows that he's making these decisions increasingly in isolation and illogically.
"Unfortunately I think that that is part of the reason why the initial round of international sanctions that [were] put in place by ourselves, by France, Germany, the US, Canada and others, didn't have a deterrent effect."
Labour leader Keir Starmer said the UK should be pushing international allies to impose the "hardest possible sanctions" against Putin and his allies.
"We must now match our rhetoric with action," he said. "We must urgently reinforce our Nato allies. The hardest possible sanctions must be taken against all those linked with Putin. The influence of Russian money must be extricated from the UK.
"And those who have for too long turned a blind eye to Russia's actions must reckon with their own consciences."
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