Ukraine crisis: Boris Johnson announces 'largest' sanctions ever and labels Putin a ‘bloodstained aggressor’
Boris Johnson declared the UK was enforcing the “largest and most severe” sanctions Russia has ever faced as he labelled Vladimir Putin a “bloodstained aggressor” for launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
As Ukraine's leader said a "new iron curtain" was falling and closing Russia off from the "civilised world", Mr Johnson expanded measures against Russia to hit five further oligarchs as well as more than 100 businesses and individuals.
Those targeted include the Russian president’s former son-in-law Kirill Shamalov, chairman and CEO of PSB bank Petr Fradkov and deputy president of VTB bank Denis Bortnikov, as as Britain seeks to cripple Russian banks’ access to London’s financial institutions and curtail oligarchs luxury lifestyles in the capital.
Mr Johnson said there were also plans to limit the amount of deposits Russian nationals would be able to hold in UK bank accounts.
Aeroflot will imminently be banned from touching down planes in the UK, while there will be an asset freeze on all major Russian banks, including immediately against VTB.
The Tactical Missile Corporation, which supplies air and sea missiles, was also hit, as was Uralvagonzavod, one of the world’s largest tank manufacturers.
The measures come as Russia launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine, hitting cities and bases with air strikes or shelling.
Exact casualty numbers are unclear, but include Ukrainian civilians.
The invasion prompted Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to declare martial law, saying: "What we have heard today are not just missile blasts, fighting and the rumble of aircraft. This is the sound of a new iron curtain, which has come down and is closing Russia off from the civilised world.
"Our national task is to make sure this curtain does not fall across our land."
Making a statement in the Commons, Mr Johnson said: “Putin will stand condemned in the eyes of the world and of history. He will never be able to cleanse the blood of Ukraine from his hands.
“Although the UK and our allies tried every avenue for diplomacy until the final hour, I am driven to conclude that Putin was always determined to attack his neighbour, no matter what we did.
“Now we see him for what he is – a bloodstained aggressor who believes in imperial conquest.
“For our part, today the UK is announcing the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen.”
Mr Johnson detailed the measures after speaking to G7 leaders, including US president Joe Biden, to discuss how to tackle the war unfurling in Europe as they work to act in tandem.
Other sanctions include shutting off the country’s access to the Swift payment system.
The measures will come into force as soon as they are laid in Parliament, which could be as soon as next week.
Mr Johnson said the “steadfast and unflinching goal” of the UK would be to see Mr Putin’s “squalid” venture fail.
A diplomatic source told The Scotsman the sanctions would hit oligarchs “who have international lifestyles”.
The source said: “They come to Harrods to shop, they stay in our best hotels when they like, they send their children to our best public schools and that is what's being stopped.
“So that these people are essentially persona non grata in every major Western European capital in the world. That really bites.”
Responding, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for humanitarian support and the targeting of the shell companies that Mr Putin’s “bandit” friends use to hide stolen money.
He said: “Cracking open the shell companies in which stolen money is hidden will require legislation – bring it forward immediately Prime Minister and Labour will support it, along with the other measures that the Prime Minister has just outlined.”
Mr Zelensky called on Ukrainian nationals to volunteer for the resistance effort.
He said: “We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country. Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities.
“We will lift sanctions on all citizens of Ukraine who are ready to defend our country as part of territorial defence with weapons in hands.
“We have severed diplomatic relations with Russia. For all those who have not yet lost their conscience in Russia, it is time to go out and protest against the war with Ukraine.”
Moscow’s ambassador to the UK was berated by foreign secretary Liz Truss, who told him the invasion of Ukraine had made Russia an “international pariah” that would suffer vast costs.
Ms Truss was understood to have kicked out Andrei Kelin after he repeated the Kremlin’s propaganda during what was characterised as a “very grumpy meeting”.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, accused Mr Putin of “bringing war back to Europe”.
She said: “We condemn this barbaric attack and the cynical arguments to justify it. It is President Putin who is bringing war back to Europe. In these dark hours, the European Union and its people stand by Ukraine and its people.
“We are facing an unprecedented act of aggression by the Russian leadership against a sovereign, independent country.
“We will hold President Putin accountable for that.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned the Kremlin “must face the severest consequences” for “unprovoked aggression” in Ukraine.
She tweeted: “Overnight developments in Ukraine – however anticipated – are appalling and horrific.
"The Kremlin must face the severest consequences for this unprovoked aggression.”
Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said any attack by Russia on an alliance member would be regarded as an attack on all.
Speaking at Nato headquarters in Brussels, Mr Stoltenberg said: “Nato’s core task is to protect and defend all allies. There must be no room for miscalculation or misunderstanding.
“An attack on one will be regarded as an attack on all. This is our collective security guarantee.”
He said Nato ambassadors had agreed to activate the alliance’s defence plans, enabling it to deploy forces to where they are needed.
Nato will hold an online summit on Friday to discuss the crisis.
Russia said it had only targeted Ukrainian air bases and other military assets, not populated areas.
But in a televised address, Mr Putin warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen”.
The remark is seen a thinly veiled threat to using nuclear weapons.
Western officials also fear an attack on Ukraine’s capital Kyiv could result in bloody urban warfare, with civilian lives at risk.
A Ministry of Defence intelligence update said there had been more than 80 strikes at Ukrainian targets, while ground forces were advancing across the border from at least three points, including from the previously annexed Crimea.
Earlier ministers were told Chelsea FC’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich should be “no longer able to own a football club in this country”.
At business questions, Labour MP Chris Bryant told MPs: “I have got hold of a leaked document from 2019 from the Home Office which says in relation to Mr Abramovich – ‘as part of HMG’s Russia strategy aimed at targeting illicit finance and malign activity, Abramovich remains of interest to HMG due to his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices’.
“‘HMG is focused on ensuring that his link to illicit finance and malign activity are unable to base themselves in the UK and will use the relevant tools at its disposal, including immigration powers to prevent this’.
“That is nearly three years ago and yet remarkably little has been done in relation.
"Surely Mr Abramovich should no longer be able to own a football club in this country? Surely we should be looking at seizing some of his assets including his £152 million home?”
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