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UK to personally sanction Putin and foreign minister ‘imminently’ – Johnson

People take part in a demonstration outside the Russian Consulate General in Edinburgh (Lesley Martin/PA)
People take part in a demonstration outside the Russian Consulate General in Edinburgh (Lesley Martin/PA)

The UK will “imminently” level personal sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, Boris Johnson has announced.

The Prime Minister told Nato leaders in a virtual meeting on Friday that the UK would echo measures announced by the EU to target the Russian leader.

President Joe Biden later announced that the US was freezing the assets of Mr Putin  and Mr Lavrov.

Referring to Mr Putin’s wish to recover territory which previously fell under the USSR, Mr Johnson said Russia was “engaging in a revanchist mission to overturn the post-Cold War order”.

Mr Johnson told allies “the UK would introduce sanctions against President Putin and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov imminently, on top of the sanctions package the UK announced yesterday”, according to a No 10 spokesman.

“He warned the group that the Russian president’s ambitions might not stop there and that this was a Euro-Atlantic crisis with global consequences,” he said.

The Prime Minister also used the meeting to urge “immediate action” over the banning of Russia from the Swift payment system to “inflict maximum pain” on the Kremlin.

In a further move, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced he is extending a ban on Aeroflot flights landing in the UK to cover Russian private jets.

The move to sanction President Putin and Mr Lavrov comes after the European Union announced it was considering a similar move against the two men as it set out its latest round of measures in concert with the US and the UK.

The Government has faced criticism that it has still not gone far enough despite measures to hit five further oligarchs, and targeting more than 100 businesses and individuals.

With Russian forces continuing to advance towards Kyiv, beleaguered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said sanctions had so far done nothing to deter the Russian onslaught.

Meanwhile Western officials have warned that the Russians could resort to thermobaric weapons – used to generate powerful, high-temperature explosions – if the Ukrainian military resistance continues to hold up their assault.

Despite beginning the attack on Thursday, the Russian forces have yet to take any of the main population centres and officials believe they failed to achieve most of their day one objectives for the invasion.

One official noted that the Russians were known to have thermobaric weapons in their armoury and that they had used them in previous conflicts.

“My fear would be that if they don’t meet their timescale and objectives, they would be indiscriminate in their use of violence,” the official said.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg
Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said Russia’s ambitions extend beyond Ukraine (Daniel Leal/PA)

In other developments:

– Uefa stripped St Petersburg of May’s Champions League final and handed it to Paris, while Formula One bosses cancelled the Russian Grand Prix.

– Russia retaliated over the ban on Aeroflot flights landing in the UK by banning British flights to and over Russia.

– Maxim Yermalovich, the ambassador to the UK from Russia ally Belarus, was summoned to the Foreign Office for a dressing down over its support for Moscow’s “illegal and unprovoked actions”.

– BP is under pressure from the Government to cut its ties with Russian oil giant Rosneft, which the British-based company holds a 20% stake in.

Britain’s Chief of Defence Intelligence, Lieutenant General Sir Jim Hockenhull, said Russian forces were continuing to move towards Kyiv on two lines of advance.

“Their objective is to encircle the capital, to secure control of the population and change the regime,” he said. “Ukrainian armed forces continue to offer strong resistance.”

While there have been reports of sporadic fighting in the northern suburbs, most of the main Russian units were still thought to be more than 50km away.

President Putin stepped up his inflammatory rhetoric, urging Ukrainian troops to lay down their arms saying he would find it easier to negotiate with them, than “that gang of drug addicts and neo-Nazis who have holed up in Kyiv and have taken the entire Ukrainian people hostage”.

Meanwhile Mr Johnson issued a direct appeal to the Russian people, posting a video on social media in which he said in Russian: “I do not believe this war is in your name.”

Following the Nato meeting, alliance secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said it was clear the Kremlin’s objectives were “not limited to Ukraine”.

“We are facing a new normal in European security where Russia openly contests the European security order and uses force to pursue its objectives,” he said.

He said the alliance was deploying thousands more troops to the eastern member states – who fear they could be the next target of Russian aggression – would “do what it takes to protect and defend every ally and every inch of Nato territory”.

Earlier Defence Secretary Ben Wallace ruled out calls for Britain to help mount a no-fly zone over Ukraine because the RAF fighting Russian jets would trigger a “war across Europe”.

“He is trying to invade Ukraine. He won’t stop after Ukraine. He will use everything in the Baltic states. He doesn’t believe the Baltic states are really countries,” Mr Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“And we will have to stand up to it. Now, I cannot trigger a European war and I won’t trigger a European war but what I will do is help Ukraine fight every street with every piece of equipment we can get to them, and we will support them, and that is the reality.”

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