Boris: Putin Attack ‘Not Just on Ukraine’ But on ‘Democracy and Freedom’ Worldwide, Announces UK Sanctions


Europe must wean itself off Russian gas now, Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said, as he announced a programme of sanctions in response to “Russian dictator” Vladimir Putin’s “attack on democracy and freedom in East Europe and around the world”.

In an address following a telephone call with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, the British premier accused President Putin of having “unleashed war in our European continent” by attacking “a friendly country without any provocation and without any credible excuse.”

“Innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population [and a] vast invasion is underway by land by sea and by air,” he went on, insisting that “this is not in the infamous phrase some faraway country of which we know little“.

Johnson’s remark was a clear reference to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain expressing his horror at the thought of the British people “digging trenches and trying on gas-masks… because of a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing” as Germany and Czechoslovakia tussled over the Sudetenland in 1938.

Johnson buttressed his Thursday morning remarks with a further address to Britain’s Parliament on Thursday afternoon, in which he again condemned Vladimir Putin and also revealed the programme of sanctions he was planning to activate against Russia. Some of these measures would presumably be rolled out right away but others will rely on new legislation that will be put before Parliament next week.

“Britain did everything in our power to help Ukraine prepare for this onslaught and we will do our utmost to offer more help as our brave friends defend their homeland”, Johnson told Parliament, vowing that “this hideous and barbarous venture of Vladimir Putin” would fail.

In a clear snipe at some European colleagues who have been persistently reluctant to sanction Russia — a reluctance linked in the minds of some to their dependence on Russian energy imports — Mr Johnson told the House of Commons that Europe would have to end its “collective dependence on Russian oil and gas that has served to empower Putin for too long”.

Among the sanctions listed by the Prime Minister were Russian companies being banned from raising money from the United Kingdom, export controls, a full asset freeze on a Russian bank, and Russian banks being excluded from the British banking system — a major blow, Johnson said, given London is the financial capital of Europe.

Sanctions would also be levelled at Russian puppet-state Belarus, Johnson said.

The sanctions, in all, are the “largest ever”, the Prime Minister said — but the level of sanctions believed necessary to really hurt Russia will require international cooperation and, as reported by the Financial Times, Germany is standing in the way of further punishing Russia by blocking its access to the international banking system.

Given Germany’s commanding position in the European Union, their instinct to stay friendly with Russia — a major source of their energy — could tip the balance away from the bloc backing the major sanctions London is calling for.

Prime Minister Johnson’s statement stands as a direct challenge to the statement made by President Putin before he launched his so-called “special military operation… to demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine”, in which he asserted that “the forces that staged the [Euromaidan] coup in Ukraine in 2014 have seized power, [and] are keeping it with the help of ornamental election procedures”.

Putin had claimed that he was the one acting to defend “the right to self-determination, which is enshrined in Article 1 of the UN Charter” first by supporting “the people of Crimea and Sevastopol… freely making a choice to reunite with Russia” and then by making his decision “to recognise the independence of the Donbass people’s republics”, who he claimed had been subject to “genocide” for the past eight years.

“Let me remind you that the people living in territories which are part of today’s Ukraine were not asked how they want to build their lives when the USSR was created or after World War II,” the Russian leader had suggested, claiming that “Freedom guides our policy, the freedom to choose independently our future and the future of our children.”

Johnson told listeners on Thursday that, in fact, Putin had merely “authorised a tidal wave of violence against a fellow Slavic people”.

He appealed directly to “the people of Russia… The parents of Russian soldiers who will lose their lives,” saying that he could not believe that they “really want the pariah status” the actions of “the Putin regime” would bring upon their country.

Concluding on a more hopeful note, the Briton said that “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,” adding that Britain and its international allies would work “for however long it takes” to “ensure that the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine is restored, because this act of wanton and reckless aggression is an attack not just on Ukraine, it is an attack on democracy and freedom in East Europe and around the world”.

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