Kremlin calls Johnson ‘most active anti-Russian’ as PM tightens vice on Putin


Boris Johnson was accused by the Kremlin of being the most active anti-Russian leader as he announced fresh sanctions and urged a targeting of Vladimir Putin’s gold reserves.

Downing Street said the Prime Minister was instead “among the most active anti-Putin leaders” as he rallied allies at a Nato summit in Brussels to provide more defensive military support to Ukraine.

Mr Johnson was using Thursday’s meeting on the invasion to commit to a new package of 6,000 more missiles and to announce sanctions against a further 65 individuals and entities.

Among those hit with travel bans and asset freezes were the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organisation accused of plotting to assassinate Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Speaking to broadcasters after landing in Belgium’s capital, Mr Johnson said: “Vladimir Putin is plainly determined to double down on his path of violence and aggression.”

Describing Moscow’s treatment of Ukrainians as “absolutely brutal”, the Prime Minister added: “We’ve got to step up. We’ve got to increase our support.

“We’ve got to tighten the economic vice around Putin, sanctioning more people today, as we are, sanctioning the Wagner Group, looking at what we can do to stop Putin using his gold reserves, and also doing more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves.”

The Foreign Office said a total of 1,000 fresh sanctions have been handed out since the invasion begun, with the new round including Russian billionaire Eugene Shvidler and Galina Danilchenko, who was installed by Moscow as the mayor of occupied Melitopol in south-east Ukraine.

Britain’s response in particular appeared to be riling Mr Putin.

Boris Johnson, front right, looks toward US President Joe Biden, front left, at a group photo during an extraordinary Nato summit in Brussels (Thibault Camus/AP)


Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the state-owned RIA news agency as saying: “As for Mr Johnson, we see him as the most active participant in the race to be anti-Russian.

“It will lead to a foreign policy dead end.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman firmly denied Mr Johnson being “anti-Russian”.

“The Prime Minister is among the most active anti-Putin leaders,” he said.

“We have no issue with the Russian people and in fact we have seen many bravely protest – not least (jailed opposition leader) Alexei Navalny – against Putin’s regime and call on them to cease this war,” the spokesman said. 

Mr Zelensky was to remotely address the meeting which is expected to sign off on the formation of four new battlegroups in eastern Europe, adding thousands more troops. US President Joe Biden was present.

Western officials had expected to be supporting a Ukrainian insurgency at this point in the war, rather than the nation’s army as it puts up a fierce resistance.

Mr Johnson said: “We’re moving, really, from a programme of supporting resistance to supporting the Ukrainian defence of their own country.”

Praising him as “one of the most extraordinary war leaders of recent times”, Mr Johnson said Mr Zelensky wants tighter sanctions on Mr Putin’s regime and “very specific defensive military support” for his armed forces.

“And that, we’re determined to provide,” Mr Johnson said.

He also hit out at Moscow’s bid to host Euro 2028, saying Russia should withdraw its forces and the football tournament should be handed to Ukraine.

A woman measures a window before covering it with plastic sheets in a building damaged by a bombing the previous day in Kyiv (Vadim Ghirda/AP)


“The idea of Russia holding any kind of football tournament or any kind of cultural event right now is beyond satire,” he said.

“The best thing possible would be for the entire Russian armed forces to retire forthwith from Ukraine and to hand it to them, of course.”

However, those remarks came just a day after the UK and Ireland football associations submitted their joint formal interest in staging the tournament.

Downing Street said Mr Johnson was responding to a question about Moscow’s “brazen and sorely misjudged” attempt to obtain a platform on the international stage by hosting the tournament.

“Clearly we remain entirely committed to the UK and Ireland bid for Euro 2028 which retains the Government’s full backing,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

Putin should be under no illusions – we are united with our allies and will keep tightening the screw on the Russian economy to help ensure he fails in Ukraine. There will be no let-up

Liz Truss, Foreign Secretary

Six more banks were among those being sanctioned with asset freezes and travel bans, as was one of the world’s largest diamond producer Alrosa, and Polina Kovaleva, the stepdaughter of Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who was travelling with Mr Johnson, said: “These oligarchs, businesses and hired thugs are complicit in the murder of innocent civilians and it is right that they pay the price.

“Putin should be under no illusions – we are united with our allies and will keep tightening the screw on the Russian economy to help ensure he fails in Ukraine. There will be no let-up”.

Ahead of the summit getting under way, Russian hoaxers, suspected of working for the Kremlin, released a full version of their video call with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

The MoD has warned the footage being trickled out, in which Mr Wallace thought he was talking to Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal, is doctored and propaganda.

Speaking to the imposter, Mr Wallace says: “I’ve just been looking at our new anti-air missiles that we’re sending you, which is better than Stinger, it’ll work at night, it’s a very, very fast missile and it will help close the skies to Russian aircraft.”

Nato has refused Ukrainian demands for a no-fly zone to be imposed over the nation out of fears it would drag the West into a direct conflict with Russia.

The hoaxers warned that a “prank” call with Home Secretary Priti Patel will follow “soon”.

Britain has already sent more than 4,000 anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, including next-generation light anti-tank weapons systems (Nlaws) and Javelin missiles.

It is also supplying and training Ukrainian troops in the use of Starstreak high-velocity anti-air missiles as well as providing body armour, helmets and combat boots.

The Government will provide an additional £4.1 million to the BBC World Service to counter disinformation in Russia and Ukraine as well as new support for the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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