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WAR IN EUROPE: Boris to address MPs over Ukraine as UK steps up pressure on Russia

BORIS Johnson will update MPs on his talks with allies in eastern Europe as the UK piled more pressure on Russia over its Ukraine invasion.

It comes after US President Joe Biden used his first State of the Union address to announce US airspace was closed to Russian flights, adding his administration would be joining the UK and other allies in pursuing the Russian oligarchs and “corrupt leaders who built billions of dollars off [Vladimir Putin’s] violent regime”.

Following his trip to Poland and Estonia, Mr Johnson will address the House of Commons during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, during which he is likely to be pressed on further action the Government could take on sanctioning Russian oligarchs and supporting Ukrainian refugees.

As the Prime Minister returns from meeting British troops on Nato’s border with Russia, the Foreign Office is expected to follow suit by announcing further financial sanctions on Moscow banks and also ban all Russia-linked ships from docking at UK ports.

Liz Truss said the measures, which include prohibiting UK individuals and entities from providing financial services to Russia’s central bank, were designed to “degrade” Russia’s economy.

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Belarusian military individuals and organisations were also sanctioned as the UK looks to punish Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko for supporting his close ally, Russian president Vladimir Putin, to launch his attack on Ukraine.

Meanwhile in Washington DC, Mr Biden said as well as closing its airspace to all Russian flights, the US was assembling a task force to “find and seize their yachts and luxury apartments [and] their private jets”.

Mr Biden went on: “The free world is holding [Mr Putin] accountable along with 27 members of the European Union… as well as countries like the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and many others. Even Switzerland are inflicting pain on Russia [and] supporting the people of Ukraine.

U.S. President Joe Biden gives State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. CREDIT: Al Drago/Pool via REUTERS

“Putin is now isolated from the world more than he has ever been.” 

“Together with our allies, we are right now enforcing powerful economic sanctions: We’re cutting off Russia’s largest bank to the international financial system… (and) choking Russia’s access to technology that will sap its economic threat and weaken its military for years to come.”

“Tonight, I say to the Russian oligarchs and the corrupt leaders who built billions of dollars off this violent regime… We’re coming for your ill-begotten gains.”

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The UK’s earlier sanctions announcement came after there were cross-party calls from MPs to “go even faster and further” in targeting Russian money and power.

Former Labour minister Dame Margaret Hodge used parliamentary privilege to read out the names of 10 Russian oligarchs with “links to the UK”, from a list of 105, who she said should be sanctioned.

Also speaking in Tuesday’s Commons debate, Conservative MP Bob Seely questioned the morality of UK-based lawyers working for Russian oligarchs in what he called a “rotten” system.

He said “Putin’s henchmen” were “teaming up with amoral lawyers” and called for ministers to order a public inquiry into dirty money in UK public life.

In a possible hint that the UK Government could still go further in terms of individual sanctions, the Prime Minister said the silence of Russian oligarchs who had investments in the UK over the Ukraine invasion was “inexplicable” and pressed them to “denounce this act of aggression.”

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Mr Johnson told ITV News during his trip to Poland: “And those oligarchs who have connections with the Putin regime and who are benefiting from their association with the Russian state, we are going to expose and distrain their assets.”

Western fears are growing that Russia could intensify bombing on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, with a 40-mile convoy of tanks and other military vehicles amassed on the outskirts of the city.

It comes after Ukrainian officials said Russian forces fired at the Kyiv TV tower and Ukraine’s main Holocaust memorial in an attack that killed five people and left five more wounded.

The memorial at Babi Yar, a ravine in Kyiv, is where nearly 34,000 Jews were killed within 48 hours in 1941 when the city was under Nazi occupation.

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Kyiv is braced for even more shelling as the Prime Minister said he feared the Kremlin could look to “Grozny-fy” the capital – a reference to the way Russian forces flattened the city during the Second Chechen War in 1999-2000.

Mr Johnson, speaking to ITV, said Mr Putin, after finding his invasion hampered by strong Ukrainian resistance and logistical issues, could “double down and to try and ‘Grozny-fy’ Kyiv”.

“I think that that would be an unalterable moral humanitarian catastrophe and I hope he doesn’t do that,” he added.

But despite anxieties over further killings and possible atrocities, the Prime Minister consistently ruled out Nato policing a no-fly zone over Ukraine during his trip to visit allies, saying shooting Russian planes out of the sky was not under consideration.

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The UK Government also announced a further £80 million in aid for Ukraine on Tuesday, with the money due to be used to “tackle the growing humanitarian crisis” in the country, the Foreign Office said.

More follows. 

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