As Vladimir Putin ignored the West’s warnings of the consequences that would come should he order further incursions on Kiev, the UK was one among a number of top economies to follow up with its threats and impose sanctions on the Kremlin. However, the Prime Minister faced criticism from MPs across the political spectrum who felt the Government’s reaction was not strong enough – a view echoed by an Express.co.uk reader who urged Mr Johnson to “lead a mission to defend the sovereignty of Ukraine”.
Under username SanjayP, they said “the PM should be the first Western leader, and first European leader, to state that he will commit armed forces to a NATO-led mission” in support of Kiev after Moscow’s invasion.
SanjayP, though seemingly wishing for an even tougher stance, praised Mr Johnon’s general handling of the crisis, saying “cheese, wine and cake” — a nod to partygate — should be forgotten.
They wrote: “Since becoming PM, Boris has had to deal with some of the biggest issues faced by a PM: Brexit and untangling an EU relationship of 50 years; Covid pandemic, [the] worst global pandemic in a 100 years; now, the first war in Europe for 70 years.
“Anyone of these would have been a plateful for a PM, but three in three years?”
On Wednesday, Mr Johnson announced the Government will be targeting Russian banks Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank, as well as three Russian billionaires — Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg — who will have their UK assets frozen and not be allowed to enter the country.
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This came in response to Mr Putin’s decision to recognise the breakaway territories of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent entities and to order troops into the regions.
However, after a full-scale invasion began in the early morning of Thursday, the volume and severity of sanctions took a different scope, with Mr Johnson saying: “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.”
Mr Johnson’s ramped-up list of measures against Moscow includes a rise in the number of individuals being targeted from three to more than one hundred; Russia’s second-largest bank, VTB, which had not been included in the first set of sanctions, having its assets of £154bn frozen, and legislation being introduced to Parliament next week that will ban the ability of all major Russian companies to raise finance on UK markets as well as for the Russian state to raise sovereign debt on UK markets.
Despite the sanctions, many Express.co.uk readers believe that Putin looks at the West as weak.
User Bilbo_Baggins thinks Russia’s attack comes at a time of weak leadership, claiming: “Putin has looked at the West and thought ‘How pathetic – time for a land grab’.”
Their theory is backed by reader PT19, who said: “Vladimir chose his moment well.
“The EU is a stateless limp bureaucracy. The Western powers have never been so weak.
“The West will huff and puff and that’s it really. It’ll be a miracle if China doesn’t try something with Taiwan for the same reasons.”
The Kremlin’s assault on its neighbour stands as Europe’s biggest attack from one state to another since World War Two, Mr Putin could face war crime charges over it.
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Mr Johnson said “anyone who sends a Russian into battle to kill innocent Ukrainians” could be brought to court, adding the UK is working with allies to set up a “particular international war crimes tribunal for those involved in war crimes in the Ukraine theatre”.
International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor Karim Khan on Friday expressed his concern over the conflict and reflected the Prime Minister’s message.
Mr Khan said in a statement: “I have been closely following recent developments in and around Ukraine with increasing concern.
“I remind all sides conducting hostilities on the territory of Ukraine that my office may exercise its jurisdiction and investigate any act of genocide, crime against humanity or war crime committed within Ukraine.”
The Prime Minister’s announcement of a “remorseless mission to squeeze Russia from the global economy”, however, was not received well by all.
One Express.co.uk reader calling themselves Pink_floyder accused the Prime Minister of not the listening to Mr Putin’s threat.
They said: “Looks like Boris didn’t listen carefully to Putin.”
They went on to quote the words Mr Putin aimed at “those who may wish to interfere” in his attacks on Ukraine.
The Russian president cautioned: “Whoever tries to hinder us, and even more so to create threats for our country, for our people, should know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to consequences that you have never experienced in your history.
“We are ready for any development of events. All necessary decisions in this regard have been made. I hope that I will be heard.”