This article titled “UK politics live: Boris Johnson promises ‘massive sanctions’ after Russian invasion of Ukraine” was written by Andrew Sparrow, for theguardian.com on Thursday 24th February 2022 16.08 UTC
PM trying to persuade G7 to back Russia’s removal from Swift payments system, say sources
According to a report in the Financial Times, Boris Johnson is pushing for Russia to be excluded from the Swift international payments system – a key Ukrainian demand, see 3.52pm – but meeting resistance from other countries, and particularly the EU. The FT (paywall) says:
Boris Johnson, UK prime minister, is pushing “very hard” for Russia to be ejected from the Swift international payments system, a move that would deliver a heavy blow to the country’s banks and its ability to trade beyond its borders.
However, Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, warned Johnson on Thursday that his country would not support such a dramatic move and neither would the EU, according to officials close to sanctions negotiations. A German official declined to comment, saying only that “all options are still on the table”.
My colleague Jessica Elgot says No 10 sources are confirming that Johnson pushed for Russia to be excluded from Swift in the virtual G7 leaders’ meeting that has been taking place this afternoon.
As is often the case, the No 10 readout of the Johnson/Scholz call earlier makes a lot more once once the context has been explained. This is what a No 10 spokesperson said about the exchange.
The prime minister said that President Putin must fail and achieving that will require the western world to isolate him both politically and economically.
The prime minister welcomed Germany’s decision to suspend the Nord Stream 2 pipeline but said that allies must now make a concerted effort to bring the strongest possible sanctions to bear on the Putin regime.
The prime minister underscored that western inaction or underreaction would have unthinkable consequences. The leaders agreed to stay in close contact and to discuss our response further in this afternoon’s meeting of G7 leaders.
The Ukrainian embassy in London has produced a list of sanctions that it wants the UK and other countries to impose on Russia, ITV’s Shebab Khan reports.
Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian foreign minister, has been reinforcing one of these points on Twitter.
Sunak criticises Tories who think tax cuts pay for themselves
In his Mais lecture Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, argued that Britain has to have a strong economy to be able to defend its values around the world. He said:
Hope and opportunity should not just be the preserve of the citizens of the United Kingdom.
As the situation develops in Ukraine, this moment reveals something about the UK’s global role.
The basis of our influence in the world and ability to be a force for good is going to be in large part based on the strength of our economy.
That economic strength gives us the resources to both invest more in defence and come to the aid of countries that need our assistance.
It gives us the ability to increase the security of our energy supply, it gives us the diplomatic power to shape the rules of the international order, and when countries breach those rules: the weight to impose meaningful sanctions.
No nation has the right to lead, to a seat at the top table. It must be earned.
The full text of the speech is here. As my colleague Phillip Inman reports, Sunak was using his speech to stress his commitment to low taxes. But he also took a swipe at the “Laffer curve” Tories who argue that tax cuts frequently pay for themselves because they lead to the Treasury collecting more in revenue. (It is almost always Tories who make this argument, which is particularly popular with the rightwing commentariat.) Sunak said:
I firmly believe in lower taxes. The most powerful case for the dynamic market economy is that it brings economic freedom and prosperity. And the best expression of that freedom is for all of us to be able to make decisions about how to save, invest or use the money we earn. The marginal pound our country produces is far better spent by individuals and businesses than government.
So I am disheartened when I hear the flippant claim that ‘tax cuts always pay for themselves’. They do not. Cutting tax sustainably requires hard work, prioritisation, and the willingness to make difficult and often unpopular arguments elsewhere. And it is hard to cut taxes at a time when demands on the state are growing.
A fiery meeting between the foreign secretary, Liz Truss, and Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin, broke down after just a matter of minutes, the Guardian has been told.
After Kelin was summoned to Whitehall in light of the invasion of Ukraine, a Foreign Office source said he had “spouted the usual propaganda” but that Truss was “having none of it”.
The exchange was heated and sharp, the source said, with Truss telling Kelin he “should be ashamed of himself” and insisting that the rest of the world would “rally around Ukraine”, while Russia had turned itself into “an international pariah”.
“Liz ended the meeting early and kicked him out,” the source added.
Truss will spend the rest of the day speaking to other countries’ foreign ministers.
Men will gain on average and women lose from changes to student loan repayment rules, says IFS
If it had not been for the invasion of Ukraine, today’s political news would have been dominated by the changes to post-18 education announced today. As Sally Weale reports in her preview, the government is asking students to start paying off student debt earlier (when their salaries reach a lower threshold) and for longer (remaining debts will be written off after 40 years, not 30 years as now). The official Department for Education news release about the plans is here. The DfE has also released two consultation documents: on access to university, to discourage students from taking poor quality courses that will bring them little benefit; and on plans for a lifelong loan entitlement, to pay for retraining.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has published an analysis of the impact of the new student loan repayment rules. It says that students who go on to become high earners will gain from the changes while students who become low earners will lose, and that men will gain from the changes on average, while women will lose. It says:
As a percentage of lifetime earnings, the reform affects borrowers with lower middling earnings the most (yellow line). For them, the reform translates into a lifetime earnings loss of more than 1%, or more than a penny in each pound they will ever earn. However, these lower middling earners will still pay back around £9,000 less on average than the highest earners, so their student loans will still be subsidised by the taxpayer. Their losses relative to the current system arise because the taxpayer subsidy for these graduates will be substantially smaller under the new system than it is under the current system.
The reform package also entails substantial redistribution across genders: men stand to gain on average, whereas women are set to lose. On average, men will repay around £5,500 less towards their student loans under the new system, whereas women will pay £6,600 more. This is because women tend to spend more time out of work than men and on average earn less than men even when in work. As a result, men are much more likely to pay off their loans and benefit from lower interest rates.
UK increasing its air policing contribution to Nato, No 10 says
Downing Street has said the UK is increasing its “air policing contribution” to Nato. The PM’s spokesman said:
We are increasing our air policing contribution to Nato from RAF Akrotiri and the UK to help protect our Nato allies. So, two typhoons and a voyager for refuelling from the UK will support continuous Nato air policing over Poland’s border with Ukraine … two typhoons and a voyager for refuelling from Akrotiri [will] also support continuous Nato air policing over Romania’s border with Ukraine.
So, this is a defensive capability designed to protect the airspace of our Nato allies … they will not operate in Ukrainian or Russian airspace.
Just to emphasise, this isn’t additional air support, this is the air support already committed to Nato doing additional activities.
Starmer says invasion will mean ‘economic pain’ for Britons – but Putin must be defeated
In his own televised address Keir Starmer has called for an entirely new approach to dealing with President Putin following his invasion of Ukraine. Starmer said:
We must make a clean break with the failed approach to handling Putin, which after Georgia, Crimea and Donbas fed his belief that the benefits of aggression outweigh the cost. We must finally show him he is wrong.
That means doing all we can to help Ukraine defend herself, urgently reinforcing and reassuring our Nato allies in eastern Europe and the hardest possible sanctions must be taken against the Putin regime. It must be isolated, its finances frozen, its ability to function crippled …
This must be a turning point in our history. We must look back and say that this terrible day was actually when Putin doomed himself to defeat.
He seeks division, so we must stay united. He hopes for inaction, so we must take a stand. He believes that we are too corrupted to do the right thing, so we must prove him wrong. I believe we can, but only if we stand together.
Unlike Boris Johnson in his TV address (see 1.03pm), Starmer also insisted that the war would create “economic pain” for people in Britain. He said:
We must prepare ourselves for difficulties here. We will see economic pain as we free Europe from dependence on Russian gas and clean our institutions from money stolen from the Russian people. But the British public have always been willing to make sacrifice to defend democracy on our continent and we will again.
Boris Johnson has today spoken to Jonas Støre, the Norwegian prime minister, and Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor. According to No 10, Johnson told Støre that “the full and violent invasion of Ukraine we have witnessed signalled a dark time for Europe and a disaster for the world”. And in his call with Scholz Johnson described the invasion as “the most horrific act of aggression in his political lifetime”.
In both calls Johnson and his counterparts also stressed the need for a coordinated approach to imposing strong sanctions on Russia.
Western officials believe Russian ground forces could attack Kyiv with indiscriminate force. Kyiv has been a central part of the Russian planning process and must be taken if the Kremlin is to achieve its objectives, they say.
With Ukrainian resistance, it may well be that Russia has to put troops into the city in order to be able to take the city, according to this assessment. If that is the case, then we can expect that to be a particularly difficult and challenging environment both for those that are defending and potentially for those that are attempting to assault the city as well.
Officials are particularly concerned about Russia’s ability to use overwhelming firepower, including in built-up areas, which it has shown that it is willing to do in order to achieve its objectives. They believe it could mean a large number of civilian casualties with an indiscriminate use of military force, which has been seen in previous conflicts.
Russian forces in Belarus are equipped with a very large number of support helicopters – a separate guards land airborne division – and they were specifically designed in order to conduct those sorts of heliwar assault activities, officials say.
They also point out that Russia has a marked advantage given its precision munitions, its airforce and its artillery. There are significant numbers of troops on the border which have not yet moved into Ukraine. And the Russian armed forces have been active in military operations very recently, in Georgia, in Ukraine in 2014 and in Syria, meaning they are battle-hardened.
Cyber attacks took place last night, aimed at Ukrainian financial institutions and some other elements of Ukrainian government, the officials say.
They believe that President Putin may meet more resistance both in Ukraine and within government than he has anticipated, and that there are significant people within the Russian establishment who think this is a mistake.
Roman Abramovich should have assets in UK seized, MPs told
Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch and Chelsea FC owner, should have his assets in the UK seized, MPs have been told.
Speaking during business questions in the Commons, the Labour MP Chris Bryant said:
I have got hold of a leaked document from 2019 from the Home Office which says in relation to Mr Abramovich – ‘As part of HMG’s Russia strategy aimed at targeting illicit finance and malign activity, Abramovich remains of interest to HMG due to his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices. An example of this is Abramovich admitting in court proceedings that he paid for political influence. Therefore HMG is focused on ensuring individuals linked to illicit finance and malign activity are unable to base themselves in the UK and will use the relevant tools at its disposal, including immigration powers to prevent this.’
That is nearly three years ago and yet remarkably little has been done in relation. Surely Mr Abramovich should no longer be able to own a football club in this country? Surely we should be looking at seizing some of his assets including his £152m home? And making sure that other people who have had tier 1 visas like this are not engaged in malign activity?
In reply Mark Spencer, the leader of the Commons, said that the government would be taking “very strong action against high-profile Russian individuals who are of concern” and Bryant could raise his concerns directly with the home secretary during Home Office questions in the Commons next week.
Yesterday Boris Johnson published a clarification admitted that he was wrong to tell the Commons on Tuesday that Abramovich was already subjec to sanctions.
Asked about Bryant’s claims, the PM’s spokesman told journalists at the lobby briefing: “I couldn’t comment on individuals in that way or on leaked documents of that type.”
At the Downing Street lobby briefing the PM’s spokesman was asked what Boris Johnson meant in his speech earlier when he talked about President Putin being defeated “militarily”. Johnson said:
Our mission is clear. Diplomatically, politically, economically, and eventually militarily, this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure.
Asked was what meant by “militarily” in this context, the spokesman said:
He’s making the point that … Our expectation is that the Ukrainian people will fight, will engage with Russian forces … We are providing military, defensive military capability.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, has become the latest person in the party to criticise Vince Cable, the former party leader, for giving an interview to RT, the pro-Kremlin Russian news channel. (See 11.56am.) Cole-Hamilton said:
Vince Cable is a private citizen and no longer a Lib Dem parliamentarian, but his appearance on Salmond’s RT show this morning was entirely wrong. So too is Salmond’s continued association with this agent of a hostile power. No elected Scottish Liberal Democrat will appear on RT.
Cable’s appearance is particularly embarrassing for the Lib Dems because Cole-Hamilton had called for Alex Salmond, the former Scottish first minister, to be expelled from the privy council because he hosts a show on RT.
Cable appeared to promote his book Money & Power, but also to discuss speculation about a future Labour-Lib Dem pact at Westminster. In a statement Cable said he had “nothing to do” with the Ukraine crisis but said he had urged RT to take his interview off air given Russia’s invasion.
Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, has said the new sanctions being imposed on Russia will be “significant”. Delivering the Mais lecture in London, he said:
The whole world is rightly appalled at Russia’s aggression.
When the freedom of one democratic nation is threatened, wherever they may be in the world, democracy everywhere is challenged.
We must apply severe economic costs to these actions and you can expect significant further sanctions to be brought forward.
The Ministry of Defence in the UK has issued this update on what is happening in Ukraine.
Nigel Farage, the former Ukip and Brexit party leader, was telling viewers on his GB News show earlier this month that he thought Vladmir Putin did not want to invade Ukraine. Now Farage says that he is wrong – although he is still blaming the EU.
Nicola Sturgeon has led unanimous condemnation by Scotland’s political leaders of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with the first minister calling for severe consequences against Vladimir Putin through sweeping sanctions and a crack-down on dirty money in the City of London.
“I wanted to condemn in the strongest possible terms the unprovoked imperialist aggression of Vladimir Putin,” she told MSPs in a statement before first minister’s questions. “We must all stand ready to offer refuge and sanctuary where necessary for those who may be displaced.”
Her remarks were endorsed by Douglas Ross, the Scottish Conservative leader, Anas Sarwar, leader of Scottish Labour, Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Greens and a junior minister, and Alex Cole-Hamilton, of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. The world was now a “far darker and more unstable place”, Ross said.
Sarwar said Russia’s “unprovoked and unjustifiable” attack on Ukraine had to be resisted. “Peace and democracy must prevail and we will not bend to Vladimir Putin’s imperial ambitions.” Urgent humanitarian support for Ukraine was vital, as was military support for the UK’s Nato allies, he said.
4 takeaways from Johnson’s TV address to nation about invasion of Ukraine
Boris Johnson used his TV address to the nation to eloquently express his outrage at the invasion of Ukraine, and his faith that in time democracy and freedom will prevail. “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,” he said, in Churchillian tones. It is what you would expect, and these are words that almost all British politicians would endorse.
But was there anything else we gleaned from his comments? Here are takeaways.
1) Johnson has committed himself to the defeat of President Putin. “This hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure,” he said. This sounds like rhetoric, but it is an important policy objective.
2) But Johnson also implied that he expected the defeat of Putin to take a long time. There were a couple of points in the speech where he made this apparent.
Diplomatically, politically, economically – and eventually, militarily – this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure …
We will work with them – for however long it takes – to ensure that the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine is restored.
He seemed to be implying that it could take years, rather than weeks, for this to be resolved.
3) Johnson seems to have no intention of letting the UK response go beyond sanctions. The new measures would “hobble the Russian economy”, he said. But that won’t necessarily bring down President Putin (sanctions were applied against Iraq for more than a decade without leading to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein) and Johnson did not say they would. This helps to explain why he implied the crisis would not be over soon. Although he set the defeat of Putin as an end, he did not say clearly how this would be achieved – beyond hinting that it was up to the Ukrainians to see off the Russians. Johnson did not refer to British military intervention, but there was nothing in what he said to suggest that he is minded to back the ideas promoted by some of his MPs. (See 10.40am and 11.41am.)
4) Johnson was not willing acknowledge the negative impact the war is likely to have on people in Britain. This morning Tom Tugendhat, the Tory chair of the foreign affairs committee, said costs for consumers in this country would go up. (See 9.27am.) Even though the UK only gets a tiny proportion of its gas from Russia, sanctions are likely to lead to gas supplies to Europe being reduced, and it is hard to see how this would not have a knock-on effect on prices for the UK. As Tugendhat argued, the supply of other goods is likely to be affected too. But rather than acknowledge that Britons will pay a cost, Johnson just said: “We will of course do everything to keep our country safe.”
Full text of Johnson’s TV address to nation after Russian invasion of Ukraine
Here is the full text of Boris Johnson’s TV statement.
Shortly after 4 o’ clock this morning I spoke to President Zelenskiy of Ukraine to offer the continued support of the UK because our worst fears have now come true and all our warnings have proved tragically accurate.
President Putin of Russia has unleashed war in our European continent. He has attacked a friendly country without any provocation and without any credible excuse. Innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population A vast invasion is under way by land by sea and by air.
And this is not, in the infamous phrase, some faraway country of which we know little. We have Ukrainian friends in this country; neighbours, co-workers.
Ukraine is a country that for decades has enjoyed freedom and democracy and the right to choose its own destiny.
We – and the world – cannot allow that freedom just to be snuffed out. We cannot, and will not, just look away. It is because we have been so alarmed in recent months at the Russian intimidation that the UK became one of the first countries in Europe to send defensive weaponry to help the Ukrainians. Other allies have now done the same and we will do what more we can in the days ahead.
Today, in concert with our allies, we will agree a massive package of economic sanctions designed in time to hobble the Russian economy.
And to that end we must also collectively cease the dependence on Russian oil and gas that for too long has given Putin his grip on western politics.
Our mission is clear. Diplomatically, politically, economically – and eventually, militarily – this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure.
And so I say to the people of Russia, whose president has just authorised a tidal wave of violence against a fellow Slavic people, the parents of Russian soldiers who will lose their lives. I cannot believe this is being done in your name or that you really want the pariah status it will bring to the Putin regime.
And I say to the Ukrainians – in this moment of agony we are with you we are praying for you and your families and we are on your side.
And if the months ahead are grim, and the flame of freedom burns low, I know that it will blaze bright again in Ukraine because, 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.
And I say to the British people, and all who have heard the threats from Putin against those who stand with Ukraine, we will of course do everything to keep our country safe.
We are joined in our outrage by friends and allies around the world. We will work with them – 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. This crisis is about the right of a free, sovereign independent European people to choose their own future and that is a right that the UK will always defend.
Johnson says UK and its allies will use ‘massive package of sanctions’ to ‘hobble Russian economy’
Johnson says the UK will respond with “a massive package of sanctions” that will “hobble the Russian economy”.
Ukraine is a country that for decades has enjoyed freedom and democracy and the right to choose its own destiny. We and the world cannot allow that freedom just to be snuffed out. We cannot and will not just look away …
Today, in concert with our allies, we will agree a massive package of economic sanctions designed in time to hobble the Russian economy.
And to that end, we must also collectively cease the dependence on Russian oil and gas that for too long has given Putin his grip on western politics.
Our mission is clear; diplomatically politically, economically, and eventually, military, this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure.
Boris Johnson is speaking now.
He says he spoke to the President of Ukraine shortly after 4am. “All our warnings have proved tragically accurate,” he says.
President Putin of Russia has unleashed war in our European continent. He’s attacked a friendly country without any provocation, and without any credible excuse. Innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population …
A vast invasion is underway, by land, by sea or by air and this is not, in the infamous phrase, some faraway country of which we know nothing.
We have Ukrainian friends in this country, neighbours, co-workers. Ukraine is a country that for decades has enjoyed freedom and democracy, and the right to choose its own destiny.
We and the world cannot allow that freedom just to be snuffed out. We cannot and will not just look away.
Vince Cable has been condemned by the Liberal Democrats for appearing on the Russian TV station RT on Thursday, the morning that Russia fully invaded Ukraine.
The former Lib Dem leader and ex-business secretary appeared on the RT show hosted by another UK former politician, the ex-SNP leader Alex Salmond.
A Lib Dem spokesperson said:
Vince has many views which the party has always valued, but appearing on RT is wrong. As a leader his strong criticism of the Salisbury incident and Russian oligarchs here are on the record.
Cable said the interview with Salmond had been recorded the previous day and was not connected to Ukraine, and that “with hindsight” he should not have done it.
Johnson to address nation on Russian invasion of Ukraine
Johnson is due to deliver a televised statement from No 10 about the Russian invasion of Ukraine at noon.
He has already said he is “appalled” by what is happening and his skills as a wordsmith are likely to be on full display as he expands on why he feels this is such a calamitous moment for Europe. He is also expected to confirm that the UK will respond with “overwhelming sanctions” (see 9.48am), but the details are not expected to come until this afternoon.
The Conservative MP Stephen Hammond has said that the UK should work with Nato allies to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine to help the country defend itself against the Russians.
This is an idea that has also been proposed by Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chair of the Commons defence committee. (See 10.40am.)
Ellwood and David Davis (who is proposing an alternative form of military intervention by the UK – air support to the Ukrainian army) both have a military background (Davis as a reservist, Ellwood as a regular soldier) and both have long been seen as vocal hawks in the Conservative party on military matters. What is interesting about Hammond’s intervention is that he has never been identified as a member of that contingent. Perhaps it’s a sign that Tory support for some form of military intervention might extend more widely than expected.
Justin Welby, the archbishop of Canterbury, has described the invasion of Ukraine as “an act of great evil” in a joint statement with Stephen Cottrell, the archbishop of York.
Priti Patel, the home secretary, has said the government is preparing to counter possible cyber attacks from Russia in the light of the invasion of Ukraine.
Flights between the UK and Ukraine have been suspended as the crisis in the eastern European country intensifies, PA Media reports. PA says:
Ukraine closed its airspace in the early hours of Thursday morning after Russia launched a major military assault.
The UK Foreign Office updated its travel advice to warn that British nationals in Ukraine “should not expect increased consular support or help with evacuating”.
Wizz Air cancelled its flights between Luton airport and the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Lviv on Thursday.
Ryanair and Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) – the other carriers that fly between the UK and Ukraine – also suspended those routes.
Images from the aviation website Flightradar24 show there are no civilian aircraft in Ukrainian airspace and very few over neighbouring Belarus, where many Russian troops are positioned.
Boris Johnson will call the invasion of Ukraine “a catastrophe for the continent” when he addresses the nation at noon, ITV’s Anushka Asthana reports.
Boris Johnson has confirmed that he will be making an address to the nation this morning about the invasion of Ukraine.
Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, says the Russian ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Office and that the UK will be imposing “severe sanctions”.
Keir Starmer says he met Vadym Prystaiko, the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, this morning to offer his support.
Senior Tory David Davis says UK should provide air support to Ukrainian army
David Davis, the Conservative former Brexit secretary (and a former SAS reservist), has said that retaliating against Russia with sanctions will not be enough and that, in order to prevent Ukraine being defeated, the UK should “provide air support to the Ukrainian army”.
That would effectively mean the RAF bombing, or threatening to bomb, Russian military positions.
Davis has explained his case on Twitter.
This is almost certainly a minority view in the Conservative party, and in the Commons as a whole, but Davis is not the first Tory to propose a military response. On Tuesday Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the defence committee, told Boris Johnson in the Commons that he would like to see Nato establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Ellwood said:
We must now consider how we utilise our formidable hard-power deterrence in responding to Ukraine’s calls for further help, not excluding the formation of a potential no-fly zone.
That would potentially involve the RAF shooting down, or threatening to shoot down, Russian planes.
Back in the Commons Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, has just asked Steve Barclay, the PM’s chief of staff, about reports that Russian oligarchs have been lobbying the Foreign Office to ensure they are not covered by sanctions. She asked him for an assurance that none of these people were people who have donated to the Conservative party.
Barclay would not answer directly. He said that people who were allowed to vote in the UK can donate to political parties, and he said it was important to remember that the donors Rayner was referring to were British citizens.
General Sir Richard Shirreff, the former British officer who was Nato’s deputy supreme allied commander, told the Today programme this morning the possibility of the war in Ukraine leading to military conflict between Britain and Russia could not be ruled out. Asked if this was possible, he replied:
Absolutely there is a possibility that we as a nation could be at war with Russia, because if Russia puts one bootstep across Nato territory, we are all at war with Russia. Every single one, every single member of the Nato alliance.
Article 5 [of the Nato alliance] says an attack on one is an attack on all, so we need to change our mindset fundamentally, and that is why I say our defence starts in the UK on the frontiers of Nato.
Shirreff has been warning about this for years, and published a book in 2016 anticipating how war with Russia might start.
Initial sanctions failed as deterrent because Putin acting ‘in isolation and illogically’, says minister
James Cleverly, the Foreign Office minister, told the Today programme this morning that the initial sanctions announced by the UK failed to act as a deterrent because President Putin is acting illogically and not taking advice. He said:
What became evident in the days leading up to this invasion is that Vladimir Putin is increasingly isolated. That bizarre video of him berating his senior officials shows that he’s making these decisions increasingly in isolation and illogically.
And unfortunately I think that that is part of the reason why the initial round of international sanctions that [were] put in place by ourselves, by France, Germany, the US, Canada and others, didn’t have the deterrent effect.
But he told BBC Breakfast that the UK was now planning “the largest and most severe economic sanctions passage Russia has ever seen”. And this would be effective, he told the Today programme:
The sanctions package that will be put in response to this is already actually having an effect. Just the announcement that it’s coming – we’ve seen the Russian stock market, the equivalent of the FTSE, drop by over 30%. That is a huge reduction in Russia’s economic abilities to fund this invasion.
And those sanctions will be laid today and over forthcoming days to really prevent Russia from funding this invasion.
Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has order British airlines to avoid Ukrainian airspace in the light of Russia’s invasion of the country.
This is from Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s first minister, on the invasion of Ukraine.
UK to respond to invasion of Ukraine with ‘overwhelming sanctions’, says PM’s chief of staff
Steve Barclay, the Cabinet Office minister and chief of staff to the PM, is taking questions in the Commons. He opened with a statement about Ukraine saying the UK would respond to the invasion with “overwhelming sanctions”.
I’m sure I speak for the whole house when I say I’m appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine. This is an unprovoked attack by President Putin and the UK and its allies will respond decisively. This morning the prime minister spoke to President Zelenskiy and chaired Cobra and he will make a statement to this house later today to outline the UK response, including overwhelming sanctions.
The Cabinet Office is also accelerating work on domestic resilience, and we will provide more information on this in due course.
Johnson to make statement to MPs about Ukraine at 5pm
The Commons authorities have just put out an amended timetable, and they say Boris Johnson’s statement to MPs will now be at 5pm.
That is to allow Johnson to participate in a virtual G7 meeting in the early afternoon.
It is understood that Johnson will also be making a statement about the crisis on camera from No 10 this morning.
The Commons authorities have now announced the running order for events in the chamber this morning.
Cabinet Office questions go on until 10.30am. After that here is the list of UQs and statements. The timings are approximate, because sometimes statements can overrun.
10.30am: Andrew Bridgen asks an urgent question about compensation to Post Office employees affected by the Horizon software scandal.
Around 11.10am: Mark Spencer, leader of the Commons, takes business questions.
Around 12.10pm: Boris Johnson makes a statement about Ukraine.
After 2.40pm: Nadhim Zahawi, the education secretary, makes a statement about post-18 education.
The Bridgen UQ may have been scheduled to allow Johnson more time to prepare his Ukraine statement.
Putin was ‘encouraged’ to invade by limited scope of initial sanctions, claims Tom Tugendhat
Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee, said President Putin had been “encouraged” to launch a full invasion of Ukraine by the limited nature of the sanctions package unveiled by the UK earlier this week. He told the Today programme:
I’m afraid weak sanctions like the ones that were imposed [earlier in the week] just encourage others to believe we are weak because we’re clearly not willing to do anything serious …
What that did, I’m afraid, was it didn’t deter, but encouraged, because it gave the suggestion or made clear that we weren’t wiling to do anything serious. If we are going to do sanctions, as I say, we need to do them extremely hard and extremely early.
Tugendhat said Russia must now face “extremely hard” penalties.
He also said that the conflict would affect the cost of living for people living in the UK. He explained:
10% of the world’s wheat is grown in Ukraine and the idea that this year’s going to be a good crop, I’m afraid, is for the birds.
This is absolutely one of those moments where we’re going to see the cost-of-living crisis driven by war.
Labour calls for ‘hardest possible sanctions’ against Russia
Labour has called for the “hardest possible sanctions” against Russia. Keir Starmer issued this statement earlier this morning.
Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine is unprovoked and unjustifiable. His actions will have horrendous and tragic consequences that will echo throughout the world and throughout history.
All those who believe in the triumph of democracy over dictatorship, good over evil, freedom over the jackboot of tyranny must now support the Ukrainian people. They have been cast onto the frontline of a war, simply for existing.
There can be no space for equivocation when faced with the evil that Putin has unleashed. His actions pose a grave threat to the international order on which we all depend.
There will be dark days ahead. But Putin will learn the same lesson as Europe’s tyrants of the last century: that the resolve of the world is harder than he imagines and the desire for liberty burns stronger than ever. The light will prevail.
I know people in this country will be feeling worried and uncertain. And I know that Ukrainians and Russians here in the UK will be worrying for friends and family back home. Our hearts are with them today.
We must now match our rhetoric with action. We must urgently reinforce our NATO allies. The hardest possible sanctions must be taken against all those linked to Putin. The influence of Russian money must be extricated from the UK. And those who have for too long turned a blind eye to Russia’s actions must reckon with their own consciences.
Boris Johnson chairs meeting of Cobra committee over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Good morning. Boris Johnson has been chairing a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee called in response to the invasion of Ukraine. He was woken overnight to be told of the attack, and before 5am this tweet went out in his name.
Shortly afterwards Downing Street issued this statement.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the early hours of this morning.
The prime minister said he was appalled by the unfolding events in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian president updated the prime minister on the attacks taking place, and the prime minister said the West would not stand by as President Putin waged his campaign against the Ukrainian people.
The prime minister said he hoped Ukraine could resist and that Ukraine and its people were in the thoughts of everyone in the United Kingdom people during this dark time.
Johnson is expected to address MPs later, where he is likely to give details of the escalated “barrage” of sanctions against Russia promised earlier this week. The initial sanctions announced on Tuesday were criticised as relatively feeble.
I will be covering UK elements of the crisis here, but for full coverage of the story, and for the global perspective, do read our dedicated live blog. It’s here.
Here is the agenda for the day.
9.30am: Steve Barclary, the Cabinet Office minister and chief of staff to the PM, takes questions in the Commons.
10am: Sajid Javid, the health secretary, gives evidence to the public administration and constitutional affairs committee about the Coronavirus Act.
After 10.30am: Boris Johnson is expected to make a statement to MPs on Ukraine.
After 10.30am: Nadhim Zahawi, the eductation secretary, will make a statement to MPs about plans to reform post-18 education in England. As Sally Weale reports, students in England will have to pay back university loans over 40 years instead of 30 under the plans.
12.30pm: Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, delivers the Mais lecture. As Phillip Inman reports, Sunak will say he wants to cut taxes “sustainably” and downgrade the role played by the state as an engine of growth.
Starmer was due to give a speech on the economy today, but that has now been postponed. As Rowena Mason reports, according to the extracts released in advance, Starmer was going to say Labour will seek to “reimagine the role of government” as a partner to the private sector and take advantage of the opportunities of Brexit,
At some point Johnson is also due to attend a virtual G7 meeting.
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