Boris urges West to 'do more' against Russia at NATO summit

UK sanctions ‘Putin’s private army’ Wagner Group who are ‘trying to assassinate Zelensky’ and have committed war crimes across the globe in new wave of measures as Boris joins Biden at NATO summit on Ukraine war

  • Britain is giving Ukraine 6,000 more missiles and £25million to help defend itself
  • Ordnance include Javelin missiles and Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapons
  • Boris Johnson is attending NATO summit in Brussels to discuss Russia standoff

Boris Johnson today urged NATO to act ‘harder’ against Russia to end the war ‘faster’ as he unveiled a wave of new sanctions.  

The Wagner Group – known as ‘Putin’s private army’ – are among the targets in the latest wave of measures, announced as the PM arrived in Brussels for talks with the military alliance.

There are claims the notorious mercenaries have been tasked with assassinating Volodymyr Zelensky and other senior Ukrainian politicians.

The new sanctions cover individuals including billionaire oil tycoon Eugene Shvidler, founder of Tinkoff bank Oleg Tinkov, Herman Gref, and Polina Kovaleva, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s alleged stepdaughter.

Galina Danilchenko, installed by Russia as the ‘mayor’ of Melitopol has also become the first person sanctioned for ‘collaboration with Russian forces’ in Ukraine.

Six more banks have also been sanctioned, according to the Foreign Office.

As he arrived in Brussels, Mr Johnson said: ‘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.

‘We’re moving, really, from a programme of supporting resistance to supporting the Ukrainian defence of their own country.’

Mr Johnson is calling on countries such as Germany and France to ramp up their response, warning that the military alliance must not be ‘diverted’ by mounting nuclear threats from Moscow.

He suggested that Russia should be prevented from using gold reserves to prop up its economy – and also dismissed a bid to host the 2028 Euro football tournament as ‘beyond satire’. 

Ahead of the NATO meeting – being attended by Joe Biden – the premier announced the UK is giving Ukraine 6,000 more missiles and £25million to support its desperate struggle against the Russian invasion. 

Boris Johnson (pictured with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, left) insisted the ‘harder’ the sanctions from the West the ‘faster this thing can be over’ as the gathering kicked off in Brussels

The Wagner group (file picture) and Chechen special forces have allegedly been trying to kill the Ukrainian president since Russian troops launched a savage invasion of Ukraine on February 24

There are claims the mercenaries linked to Vladimir Putin (right) have been tasked with assassinating Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (left)

The wreckage of a shopping mall in Kyiv yesterday after a Russian missile strike

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the summit in Brussels today

The Kremlin has long denied ties to the Wagner group, a 600-strong mercenary group deployed worldwide to carry out Moscow’s dirty work. 

Reports have long claimed the force is Putin’s personal assassination squad, but are far enough removed to afford the Russian president plausible deniability.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and the presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak have been listed as among other alleged assassination targets. 

More than a dozen attempts are said to have been made to kill Mr Zelensky since Russian troops launched a savage invasion of Ukraine on February 24.   

Mr Johnson said this morning: ‘Vladimir Putin is plainly determined to double down on his path of violence and aggression, absolutely brutal the way he’s treating the Ukrainian people.

‘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.

‘Looking at what we can do to stop Putin using his gold reserves and also doing more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves.’

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss – who is also attending the NATO summit – said in a statement: ‘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’.

All those sanctioned will have UK assets frozen and be subject to travel bans.

The Foreign Office said the total global asset value of the sanctioned banks to £500billion while oligarchs and family members hit are worth more than £150billion.

The move comes after the Economic Crime Act streamlined the previous sanctions legislation so the UK can respond more swiftly.

In an interview with LBC before departing for the Belgian capital, Mr Johnson said: ‘There is a huge economic punishment now being visited on the associates of Vladimir Putin. But… we’ve got to go further.

‘My message today in NATO will be that there are ways in which the world can continue to intensify the pressure on Putin. And the more we do that now, the more pressure we apply now – particularly on things like gold – I believe the more we can shorten the war, shorten the slaughter in Ukraine.’

On Russia’s bid to host the Euro 2028 football tournament, he said: ‘I think it’s beyond satire that any football organisation no matter how bonkers and you know, driven by lucre they may be, would want to give Russia in the present circumstances the right to host a tournament.’ 

The UK has already provided thousands of Javelin missiles and Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapons, known as NLAWs. Ukrainian defenders have even been heard yelling ‘God save the Queen!’ as they fire them.   

Emmanuel Macron and Turkish president Recip Tayyip Erdogan at the summit today

A Ukrainian serviceman fires an NLAW anti-tank weapon during an exercise in the Joint Forces Operation, in the Donetsk region

The UK will also provide £25million in financial backing to fund Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s armed forces. 

The PM and his fellow leaders will discuss longer-term military, diplomatic and humanitarian support amid fears that Kyiv will run out of missiles in two weeks. 

Defending forces are using up a weeks’ worth of weapons every 20 hours, and need far more to take the fight to Russia. 

Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK says Mr Zelensky will ask Nato to provide ‘longer range’ missiles. 

‘We have enough weapons to stop tanks immediately when they approach us,’ he said. 

‘But to clear out our land we need something with a much greater distance.’ 

The Ukrainian president last night said that Mr Johnson had given him ‘assurances of his support’ amid fears that France and Germany are backsliding on their own promises. 

Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces members train to use an NLAW anti-tank weapon on the outskirts of Kyiv

German chancellor Olaf Scholz told his parliament yesterday: ‘Ukraine can rely on our help. Since the beginning of the war, we have been supplying weapons and imposing sanctions that are second to none.’ 

But Ukraine’s ambassador to Berlin, Andriy Melnyk, accused the country of ignoring urgent requests for weapons for the last three weeks when ‘every day counts to save the lives of the civilian population’. 

Officials in Kyiv say deliveries of defensive kit have ‘slowed to a trickle’. 

‘If we don’t sort out the supply issue soon it is going to be a slaughter,’ said Paul Grod, president of the Ukrainian World Congress. 

‘We are going to have 200,000 members of the territorial defence trying to fight tanks with AK47s. Quite frankly, they will become cannon fodder. 

‘The UK has been doing a marvellous job leading the way and there is big kudos to Britain in Kyiv, but more is needed. France and Germany have been problematic… really dragging their feet.’ 

Mr Scholz struck a cautious tone yesterday on reducing Germany’s energy dependence on Russia. 

‘To do this from one day to the next would mean plunging our country and the whole of Europe into a recession,’ he said. ‘Hundreds of thousands of jobs would be in danger. Sanctions should not hurt European states harder than the Russian leadership.’ 

Meanwhile, the UK’s former defence attache to Moscow claimed yesterday that the Government ignored many warnings that Vladimir Putin would attack.

Retired air commodore Carl Scott, who served from 2011 to 2016, said Russia’s ‘long, dark march to war’ was ignored due to ‘corrupt Russian wealth’ invested in London. 

‘We reported the inevitability of conflict in detail, regularly,’ he said in a scathing letter to the Financial Times. 

Mr Scott also said that the Kremlin had been ‘greatly emboldened’ by Brexit.

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