BRITAIN is today slamming a “barrage” of sanctions on Russia for rolling tanks into Ukraine ahead of a “full scale invasion”.
Boris Johnson hit Vladimir Putin’s “cronies” with a package of economic punishment beatings unveiled in the Commons this lunchtime.
Russia has sent troops into two separatist regions of Ukraine[/caption]
Three uber-rich oligarchs close to the Kremlin – Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg – will be sanctioned.
Mr Johnson said: “Any assets they hold in the UK will be frozen, the individuals concerned will be banned from travelling here, and we will prohibit all UK individuals and entities from having any dealings with them.
Five Russian banks are also being sanctioned – Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.
The Foreign Office said the sanctions regime will hit “oligarchs at the heart of Putin’s inner circle and banks which have bankrolled the Russian occupation of Crimea”.
Mr Johnson said: “This is the first tranche, the first barrage, of what we are prepared to do: we will hold further sanctions at readiness, to be deployed alongside the United States and the European Union if the situation escalates still further.”
But Mr Johnson faced calls to go much “further and stronger” amid dismay that the sanctions did not go far enough.
In key developments:
- Mr Johnson suggested Russia should be stripped of the Champions League final
- The Foreign Office summoned the Russian ambassador to an urgent meeting
- A Cabinet Minister warned the Russian invasion had “already begun”
- Liz Truss told all Brits still in Ukraine to get out now and bolstered support in the region
- The US moved its embassy staff out of Kyiv as the situation worsened
After chairing a dawn Cobra meeting on the escalating crisis, the PM warned that sabre-rattling Vladimir Putin was hell bent on invading.
He said it was unfathomable that “in 2022 a national leader can calmly and deliberately plot the destruction of a peaceful neighbour.
“But the evidence of his own words suggests that is exactly what he is doing.”
He said the Kremlin aggressor has “completely torn up international law” and the West will clobber his economy “as hard as we can”.
Tory MPs urged Mr Johnson to go much further than the current sanctions.
Ex-minister Mark Harper asked for assurances that Mr Johnson will implement “further and stronger measures even if President Putin does no more”.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith suggested Russia should be hit “hard and hit them now” to increase the pain of the current incursion.
Mr Johnson replied: “I think it’s inevitable, given what is happening in Ukraine and on the borders of Ukraine, that we will be coming forward with a much bigger package of sanctions.”
Putin was dealt a further gut punch this morning as Germany pulled the plug on the multi-billion-pound Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
And Mr Johnson suggested Russia should be stripped of hosting the Champions League final in May.
He said: “It is clear from the response of the world to what he has done already in Donbass that he is going to end up with a Russia that is poorer as a result of the sanctions.
“A Russia that is more isolated, a Russia that has pariah status – no chance of holding a football tournament in a Russia that invades sovereign countries.”
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The PM said the Kremlin had “gravely miscalculated” Ukraine’s determination to fight an invasion.
Last night he spoke to Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky and vowed a swift and strong response against Moscow.
Today the health secretary called Vladimir Putin’s decision to send forces into two breakaway regions “a very dark day in Europe”.
And he said the current escalation in tensions is “as serious” as the Cuban Missile Crisis at the height of the Cold War.
‘WORDS AREN’T ENOUGH’
Sajid Javid said: “He’s sent in tanks and troops. From that you can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun.”
He confirmed today’s COBRA meeting will discuss the possibility of sending more military support like weapons to Ukraine.
And he pledged: “We will make sanctions as targeted as possible to people responsible for this flagrant violation of international law.
“I am sure close contacts with the Russian regime will be targeted, as will certain economic sectors.
“Words aren’t enough. Putin has decided that he prefers confrontation. We have always been clear we will take action.
“It’s a violation of international law and we and Nato will not accept it.”
TANKS ROLL IN
Russian tanks are already on the move after Putin reportedly ordered troops into Ukraine and recruited medics to prepare for “bloodshed”.
Videos obtained by Al-Jazeera show Russian military vehicles in two breakaway areas of eastern Ukraine.
The Kremlin recognised Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states last night – effectively annexing them into Russia.
Fears were mounting the Moscow is now poised to move beyond the rebel held pockets to snatch more territory from Ukraine.
Russian MP Leonid Kalashnikov said Russia would recognise the whole of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions – rather than just the areas currently under rebel control.
With tension mounting, Ukraine said two of its soldiers were killed and 12 others wounded in heavy shelling overnight.
Shock new Terminator-style Russian forces were seen in Makiivka, in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.
Kremlin troops and tanks have also rolled into the neighbouring Luhansk People’s Republic under the guise of “peacekeepers”.
Celebratory fireworks were fired and Russian flags were waved following Putin’s announcement recognising both last night.
An eyewitnesses spotted huge columns of troops moving through Donetsk in the direction of Yasinuvata even before he finished his hawkish and bellicose rant.
The sources later clarified that the witnesses could not be certain that the troops seen were Russian.
But Yasinuvata is just nine miles from the 250-mile First World War-style “contact line” of trenches which has separated Ukrainian and pro-Russian separatists for the past eight years.
The president has signed off orders to parliament which made Russia the first country in the world to recognise the two mini-states created when he orchestrated a land grab in 2014.
The last paragraph of his orders to parliament said he was ordering Russian armed forces to “provide peacekeeping on the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic”.
In a further alarming development, Russia’s parliament was also said to be adopting plans to build military bases in self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk – and stay for 10 years.
The US has ordered its embassy staff to leave Ukraine immediately in the wake of the revelations. Officials from America said warnings had been sent to Russian political opponents on a Kremlin “kill or capture” list.
And Ukrainian citizens say they’ll take up arms and “fight to the death” to defend their country.