Home Somerset rules PM urges Putin to avoid ‘bloodshed’ as Kyiv visit boosts support for Ukraine

PM urges Putin to avoid ‘bloodshed’ as Kyiv visit boosts support for Ukraine

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The UK is set to provide tens of millions of pounds in a bid to shore up democracy in Ukraine and reduce the country’s dependence on Russian energy, with Boris Johnson hoping to defuse tensions at the country’s border .

The prime minister will travel to Kyiv on Tuesday as tensions remained at a fever pitch between the Kremlin and the former Soviet state.

Mr Johnson was due to speak with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday but a time could not be agreed after the Prime Minister defended his leadership and the partygate saga took up much of his day.

Members of the Ukrainian community in Ireland and supporters attend a rally at Leinster House, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

No 10 said there was no ‘set time’ for the call and they still hoped to agree a time with the Kremlin for the pair to speak.

But Labour’s shadow secretary of state for foreign affairs, David Lammy, said the delayed appeal showed there were “real consequences” of having a prime minister struggling for political survival.

He said: “The situation in Ukraine is extremely serious. We want diplomacy to succeed.

“This crisis needs the attention of a focused Prime Minister, but Boris Johnson is catching up and the government is in disarray. Yesterday he missed a call with Putin because he was in parliament defending the indefensible.

Mr Johnson will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as he pledged £88million in new funding to support the country.

The money – part of the UK’s Good Governance Fund – will help ‘support stable governance and energy independence’, supporting transparency and anti-corruption initiatives and efforts to reduce Ukraine’s dependence on Russian energy supplies.

Ahead of the visit, Mr Johnson said: “It is the right of every Ukrainian to determine how they are governed. As a friend and a democratic partner, the UK will continue to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty in the face of those who seek to destroy it.

“We urge Russia to step back and engage in dialogue to find a diplomatic solution and avoid further bloodshed.”

It comes as the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee has launched a new inquiry into ‘dirty money’ associated with corruption.

NI Foreign Affairs Committee
Committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat (Niall Carson/PA)

Committee chairman and Tory MP Tom Tugendhat said the government had ‘not done much to address these dangers’ and added: ‘Today illicit finance and corruption are more close to home and there are now new threats to face.

“Dirty money is allowed to go beyond the reach of law enforcement and challenge the capabilities of regulators around the world.”

He added: “As a global financial centre, the UK is in a unique position to act and protect against threats to the rules-based international order. Russia’s intimidation of Ukraine and the pressure the Kremlin is exerting on other European states clearly show that we must act.

Earlier, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced plans for legislation with new powers to sanction individuals and companies linked to the Russian state and she said those who share responsibility for “aggressive and destabilizing force” of the Kremlin could see their assets in the United Kingdom frozen.

“We will be able to target any company linked to the Russian state, engaged in activities of economic importance to the Russian state or operating in a sector of strategic importance to the Russian state,” she told MPs. .

In the Commons, Mr Tugendhat said: ‘The need to clean up the dirty money from our economy is not just about doing the right thing and standing with the people of Ukraine, it’s about standing up for the people to defend ourselves against the corruption that runs through our system, ensuring that our homes are homes and not exploited to pay murderers in the name of a dictator.

“The strongest thing we can do to defend Ukraine is to defend ourselves against filth and corruption in our city.”

Ms Truss replied: ‘As I said, we will introduce the Economic Crime Bill to add to the work we are already doing to tackle illicit finance.’

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden said he was engaged in “relentless diplomacy” to try to lessen the threat on Ukraine’s border.

He said: “I had productive talks last week with President Zelensky and I continue to be engaged in uninterrupted diplomacy and in defusing tensions and improving the security of our ally and of all of Europe.”

After Mr Johnson’s call with Mr Putin was delayed, French President Emmanuel Macron instead spoke to the Russian leader for the second time in four days.

While Mr Johnson is expected to discuss a ‘full range of British strategic support’ with Mr Zelensky.

He was to be joined on the trip by Ms Truss, but she will not travel after testing positive for Covid on Monday evening.

The UK is expected to strengthen its military presence in Eastern Europe as part of NATO’s efforts to secure the region.

But British and NATO combat forces should not be deployed in Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance.

About 100 British servicemen are involved in a training mission in the country, and Downing Street said that since 2015 the British armed forces had trained more than 22,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

Russia has more than 100,000 troops massed on the border, fueling Western fears that Moscow is plotting an invasion of its southern neighbour.

Mr Putin has denied he was planning an attack but is demanding guarantees that Ukraine will never join NATO, while calling on the Western alliance to withdraw its forces in Eastern Europe.