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PM seeks tough response from Nato as Russia accused of civilian massacre

Archive image of Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaving No.10 Downing Street. Photo by PA.

By Amy Gibbons, PA Political Correspondent

The Prime Minister will this week seek to galvanise a tough response from allies to the crisis in Ukraine as Russia is accused of massacring civilians, with scenes akin to a “horror movie”.

On its 73rd anniversary, Boris Johnson will hail Nato as the “greatest security alliance in the history of the world” – adding that it has a responsibility to support the Ukrainian people as they fight for freedom with “every fibre of their being”.

It comes after the PM condemned Russia’s “despicable attacks” against Ukrainian civilians in Irpin and Bucha, adding that “we will not rest until justice is served”.

This week he will welcome the Polish and German leaders to Downing Street for discussions on Nato and how to support Ukraine as it stands up to Russian aggression.

On Sunday, Mr Johnson said “no denial or disinformation from the Kremlin” can conceal that President Vladimir Putin is “desperate” and “his invasion is failing”.

An adviser to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said dead civilians had been found on the streets of the small city of Bucha and the Kyiv suburb of Irpin, in what resembled a “horror movie”.

In Bucha, north-west of Kyiv, Ukrainian soldiers used cables to drag bodies off a street – from a distance due to fears they may be booby-trapped – as Russian troops withdraw and focus attacks on other parts of Ukraine.

Ukraine’s prosecutor-general Iryna Venediktova said the bodies of 410 civilians have been found in Kyiv-area towns that were recently retaken from Russian forces.

In a statement, Mr Johnson said the UK was “stepping up” its sanctions and military support, and “bolstering” humanitarian help for those on the ground.

He added: “The UK has been at the forefront of supporting the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) investigation into atrocities committed in Ukraine.

“The Justice Secretary has authorised additional financial support and the deployment of specialist investigators – we will not rest until justice is served.”

The PA news agency understands this referred to support for the ICC’s investigation announced last week.

Earlier on Sunday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said “indiscriminate” attacks by Russian forces against innocent civilians in Irpin and Bucha must be investigated as war crimes.

Ms Truss said the UK would “not rest” until those responsible for “atrocities” in Ukraine had faced justice, adding that Russia would not be allowed to cover up its involvement through “cynical disinformation”.

Mr Zelensky’s spokesman Sergey Nikiforov said authorities in Ukraine had found what looked “exactly like war crimes”, including the bodies of executed civilians and mass graves.

Russia’s defence ministry has denied accusations of Russian troops killing civilians in Bucha.

On Nato’s anniversary, Mr Johnson said: “73 years ago, today the founding members of Nato came together, united loosely by geography but bound more tightly by a shared belief in freedom and sovereignty. Three quarters of a century later that conviction and drive endures.

“It is that self-same freedom which the people of Ukraine are fighting for with every fibre of their being. As members of the greatest security alliance in the history of the world, we have a responsibility to give them everything they need to face down this barbaric attempt to subjugate the Ukrainian people.

“As the largest European contributor to the alliance and as a staunch friend to Ukraine, the UK will continue to do just that.”

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in its latest intelligence update that Russian forces, including mercenaries, were refocusing their offensive into the Donbas region.

Meanwhile, a senior diplomat has said he looks forward to working with allies to keep the country safe when he takes up the post of the UK’s permanent representative to Nato.

The UK’s joint delegation will be led by David Quarrey, currently the Prime Minister’s international affairs adviser and deputy national security adviser.

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