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UK hits Russia with ‘largest’ sanctions to punish ‘blood-stained’ Putin

People cross the border from Ukraine into Romania on Thursday after Russia launched an invasion of the country. Photo by Inquam Photos/Casian Mitu via REUTERS

• Gibraltar will mirror UK measures
• CM says Gibraltar will stand with international community
• Fears on the Rock for relatives in Ukraine

By PA, Reuters and Chronicle staff

Boris Johnson is hitting Russia with the “largest and most severe” package of sanctions it has ever faced to punish “blood-stained aggressor” Vladimir Putin for invading Ukraine.

He announced the measures after Russian forces rained missiles on Ukrainian cities, including the capital Kyiv, and landed troops on its Black and Azov Sea coasts on Thursday, in the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two.

The Prime Minister extended punitive measures on Thursday to hit five further oligarchs, including the Russian President’s former son-in-law, and to tackle more than 100 businesses and individuals.

Mr Johnson said he was sanctioning “all the major manufacturers that support Putin’s war machine”, will imminently ban Aeroflot from touching down planes in the UK and will freeze the assets of all major Russian banks, including immediately against VTB.

The sanctions will be mirrored in Gibraltar.

The UK’s second barrage of measures designed to “hobble the Russian economy” and punish Moscow’s ally Belarus came as the Kremlin hit Ukraine with a wide-ranging attack, targeting cities and bases with air strikes.

“Putin will stand condemned in the eyes of the world and of history. He will never be able to cleanse the blood of Ukraine from his hands,” the Prime Minister told the Commons.

“Now we see him for what he is – a bloodstained aggressor who believes in imperial conquest.”

Mr Johnson said the measures are “the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen”, but vowed to go further.

“We will continue on a remorseless mission to squeeze Russia from the global economy piece by piece, day by day and week by week,” he told MPs.

He detailed the measures after speaking to G7 leaders including US President Joe Biden to discuss how to tackle the war unfurling in Europe as they work to act in tandem.

They were seeking to pile pressure on Mr Putin after he launched the all-out attack in the early hours which the West feared had been coming for weeks.

The five new oligarchs being hit include Kirill Shamalov, Russia’s youngest billionaire who was formerly married to Mr Putin’s daughter Katerina Tikhonova.

MIRRORED

In Gibraltar, the Gibraltar Government said it would follow the UK’s lead on sanctions.

But a spokesman said the government had no knowledge of any company or businessman on the Rock that would be affected.

“The Government will mirror any sanctions established by the United Kingdom in respect of Russian or other entities or individuals, arising from the Ukraine conflict,” a spokesman told the Chronicle.

“It is not expected that these will have any effect on any company or individual currently doing business on or from Gibraltar.”

In a statement on the Ukraine crisis, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said he and the Governor, Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, had convened the Gibraltar Security Council but there would be no change to the alert posture.

Law enforcement agencies will heighten their stance, however, as a precaution.

Mr Picardo warned too of the potential for cyber threats as the crisis unfolds.

And he sent a message of solidarity saying that Gibraltar, within its limited means, would stand by the UK and its partners.

“Thursday’s events leave us all shocked and anxious, for Ukraine and for the whole of Europe,” Mr Picardo said.

“Gibraltar has endured war and knows what it means, especially as it affects civilians.”

“Gibraltar will therefore stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends and allies across Europe at this dark hour, but especially alongside our friends in Ukraine with whom we stand in solidarity at this dark moment in modern European history.”

INTERNATIONAL RESPONSE

Mr Johnson announced the sanctions in the Commons after earlier delivering a sombre address to the nation at midday.

The Prime Minister said the world cannot stand by and allow the freedom of Ukraine to be “snuffed out” amid the Kremlin’s attack on “democracy and freedom in eastern Europe and around the world”.

He said a “vast invasion” has been launched by land, sea and air and “innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population”.

Mr Johnson was woken with news of the invasion in the night and spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky shortly after 4am.

The Prime Minister warned of the prospect of “grim” months to come, before echoing an earlier address from Mr Zelensky in speaking directly to the Russian public.

“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,” the Prime Minister said.

Mr Zelensky has declared martial law and called on Ukrainians to volunteer to fight for their country.

“We will give weapons to anyone who wants to defend the country. Be ready to support Ukraine in the squares of our cities,” he said.

In other developments:

– Foreign Secretary Liz Truss rebuked Russia’s ambassador to the UK Andrei Kelin during an angry meeting which a source said she kicked him out of after labelling Russia an “international pariah”.

– Transport Secretary Grant Shapps instructed the Civil Aviation Authority to ensure airlines avoid Ukraine airspace “following the horrific events overnight” and carriers began suspending flights.

– Stock markets across the globe slumped and oil prices soared to levels not seen in eight years as a result of the crisis.

– RAF Typhoons were committed to patrolling the airspace on the borders of Nato members Poland and Romania with Ukraine.

– Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for the “hardest possible sanctions” against Mr Putin’s “bandit rule”.

The Kremlin has claimed it is only targeting Ukrainian air bases and other military assets, not populated areas.

But Western officials fear an attack on the capital Kyiv could result in bloody urban warfare, with civilian lives at risk.

In a televised address, Mr Putin warned other countries that any attempt to interfere with the Russian action would lead to “consequences they have never seen”.

He said Russia does not intend to occupy Ukraine, and claimed responsibility for bloodshed lies with the Ukrainian “regime”.

Explosions were heard in Kyiv moments later, while blasts were also reported in the cities of Odesa and Kharkiv.

A Ministry of Defence intelligence update shortly after 12.30pm said there had been more than 80 strikes at Ukrainian targets, while ground forces were advancing across the border from at least three points, including from the previously annexed Crimea.

The first targets included Ukrainian air defences, designed to ensure Russia’s aerial superiority in the conflict.

Reports suggested Russian troops had captured an airport on the outskirts of Kyiv.

Western officials have reported forces crossing over from Belarus, where they have been engaged in large-scale exercises, and from Russian-occupied Crimea.

They are also said to have moved into the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Mr Putin has recognised the two breakaway “republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Officials say it is unclear whether he intends to take control of the entire country.

However they believe his objectives include Kyiv and the port city of Odesa, as well as joining up Crimea, which he seized in 2014, with the Donbas.

Ukrainian forces have been putting up resistance, with reports that at least one Russian warplane has been brought down.

However analysts believe the combination of aerial superiority, precision munitions and artillery firepower gives Moscow’s forces a marked military advantage.

There are particular concerns now about the prospect of an assault on Kyiv, a city with a population of more than 2.8 million.

In the past, such as in the Chechen capital Grozny, Russian forces having shown they are willing to use overwhelming firepower if they cannot achieve their objectives quickly, potentially resulting in large-scale civilian casualties.

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