A “new age of intimidation” stretching from the Baltic to the Black Sea looms if Vladimir Putin succeeds in his invasion of Ukraine, Boris Johnson has warned.
Johnson said the world was at a “turning point”. “The end of freedom in Ukraine will mean the extinction of any hope of freedom in Georgia and then Moldova. It will mean the beginning of a new age of intimidation across the whole of Eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea,” he said. “If Putin succeeding crushing Ukraine, it will be the green light for autocrats everywhere in the Middle East, in the Far East. This is a turning point for the world. It’s a moment of choice. It’s a choice between freedom and oppression.”
He warned other leaders against adopting a stance of “realpolitik” towards Putin. “I know there are some others around the world who say it’s better to make accommodation with tyranny. I believe they are profoundly wrong,” Johnson said. To try to normalise relations with Putin after this, as the west had done in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea, would be to make exactly the same mistake again, he added.
Vladimir Putin made a “catastrophic mistake” in invading Ukraine, Boris Johnson has said.
Speaking at the Conservative party conference in Blackpool, the UK prime minister said the country stood with the people of Ukraine. “With every day that Ukraine’s heroic resistance continues, it is clear that Putin has made a catastrophic mistake,” he said.
Johnson questioned why Putin had launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, rejecting the idea that it was over concerns about the country joining Nato. “He was frightened of Ukraine, because in Ukraine, they have a free press. And in Ukraine, they had free elections and with every year Ukraine has progressed, not always easily, towards freedom and democracy and open markets, he feared the Ukrainian example, and he feared the implicit reproach to himself,” Johnson said.
The prime minister contrasted this with the situation in Russia. “In Putin’s Russia, you get jailed for 15 years just for calling an invasion an invasion. And if you stand against Putin in an election, you get poisoned or shot.”
He said Putin felt threatened by Ukraine because the two countries had been “so historically close”. It is vital that Moscow’s invasion fails, Johnson said, because “a victorious Putin will not stop in Ukraine”.
Aid agencies are been prevented from reaching people trapped in Ukrainian cities surrounded by Russian forces, the World Food Programme has said.
The UN agency’s emergency coordinator, Jakob Kern, told AFP that “the challenge is to get to the cities that are encircled or about to be encircled”, describing the situation as dire. He said it has been almost impossible to deliver emergency supplies to the besieged port city of Mariupol or the north-eastern cities of Kharkiv and Sumy. He said it was a tactic that was unacceptable in the 21st century.
Replacing broken food supply chains amid fighting is a “mammoth task”, he said. The WFP is aiming to reach 3.1 million people in Ukraine, but efforts have been hindered by difficulties in finding willing truck drivers. Hundreds of thousands of women and children are among those trapped.
“The closer you go to these cities, the more worried they are about their safety,” Kern said. “And that means we’re not able to reach these people in Mariupol, Sumy, Kharkiv, in the cities that are almost encircled by now – or completely in the case of Mariupol.”
Three Russian cosmonauts have arrived at the International Space Station wearing yellow flight suits with blue accents – the colours of the Ukrainian flag:
A total of 816 Ukrainian civilians have been confirmed to have been killed and 1,333 injured since the Russian invasion began on 24 February, according to the UN human rights office. However, as it only reports counts that it can verify, it believes the figures vastly understate the actual toll.
Ukrainian officials say thousands have been killed.
The Associated Press reports that the office of the country’s prosecutor general said that a total of 112 children have been killed since the start of the fighting. More than 140 children have been wounded.
The UK Home Office has said 8,600 visas had been granted under the family scheme for Ukrainians fleeing the war by 5pm on Friday.
The announcement comes amid frustration with the length of time the Home Office is taking to process visas. At least 43,000 have applied for Ukraine family scheme visas and are waiting for their applications to be approved, with many staying in hotels in countries bordering Ukraine.
Poland calls for EU to impose total ban on trade with Russia
Poland has proposed that the European Union implement a total ban on trade with Russia, the Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has said in a statement reported by Reuters.
Poland is proposing to add a trade blockade to this package of sanctions as soon as possible, [including] both of its seaports … but also a ban on land trade. Fully cutting off Russia’s trade would further force Russia to consider whether it would be better to stop this cruel war,” Morawiecki said.
Poland’s call for Moscow to face tougher economic repercussions for its invasion of Ukraine comes after EU member states agreed on a fourth package of sanctions against Russia this week. Details were not disclosed, but the French presidency said Russia’s “most-favoured nation” trade status would be revoked.
Street fighting in the centre of Mariupol is preventing the rescue of hundreds of civilians trapped in the basement of a theatre that Ukrainian officials say was bombed by Russia on Wednesday, according to the city’s mayor.
Vadym Boychenko told the BBC that rescue teams could help people out of the wreckage only during periods when the fighting subsided. “There are tanks … and artillery shelling, and all kinds of weapons fired in the area,” he told the broadcaster.
“Our forces are doing everything they can to hold their position in the city, but the forces of the enemy are larger than ours, unfortunately.”
On Friday, Mariupol authorities said 130 had escaped but that more than 1,000 remained in the theatre’s basement. Russia denies bombing the theatre.
The Ukrainian army has not observed any significant shifts in the past 24 hours in front line areas, the presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych has said in a statement reported by Reuters.
Fighting continues, Arestovych said in an online video address. He named the following as hotspots for the Russian offensive:
- The south-eastern city of Mariupol
- The southern cities of Mykolaiv and Kherson
- The eastern town of Izyum
The former head of the British armed forces has backed calls for Vladimir Putin to face a “Nuremberg-type trial” due to Russia’s “morally indefensible tactic” of attacking Ukrainian civilians.
Discussing the role of morale plays in wars, Lord Richard Dannatt told BBC Breakfast that it had a “huge bearing on what happens on the ground”. He said:
When we talk about fighting power, there are three components – there’s the physical component (the tanks, the aircraft, the equipment), there’s the conceptual components (the plans the generals come up with) but then there’s the morale component – that’s the will of the soldiers to fight.
He contrasted the situation that Russian troops had been led to expect when they invaded Ukraine with the reality. “We understand that they were briefed really poorly, that they would go, that they’d be moving quickly, they’d be welcomed as peacekeepers and liberators, but in fact what they found was that the Ukrainian armed forces, Ukrainian civilians were fighting resolutely against them. These young men are absolutely confused, many of them are very young, frightened, exhausted from weeks of exercising.”
The morale of Russian troops had been further weakened by a failure in the army’s logistics systems, Dannatt said:
These young men, not only frightened, are now hungry, the fuel for their tanks is not available, so they’ve been placed in a terrible situation. It’s therefore no surprise the Russian army has not made progress on the ground. They’ve had to resort now to this morally indefensible tactic of shelling defenceless civilians.”
Dannatt agreed with calls from Gordon Brown and others for Putin to not only be indicted, but for “a Nuremberg-type trial to be set up, to absolutely condemn, for all time, into the history books, what Putin and his generals have been doing”.
Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine after failing to “fatally weaken” the country with its annexation of Crimea and war in the Donbas, the UK’s former ambassador to Ukraine has said.
Appearing on BBC Breakfast, Simon Smith discussed the “background” to Putin’s “full-scale” invasion of Ukraine, saying:
I think in 2013-14, a lot of us saw what Russia was doing then as a start of Russia’s war on Ukraine – it isn’t a war that just started in February this year. Because what Putin was after in annexing Crimea and instigating the war in the Donbas was fatally weakening Ukraine, inflicting such damage on Ukraine, damaging its systems and institutions, damaging its confidence to an extent that Ukraine would not be fit to operate as a viable sovereign country.
What we saw in the 7-8 years following, was the fact that Putin failed in that objective, that Ukraine did remarkably well in staying on its feet, reforming a lot of institutions and actually making itself a more viable and successful country.
Here are some images from the past 24 hours.
In Lviv on Friday, prams were arranged in neat rows across Rynok Square, in a display that symbolised the tragic cost of the war. The prams represent each of the 109 children Ukrainian officials say have died so far in Russia’s war on Ukraine.
In Kyiv, officials said on Friday that 222 people had been killed in the capital, including 60 civilians and four children.
More than 3.2 million have left Ukraine since the start of the war. Many – more than 2 million – have travelled to Poland, according to UNHCR. On Friday, families queued for food near the Central Station in Warsaw. Christine Goyer, the UN refugee agency’s Representative in Poland, said there had been a “tremendous effort from the people, local communities, municipalities and government of Poland in receiving and hosting new arrivals.”
On Friday night in Moscow, Vladimir Putin praised Russian “unity” over what the Kremlin is calling its special operation in Ukraine, during a rare public speech. His five-minute address at the Luzhniki stadium was, however, cut short due to a “technical failure” and so re-aired from start.
Many attending the Moscow rally were seen waving flags emblazoned with the letter Z, a military marking that has become a symbol of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Zaporizhzhia under 38-hour curfew from 1400 GMT
The southern city of Zaporizhzhia will be under a 38-hour curfew beginning at 2pm GMT on Saturday (4pm local time) after the Ukrainian military ordered people to stay home until early on Monday, the deputy mayor Anatoliy Kurtiev said in a statement reported by Reuters.
“Do not go outside at this time!” he said in an online post.
The city has become an important route for some of the 35,000 people estimated to have escaped the siege of Mariupol.
Ukraine and Russia agree on 10 humanitarian corridors
Ten humanitarian corridors have been agreed on with Russian for the evacuation of citizens, deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk has said.
Reuters reports that Vereshchuk said a corridor had been agreed for the besieged city of Mariupol, although the authorities’ previous efforts to evacuate civilians there under a temporary ceasefire have mostly failed, with both sides trading blame. About 350,000 civilians are stranded in the city with little food or water.
Several corridors have also been agreed in Kyiv and in the Luhansk region.