The PM said after an emergency Nato summit he was not ‘remotely anti-Russian’ and did not rule out in principle accepting Ukraine’s request for tanks.
24 March 2022
Boris Johnson has hit back at the Kremlin effectively labelling him as enemy number one among western leaders, while not ruling out in principle accepting Ukraine’s request for tanks.
The Prime Minister said after an emergency Nato summit in Brussels that he was not “remotely anti-Russian” after being labelled the “most active participant in the race to be anti-Russian” by Moscow.
Despite hesitance among allies, Mr Johnson did not rule out Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s pleas in a virtual address to leaders for “1% of all your planes, 1% of all your tanks”.
Instead he only said the move would be challenging “logistically” after previous objections in the West included that providing such military equipment could further provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“What President Zelensky wants is to try to relieve Mariupol and to help the thousands of Ukrainian fighters in the city. To that end he does need armour as he sees it,” Mr Johnson told reporters.
“We are looking at what we can do to help. But logistically it looks very difficult both with armour and with jets.”
Earlier in the day, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the state-owned RIA news agency as saying Mr Johnson is “the most active participant in the race to be anti-Russian”.
Speaking at the press conference in Brussels, the Prime Minister said: “Absolutely not, least of all me. I think I’m probably the only Prime Minister in UK history to be called Boris, I think I have that distinction, and I’m not remotely anti-Russian.”
He said: “But I think what we all agree is that what Vladimir Putin is doing, the way he’s leading Russia at the moment, is utterly catastrophic, that his invasion of Ukraine is inhuman and barbaric.
“And the conduct of that invasion is now moving into the type of behaviour that, as I said before, we haven’t seen in the continent of Europe for 80 years, and it’s horrific.
“So you can be sympathetic towards ordinary Russians, who are being so badly led, but you can be deeply hostile to the decisions of Vladimir Putin.”