Boris Johnson cancelled a call with Vladimir Putin to discuss the escalating crisis in Ukraine because the prime minister was in the Commons, engulfed by the “partygate” scandal.
Johnson will fly to the Ukrainian capital Kyiv today (Tuesday) after the UK announced new legislation for tougher sanctions on Russia in the event of an invasion.
Tensions continue to escalate in the region following the build-up of 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukraine border. Ahead of the PM’s visit to Kyiv, the UK announced it will give £88 million towards energy independence and stable governance. Johnson urged “Russia to step back and engage in dialogue to find a diplomatic resolution and avoid further bloodshed.”
‘Johnson’s no-call shows Putin how distracted Britain is,’ says senior Tory
He was due to speak to Putin on Monday but instead had to make a statement to the Commons following the publication of the updated and heavily edited Gray report.
“Cancellation of this call will remind Putin just how distracted Britain has become”, warned Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, the chair of the commons defence select committee, referring to the on-going scandal.
Ellwood told the Telegraph: “Any call with Putin should confirm we are rallying a Nato force to directly support our Ukrainian friends.”
New legislation to broaden sanctions
Foreign secretary Liz Truss told MPs new legislation will provide additional powers to broaden the scope of UK sanctions on Russian individuals and businesses, beyond those directly linked with actions in Ukraine.
“We will make sure that those who share responsibility for the Kremlin’s aggressive and destabilising action will share in bearing a heavy cost,” Truss said in a statement to the Commons.
“Their assets in the UK will be frozen. No UK business or individual would be able to transact with them. And should they seek to enter the UK, they would be turned back.”
The new legislation is set to in place by on February 10 and Truss said: “Those in and around the Kremlin will have nowhere to hide.”
The foreign secretary was due to accompany the PM to Kyiv but tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday evening and is now self isolating. Truss’ positive test came just hours after education secretary Nadhim Zahawi confirmed he has also contracted the virus.
Flashback – Patel said Ellwood should be fined for lockdown breach
Failures of judgment and leadership were highlighted in Sue Gray’s 12-page ‘update’, in lieu of the Met police investigation which has received more than 500 pages of documents and 300 photographs from the Gray inquiry.
MPs have demanded the civil servant’s report be published in full after delays and Ellwood said: “This is turning into a farce, it does need to be concluded. The promises that were given last week was to give people all the facts and figures and we are losing that.”
On Twitter, the senior Tory MP posted: “If the PM fails to publish the report in full then he will no longer have my support”
In December 2020 Ellwood was told by the home secretary Priti Patel that he had broken lockdown rules and could a face a fine after giving a speech at a Christmas dinner.
Asked if Ellwood’s attendance was in breach of the rules, Patel said: “Well, it is. Of course it is exactly that. Having dinner outside of the rules with a large number of people is a breach of the regulations.”
When asked about Patel’s comments, Johnson’s official spokesman said at the time: “The PM has been clear throughout the pandemic that it’s vital for everybody to abide by the rules in order to suppress the virus and therefore protect the NHS and save lives.”
The government’s tier two guidance for London in December 2020 was that “gatherings for work purposes are only allowed where they are reasonably necessary.”
Two tier rules also stipulated that alcohol should only be served as part of a substantial meal.