Foreign secretary Liz Truss has fired back at Kremlin claims her rhetoric and actions led to Vladimir Putin’s order to escalate nuclear operations.
The Russian leader instructed his “deterrent forces” – including nuclear weapons – to a “special mode of combat duty” because of “aggressive statements” by the West.
The foreign secretary told MPs that Putin “made these threats in order to distract from his unprovoked invasion in Ukraine, and the reason we are being targeted is because the UK has been leading on measures to both support Ukraine and degrade the Russian economy. And they don’t like it.”
Truss said: “Putin’s war could end up lasting for months and years, so I say to our Ukrainian friends – we are with you. In Britain and around the world we are prepared to suffer economic sacrifices to support you.
“However long it takes, we will not rest until Ukraine’s sovereignty is restored.”
In an interview on Sunday, Truss said that If Russia is not stopped other countries could be threatened and this could lead to a wider conflict involving Nato.
Truss supports Britons fighting in Ukraine
On Monday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such remarks about possible “clashes” with Nato are “unacceptable”. “I would not call the authors of these statements by name, although it was the British foreign minister,” said Peskov.
The foreign secretary also said that she supports British people going to fight for Ukraine – comments that defence secretary Ben Wallace rowed back on. Wallace told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday: “If you want to be a fighter, first of all please comply with Foreign Office advice because it is dangerous and secondly be trained, have experience.”
Labour MP Clive Lewis said that “untrained people going to a country where they can’t even read a road sign” would be “a liability” and added: “They’ll get themselves killed, they’ll get other people killed.”
Truss announces new sanctions on Russian banks
Truss today (February 28) announced new sanctions against Russian banks with new powers to prevent them making clearing payments in pounds-sterling. A further measure is a full asset freeze on three Russian banks to prevent them raising debt in Britain.
The sanctions, Truss said, will isolate Russian companies – three million of which will no longer be able to raise capital in London.
Truss admitted British people will face “some economic hardship as a result of our sanctions. But our hardships are nothing compared to those endured by the people of Ukraine.”
Shapps bans Russian ships
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced an immediate ban on all Russian ships entering UK ports. “Today I’ve written to all UK ports asking them not to provide access to any Russian flagged, registered, owned, controlled, chartered or operated vessels,” posted Shapps.
“Given Putin’s action in Ukraine I’ve made clear these vessels are not welcome here with prohibiting legislation to follow.”
Orkney Islands council quickly confirmed a Russian-owned oil tanker will not be docking at the council run Flotta oil pipeline terminal. The 244-metre NS Champion tanker – owned by Sovcomflot, a shipping company majority-owned by the Russian state – was expected to dock on Tuesday (March 1), having left Birkenhead in Liverpool en route to collect oil.
Council leader James Stockan said the ship’s agent cancelled the stop at Flotta following Shapp’s statement. Stockan said the visit had become an issue on the island where an anti-war demonstration was held over the weekend. The cancellation after the transport secretary’s announcement is “the best possible outcome,” said Stockan.