Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of his neighbour was motivated by the fear a successful Ukraine would trigger a pro-democracy revolution in Moscow, Boris Johnson has said.
he British Prime Minister said Mr Putin was in a “total panic” about the prospect of a popular uprising if freedom was allowed to flourish in Kyiv.
Mr Johnson said the war was a “turning point for the world”, forcing countries to stand up to Russia rather than “making accommodations with tyranny”.
Failure to support Ukraine now would result in a “new age of intimidation across eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea”.
In a speech at the Conservative Party spring conference in Blackpool, Mr Johnson said Mr Putin’s actions were not the result of concern about Nato – “he didn’t really believe that Ukraine was going to join Nato any time soon” – or the prospect of Western missiles being based there.
He also dismissed Mr Putin’s “crazy essay” about the historical unity of the people of the two countries as “semi-mystical guff” and “Nostradamus meets Russian Wikipedia”.
“I think he was frightened of Ukraine for an entirely different reason,” Mr Johnson said to an audience including Kyiv’s representative in the UK, Vadym Prystaiko.
“He was frightened of Ukraine because in Ukraine they have a free press and in Ukraine they have free elections.”
It is “precisely because Ukraine and Russia have been so historically close that he has been terrified of the effect of that Ukrainian model on him and on Russia”.
“He has been in a total panic about a so-called colour revolution in Moscow itself and that is why he is trying so brutally to snuff out the flame of freedom in Ukraine and that’s why it is so vital that he fails,” Mr Johnson said.
“A victorious Putin will not stop in Ukraine, and 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 eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea.”
Russian president Vladimir Putin has spoken on the phone with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, which is the second time this week the two leaders have talked.
According to the Kremlin’s readout of the call, Putin “outlined fundamental assessments of the course of the talks between Russian and Ukrainian representatives,” while Bettel informed him about “contacts with the leadership of Ukraine and other countries.”
Putin also said that “incessant missile strikes by Ukrainian forces on Donetsk and other cities” of the self-proclaimed separatist Donetsk and Luhansk republics in eastern Ukraine are “leading to numerous civilian casualties.”
Bettel tweeted Saturday about his call with Putin, too. He stressed that since their first call earlier this week “the situation on the ground has worsened, especially in the city of Mariupol.”
Bettel added that “the images that reach us (from Mariupol) are intolerable. The goal needs to remain de-escalation, adoption of ceasefire & furthering negotiation processes.”
Police say seven people were killed and five more wounded in a Friday mortar attack on Makariv, a town 50 kilometers west of the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.
The Kyiv regional police said in a Facebook statement that the attack destroyed residential houses and damaged administrative and other buildings. Those wounded have been hospitalized, the statement said.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has repeated his call for the European Union’s executive body to block all trade with Russia and force Moscow to end the war on Ukraine.
Morawiecki spoke on Saturday at the Telesystem-Mesko armaments maker in Lubiczow that produces anti-aircraft homing parts that Poland has made available to Ukraine, which is fighting a military invasion by Russia.
Morawiecki said that “a blockade of sea ports, a ban on entry by Russian ships under Russian flags with Russian cargo into sea ports, but also a ban on trade by land,” should be added to sanctions on Russia.
He said cutting Russia completely off sea and land trade with the 27-nation EU “will additionally force Russia to rethink ‘Maybe it’s best to stop this cruel war.”’
Morawiecki said he would make the appeal at the next meeting of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body.
Over the past 24 hours, Russian forces have fired at eight cities and villages in the eastern Donetsk region, using aviation, rocket and heavy artillery.
Ukraine’s National Police said on Telegram Saturday that at least 37 residential buildings and infrastructure facilities were damaged and dozens of civilians were killed or injured as a result of the attacks. It said the Russian military was firing at Mariupol, Avdiivka, Kramatorsk, Pokrovsk, Novoselydivka, Verkhnotoretske, Krymka and Stepne.
The statement said “among the civilian objects that Russia destroyed are multistory and private houses, a school, a kindergarten, a museum, a shopping center and administrative buildings.”
The northwestern suburbs the Ukrainian capital — Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin and Moshchun — were also under Russian fire on Saturday. The Kyiv regional administration reported that the city of Slavutich, north of the capital, was “completely isolated,” and that Russian military equipment was spotted northeast and east of Kyiv.
The office of the Prosecutor General in Ukraine has accused Russian security and military forces of kidnapping a Ukrainian journalist covering the Russian offensive in the east and the south of Ukraine.
In a Facebook statement on Saturday, the Prosecutor General’s office alleged that Russia’s Federal Security Service, or the FSB, and the Russian military abducted the journalist of Ukrainian news outlet Hromadske on Tuesday in Berdyansk, an occupied port city in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region. The statement didn’t identify the journalist, but went on to say that the reporter’s whereabouts are currently unknown and a criminal investigation has been launched.
Hromadske on Friday tweeted that they lost contact with reporter Victoria Roshchyna last week.
“As we learned from witnesses, at that time the journalist was in the temporarily occupied Berdyansk. On March 16, we learned that the day before (probably March 15), Victoria Roshchyna was detained by the Russian FSB. Currently, we do not know where she is,” the outlet tweeted.
A number of journalists have been killed in the Ukraine war, including Irish cameraman Pierre Zakrzewski.
Mr Zakrzewski was killed on Monday by Russian shelling outside Kyiv.
During the same attack, Ukrainian journalist Oleksandra Kuvshynova was also killed while American broadcaster Benjamin Hall was seriously wounded.
Mr Zakrzewski’s mother said her son’s former employers, Fox and Sky News, are working with Irish officials and officials from France and Poland to fly him back to Ireland.
Russia said it fired hypersonic missiles from its “Kinzhal” system for the first time in the more than three-week invasion of Ukraine, to destroy an underground weapons storage site in the west of the country.
The Ministry of Defence said the military used Kinzhal (Dagger) missiles on Friday to target the site storing missiles and aviation ammunition in the village of Delyatyn, outside the city of Ivano-Frankivsk.
The claimed strike marked the first use of the nuclear-capable advanced weapons system in the Ukraine war, state news service RIA Novosti said.
Ukraine didn’t report any Russian attack on the military facility overnight and did not immediately comment on Russia’s claims.
The Kinzhal, which can carry conventional or nuclear warheads, flies 10 times faster than the speed of sound, or more than 2 miles per second, President Vladimir Putin said when he announced the system in an annual state-of-the-nation address in 2018.
The Kinzhal was among several latest-generation strategic weapons that Putin said at the time could overcome any U.S. missile defenses.
On Friday, Ukrainian authorities said a Russian missile strike hit an army barracks in the southern city of Mykolaiv with unconfirmed reports of several dozen soldiers killed.
China’s vice foreign minister reiterated blame against NATO for the war in Ukraine and criticised sanctions against Russia in a speech delivered at a conference in Beijing Saturday.
Le Yucheng said NATO was a “Cold War vestige” and that its expansion could result in “repercussions too dreadful to contemplate” from a major power like Russia.
His comments come after the U.S. President and Chinese leader Xi Jinping had a conversation about the war Friday.
China has consistently blamed the security bloc, led by the U.S., as pushing things to a crisis point between Russia and Ukraine.
Le went on also to criticize the economic sanctions against Russia.
“Sanctions against Russia are now going to such lengths that globalization is used as a weapon, even people from the sports, cultural, art and entertainment communities are not spared,” Le said.
China’s government tried to distance itself from Russia’s offensive, but has avoided the criticism many other nations have levelled at Moscow, and continues refrain from calling it an invasion.
Ukraine’s president said Russia is trying to starve his country’s cities into submission but warned Saturday that continuing the invasion would exact a toll on Russia for “generations.” The remarks came after Moscow held a mass rally in support of its bogged-down forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused the Kremlin in an overnight video address of deliberately creating “a humanitarian catastrophe ” and appealed again for Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet with him to prevent more bloodshed.
Noting that the 200,000 people reported to have attended the rally was similar to the number of Russian forces deployed to Ukraine, Zelenskyy said Friday’s event in Moscow illustrated the stakes of the largest ground conflict in Europe since World War II.
“Picture for yourself that in that stadium in Moscow there are 14,000 dead bodies and tens of thousands more injured and maimed,” the Ukrainian leader said, standing outside the presidential office in the capital, Kyiv. “Those are the Russian costs throughout the invasion.”
Putin lavished praised on his country’s military forces during Friday’s flag-waving rally, which took place on the anniversary of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The event included patriotic songs such as “Made in the U.S.S.R.,” with the opening lines “Ukraine and Crimea, Belarus and Moldova, it’s all my country.”
“We have not had unity like this for a long time,” Putin told the cheering crowd.
Taking to the stage where a sign read “For a world without Nazism,” he railed against his foes in Ukraine with a baseless claim that they are “neo-Nazis” and insisted his actions were necessary to prevent “genocide” — an idea flatly rejected by leaders around the globe.
The rally took place as Russia has faced heavier-than-expected losses on the battlefield and increasingly authoritarian rule at home. Russian police have detained thousands of antiwar protesters.
Fighting raged on multiple fronts in Ukraine more than three weeks after Russia’s February 24 invasion.
The northwest Kyiv suburbs of Bucha, Hostomel, Irpin and Moshchun were under fire on Saturday, the Kyiv regional administration reported. The city of Slavutich, located 165 kilometers north of the capital was “completely isolated,” the administration said.
Russia could smuggle female agents into the UK among Ukrainian refugees to carry out biological or chemical terror attacks, British home secretary Priti Patel has claimed.
Defending the UK’s decision – alone among European nations – to demand visas from Ukrainians fleeing war, Ms Patel said that a handful of individuals infiltrated by Vladimir Putin into the flood of innocent refugees could “wreak utter havoc” in the UK.
And, with the majority of refugees made up of women and children as men stay in Ukraine to fight, she warned it would be “naïve and misguided” to think that only men were capable of unleashing terror attacks on British soil.
In a speech to the Conservative spring conference in Blackpool, Ms Patel said the security checks conducted as part of the refugee visa application process would help avoid a repeat of the Novichok nerve agent attack in Salisbury which killed British citizen Dawn Sturgess in 2018.
Ms Patel told activists that calls for the UK to follow the EU in offering visa-free access to Ukrainians seeking sanctuary had “grown louder in recent weeks”.
But she said: “I’ve been asked why couldn’t we suspend security checks on people escaping Putin’s war?
“Times of conflict, my friends, emphasise our need to remain watchful.”
Ms Patel said that she had been warned in security and intelligence service briefings that global instability brings with it greater threats to the UK from terrorism, serious organised crime and state threats.
“Only four years ago, the Russian military intelligence services used a chemical weapon on British soil,” she said. “It happened in Salisbury, a beautiful city, whose inhabitants would have felt completely safe. Dawn Sturgess could never have imagined that she would lose her life to Novichok
“The truth is that a very small number of people can wreak utter havoc and Russia has a history of covert hostile activity.”
And she added: “I’m afraid it is naive and misguided to think that only men can be covert operatives. Or that refugee flows would not be subject to some form of exploitation.
“There are those who would come to our country – to this country – who would mean us harm and would plot to strike at our very way of life.
“The processes that we have put in place closely follow the advice of our intelligence and security services. They mean we can help Ukrainians in need without making our country less safe.
“State threats and terrorism take many forms. They also thrive on indifference and on appeasement and now we are seeing them supplemented by new types of targeted biological, chemical, cyber warfare, ransomware and online threats.
“Our duty is to safeguard our country’s interests and we will never take our eye off the ball when it comes to the safety and security of our country.”
Britain’s foreign secretary has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of using talks with Ukraine as a “smokescreen” while he ramps up violence against the country.
Liz Truss told the Times of London newspaper that she was “very skeptical” about Russia’s seriousness in the talks, accusing Russian forces of trying to create space to regroup and unblock their stalled campaign.
She said that “we don’t see any serious withdrawal of Russian troops or any serious proposals on the table” and said Russia would resort to “worse and worse” violence as its military campaign falters.
The head of Britain’s defence intelligence agency, Lt. Gen. Jim Hockenhull, says Russian forces have shifted to a “strategy of attrition” after failing to take major Ukrainian cities during the three-week invasion.
Zaporizhzhia regional governor Oleksandr Starukh has announced a 38-hour curfew in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, to last from 4 p.m. local time on Saturday until 6 a.m. on Monday.
Starukh said on Telegram on Saturday: “For your safety, do not go out into the streets and other public places during this time.”
Two missile strikes on the suburbs of Zaporizhzhia killed nine people on Friday, wounded 17 more and left five others with injuries, a spokesman of the Zaporizhzhia regional administration Ivan Arefiev reported Saturday.
Local authorities continue to evacuate people from settlements taken over by the Russians and deliver humanitarian aid to them, he said.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk announced on Saturday that 10 humanitarian corridors have been agreed on with the Russians.
They include a corridor from the besieged port city of Mariupol, several in the Kyiv region and several in the Luhansk region.
She also announced plans to deliver humanitarian aid to the city of Kherson, which is currently under control of the Russian forces.
In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces are blockading the largest cities with the goal of creating such miserable conditions that Ukrainians will cooperate. He said the Russians are preventing supplies from reaching surrounded cities in central and southeastern Ukraine.
Satellite images on Friday from Maxar Technologies showed a long line of cars leaving Mariupol as people tried to evacuate. Zelensky said more than 9,000 people were able to leave the city in the past day.
US service members killed
The prime minister of Norway says four U.S. service members have died in a plane crash during NATO drills.
Jonas Gahr Støre tweeted that the service members were participating in the NATO exercise “Cold Response,” which is taking place in northern Norway.
He wrote: “Our deepest sympathies go to the soldiers’ families, relatives and fellow soldiers in their unit.”
The annual drills in Norway are unrelated to the war in Ukraine. This year they included around 30,000 troops, 220 aircraft and 50 vessels from 27 countries. Non-NATO members Finland and Sweden are also participating.
The exercises began on March 14 and end on April 1.
According to the Norwegian police, the American V-22B Osprey aircraft that crashed belonged to the U.S. Marine Corps.
The aircraft had a crew of four and was out on a training mission in Nordland County on Friday. It was on its way north to Bodø, where it was scheduled to land just before 6 p.m. Friday.
The plane crashed in Gråtådalen in Beiarn, south of Bodø. Police said a search and rescue mission was launched immediately. At 1:30 a.m. Saturday, the police arrived at the scene and confirmed that the crew of four had died.
The Prosecutor General’s office in Ukraine says a total of 112 children have died in the country since the start of the Russian invasion.
The office says more than 140 children have been wounded since February 24.
According to the U.N. children’s agency, more than 1.5 million children had fled Ukraine.
Most families have fled to Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Moldova and Romania.
UNCIEF says women and girls travelling on their own are especially at risk of gender-based violence.
In the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian and Russian forces are fighting for the Azovstal steel plant, one of the biggest in Europe, said Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior minister, in televised remarks on Saturday.
“Now there is a fight for Azovstal. … I can say that we have lost this economic giant. In fact, one of the largest metallurgical plants in Europe is actually being destroyed,” Denysenko said.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces are blockading Ukraine’s largest cities to create a “humanitarian catastrophe” with the aim of persuading Ukrainians to cooperate with them.
He says Russians are preventing supplies from reaching surrounded cities in the centre and southeast of the country.
“This is a totally deliberate tactic,” Zelenskyy said in his nighttime video address to the nation, filmed outside in Kyiv, with the presidential office in the lamplight behind him.
He said more than 9,000 people were able to leave besieged Mariupol in the past day, and in all more than 180,000 people have been able to flee to safety through humanitarian corridors.
He again appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to hold talks with him directly. “It’s time to meet, time to speak,” he said. “I want to be heard by everyone, especially in Moscow.”
He noted that the 200,000 people Putin gathered in and around a Moscow stadium on Friday for a flag-waving rally was about the same number of Russian troops sent into Ukraine three weeks ago.
Zelensky then asked his audience to picture the stadium filled with the thousands of Russians who have been killed, wounded or maimed in the fighting.
Three Russian cosmonauts have arrived at the International Space Station wearing flight suits in yellow and blue colors that match the Ukrainian flag.
The men were the first new arrivals on the space station since the start of the Russian war in Ukraine last month.
Video of one of the cosmonauts taken as the capsule prepared to dock with the space station showed him wearing a blue flight suit. It was unclear what, if any, message the yellow uniforms they changed into were intended to send.
Oleg Artemyev was asked about the yellow flight suits when the newly arrived cosmonauts were able to talk to family back on Earth.
He said every crew chooses its own flight suits, so that they are not all the same.
“It became our turn to pick a colour. But in fact, we had accumulated a lot of yellow material so we needed to use it. So that’s why we had to wear yellow,” he said.
Artemyev, Denis Matveyev and Sergey Korsakov blasted off successfully from the Russia-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan in their Soyuz MS-21 spacecraft at 8:55 p.m. Friday (11:55 a.m. EDT). They smoothly docked at the station just over three hours later, joining two Russians, four Americans and a German on the orbiting outpost.
Ukraine lost access to the Azov Sea during Russia’s siege of the southern port city of Mariupol, the Ukrainian General Staff said late Friday.
Mariupol is the key commercial port on the Azov Sea, which is connected to the much larger Black Sea by a narrow strait.
The General Staff said the Russian forces were still trying to storm Mariupol and the fighting was ongoing. It was unclear from its statement whether the Russians have seized the city.
Ukraine’s interior minister said Friday that it will take years to defuse unexploded ordnances after the Russian invasion.
Speaking to The Associated Press in the besieged Ukrainian capital, Denys Monastyrsky said that the country will need Western assistance to cope with the massive task once the war is over.
“A huge number of shells and mines have been fired at Ukraine and a large part haven’t exploded, they remain under the rubble and pose a real threat,” Monastyrsky said. “It will take years, not months, to defuse them.”
In addition to the unexploded Russian ordnances, the Ukrainian troops also have planted land mines at bridges, airports and other key infrastructure to prevent Russians from using them.
“We won’t be able to remove the mines from all that territory, so I asked our international partners and colleagues from the European Union and the United States to prepare groups of experts to demine the areas of combat and facilities that came under shelling,” Monastyrsky told the AP.
He noted that another top challenge is dealing with fires caused by the relentless Russian barrages. He said there’s a desperate shortage of personnel and equipment to deal with the fires amid the constant shelling.
Russia’s first deputy U.N. ambassador says Twitter has blocked his account, accusing him of “abuse and harassment,” due to a tweet about the maternity hospital in the besieged southern Ukrainian city of Mariupol.
“This is very deplorable,” Dmitry Polyansky told reporters after a U.N. Security Council meeting Friday, “and this clearly illustrates how much alternative view and free press, and free information is valued by Twitter and in this country.”
Polyansky, who had more than 22,000 followers and was a prolific Twitter user, said he received a message earlier Friday from Twitter’s cloud service saying he was violating Twitter’s rules and was “engaged in abuse and harassment.”
He said Twitter referred to his warning in a tweet on March 7 “that the hospital in Mariupol had been turned into a military object by radicals. Very disturbing that UN spreads disinformation without verification.”
Journalists who have been reporting from inside blockaded Mariupol since early in the war, documented the March 10 attack on the maternity hospital and saw the victims and damage firsthand. They shot video and photos of several bloodstained, pregnant mothers fleeing the blown-out maternity ward as medical workers shouted and children cried.
https://www.independent.ie/news/putins-invasion-motivated-by-total-panic-that-free-ukraine-could-inspire-russians-to-rise-up-boris-johnson-says-41464686.html Putin’s invasion motivated by ‘total panic’ that free Ukraine could inspire Russians to rise up, Boris Johnson says