PM believes Putin intends to ‘double down’ on Ukraine invasion

Boris Johnson says the Russian president appears set on continuing with the ‘destruction’ in Ukraine.

04 March 2022

Boris Johnson believes Vladimir Putin intends to “double down” on his invasion of Ukraine, as the Russian president envisages “no way out” but to “continue with the destruction”.

In an interview with La Repubblica, Die Welt and El Pais, the Prime Minister described the moment he was woken in the middle of the night to the news of Russian shelling of a nuclear power station in Ukraine, saying European security is “equally jeopardised” by such an attack.

“I was woken because poor Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky was extremely concerned about what was happening at the nuclear power plant Zaporizhzhia,” he said.

(PA Graphics)

“He rang me to say something that I agreed with profoundly, which is: an attack on a nuclear power plant or an explosion at a nuclear power plant are clearly a matter of our common European health and safety.

“Our security is equally involved, equally jeopardised by such an attack. We remember what happened with Chernobyl, the radioactive clouds spread over the whole continent, and indeed, also to North America, as far as I can remember.

“There is clearly a risk. Although the incident has been contained and the IAEA says there’s no excessive radioactivity, I am concerned about how we stop a disaster: there are other Ukrainian plants and there are certainly other Ukrainian radioactive nuclear waste sites.

“One of the things we need to consider is how we’re going to work together to prevent such a disaster. I don’t think the answers are easy, but we need to work on it.”

He added: “We need to work on it urgently. One of the reasons why Putin has, I think, miscalculated so badly in this appalling war is because he underestimated badly the willingness of the Ukrainians to fight and to defend their territory, their belief in their country, their love of their country.

“He misunderstood the character of the Ukrainians and of their resolve, and he underestimated President Zelensky as well, he’s been extraordinary.

“Putin also underestimated Western unity, and the governments of all the countries represented around this table have really worked together, very effectively, to produce a package of economic sanctions that has had a very considerable effect on Russia.”

Mr Johnson said it appears Mr Putin is set on continuing with the “destruction” in Ukraine.

“It feels to me as though Vladimir Putin has decided to – and it’s clear from what’s happening – that he’s decided to double down,” he said.

“He sees no way out of the cul-de-sac that he’s in, except to continue with the destruction, the pulverising of innocent populations, in innocent European cities.

“So we will have to respond together with an intensified package. I also want to thank and to congratulate other European governments, all of whom have now really stepped up to the plate in delivering support for the Ukrainians and support for the Ukrainian right to self-defence.

“We must not accept the narrative of Vladimir Putin that this is about him versus Nato, or him versus the West.”

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