PM says ‘no way’ Ukraine joining Nato soon as Zelensky sees hope in peace talks

The Ukrainian President said Russia’s ceasefire demands were becoming ‘more realistic’.

16 March 2022

Boris Johnson said there is “no way Ukraine is going to join Nato anytime soon” as Ukraine’s leader said peace talks with Russia had taken a “realistic turn”.

The Prime Minister, who is visiting the Gulf as he tries to wean the West off Russian energy, said he understood the “reality of the position” expressed by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during an address to London.

The Kyiv war leader, in a video call to Mr Johnson and representatives from Baltic and northern European countries gathered on Tuesday, expressed his frustration that Ukraine had not been allowed to join Nato, but said: “This is the truth and we have simply to accept it as it is.”

Mr Johnson, speaking to broadcasters at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, said: “I talked to Volodymyr (Zelensky) again yesterday and of course I understand what he is saying about Nato and the reality of the position.

“And everybody has always said – and we’ve made it clear to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin – that there is no way Ukraine is going to join Nato any time soon.”

But Mr Johnson said decisions about the future of the country had to “be for the Ukrainian people” and their “elected leader” to make, as he vowed Britain would continue to “back” Mr Zelensky.

“And the most important thing is that Putin’s aggression, his absolutely barbaric attacks on Ukraine should stop and they should not be seen to have succeeded, and they won’t succeed,” the Prime Minister added.

Mr Zelensky, since addressing the London summit, has suggested peace talks between the Ukrainian and Russian delegations had started to produce hope of a ceasefire.

In his nightly video address to the nation early on Wednesday, the president said Russia’s demands were becoming “more realistic”.

The two sides were expected to speak again on Wednesday.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss appeared less optimistic in her assessment of the conflict, saying she feared “we are not near the end, at this stage”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed by video link Boris Johnson and leaders attending a summit of the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF) in London
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed by video link Boris Johnson and leaders attending a summit of the Joint Expeditionary Force in London (Justin Tallis/PA)

It comes as Ms Truss urged allies to step up their measures against Moscow, as she called for those in opposition to the war to sanction Russia.

The Cabinet minister announced more than 370 Russian and Belarussian sanctions on Tuesday, bringing the total number of individuals, entities, and subsidiaries put under strict measures at more than 1,000 since the invasion of Ukraine began.

Speaking to Sky News, Ms Truss argued that sanctions from the UK and other Western nations were having a “debilitating effect on the Russian economy”, with more to come from Britain.

Following the introduction of new powers lowering the threshold for applying sanctions, she said “we’ve got more individuals on our list”, as well as companies to target.

Pressing for allies to go further, the Foreign Secretary noted that the European Union had sanctioned three Russian banks – compared with the 10 targeted by the UK and US – adding that she would like to see Brussels “sanction even more” financial institutions.

She also argued that more sanctions could come “collectively” from the 141 countries that voted against Russia at the UN General Assembly.

The UK is working with allies “in the G7 and beyond”, Ms Truss said, to ensure Russian oligarchs have “nowhere where it is legitimate for them to live their lifestyles, have their yachts or have their planes”.

UK officials said on Tuesday that the public could expect more family members of oligarchs to face sanctions in the next wave of announcements.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Ukraine was continuing to have success in “stalling Russia’s advance”, with the Kremlin’s forces also “struggling to overcome the challenges posed by Ukraine’s terrain”.

There has also been a “failure to gain control of the air”, the department said, in its latest defence intelligence update.

“The tactics of the Ukrainian armed forces have adeptly exploited Russia’s lack of manoeuvre, frustrating the Russian advance and inflicting heavy losses on the invading forces,” the MoD tweeted.

The analysis comes after large explosions thundered across Kyiv before dawn from what Ukrainian authorities said were artillery strikes, as Russia’s bombardment of the capital appeared to become more systematic and edged closer to the city centre.

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