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Sturgeon: UK must turn rhetoric on Russia into action in ‘critical moment’

Scotland’s First Minister said the crisis in Ukraine could be ‘the most critical moment for the world since the Second World War’.

23 February 2022

The UK Government must expand Russian sanctions in what could be the most “critical moment since the Second World War” for the world, Scotland’s First Minister has said.

Speaking after a meeting with the acting Consul General of Ukraine, Yevhen Mankovskyi, and Linda Allison, the chairwoman of the Scottish branch of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, Ms Sturgeon said she wants to see “rhetoric matched by action”.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced what he called a “first barrage” of sanctions against five banks and three individuals linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sanctions were also set to be placed on Russian politicians who vote to recognise the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine.

But the First Minister called for more to be done, saying: “I don’t think that the UK Government is yet doing enough in the form of sanctions,” she told STV News.

“We’ve had, rightly and properly, some very tough rhetoric from Boris Johnson and the UK Government in recent weeks, we now need that rhetoric matched by action.

“That’s important because this is a critical moment for Ukraine, but it’s a critical moment for the world.

“The choice at this moment in history is to hit Putin hard with the severest of sanctions so that he understands there will be consequences for his imperialist aggression, or we don’t do that and he becomes further emboldened.”

Ms Sturgeon called for Russian broadcaster RT to have its licence revoked, along with more to be done to weed out Russian assets in London.

“London is awash with Russian money and the UK Government must target that wealth, those assets, wherever they are and the Russian interests that benefit from those assets and wealth.

“They will know where those assets are but there must be a very serious, systematic approach to sanctions and there must be efforts made to ensure that trade is disrupted to make sure that Russia feels that.”

The First Minister said it should be the “elite” of Russia that should be impacted by any sanctions and not the citizens.

She added that the Scottish Government would support any action against Russian interests in Scotland.

The First Minister stressed the importance and severity of the situation on Ukraine’s eastern border – where a reported 200,000 Russian troops have been massing.

She said: “This is a moment to stand up for independence, for sovereignty, for territorial integrity and for democracy around the world.

“This is probably the most critical moment for the world since the Second World War and time will tell whether the world stands up and defends the values and the principles that we hold dear, or allow people like Putin to ride roughshod over that.”

The international community was also urged by Ms Sturgeon not to simply “move on”.

“This is a moment where Putin has to be left in no doubt,” she said.

“Because what we have seen in the past with Crimea, with Georgia before it, is that the world is aghast for a short time and then it moves on, and Putin is left to consolidate his gains and think that he can continue to act in this way with no consequence whatsoever.”

Countries across the world, especially smaller nations, would learn a “hard lesson” if the Russian president were allowed to “get away” with aggression towards Ukraine, the First Minister said.

Ms Allison said she was “very disappointed” with the sanctions and that Ukrainians living in Scotland were afraid for the future.

“We’re afraid for our family, we’re afraid for our friends, we’re afraid for Ukraine,” she said.

“It’s a relatively new country in terms of independence, it’s a beautiful country that’s got so much future so, of course, we’re very, very worried.”

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