Sunday 22 April 2018

Putin condemned as a 'thug' and 'liar' as EU prepares for sanctions

Britain claims that even since MH17 was shot down Russia continues to transfer weapon across the border to Ukraine
Britain claims that even since MH17 was shot down Russia continues to transfer weapon across the border to Ukraine

Ben Farmer

VLADIMIR Putin, Russia's president, is a "thug" and a "liar", one of Britain's most senior ambassadors said last night, as the EU prepares today to approve tough new sanctions against Moscow.

Peter Westmacott said the West's increasingly firm response to Russia was beginning to have an impact on the Kremlin.

He said Mr Putin's behaviour in Ukraine had been "thuggish, dishonest and reckless" and he "thought that he'd done pretty well after he stole Crimea".

"It doesn't look so good now," he said yesterday on the US cable channel MSNBC. "It's starting to look like this was the wrong call. This is a defining moment for what is going on in Ukraine.

"We've had some very bad behaviour from the Russian side for a long time and now we've had this terrible atrocity – the shooting down of the aircraft.

"We have to change the cost/benefit analysis for Putin, for the Russian people, for the government that they have elected there."

NATO has stepped up manoeuvres in Eastern Europe since the annexation of Crimea, with generals believing the alliance needs to reset its stance towards a more aggressive Kremlin.

Exercise Black Eagle is the latest NATO war game to be bolstered at short notice. Military sources said the exercise at Poland's Zagan training area had been significantly beefed up in recent weeks.

The confrontation over Ukraine is also likely to dominate a NATO summit in Wales in September.

"We have a strong opportunity at the NATO summit to discuss how we will continue our response to Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and its destabilisation of eastern Ukraine," said Britain's defence secretary Michael Fallon

Western leaders are concerned that the Kremlin has chosen to escalate the conflict in Ukraine, even after the downing of MH17, by carrying out cross-border artillery strikes and by sending more equipment to separatists

Tony Blinken, a national security adviser to US President Barack Obama, said existing sanctions did not appear to have forced Mr Putin to back off.

He said: "We've seen convoys of tanks, multiple rocket launchers, artillery, and armoured vehicles. There's evidence that it's preparing to deliver even more powerful multiple rocket launchers."

Dutch and Australian investigators were once again prevented from reaching the site of the Malaysia Airlines crash as fighting continued nearby.

Ukraine forces advanced on Donetsk, the pro-Russian separatist capital, from the east and there was fighting close to the site near the town of Torez.

Later in the day, Igor Girkin, the rebels' military chief, denied his troops had a Buk surface-to-air missile as he refused to be blamed for the downing of the jet. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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