Boris Johnson has said the actions of Russian forces in Ukraine appear close to “genocide” as he pledged Britain will be in the “front rank” of nations imposing new sanctions on Moscow.
The US and the EU are both planning punishing new measures against Vladimir Putin’s regime amid a wave of international revulsion at reports of rape and the killings of civilians by his troops.
Ukrainian officials have said the bodies of at least 410 civilians have been discovered in Bucha and other towns around the capital, Kyiv, recaptured from the Russians as their forces pull back.
Speaking during a visit to a hospital in Welwyn Garden City, Mr Johnson said the latest disclosures underline the need for the international community to tighten the economic pressure on the Kremlin.
“I’m afraid, when you look at what’s happening in Bucha, the revelations that we are seeing from what Putin has done in Ukraine doesn’t look far short of genocide to me,” he said.
“It is no wonder people are responding in the way that they are.
“I have no doubt that the international community, Britain very much in the front rank, will be moving again in lockstep to impose more sanctions and more penalties on Vladimir Putin’s regime.”
The White House said the US and other Western allies intend to ban all new investment in Russia while tightening sanctions on its financial institutions and state-owned enterprises and on government officials and their family members.
The European Commission has also unveiled a proposed fifth round of sanctions, including a ban on coal imports, which could be adopted later on Wednesday once agreed by all 27 EU ambassadors.
Ahead of a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in Brussels, British foreign secretary Liz Truss said sanctions are “pushing the Russian economy back into the Soviet era” but they now need to go further.
Speaking on Tuesday, she said more than $350 billion of “Putin’s war chest” has been frozen, rendering unavailable over 60 per cent of the regime’s $604 billion of foreign currency reserves.
Following his impassioned appeal to the United Nations Security Council to establish Nuremberg-style tribunals to try those responsible for war crimes, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said sanctions have still not gone far enough.
In a video address to both houses of the Oireachtas on Wednesday, he said: “We still have to convince Europe that Russian oil cannot feed Russian military machinery with new sources of funding.”
He went on to accuse Russia of using hunger as a weapon of war against his people.
“They are destroying things that are sustaining livelihoods to people,” he said.
“Why are they doing this? Because for them hunger is a weapon against us, ordinary people as an instrument of domination.”
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 6 April 2022
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/3Oz7eZieEQ
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/6hxubnBabH
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) April 6, 2022
In its latest intelligence assessment, the UK Ministry of Defence warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the port city of Mariupol, which has endured weeks of bombardment by besieging Russian forces.
“The humanitarian situation in the city is worsening. Most of the 160,000 remaining residents have no light, communication, medicine, heat or water,” it said.
“Russian forces have prevented humanitarian access, likely to pressure defenders to surrender.”
Earlier, Mr Johnson issued a direct appeal to the Russian people to reject Mr Putin’s war in Ukraine, which he called a “stain” on their country’s honour.
In a video message posted online, the British prime minister urged Russians to download VPNs to enable them to circumvent the Kremlin’s media controls and see for themselves the atrocities being committed in their name.
Speaking in Russian, he said: “Your president stands accused of committing war crimes. But I cannot believe he’s acting in your name.”