EU referendum: Boris Johnson labelled a 'Putin apologist' after Russia remarks

Former Mayor of London criticised for saying the European Union was partially to blame for the Russian invasion of Ukraine

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Boris Johnson has accused the Remain campaign of “smearing” him after he was accused of being a “Putin apologist”. 

Speaking at a Vote Leave event, the former Mayor of London suggested the EU’s “pretensions to be running a defence policy” were partly to blame for the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

He launched a personal attack on David Cameron following the Prime Minister’s speech where he warned the continent was in danger of slipping into another war if Britain voted Leave on 23 June.

He said Mr Cameron had failed to win anything from his EU renegotiation and could not understand why he was not campaigning to leave. 

Number 10 rejected Mr Johnson’s comments a few hours later, saying “Russia alone” bears the responsibility for the Ukrainian crisis. 

Ukraine’s economy and political systems are at breaking point after Russia invaded and seized control of the Crimea in 2014. 

The restive province of Donetsk in the east of the country is still outside Kiev’s control and is believed to be being armed by Russian forces. 

Rebels shot down the MH17 flight as it flew over Donetsk in July 2015, using what is believed to have been Russian made equipment, killing all 298 people on board. 

Sir Jack Straw, former Labour foreign secretary and key member of the Remain campaign, told the Daily Telegraph Mr Johnson has “plumbed new depths” and called him a “Putin apologist”. 

Mr Johnson hit back saying Sir Jack’s claims for the Remain campaign had “shown the depths to which they will sink in smears” against Brexiters, adding they were “absolutely contemptible”. 

The Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP said he had repeatedly condemned the Russian attack on Ukraine and insisted his comments were not controversial as the EU’s handling of the crisis was “far from ideal”. 

Mr Johnson was reacting to a speech given by Mr Cameron earlier on Monday where the referred to a “serried row of white headstones” in cemeteries for the British war dead across Europe. 

Mr Cameron said throughout British history, whenever “we turn our back on Europe, sooner or later we come to regret it”. 

“Either we influence Europe, or it influences us,” he said.

“And if things go wrong in Europe, let’s not pretend we can be immune from the consequences.”

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