Putin will be ‘isolated for decades to come’ over Ukraine invasion – Wallace

The Defence Secretary said normal diplomatic relations with Russia will be ‘almost impossible’.

Geraldine Scott
Thursday 03 March 2022 11:32
Putin will be ‘isolated for decades to come’ over Ukraine invasion, says Wallace

The prospect of a normal diplomatic relationship with the Russian government is “almost impossible” after Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, the Defence Secretary has said.

Ben Wallace said it is not too late for the war to be stopped as he warned the Russian president will be “isolated for decades to come” as a war crimes investigation was launched.

Mr Wallace said a “line has clearly been crossed” by Moscow by deploying thermobaric “vacuum bombs” which could indiscriminately kill civilians if used in Ukrainian cities.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the prospect of a normal diplomatic relationship with Russia is ‘almost impossible’ after its invasion of Ukraine (James Manning/PA)

Security minister Damian Hinds suggested the UK could follow European allies in seizing luxury yachts and other assets from Russian oligarchs, as Foreign Secretary Liz Truss stressed the need to “keep our foot on the gas” with economic measures against Russia.

Pressure is increasing on Britain to do more to alleviate the humanitarian crisis unfurling in Europe as the United Nations said more than one million people have now fled Ukraine to seek sanctuary from the Russian invasion.

Speaking at a press conference in Estonia, Mr Wallace said: “This hasn’t finished here. The consequences of what we are seeing in Ukraine will ripple through Europe and Nato for not just weeks but months and years to come.”

He said it will “be very hard for the international community to engage” with Mr Putin “in the long term” following his invasion of a “sovereign country at huge scale, inflicting huge damage and violence”.

(PA Graphics)

Mr Wallace said the idea of a “normal relationship with the Russian government” is “almost impossible as a result of what we have seen in Ukraine unless President Putin chooses to cease what he is doing now”.

He added: “How far he will go, what weapons he will authorise to achieve his ultimate aim is unknown, but we have seen the use of massive amounts of artillery, we’ve seen the deployment of thermobaric artillery weapon systems, and we worry how broad those could go.”

It was understood that Mr Wallace was not suggesting that vacuum bombs, which suck in oxygen to create a devastating, high-temperature blast, have been used in Ukraine.

Ms Truss said officials are “fast-forwarding sanctions against Russian oligarchs” but there is frustration that they are not coming quickly enough.

It’s vital at this juncture that we keep our foot on the gas

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss

“It’s vital at this juncture that we keep our foot on the gas,” she added at a press conference at the Lithuanian ministry of foreign affairs as Britain sought to show support on Nato’s eastern flank.

Russia is becoming increasingly isolated from the rest of the world.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) opened a war crimes investigation on Wednesday night after Britain and 37 allies referred Moscow over what Prime Minister Boris Johnson described as “abhorrent” attacks.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab, who has worked on prosecuting war crimes as a lawyer, has said the UK will assist the ICC in hunting down suspected Russian war criminals.

Mr Hinds told LBC there is “every indication Vladimir Putin is absolutely guilty” of war crimes.

“But it is also really important that not only he, but the generals, the officers in his army, know that evidence is being gathered and that people can be held to account through the international justice system,” he said.

On Thursday, the International Paralympic Committee reversed its original decision and decided to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Beijing Winter Paralympics.

IPC president Andrew Parsons said 83 athletes will now be unable to compete and the decision was taken because of the threat of widespread withdrawals from other countries if Russia and Belarus were allowed to take part.

Private companies have also continued to pull their services from Russia, with clothing retailer Asos refusing to operate in the country.

(PA Graphics)

Mr Hinds said more individuals will be sanctioned by the UK and appeared to suggest the UK could seize assets of Russian oligarchs.

The minister was told on LBC that German authorities have seized Alisher Usmanov’s yacht, and he was asked whether similar action on elite Russians should be taken in Britain.

Mr Hinds said: “Yeah, and, look, we are going to go further.

“We’ve acted very quickly on the initial round of sanctions – that includes individuals as well as organisations, banks and so on – but we’ve always been clear it is a ratchet approach and there can be more to come.

“Specifically on assets, we’ve got legislation going through Parliament at the moment – we’re debating it on Monday – to include bolstering unexplained wealth orders, which are a potentially potent tool that can open investigations to lead to the proceeds of crime being seized.

(PA Graphics)

“We need to gum up that system, we need to stop it, to stop the money laundering, but also, as you rightly say, where it is possible – and obviously we operate within a legal framework – we are absolutely motivated to seize the proceeds of crime.”

Mr Hinds said he is “desperately concerned” about the situation in Ukraine, as the port city of Kherson had fallen to the Russians, according to its mayor.

“This is a ruthless invading force. When it comes to tactics and military strategy, I’m not going to second-guess Vladimir Putin and what he might be thinking, what might be in his head,” the minister said.

“But we do know that this is a ruthless force, an extremely dangerous (force), obviously imminently right now for Ukraine, but actually dangerous for wider Europe and the world.”

A second round of talks aimed at ending the fighting is expected to take place between Ukraine and Russia on Thursday, but there is little hope of agreement.

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