Boris Johnson urged to expel Russia’s ambassador to UK over Ukraine invasion

Exclusive: Labour says Andrei Kelin ‘of Putin’s rogue regime’ should be dismissed

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Saturday 26 February 2022 11:54 GMT
Russian Federation ambassador leaving the Foreign Office after being summoned by Liz Truss on 24 February, 2022
Russian Federation ambassador leaving the Foreign Office after being summoned by Liz Truss on 24 February, 2022 (PA)

Boris Johnson is being urged by a senior Tory MP and opposition parties at Westminster to expel Russia’s ambassador to the UK over the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

As Vladimir Putin’s military offensive entered its third day, Ukraine’s foreign minister called on allies to “fully isolate” Moscow – including by expelling ambassadors.

Dymtro Kuleba, who posted an image of a residential block damaged by missile fire, said: “Kyiv, our splendid, peaceful city, survived another night under attacks by Russian ground forces, missiles... I demand the world: fully isolate Russia, expel ambassadors, oil embargo, ruin its economy. Stop Russian war criminals.”

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, told The Independent the government should now expel Moscow’s top diplomat in London, Andrey Kelin. “The Russian ambassador is parroting the lies of Putin’s rogue regime, which is waging an illegal war against Ukraine,” he said. “The government should now expel Andrey Kelin from the UK.”

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, later added: “I think the Russian ambassador should be told to leave the country. Russia is invading a European country. It isn’t right that he is here. He should be told to go straight away.”

Senior Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood, who chairs the Commons Defence Committee, also replied “100 per cent” when asked by The Independent whether the ambassador should be expelled.

“All Nato countries could do this with immediacy,” he said. “We’ve just seen a completely illegal invasion of a sovereign state in Europe.”

He added: “I think there needs to be a series of measures of which this should just be one that continues the non-lethal pressure on Russia, to isolate Putin from the international community. We need to make it harder, not easier, for Russia to operate outside of its state.”

While insisting “backchannels” for ministers should be retained, Mr Ellwood also suggested he would like Russian intelligence officers in embassies to be dismissed too. “We know who these people are. We did it with effect after the novichok poisoning,” he said.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford backed the call, posting on social media: “Russia needs to face the full force of sanctions whilst we must do all we can to supply Ukraine what they need to defend themselves.

This map details the progress of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during Thursday and Friday (Press Association Images)

“With Russia now targeting hospitals and civilians, we need to step up. Boris Johnson should now expel Andrey Kelin the Russian ambassador to the UK”.

Earlier this week, Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, told Mr Kelin he should be “ashamed of himself” over the “illegal, unprovoked” invasion of Ukraine.

During the heated meeting on Thursday, Ms Truss also told the ambassador the Kremlin had “repeatedly lied about having no plans to invade” before kicking him out of the Foreign Office.

A damaged apartment block in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

After the meeting, a Foreign Office spokesperson said: “She reiterated there would be severe sanctions in retribution for the invasion, which will inflict pain on the Russian economy and those closely associated with the Kremlin.”

“She added that Russia should expect a long, protracted conflict that would inflict a huge human, economic and political cost on the Russian government. She said allies and partners are united in support for Ukraine, providing economic and defensive support.”

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