Ukraine: Germany and Italy have ‘disgraced themselves’ over Russia sanctions, Donald Tusk says

‘In this war everything is real: Putin’s madness and cruelty, Ukrainian victims, bombs falling on Kyiv – only your sanctions are pretended’

Flight radar reveals airspace surrounding Ukraine remains empty

A former head of the European Council says Germany and Italy have “disgraced themselves” after blocking tough sanctions against Russia.

The EU hailed a 2am agreement on a “massive” package of measures in punishment for the Ukraine invasion, including a freeze on assets and a block on Russian banks’ access to European financial markets.

But there is an exemption for Moscow’s main source of revenue – energy exports – which means its banks will still enjoy lucrative revenues from gas and oil sales.

And Germany, France and Italy opposed a UK request to shut Russia out of the SWIFT international payments system – despite Ukraine saying the West would have “blood on its hands” if it refused.

The German finance minister, Christian Lindner, admitted Berlin refused to go further because of “a high risk that Germany will no longer be supplied with gas or raw materials”.

Donald Tusk, the European Commission president during the Brexit negotiations, hit out at EU countries for their “pretend” sanctions.

“In this war everything is real: Putin’s madness and cruelty, Ukrainian victims, bombs falling on Kyiv. Only your sanctions are pretended,” he tweeted.

“Those EU governments, which blocked tough decisions (i.e. Germany, Hungary, Italy) have disgraced themselves.”

Russian forces’ movements since the invasion began

The Ukrainian president has pleaded for tougher sanctions, as Kyiv was struck by air strikes with an expectation that Russian tanks would roll in later on Friday.

After speaking with Boris Johnson, Volodymyr Zelensky said his country “needs the support of partners more than ever”.

“We demand effective counteraction to the Russian Federation. Sanctions must be further strengthened,” he said.

The former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who became a lobbyist for Russian gas, has raised eyebrows by calling for restraint in the use of sanctions, to avoid endangering a return to dialogue.

Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, said Britain will “work all day” to try to get the SWIFT international payment system “turned off for Russia”.

“Unfortunately the Swift system is not in our control - it’s not a unilateral decision,” he told BBC Radio 4.

Setting out how SWIFT is used “to move money around”, Mr Wallace said: “When you pay Russia for its gas, it probably goes through the Swift system, for example.

“It is based in Belgium. It has a number of partners that control it, or nation states. We want it switched off. Other countries do not. We only have so many options.”

Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, said he opposed Russia being excluded from SWIFT, following the EU discussions.

“It’s very important that we decide on measures that have been prepared in recent weeks and reserve everything else for a situation where it is necessary to do other things as well,” he argued.

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