Vladimir Putin has already crossed the “red line” with war crimes committed by his troops in Ukraine and should be brought before the International Criminal Court to face justice, Boris Johnson said on Thursday.
Ahead of a meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels, the prime minister urged the West to toughen Putin’s regime economically and militarily, including putting more pressure on Russia to use its gold reserves.
Speaking to LBC Radio, Johnson said: “He has already crossed the threshold of barbarism.
“People talk about new red lines for tactical, biological, and chemical nuclear weapons… to me, the red line has already been crossed.
“It is indiscriminately bombing civilian centers, it is causing a large number of victims in totally innocent populations.”
With frightening reports of a series of atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine since the invasion began four weeks ago, the prime minister added: “It is certainly true, as Joe Biden has said, that the Russian war machine is already guilty of war crimes.
“It is right that Russia is now called before the International Court of Justice and it is right that President Putin appears before the International Criminal Court.
“There is no doubt that what they are doing are war crimes.”
He stressed that there was a need to collect evidence on Russia’s use of thermobaric weapons and “deliberate targeting” of civilians and then prosecute them.
Russia invades Ukraine – In pictures
Western nations warned Putin on Thursday that his country will pay “ruinous” costs for invading Ukraine, during an unprecedented one-day trio of NATO, G7 and EU summits attended by US President Biden.
The eventful day of the summit to maintain Western unity will begin at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where leaders of the transatlantic defense alliance will agree to increase military forces on Europe’s eastern flank.
Johnson has announced a new British support package for the Ukrainian forces, which includes a further 6,000 missiles comprising anti-tank and high-explosive weapons.
Alarmed by the prospect of Russia escalating war with its neighbor after a month-long bitter conflict, the 30 NATO nations will also agree to send teams to kyiv to defend against biological, chemical and nuclear attacks.
The determination to punish Moscow with massive sanctions will be underscored by an emergency meeting of the G7 advanced economies.
Then, with a 27-nation European Union summit, the countries that account for more than half of the world’s gross domestic product will have come together in one day.
“We must ensure that the decision to invade an independent sovereign country is understood as a strategic failure that carries ruinous costs for Putin and Russia,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the EU parliament.
Russia’s assault on Ukraine has killed thousands and driven nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes, according to United Nations data, including more than 3.6 million who have fled the country.
Putin says his forces are involved in a “special military operation” to demilitarize Ukraine.
Ukraine and the West say that Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
“President Putin has made a big mistake,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said upon arriving at the meeting, noting the strength of Ukraine’s resistance and the unity of the West.
In this “most serious security crisis in a generation,” Stoltenberg added, “as long as we stand together, we are safe.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will address the NATO and EU summits via video conference.
He has pleaded unsuccessfully for NATO to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, but Western allies have imposed sweeping sanctions against Russia and provided billions of dollars worth of weapons and aid for Ukraine’s defense.
Zelensky is calling street demonstrations around the world on Thursday to mark a month since Russia invaded Ukraine.
In his late-night video address, he said: “Come from your offices, your homes, your schools and universities, come in the name of peace, come with Ukrainian symbols to support Ukraine, to support freedom, to support life.”
NATO has greatly increased its presence on its eastern borders, with some 40,000 soldiers spread from the Baltic to the Black Sea.
Stoltenberg said the leaders would discuss deploying four new combat units to Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia.
“I hope the leaders will agree to strengthen NATO’s posture in all domains, with significant increases in the eastern part of the alliance. On land, in the air and at sea,” he said.
Washington said that Biden and his European counterparts would announce new sanctions against Russia and measures to tighten existing sanctions.
However, EU diplomats downplayed expectations of major new sanctions.
Russia has been excluded from world trade to a degree never before seen in such a large economy. But the largest loophole is an exception for its energy exports. Some EU member states are resisting calls to ban Russian oil and gas as they are heavily dependent on it.
EU leaders are expected to agree at their two-day summit to jointly buy gas as they seek to reduce reliance on Russian fuels and build a buffer against supply shocks.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted: “If any EU country bows to Putin’s humiliating demands to pay for oil and gas in rubles, it will be like helping Ukraine with one hand and helping the Russians to kill Ukrainians with the other. I urge the relevant countries to make a wise and responsible choice.
Brussels is also aiming to reach a deal with Biden to secure additional US liquefied natural gas supplies for the next two winters.”
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said: “The consequences of this war on Europe’s security architecture will be far-reaching…and I’m not just referring to security in military terms. But energy security, and even food security, is also at stake.”