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West could target Russia’s gold reserves over Ukraine, says Boris Johnson

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Ahead of NATO summit, PM says Putin crossed ‘red line’ and sending more weapons should be part of West’s response

Boris Johnson has said that Vladimir Putin has already “crossed a red line” that calls for an increased response from the West, suggesting that allies should send new weapons to Ukraine, expand restrictions on international payments and target Russia’s gold reserves. .

The prime minister said the UK would impose sanctions against the Wagner Group, a paramilitary unit operating as Putin’s private army, whose mercenaries are allegedly tasked with assassinating the Ukrainian president and other key figures.

“We have to step up, we have to increase our support, we have to harden the economic vice around Putin, sanctioning more people today like we are sanctioning the Wagner Group,” Johnson told broadcasters before NATO and the G7. summits in Brussels on Thursday.

In comments likely to delight Downing Street, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Johnson “has proven to be the most active participant in the race to be anti-Russian,” according to the RIA news agency.

Johnson’s spokesman said the prime minister was “one of the most vocal anti-Putin leaders. We have no problem with the Russian people and, in fact, we have seen many bravely protest, especially [the imprisoned opposition leader] Alexei Navalny, against the Putin regime, and ask them to stop this war.”

Overnight, the prime minister said the UK would double the number of British missiles sent to Ukraine with an additional 6,000 and send an additional £25m to Ukraine’s military. Officials suggested it would enter European leaders to rapidly ramp up lethal aid.

Johnson said there were a number of options to further tighten the Russian economy and help Ukraine’s defenses.

“We need to do more and therefore we need to do it more cheaply. Can we do more to stop it? [Putin] using your gold reserves, for example, in addition to your cash reserves? he told LBC. “The more pressure we apply now, particularly on things like gold, I think the more we can shorten the war… And then we need to do more to provide military support to the Ukrainians.”

NATO countries are expected to agree at Thursday’s emergency summit to provide special equipment to protect Ukrainians against any chemical, biological or nuclear attack launched by Russia.

Johnson said he would insist that the siege of Mariupol and the indiscriminate attacks on civilians must be seen as a further escalation, and that the use of chemical or biological weapons should not be the standard for further punitive measures.

Western officials have said that the Ukrainians and Russians are running out of weapons as the conflict progresses due to a more successful-than-expected Ukrainian defense, and that they had anticipated they would support a smaller Ukrainian insurgency at this stage. .

Johnson said that meant the West had to keep Ukraine supplied with weapons. “The most important thing that has come out in the last month, the great fact that the world now knows, is that the Ukrainian people will fight for their country,” he said.

“That was something we really didn’t know a month ago. We have a duty to help them protect themselves and their loved ones. And so the UK is stepping up again.”

Western officials said there must now be a consensus that Russia is pursuing such a “barbaric” strategy in places like Mariupol that an escalation in the war should be considered, deserving of a new response.

“The point I’m going to make today is … he’s already crossed a threshold of barbarism in the way he’s behaving,” Johnson said. “People talk about new red lines for tactical nuclear weapons, biological weapons, chemical weapons or whatever. For me, the red line has already been crossed.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy addressed leaders including US President Joe Biden at the NATO meeting in Brussels on Thursday morning via video link.

“You have thousands of fighter planes. But they haven’t given us any yet. We ask for tanks so we can unlock our cities that are now dying,” he said. “You have at least 20,000 tanks. Ukraine asked to give us or sell 1% of all their tanks, but we still don’t have a clear answer. The worst thing during war is not having clear answers to requests for help.”

Poland is expected to present a proposal at the meeting for a multinational peacekeeping mission in Ukraine, but there is no support from the US or many other allies for a no-fly zone or any other direct NATO intervention. , despite the increasingly bloody fighting.

Related: One month later: how a tragedy has unfolded in Ukraine

NATO leaders on Thursday are also expected to agree to increase troop deployments on the alliance’s eastern flank.

EU leaders will hold meetings later in the day. Biden will be a guest at the EU summit, but Johnson has not been invited. The other meetings are likely to focus on trying to agree on a further tightening of economic sanctions.

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced a new wave of UK sanctions ahead of the summit, including against defense companies and six new banks.

New people subject to sanctions include Tinkoff bank founder Oleg Tinkov; Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s stepdaughter Polina Kovaleva, the owner of a luxury apartment in London; and Galina Danilchenko, installed by Russia as mayor of Melitopol as part of attempts to create a puppet regime in the occupied areas of Ukraine.

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