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BBC Newsnight: Boris and Biden ‘pulling their punches’ as Putin ‘priced in’ sanctions

Sir David Lidington, 65, appeared on BBC Newsnight to discuss sanction measures introduced by the UK Government yesterday. Boris Johnson, 57, imposed sanctions which would see five Russian banks and three billionaires have their assets frozen.

The Prime Minister said the measures accounted for the “first barrage” of sanctions which followed a “renewed invasion” of Ukraine.

But Sir David, who once acted as deputy Prime Minister, told the national broadcaster he hoped the measures against Russia would go further.

The former Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster, Cabinet Office Minister and de facto Deputy Prime Minister said: “I think we could be doing more and I felt that I understand the reasons why I think the British, like the American Government and probably the EU tomorrow, are slightly pulling their punches in the hope that Putin will stop at the already Russian-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine and not go further.

“My own view is that Putin is only likely to be deterred, if at all, by countermeasures and sanctions that are stronger than he has expected and I think a lot of what has been announced today regrettably will have been priced in.

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“So, we do need to go further. I hope the Government is right in its judgement that it is worth just trying one more time to see if this conflict can be contained because of the human misery and loss of life that’ll be caused otherwise.

“But my own view is that we need to go further and the sooner we get on with that the better.

“The Government has taken enabling powers to sanction a wide range of sectors of Russian finance and business, the people and the companies involved with it.

“So, they have been making powers, they can bring those forward at the drop of a hat.”

He added: “The imposition of sanctions can, of course, be made conditional upon Putin respecting Ukraine’s internationally recognised frontiers, including by Russia, of course, in more than one international treaty.

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Sir David, who opposed Brexit in the 2016 referendum and backed Rory Stewart in the 2019 Tory leadership race, explained: “It is certainly a chance for him to demonstrate leadership and, you know, I’m not exactly a paid-up member of the Prime Minister’s fan club, particularly on European policy, but I do think on Ukraine so far he’s handled things right.

“I am disappointed sanctions didn’t go further today but the strong stance he has taken in support of Ukrainian sovereignty and self-determination seems to me to be absolutely the right one.”

The Prime Minister is currently subject to a Metropolitan Police investigation into allegations Mr Johnson attended lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street.

Partygate threatened to derail the Prime Minister after the so-called ‘pork pie plotters’ attempted to oust Mr Johnson from office.

However, the Prime Minister appeared to see off the challenge and currently clings onto power.



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