Boris Johnson admitted ‘classic mistake’ over Russia: ‘Wanted to engage!’

Boris Johnson labels Russian invasion of Ukraine 'abomination'

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The Prime Minister will be grilled by the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, in the House of Commons today. At Prime Minister’s Questions, the Labour leader will ask Mr Johnson about the Government’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It is now two weeks since the beginning of Putin’s bloody and unprovoked assault on the country, in which thousands of people have been killed.

Amid the war, more than two million people have fled Ukraine, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The conflict was the main issue on the agenda at the last PMQs, which was attended by Ukrainian ambassador Vadym Prystaiko, who watched from the gallery.

Mr Starmer asked why Roman Abramovich, who owns Chelsea FC, was not subject to sanctions in the same way as other powerful Russian oligarchs.

Mr Johnson said it was not appropriate for him to comment on “individual cases” but said the “vice is tightening on the Putin regime” and that the Government would publish “a full list” of people linked to the Russian leader.

Mr Abramovich has confirmed he will sell Chelsea, with all net proceeds set to be donated “for the benefit of all victims of the war in Ukraine”.

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Despite Mr Johnson’s tough stance towards Putin over the war in Ukraine, the Prime Minister previously tried to “engage” with the Russian leader, which he admitted was a “mistake”.

The Tory leader made the admission in Washington DC in September 2018, when he was still the UK’s Foreign Secretary.

Mr Johnson was receiving an award from conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute.

He was asked about the biggest mistake of his career in politics.

He said: “When I became Foreign Secretary, I thought there was no objective reason why we should be quite so hostile to Russia.

“Yes, there were lots of reasons to be suspicious, lots of reasons to be wary.

“But I thought it was possible — I made the classic, classic mistake of thinking it was possible to have a ‘reset’ with Russia.

“I wanted to engage with Putin and Sergey Lavrov to see if… there were areas where we needed to engage.

“Then it just became clearer and clearer to me that that was a fool’s errand.”

Mr Johnson emphasised how, despite his initial approach to Russia, he now held Putin’s regime in “absolute contempt”.

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He addressed the poisonings of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March 2018.

The pair were exposed to the Russian novichok nerve agent, which had been smeared on the front door of Sergei’s former home in Salisbury.

Police officer Nick Bailey was also exposed to the lethal substance, as was Dawn Sturgess, who died after handling a contaminated perfume bottle.

The attack on British soil, believed to have been carried out by two Russian intelligence officers, saw the UK’s relations with Russia plunge to a new low.

During the event in Washington DC, Mr Johnson praised the US’ response to the situation after it joined the UK in expelling Russian diplomats and imposing sanctions on the country.

The Prime Minister went on to speak about other mistakes during his political career.

He said: “My strategy is to litter my career with so many decoy mistakes nobody knows what to attack.

“I’ve probably said something that the British media will decide is absolutely outrageous.

“I don’t know what it will be. But they’ll find something, believe me. The thing is to keep saying them.”

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