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

Boris Johnson has said Vladimir Putin has already “crossed a red line” that merits ramping up the west’s response, suggesting allies must send new weapons to Ukraine, expand curbs on international payments and target Russia’s gold reserves.

Overnight, Johnson said the UK would double the number of British missiles sent to Ukraine by sending an additional 6,000, and send an extra £25m to Ukraine’s military, and officials suggested he would entreat European leaders to rapidly increase lethal aid.

Speaking before a Nato and G7 summit in Brussels on Thursday, Johnson said there were a number of options to further squeeze the Russian economy and aid Ukraine’s defences.

“We need to do more, and so we need to do more economically. Can we do more to stop him [Putin] using his gold reserves, for instance, in addition to his cash reserves?” he told LBC. “The more pressure we apply now, particularly on things like gold, I believe the more we can shorten the war … And then we need to do more to give the Ukrainians military support.”

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

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

Western officials have said the Ukrainians and the Russians are running short of weapons as the conflict grinds on owing to a Ukrainian defence that been more successful than expected – and that they had anticipated they would be supporting a smaller Ukrainian insurgency by this stage.

On Wednesday the UK chief of defence intelligence, Lt Gen Sir Jim Hockenhull, said the Russian advance had stalled considerably, “surprised by the scale and ferocity of the Ukrainian resistance,” and the Kremlin was now pursuing a “strategy of attrition which will involve the reckless and indiscriminate use of firepower”.

Johnson said that meant the west had to keep Ukraine supplied with weapons. “The big thing that has emerged in the last month – the huge fact that the world now knows – is that the Ukrainian people will fight for their country. They believe in their country, they love their country. They’re going to defend it,” he said.

“That was something we didn’t really know a month ago. It’s now absolutely clear. That’s changed geopolitics. It means that we have a duty to help them. 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 such as Mariupol that it should be considered to be an escalation in the war that merits 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 chemical, biological, tactical nuclear weapons or whatever. For me the red line already has been crossed. He’s bombing indiscriminately civilian centres. He’s causing huge numbers of casualties in wholly innocent populations.”

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, will address leaders including the US president, Joe Biden, at the Nato meeting in Brussels on Thursday morning via video link.

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.

The Kremlin has warned Nato countries not to deploy peacekeepers to Ukraine, saying that could lead to a direct confrontation between Russia and Nato. A deployment would be a “reckless and extremely dangerous decision”, the Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said during a phone call with journalists on Wednesday.

Nato leaders are also expected on Thursday to agree to increase troop deployments on its eastern flank with the creation of four new multinational battlegroups in Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary to protect against any sudden Russian attack, alongside those already established in Poland and the Baltic states.

G7 and EU leaders will hold meetings later in the day, with Biden a guest at the EU summit – to which Johnson has not been invited. The other meetings are likely to focus on trying to agree a further toughening of economic sanctions.

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