PM says EU must choose between Ukraine's freedom or Russia's gas

Boris Johnson says EU must choose between Ukraine’s freedom or buying gas from Russia and accuses Putin and Belarus of ‘contriving’ to create migrant crisis on Polish border

  • Johnson urged allies to ‘work ever more closely with those who share our values’ 
  • PM made comments at speech to dignitaries at Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London
  • Comes amid criticism of authoritarian president of Belarus over migrant crisis 

Boris Johnson has announced that the EU must choose between the freedom of Belarus or buying gas from Russia. 

He urged allies to ‘work ever more closely with those who do share our values and instincts’, as he issued a warning over European reliance on Russian gas through the Nord Stream 2 supply line. 

The Prime Minister made the comments in a speech to business leaders, diplomats and dignitaries at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet in London tonight and said: ‘So when we say that we support the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, that is not because we want to be adversarial to Russia, or that we want in some way strategically to encircle or undermine that great country.

‘And when our Polish friends asked for our help to deal with a contrived crisis on their border with Belarus, we were quick to respond.

Polish Territorial Defence Forces build additional fence where hundreds of migrants camp at the Belarus side of Kuznica Bialostocka-Bruzgi border crossing

Boris Johnson urged allies to ‘work ever more closely with those who do share our values and instincts’

Large ground forces deployment on the northern edge of the town of Yelnya, Smolensk Oblast, Russia

Map showing points of origin and destination of the Nord Stream pipe (solid line) and Nord Stream 2 pipeline (dotted line) between Russia and Germany. Putin hoped Nord Stream 2 would be finished two years ago, allowing Russia to bypass Ukraine in the south, which carries 50% of gas from Russia out via Poland

Brussels has accused Mr Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin (left), of deliberately encouraging the migrants to breach its borders in retaliation for sanctions the EU has imposed in response to his repressive rule

‘And we hope that our friends may recognise that a choice is shortly coming between mainlining ever more Russian hydrocarbons in giant new pipelines and sticking up for Ukraine and championing the cause of peace and stability, let me put it that way.’

It comes as Boris Johnson criticised the authoritarian president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, of an ‘abhorrent’ attempt to engineer a migrant crisis in an effort to undermine European unity.   

He said the UK stands ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with its European allies as EU foreign ministers considered fresh sanctions against the regime in Minsk.  

Thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, are trapped on the Belarus border with Poland, where the authorities are refusing to allow them to enter the EU.

Migrants gather on the Belarusian-Polish border near the Polish border crossing in Kuznica

Polish Territorial Defence Forces build additional razor wire fence where hundreds of migrants camp at the Belarus side of the border 

Polish defence soldiers secure additional fencing where hundreds of migrants are camped at the Belarusian side of the border 

Brussels has accused Mr Lukashenko, a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, of deliberately encouraging the migrants to breach its borders in retaliation for sanctions the EU has imposed in response to his repressive rule.

The Ministry of Defence announced on Friday that it was sending a small contingent of UK armed forces personnel to Poland to provide engineering support at the border.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: ‘With reference to Poland, what we are seeing are the latest in a series of abhorrent attempts by the Lukashenko regime to engineer a migrant crisis to undermine Poland and others in the region.

‘We stand in solidarity with our European partners and our commitment is to ensuring the Lukashenko regime is held accountable for its actions.’

Polish Territorial Defence Forces line the Belarusian border amid a migrant crisis 

Polish soldiers add more barbed wire to the border with Belarus amid the migrant crisis 

EU foreign ministers are now expected to expand sanctions against Belarus to include airlines, travel agents and individuals alleged to be helping to entice migrants to Europe in what is being described as a ‘hybrid attack’ on the bloc.

It follows a call by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to Mr Putin to intervene to halt what she called the ‘shameful manufactured migrant crisis’ unfolding in the region.

The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, expressed concern that the situation could quickly escalate into something more serious.

Typhoon aircraft launched today from RAFLossiemouth and RAFConingsby. This was in response to Russian TU-160 Blackjack aircraft approaching UK Airspace

‘I think this is a classic case of the sort of hybrid playbook where you link disinformation to destabilisation and the idea of pushing migrants on to the European Union’s borders is a classic example of that sort of thing,’ he told the BBC.

Meanwhile, Downing Street has also voiced concern about the build-up of Russian forces on Russia’s border with Ukraine.

The Kremlin has dismissed claims that it is preparing to invade, after the Ukrainian defence ministry reported that around 90,000 Russian troops were massing in the area.

However, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: ‘We are seeing a concerning situation at the border. We remain in unwavering support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and will continue to support them in face of Russian hostility.’ 

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