Boris Johnson gave his clearest statement yet on the atrocities being witnessed during Vladimir Putin's invasion despite ministers previously seeming wary of pre-empting any court process
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Fears have been raised that Vladimir Putin will defy military advice to demand ‘announceable success’ in Ukraine by the traditional Victory Day parade on May 9.

Western officials have warned that war crimes could become more widespread as the Kremlin tries to salvage something from the bungled campaign over the next month.

One said there was likely to be ‘some tension’ with generals who know a rigid timetable is not their best tactical approach.  

The concerns were highlighted as Boris Johnson insisted the actions of Russian forces in the Ukrainian town of Bucha ‘don’t look far short of genocide’.

The PM gave his clearest statement yet on the atrocities being witnessed during Vladimir Putin’s invasion despite ministers previously seeming wary of pre-empting any court process.

Calls have been growing for Putin and his troops to be held accountable under international law for their actions, including evidence civilians have been shot with their hands tied behind their backs. 

The Ukrainian authorities have said that more than 400 bodies of civilians have been discovered in towns round Kyiv which have been re-captured from the Russians. 

Speaking during a visit to a hospital in Welwyn Garden City, Mr Johnson said: ‘I’m afraid when you look at what’s happening in Bucha, the revelations that we are seeing from what Putin has done in Ukraine doesn’t look far short of genocide to me.

‘It is no wonder people are responding in the way that they are. 

‘I have no doubt that the international community, Britain very much in the front rank, will be moving again in lockstep to impose more sanctions and more penalties on Vladimir Putin’s regime.’

Boris Johnson gave his clearest statement yet on the atrocities being witnessed during Vladimir Putin's invasion despite ministers previously seeming wary of pre-empting any court process

Boris Johnson gave his clearest statement yet on the atrocities being witnessed during Vladimir Putin’s invasion despite ministers previously seeming wary of pre-empting any court process

Dozens of bodies awaiting burial in Bucha, Ukraine yesterday amid accusations of war crimes by Russian forces

Dozens of bodies awaiting burial in Bucha, Ukraine yesterday amid accusations of war crimes by Russian forces

The Western official told journalists that Russian forces are now focusing on the Donbass region, but not they had not seen ‘an enormous increase’ in numbers yet. 

They said May 9, when Moscow usually has huge military parades, was expected to be a ‘significant date’ for Putin.

The comments in the Russian media calling for the ‘de-nazification’ of Ukraine and comparing the country to the Third Reich had created a ‘toxic information environment’, according to the official.

‘This is a phenomenon which we believe to be widespread,’ the official said. ‘That sort of environment and climate, I’m afraid, absolutely contributes to this sort of thing.

‘When you combine that with a force which is failing and failing badly in an operation for which it was perhaps psychologically underprepared, it just a toxic mix.

‘The responsibility for this lies with the perpetrators of the acts but it also lies with the Russian leadership. Not only did they order the invasion, they set the tone and the context for this operation as well.’

A further package of economic measures targeting Vladimir Putin’s allies and the industries funding the war was announced today, while Nato foreign ministers will also consider how to support Ukraine’s resistance to Moscow’s forces.

The White House has indicated the US sanctions package will target officials and their family members – with reports suggesting Mr Putin’s daughters Maria Vorontsova, 36, and Katerina Tikhonova, 35 will be hit by American and EU measures – as well as Russian banks and state-owned enterprises.

The European Commission has proposed a ban on coal imports from Russia and a full transaction ban on four key Russian banks as part of its fifth sanctions package.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Irish Parliament today that Russia is using hunger as a weapon of war.

‘For them hunger is a weapon against us, ordinary people as an instrument of domination,’ he said.

‘Ukraine is one of the leading food-supplying country in the world with exports.

‘This is not just about the deficit and the threat of hunger.

‘There will be a shortage of food and the prices will go up, and this is reality for the millions of people who are hungry, and it will be more difficult for them to feed their families.’

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said an image of a Ukrainian mother who scrawled contact details on her two-year-old daughter’s back in case she and the rest of the family are killed in the conflict ‘strengthens the resolve for all of us’.

He told Sky news: ‘What we are seeing unfolding now in Ukraine is absolutely appalling.

‘These atrocities we are now sadly seeing almost daily on our TV screens, and the image you just talked of, when I first saw that image… it could have been my daughter, it could be anyone’s daughter, their son, just to think that’s what parents are having to do in Ukraine right now because (of) the choice that Vladimir Putin has made.’

A family walks past wreckage of a car on the outskirts of Kyiv yesterday

A family walks past wreckage of a car on the outskirts of Kyiv yesterday

In Poland yesterday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said economic actions so far were having a 'crippling impact' and 'pushing the Russian economy back into the Soviet era'

In Poland yesterday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said economic actions so far were having a ‘crippling impact’ and ‘pushing the Russian economy back into the Soviet era’

The meeting comes as British defence intelligence warned of a humanitarian catastrophe in the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, which has been besieged and bombarded by Russian forces.

‘The humanitarian situation in the city is worsening,’ the Ministry of Defence said.

‘Most of the 160,000 remaining residents have no light, communication, medicine, heat or water.

‘Russian forces have prevented humanitarian access, likely to pressure defenders to surrender.’ 

In Poland yesterday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said economic actions so far were having a ‘crippling impact’ and ‘pushing the Russian economy back into the Soviet era’.

She said sanctions had frozen more than 350 billion US dollars (£266 billion) of ‘Putin’s war chest’, rendering unavailable over 60% of the regime’s 604 billion US dollars (£459 billion) of foreign currency reserves.

She will join Nato counterparts in Brussels on Wednesday ahead of Thursday’s full meeting of the alliance’s foreign ministers.

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