Liz Truss urges allies to bring Russian economy ‘to Soviet era’
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss vowed to push Russia’s economy ‘back into the Soviet era’ as she called on the UK’s European allies to step up sanctions and speed up the end of fossil fuel dependence from Moscow.
Ms Truss announced during a trip to Poland that the West had now frozen more than $350bn of Putin’s ‘war chest’, rendering around 60% of the regime’s $604bn foreign currency reserves unavailable. .
She said the sanctions were already having a ‘chilling impact’ on the Kremlin – but urged EU countries to engage in a fresh wave of action ahead of meetings with G7 and EU foreign ministers. NATO this week.
Ms Truss said she wanted British partners to go further with sanctions by ‘clamping down more Russian banks’ and agreeing ‘a clear timetable for phasing out our imports of Russian oil, coal and gas’.
The call for action came as European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed a European ban on coal imports from Russia, a total ban on transactions for four major Russian banks and a ban on Russian vessels to access EU ports.
Ms von der Leyen said a ban on coal imports would cost around £3.3billion a year and revealed the EU had already started working on additional sanctions, including on oil imports.
But the Brussels chief did not mention gas, with consensus among the 27 EU member countries on targeting the fuel used to heat millions of homes across the continent proving harder to secure.
While the UK and US said they were cutting off Russian oil and gas, EU countries had previously only announced efforts to gradually reduce their energy dependence on Russia. Russia.
Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin said his government would back a European coal and oil ban if sanctions were extended, saying it was vital to keep up the pressure on Moscow to end its ‘immoral war’ on Ukraine .
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi also backed the new sanctions proposals, saying “atrocities” in Ukraine must be punished as he called on Putin to end the “massacre of civilians”.
Ms Von der Leyen said tougher sanctions on four Russian banks already barred from the SWIFT payments system – including the second-biggest bank VTB – would leave them “totally cut off from the markets”. She added: “This will further weaken the Russian financial system.
The President of the European Commission added: “Taking a clear position is not only crucial for us in Europe but also for the rest of the world… A clear position against the massacre of civilians. And a clear position against the violation of the fundamental principles of the world order.
The UK would like Germany to set a specific date to end its dependence on Russian gas as part of a “new wave” of sanctions against Russia.
Although Berlin has agreed to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels by mid-2024, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said earlier this week that “at the moment it is not possible to cut ‘gas supply’.
Energy policy expert Simone Tagliapietra of the Bruegel think tank said a coal ban in the EU “is important because it breaks the energy taboo”.
But he warned it was not “a game-changer”, adding: “The big money flow is definitely oil and gas, not coal, and that’s the problem.”
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawieck criticized German Chancellor Olaf Scholz for focusing on the “voices of German business” rather than the innocent people killed in Ukraine.
Poland has pledged to stop Russian oil and gas imports by the end of 2022. Speaking alongside Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau on Tuesday, Ms Truss praised the country for stepping up sanctions and arms supplied to Ukraine.
“Poland has always been lucid about Russia. You understood Putin’s malicious intent. You were right,” she said.
The foreign minister also condemned Russia’s alleged massacre of Ukrainian civilians in Bucha – saying: “These are appalling acts of the kind we thought we had left in the 20th century.”
She called on the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to open an investigation into atrocities committed in Ukraine, including reports of rape and sexual assault.
“We will hold those responsible accountable for what they have done, especially the reports of rape,” Ms Truss said.
The foreign minister hailed Rau’s work as OSCE chairman, saying the body had already “shined a vital spotlight on the atrocities being committed across Ukraine by Russian forces”.
Ms Truss on Monday called for Russia’s suspension from the UN Human Rights Council and pledged a £10million civil society fund for Ukraine, including support for organizations fighting against sexual violence.
President Volodymyr Zelensky says the UN must be reformed to deal with Russia, which still has veto power in the UN Security Council with which it is able to block Kremlin censorship attempts .
“It undermines the entire global security architecture, it allows them to go unpunished so they destroy whatever they can,” he said in a speech to the UN Security Council.