Boris Johnson says Ukraine ‘can certainly win’ war with Russia

Boris Johnson said he is ‘not optimistic’ Vladimir Putin wants peace (Picture: PA)

Boris Johnson has said the situation in Ukraine is ‘grim and miserable’ but they ‘can certainly win’ the war with Russia.

In an interview with BBC’s Newsnight, the Prime Minister said that while a peaceful resolution ‘would be fantastic’, he added that he is ‘not optimistic Vladimir Putin really wants that’.

Alluding to cities completely destroyed on Putin’s orders during previous conflicts, Mr Johnson said: ‘I think he’s decided to double down and to try to Groznyfy the great cities of Ukraine in the way that he has always tried to do and I think that’s a tragic mistake.

‘But that’s what he seems to be doing at the moment.’

He said: ‘I think Ukraine can certainly win. I don’t think it’s going to be easy, I think that the situation for the Ukrainians is grim, miserable.

‘I don’t think that we’ve seen anything like it for 80 years in Europe and what (Vladimir) Putin is doing is unconscionable.

‘But there’s a sense in which Putin has already failed or lost because I think that he had literally no idea that the Ukrainians were going to mount the resistance that they are and he totally misunderstood what Ukraine is.

‘And far from extinguishing Ukraine as a nation he is solidifying it.’

Russia-Ukraine war: Everything you need to know

Mr Johnson told the programme, airing later on Thursday, that even if Nato does not grant Ukraine full membership, allies would provide the country with so much support that Russia would not consider invading again.

The PM said: ‘Over time, you can imagine that even if you can’t have an Article 5 guarantee for Ukraine – I mean, full membership of Nato, inside the thermonuclear umbrella as it were – you can imagine that Western sympathisers of Ukraine will provide so much by way of equipment, training, intelligence as to create a kind of deterrence for Ukraine by denial – deterrence by denial of Russian possibility to invade again.

‘What I’m talking about is so fortifying, so strengthening, the quills of the Ukrainian porcupine as to make it in future indigestible to the Russian invaders.’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and military representative to NATO Ben Bathurst leave NATO Headquarters following a summit on Russia's invasion of Ukraine in Brussels, Belgium, Thursday March 24, 2022. (Henry Nicholls/Pool via AP)

Mr Johnson and military representative to Nato Ben Bathurst leave a summit on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in Brussels (Picture: AP)

A Ukrainian service member holds a Javelin missile system at a position on the front line in the north Kyiv region, Ukraine March 13, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

A Ukrainian service member holds a Javelin missile system at a position on the front line in the north Kyiv region (Picture: Reuters)

A Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces member holds an NLAW anti-tank weapon, in the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022. Authorities announced a new ceasefire on Wednesday to allow civilians to escape from towns around the capital, Kyiv, as well as the southern cities of Mariupol, Enerhodar and Volnovakha, Izyum in the east and Sumy in the northeast. Previous attempts to establish safe evacuation corridors have largely failed due to attacks by Russian forces. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A Ukrainian Territorial Defence Forces member holds an NLAW anti-tank weapon, in the outskirts of Kyiv (Picture: AP)

Speaking earlier on Thursday following a Nato summit, M Johnson described the ‘agony’ felt by Western leaders’ ‘inability to do more’ to assist Ukraine from the Russian invasion.

He said it would ‘logistically’ be ‘very difficult’ to supply Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with the tanks and jets he asked for during the talks.

But Mr Johnson said allies would strive to give Mr Zelensky weapons ‘in the quantity and of the quality’ he needs to defend his nation.

He pledged more missiles and a new deployment of UK troops to Bulgaria, while doubling personnel in Poland and Estonia to boost Nato on the eastern flanks.

Mr Zelensky, who regularly speaks to the Prime Minister, did not bring up his longstanding demand for Nato to enforce a no-fly zone of Ukraine.

Instead, he pleaded when appearing virtually at the summit in Brussels for ‘1% of all your planes, 1% of all your tanks’.

Western allies have previously been hesitant about providing jets out of concerns it could further provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Earlier in the day, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the state-owned RIA news agency as saying Mr Johnson is ‘the most active participant in the race to be anti-Russian’.

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, the Prime Minister said: ‘Absolutely not, least of all me. I think I’m probably the only Prime Minister in UK history to be called Boris, I think I have that distinction, and I’m not remotely anti-Russian.

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Joe Biden, Germany's Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and France's President Emmanuel Macron pose for a G7 leaders' family photo during a NATO summit on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, Belgium March 24, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/Pool

Japan’s Fumio Kishida, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Mr Johnson and France’s Emmanuel Macron (Picture: Reuters)

‘But I think what we all agree is that what Vladimir Putin is doing, the way he’s leading Russia at the moment, is utterly catastrophic, that his invasion of Ukraine is inhuman and barbaric.

‘And the conduct of that invasion is now moving into the type of behaviour that, as I said before, we haven’t seen in the continent of Europe for 80 years, and it’s horrific.

‘So you can be sympathetic towards ordinary Russians, who are being so badly led, but you can be deeply hostile to the decisions of Vladimir Putin.’

Mr Johnson warned the Russian president that he would be hit with ‘very, very severe’ consequences if he used chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine as allies fear.

‘You have to have a bit of ambiguity about your response but I think it would be catastrophic for him if he were to do that,’ the Prime Minister said.

After the meeting, US President Joe Biden said the use of chemical weapons would be met with a ‘response in kind’ depending on the ‘nature of the use’.

A western official said that the use of such weapons would mark a ‘fundamental change’ in the Ukrainian conflict but said it was ‘highly unlikely’ it would be met with Nato troops in Ukraine.

Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg announced an agreement to provide assistance in the cyber-security sphere and equipment to protect against biological, chemical and nuclear threats.

And leaders approved the deployment of new Nato battle groups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia to shore up the defence alliance’s eastern flank.

Mr Johnson urged a targeting of Mr Putin’s gold reserves to prevent him trying to get around sanctions as he announced a fresh wave of travel bans and asset freezes.

Among those targeted were the Wagner Group, a Russian paramilitary organisation accused of plotting to assassinate Mr Zelensky.

The Foreign Office said a total of 1,000 fresh sanctions have been handed out since the invasion began, with 65 more announced after Mr Johnson arrived in Belgium.

They included Russian billionaire Eugene Shvidler and Galina Danilchenko, who was installed by Moscow as the mayor of occupied Melitopol in south-east Ukraine.

Banks, a diamond producer and Polina Kovaleva, the stepdaughter of Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, were also among the newly targeted.

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