Boris Johnson has insisted the actions of Vladimir Putin’s forces in the Ukrainian town of Bucha “doesn’t look far short of genocide”.
The prime minister’s remarks come after the international community reacted with horror as scenes of atrocities were revealed when Russian forces left the town northwest of the capital, Kyiv.
The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelensky, who visited Bucha earlier this week, has accused the Kremlin of strangling, torturing and murdering civilians, in actions he described as “genocide”.
Speaking on Wednesday, 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,” he added.
Dame Barbara Woodward, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, called images coming from Bucha yesterday as “harrowing, appalling, probable evidence of war crimes and possibly a genocide”, as she cited bodies being dumped in the streets, mass graves, and allegations of rape.
It is the first time the prime minister has deployed the word “genocide” to describe the actions of Russian forces in Ukraine and earlier this week No 10 made clear genocide is something to be determined by a “competent court”.
Mr Johnson also said he was confident more western sanctions would be imposed on the Kremlin, with financial measures from the US and EU expected to target Russian officials and their families.
He said “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”.
This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Press Association Images)
Speaking on Tuesday, the 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 $350bn (£266bn) of “Putin’s war chest”, rendering unavailable over 60 per cent of the regime’s $604bn (£459bn) of foreign currency reserves.
Mr Johnson also told broadcasters during a visit to Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, claimed the government will “do everything we can” to aid people with energy price spikes.
“They are being exacerbated by what (Vladimir) Putin is doing in Ukraine,” the prime minister said. “We’ll have to see how long that goes on for”.