A distressing note has been injected into the strained relations between Britain and Russia by the war in Ukraine. It thus comes about that the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and a few other British officials have been barred from entering Russia because of their support for Ukraine. While the British Prime Minister and his officials may have no plans to visit Russia, this is a step that takes nations further away from rapprochement. Britain’s arming of Ukraine appears to have brought matters diplomatic to a head.
Not the least because Britain has supplied Ukraine with anti-ship missile systems, aside from other military equipment. Ukrainian fighters are said to have used British anti-tank weapons to “devastating effect” against Russian armoured vehicles. During a surprise visit to Kyiv last week, Mr Johnson had promised to send more military equipment and missiles to Ukraine.
Announcing the ban on the British Prime Minister’s entry, Russia’s foreign ministry stated: “The Russophobic course of the British authorities, which aims to incite a negative course towards our country and to curtail bilateral ties in almost all areas, is detrimental to the well-being and interests of the British people.” Apart from the resident of 10 Downing Street, other worthies on the barred list include Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Rabb, foreign secretary Liz Truss, defence secretary Ben Wallace, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, former Prime Minister Theresa May, and Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
The Kremlin has claimed that the no-entry move was in response to what it called London’s “unbridled information and political campaign aimed at isolating Russia internationally and thus creating conditions for restricting our country and strangling the domestic economy”. It bears recall that as recently as last month, the Kremlin had placed President Joe Biden, Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau and a host of top US officials, notably the CIA chief, William Burns, and the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on what they call a “stop list”.
Effectively, the initiative barred them from entering Russia. Ever since Russia’s invasion began on 24 February, the Foreign Office in London has announced asset freezes of military officials involved in the shelling of Mariupol and oligarchs and on the Kremlin’s major banks, including Sherbank. Last week, in coordination with the European Union, Britain announced fresh sanctions on as many as 178 Russian separatists in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has vowed to crack down on those “aiding and abetting Putin’s war machine”. Mr Johnson’s government has been criticised for having failed to crack down on individual oligarchs together with the flow of “dirty money” connected to Britain.
The Foreign Office has let it be known that sanctions have been imposed on no fewer than 1,400 individuals and businesses ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Russia’s response will not make things easier.