Boris says Putin has 'underestimated' the West as he unveils further £175m aid for Ukraine

7 March 2022, 15:23 | Updated: 7 March 2022, 15:59

By Sophie Barnett

Boris Johnson said Vladimir Putin has "underestimated" the unity of the West over his "illegal and barbaric" invasion of Ukraine, as he unveiled a further £175m in humanitarian aid in support.

The Prime Minister announced the UK is joining Canada and the Netherlands to set up a 'Ukrainian Support Group' - a coalition of humanitarian, economic and defence support.

Speaking alongside the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, Mr Johnson said the three countries "stand shoulder to shoulder" against Russia's "barbaric" invasion of Ukraine.

He announced the UK is providing another £175m in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, bringing its total during the crisis to £400m.

Read more: Ukraine fightback: City and airport retaken with 'heavy losses' for Putin's forces

Read more: Boris says Putin has 'underestimated' the West as he unveils further £175m aid for Ukraine

He claimed that after 12 days of invading Ukraine it is clear Putin has made a "miscalculation".

"He has underestimated the Ukrainians and their heroic resistance. He's underestimated their leader and he's underestimated the unity of the West," Mr Johnson said.

The world has "come together" in the face of Russian aggression, Mr Johnson continued.

"In the 12 days since Russia launched this illegal and brutal assault, the world has come together in solidarity with the indomitable people of Ukraine," he said.

Read more: 'I am scared about everything': LBC speaks to Ukrainian refugees on Polish border

Mr Johnson was forced to again defend his sanctions against claims that London-based oligarchs were not being targeted.

He said the Economic Crime Bill going through the Commons on Monday would add to the powers already available.

The legislation will "whip aside the veil of anonymity" used to obscure ownership of mansions and other properties.

"You can no longer use a bogus company to conceal your ownership of a property," he said.

There would be new powers "to take people's assets", he added.

Meanwhile, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country is imposing new sanctions on 10 individuals in relation to the invasion of Ukraine.

"This includes former and current senior government officials, oligarchs and supporters of the Russian leadership," he told a Downing Street press conference.

"The names of these individuals come from a list compiled by jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny."

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his country was prepared to consider "all possible sanctions" but they must not generate "unmanageable risks" to energy supply in Europe.

Mr Johnson came under fire during the press conference over the UK's refusal to take in all refugees who are fleeing Ukraine as the situation worsens.

He said he recognised the UK Government needs to do "even more" to help refugees, adding they are "absolutely determined" to be as generous as possible.

Read more: Furious Russian mothers accuse Kremlin of using sons as 'cannon fodder' in Ukraine war

"As I speak to you all we are processing thousands of applications," Mr Johnson said.

"Clearly, as the situation has got worse, we're going to have to make sure we do even more.

"And the routes that we have... the family reunion route offers the prospect of hundreds of thousands coming here, the humanitarian sponsorship route is also uncapped and we are putting people out in all the surrounding countries - into Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, as well as into Calais, France - to make sure we receive people and help people to come.

"We will be very generous, as the people in this country would expect and would want, to people fleeing the war in Ukraine, and I know that is going to be the instinct of the British people."

The Home Office revealed on Sunday that only "around 50" visas had been issued under the Ukraine Family Scheme as of 10am that morning.

But asked by reporters what the figure was on Monday, the Prime Minister said he "couldn't give" the number amid an outcry over the low number.

He said the Government would not introduce a system whereby Ukrainian refugees can come to the UK "without any checks or any controls at all".

It was reported on Sunday that Home Secretary Priti Patel was examining "legal options" to create a "humanitarian route", which would offer all Ukrainians seeking refuge the right to come to the UK, regardless of whether they have family ties there.

Asked if the Government was considering a "third route" to the UK, not based on family members or sponsorship, Mr Johnson said: "What we won't do, and let me be very clear, what we won't do is have a system where people can come into the UK without any checks or any controls at all, I don't think that is the right approach. But what we will do is have a system that is very, very generous.

"As the situation in Ukraine deteriorates, people are going to want to see this country open our arms to people fleeing persecution, fleeing a warzone.

"I think people who have spare rooms, who want to receive people coming from Ukraine, will want us to have a system that enables them to do that. And that is already happening."

It came as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Home Office of a chaotic response to the Ukraine refugee crisis.

Read more: Boris admits not knowing if Home Office figure of 50 visas for Ukraine refugees is right

Speaking at King's College London, he said: "The Home Office is in a complete mess about this, they keep changing the rules, the stories of what is actually happening on the ground contradict what the Home Office say.

"They have got to sort this out... there should be a simple route to sanctuary for those that are fleeing for their lives."

The low figure emerged on Sunday, causing outcry as the UN Refugee Agency said 1.7m Ukrainians are thought to have left their homeland. More than 5,000 applications have reportedly been submitted to the UK government.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, Poland has taken just over a million Ukrainians, with Hungary accepting 180,000, Slovakia 128,000 and Moldova 82,000.

Romania has taken in 78,000. Other European countries have taken some 183,000, the agency said.