Boris accuses Russia of 'war crimes' after MPs give standing ovation to Ukraine ambassador

2 March 2022, 12:10 | Updated: 2 March 2022, 13:38

By Sophie Barnett

Boris Johnson has accused Vladimir Putin of committing "war crimes" as he condemned Russia's invasion during PMQs.

The Prime Minister told the Commons the bombing of civilians “in my view already fully qualifies as a war crime”.

His comments came after the House erupted into a lengthy applause when Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle welcomed ambassador Vadym Prystaiko into the viewing gallery.

Politicians from all parties gave a standing ovation in a show of solidarity with Ukraine, which has been under Russian attack for seven days.

Civilians have fought back, picking up rifles and Molotov cocktails to defend their homeland from Russian aggression.

Despite their bravery and resistance, Ukraine said more than 2,000 civilians have been killed in attacks across the country.

Sir Lindsay declared "our respect and support for your country" as he greeted the ambassador amid the conflict.

He said: "Your excellency, we generally do not allow applause in this chamber, but on this occasion the House quite rightly will want to demonstrate our respect and support for your country and its people in the most difficult of times."

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Mr Johnson opened PMQs by condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, telling MPs "Putin has gravely miscalculated".

He told the House the Russian president has "underestimated the extraordinary fortitude of the Ukrainian people and the unity and resolve of the free world in standing up to his barbarism".

"The UN General Assembly will vote later today and we call on every nation to join us in condemning Russia and demanding that Putin turns his tanks around," Mr Johnson said.

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Boris Johnson and Ukraine ambassador Vadym Prystaiko.
Boris Johnson and Ukraine ambassador Vadym Prystaiko. Picture: Alamy

"If instead Putin doubles down then so shall we, further ratcheting up economic pressure and supporting Ukraine with finance, with weapons and with humanitarian assistance.

"Today the Disasters Emergency Committee is launching its Ukraine appeal and every pound donated by the British people will be matched by the Government, starting with £20 million."

He also said he told the Ukrainian President that the UK would "do everything we can to accelerate our transfer of... the weapons", adding: "We are certainly determined to do everything we can to help Ukrainians fleeing the theatre of conflict."

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said that to "prosecute Putin and his regime the full range of war crime charges need to be used including the crime of aggression by a state".

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He said: "With every passing hour the world is witnessing the horrors of Putin's war in Ukraine... these are war crimes happening in Europe right now. Vladimir Putin is a war criminal and one day soon Putin must face justice in The Hague.

"To prosecute Putin and his regime the full range of war crime charges need to be used including the crime of aggression by a state, but the UK's always refused to sign up to the prosecution of this crime in international law.

"Surely with Putin's crime of aggression in plain and horrific sight in Ukraine, now is the time to drop that opposition?

"Will the Prime Minister meet with me to discuss this and will he amend the UK War Crimes Act and will he support the ICC (International Criminal Court) prosecution for Putin for his crimes of aggression against the people of Ukraine?"

Mr Johnson replied: "I'm in principle of course happy to meet (him)... what we have seen already from Vladimir Putin's regime in the use of the munitions that they have already been dropping on innocent civilians, in my view, already fully qualifies as a war crime and I know that the ICC prosecutor is already investigating, and I am sure the whole House will support that."