A tearful Ukrainian journalist who fled over the border confronted Boris Johnson with demands for Britain to enforce a no-fly zone over her country to protect civilians from Russian bombs.
Daria Kaleniuk emotionally argued to the Prime Minister at a press conference in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday that allies from the Nato defence alliance are wrong to rule out the step out of a fear of provoking a nuclear war with Vladimir Putin.
“Nato is not willing to defend because Nato is afraid of World War Three but it’s already started and it’s Ukrainian children who are there taking the hit,” the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Centre civil society organisation told Mr Johnson.
“What’s the alternative?”
Ms Kaleniuk, who said she is from Kyiv but entered Poland a couple of days ago, also condemned the UK for not hitting Roman Abramovich, the Russian billionaire who owns Chelsea FC, with sanctions.
Mr Johnson directly apologised to Ms Kaleniuk for the “tragedy and suffering” because of the Kremlin’s invasion but ruled out allies enforcing a no-fly zone over Ukraine because of the disastrous consequences that could follow UK forces engaging in combat with Russians.
Ms Kaleniuk had told him: “Ukrainian women and Ukrainian children are in deep fear because of bombs and missiles which are going from the sky. Ukrainian people are desperately asking for the rights to protect our sky, we are asking for a no-fly zone.
“What’s the alternative for the no-fly zone?
“We don’t have anywhere to run”
“You are talking about more sanctions, Prime Minister, but Roman Abramovich is not sanctioned, he’s in London, his children are not in the bombardments, his children are there in London.”
She said Mr Putin’s children are safe in mansions that have not been seized and, breaking into tears, added: “I don’t see that. I see that my family members, that my team members are saying we are dying, we don’t have anywhere to run.”
Mr Johnson said he welcomed her passionate question and was “glad” she had made it to Poland, saying he was “acutely conscious that there is not enough we can do as the UK Government to help in the way that you want”.
Just as in his conversations with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr Johnson said that “unfortunately the implication of that is the UK would be engaged in shooting down Russian planes, would be engaged in direct combat with Russia – that’s not something we can do”.
“I think the consequences of that would be truly very, very difficult to control,” he added.
“Tightening the economic noose”
Instead, Mr Johnson argued Britain must continue with “tightening the economic noose” around the Putin regime and providing further defensive support to Kyiv.
“In the mean time, as you rightly say, there is going to be a period of suffering for the people of Ukraine for which Putin alone is responsible,” the Prime Minister continued.
“It will take time, I’m afraid, for us to come through this period. All that we can do in the meantime is help people like your crew and your family to get out, to get to safety.”
But Mr Johnson said he had “no doubt” the international outpouring of sympathy for Ukraine will only grow and that “people will not rest until this injustice is reversed and that Putin not just fails but is seen to have failed in Ukraine”.
“I think the whole international community will work together to ensure that you and your family are able to live in a sovereign and independent Ukraine,” he continued.
“And I’m sorry it’s going to take time, I’m sorry it’s going to be difficult and I’m sorry for the tragedy and suffering that you’ve experienced but thank you very very much for coming today and asking your question. I think everybody today has really appreciated it.”
A round of applause followed Mr Johnson’s response.
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