Sunday, December 3, 2023

Johnson calls for ‘step-by-step’ move from Russian fuel

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for a “step-by-step” move away from dependence on Russian oil and gas as a result of the Ukraine war.

After talks with the Canadian and Dutch PMs, Johnson said nations have to work together to secure alternatives.

Canada’s Justin Trudeau said Europe did not want to repeat its mistake of being too dependent on Russia.

But Dutch PM Mark Rutte warned forcing a boycott now would have “enormous consequences.”

And in Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz cautioned against banning Russian oil and gas. In a statement, he said Europe had “deliberately exempted” Russian energy from sanctions because its supply cannot be secured “any other way” at the moment.

Johnson’s call came at a Downing Street news conference after he, Trudeau, and Rutte discussed new sanctions against Russia and aid for Ukraine.

Asked about claims that the U.S. was in active discussions with European nations about banning imports of Russian oil, Johnson said western allies are “moving very, very fast” – and things which weeks ago would not have been considered are “now very much on the table.”

He said he would set out a new energy supply strategy in the coming days, saying the U.K. was looking at using more of its own fossil fuels. But the U.K. was not abandoning its commitment to cut carbon emissions, he said.

The U.K. gets less than 5% of its gas from Russia -– but, for EU countries, the figure is about 40%.

Rutte said the change would have to be “diligent and not overnight,” combined with a faster uptake of renewable energy.

An immediate change would “basically undermine supply chains the world over, particularly in Europe,” he said, adding: “It would also have an impact on Ukraine itself.”

Johnson announced a further US$230 million of U.K. support for Ukraine, and Trudeau said Canada would sanction 10 more Russian oligarchs and officials.

Later, Johnson joined a call with Scholz, U.S. President Joe Biden, and French President Emmanuel Macron. They said they were determined to continue raising the cost on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Western nations are facing calls to do more as Russia continues its bombardment of Ukrainian cities.

The U.K. has also been criticized after it emerged that only about 50 refugees have been granted visas to enter the country as of Sunday.

During a visit to an RAF station with his fellow leaders, Johnson said the U.K. was “processing thousands” and would be “very generous” to refugees, but would not let people in without any checks.

The government has so far announced two main schemes for people fleeing Ukraine to come to the U.K. – one that allows family members of people settled in the U.K. to join them, and the other allowing organizations to sponsor a Ukrainian’s entry.

More than 1.5 million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began, according to the UN refugee agency.


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