Boris Johnson said Vladimir Putin has made a “colossal mistake” invading Ukraine as Downing Street eyed the possibility that sanctions would bring down the Russian president’s regime.
The Prime Minister praised Ukraine for putting up a “fierce resistance”, proving Mr Putin wrong to think his tanks would be “garlanded with roses”.
Mr Johnson will continue his diplomatic push by travelling to Poland and Estonia for meetings with his counterparts and Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday.
Ministers received a briefing on Monday on the scale of discontent among the Russian people to the Kremlin’s attack on their neighbouring nation.
Mr Johnson opened the Cabinet meeting saying: “It is becoming clearer with each day that Putin had made a colossal mistake believing that the guns of his tanks would be garlanded with roses when instead the Ukrainian people had put up a fierce resistance in defence of their homeland.”
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said Mr Johnson told officials the latest intelligence suggested Russian troops have been “hampered by logistical problems and the heroic efforts of the Ukrainian military who are inflicting significant casualties on Russian troops”.
The Cabinet was updated by the chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, Sir Simon Gass, and the Chief of the Defence staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, who No 10 said discussed “the discontent among many of the Russian people including an anti-war petition that has attracted around a million signatures”.
With western sanctions biting, the Russian central bank was forced to sharply raise its key interest rate to save the rouble from collapse.
Downing Street said further measures would be taken against Russian businesses and individuals “shortly”, as Mr Johnson presses for Russia to be cut out of the Swift international payment system “completely”.
Adding to the account of the Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “He said Putin had also underestimated western unity and the strength of the sanctions his action could lead to.”
Downing Street warned British businesses they should “think very carefully if they are still continuing to do anything that props up the Putin regime”, which should be “treated like a pariah state”.
“The Prime Minister is very clear that we do not want to unnecessarily inflict damage on the Russian people, many of whom are bravely taking to the streets to protest this violence, this invasion,” his spokesman said.
“But the measures we’re introducing, that large parts of the world are introducing, are to bring down the Putin regime, and we think anyone who is actively seeking to support any elements of the Putin regime should think very carefully.”
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