Vladimir Putin has “already crossed the threshold of barbarism”, Boris Johnson has told ministers, as he faced calls to go further and faster in allowing Ukrainian refugees to come to the UK.
The Prime Minister told his Cabinet on Wednesday that the West “should not hesitate to go further in strengthening sanctions and providing further defensive military aid to Ukraine”, in the face of increased aggression by the Kremlin in its invasion of the country.
Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK said on Wednesday that the country needed more long-range anti-tank weapons from western allies.
Vadym Prystaiko told Sky News: “We didn’t have enough in the first place. So, we’re running out of weaponry.
“That’s what we’ll be seeing in the week to come.
“Tomorrow, President Zelensky will talk to Nato, the whole of Nato, and we will see how can we replenish our stocks and what we can have that has a much longer range and is stronger than ever.
“We have enough weapons to stop tanks immediately when they approach us.
“But to clear out our land we need to have something with a much greater distance.”
His call came as Western officials warned there was a “grim reality” around the besieged city of Mariupol, where 100,000 people remain trapped with chronic shortages of food and clean water.
They reported evidence of significant bombing from the air and from ground artillery using “dumb” munitions, meaning more civilian casualties.
“I think there is a grim reality around Mariupol with the kind of reckless and inhumane nature of the operation there,” one official said.
There are fears that if the city does fall it will release Russian forces to join the offensive in the Donbas region in the east of the country.
Elsewhere officials reported the Ukrainians were managing limited counterattacks, destroying Russian equipment and capturing personnel, including a lieutenant colonel.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak told MPs on Wednesday that there was a “moral responsibility” to help Ukraine and impose sanctions on Russia, but that it would not be “cost-free” for the UK economy.
Mr Prystaiko also defended Mr Johnson’s apparent comparison of the Ukraine resistance to Brexit at the Conservative Spring Forum in Blackpool at the weekend.
But he added that the UK’s problems with the EU were incomparable to the Russian/Ukrainian war.
“You believe you have problems with the European Union when you left, it’s not a problem,” he said.
“If you compare it to what we have with Russians when we left the Soviet Union, they came to kill us for this decision.”
In the Commons, Mr Johnson was under pressure to speed up support for those fleeing Ukraine and heading for the UK.
York Outer Tory MP Julian Sturdy told Mr Johnson that he welcomed the changes to the visa process to allow applications to be processed more quickly, but that the situation had intensified further since then.
At Prime Minister’s Questions, he said: “Our response must still move much, much faster, with a shift to processing applications in the UK, cutting the red tape and bureaucracy so we can match the scale of Europe’s worst humanitarian crisis since the Second World War.”
The Prime Minister said moving applications online had accelerated the process and it was the “instinct” of the UK to “be as generous as possible”.
Some 15,800 visas had been issued under the Ukraine family scheme as of 5pm on Tuesday, the Home Office said.
So far, there had been a total of 33,500 applications submitted, according to provisional data published on the department’s website.
It comes as a third extract of a hoax call between Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and an imposter posing as Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal was published on YouTube.
In it, Mr Wallace discussed previous desires for Ukraine to join the Nato defence alliance, an ambition that has riled the Russian leader.
The Ministry of Defence has warned the clips are “doctored” pieces of propaganda released by the Kremlin, but officials have so far failed to get them removed from YouTube.
With Home Secretary Priti Patel also targeted and more touted from Mr Wallace, officials fear further videos emerging during the emergency Nato summit on Ukraine on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the UK’s former defence attache to Moscow has claimed warnings that Mr Putin would wage war were consistently ignored in favour of City banks harvesting Russia’s corrupt wealth.
Retired air commodore Carl Scott said he warned of the “inevitability of conflict in detail, regularly” during his period in Russia between 2011 and 2016.
He wrote in a letter to the Financial Times: “All was subjugated to the City, all served the interests of our lucrative status as a safe haven for corrupt, and corrupting wealth.
“I despair at the decisions Putin has taken, but even more at the prospect of finding credible leadership at home in the UK among those who have compromised so long with his regime and the wealth it offered.”