MPs await Zelensky address as Johnson meets European leaders

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MPs will hear from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky today as Boris Johnson continues his diplomatic offensive to encourage Western leaders to punish Russia for the invasion.

Mr Zelensky will address the House of Commons at 5pm by video link after Speaker Lindsay Hoyle approved a request for the “historic address” from the leader who, according to reports, is at risk of assassination by pro-Russian groups in Kyiv.

He gave an address to the European Parliament last week and imparted a virtual message to the US Senate on Saturday, with the embattled leader expected to renew messages from those speeches to MPs, including pushing for the West to install a no-fly zone over Ukraine and for more arms to be delivered.

Mr Johnson will host leaders of the Visegrad Four of central European nations – the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia – to discuss the conflict today.

Meanwhile, late on Monday night the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Russia continued to target civilian evacuation corridors in Ukraine.

The latest intelligence update published by MoD said: “Russia continues to directly target evacuation corridors, resulting in the death of several civilians whilst trying to evacuate Irpin.”

“Due to heavy fighting in the town, it has reportedly been without heat, water or electricity for days.”

Also on Monday evening, Mr Johnson spoke with US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, with the four leaders vowing to “continue to apply pressure on Russia to isolate Putin diplomatically and economically”.

A No 10 spokeswoman said: “The Prime Minister stressed that our goal must be ensuring Putin’s failure in this act of aggression against Ukraine.”

The Foreign Secretary met with the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko, on the same evening.

Liz Truss tweeted afterwards that the UK is working to “cripple” Russia’s war effort and to rally the international community.

“The UK will do all we can to support the Ukrainian people. Putin must fail,” she added.

The diplomatic efforts on the international stage comes as the UK Government faced domestic pressure to speed-up its efforts to grant safety to fleeing Ukrainians, with Labour criticising the process for being “painfully slow”.

The Home Office on Friday confirmed that 8,900 applications for refugees to come to the UK via the Ukraine Family Scheme had been submitted since Friday, but that only 300 visas had been issued.

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper tweeted: “That’s shockingly low and painfully slow. Just 250 since yesterday.

“At this rate it would be weeks before many families reunite. Urgent action needed.”

Separately, Michael Gove said Russian president Vladimir Putin could inflict worse pain on the Ukrainian people than he has already.

The Housing Secretary, speaking to LBC’s Tonight With Andrew Marr programme, looked to downplay the threat of nuclear warfare but said Mr Putin had “a number of other options, all grisly, at his disposal before he ever goes anywhere near the use of… nuclear weapons”.

His comments come after Ukrainian lawyers told the International Court of Justice that Moscow had resorted to “tactics reminiscent of medieval siege warfare” as Kyiv called for Western intervention to prevent further bloodshed.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Russian invasion of Ukraine (PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, new laws designed to tackle “dirty money” hidden in the UK cleared the House of Commons – although ministers were pushed to go further on seizing oligarchs’ assets.

The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill received an unopposed third reading after it was rushed through in response to Russia’s invasion.

Aimed at uncovering Russian state-linked money, the legislation is set to establish a new register of overseas entities requiring foreign owners of property in the UK to declare their true identity.

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