Putin discusses ‘weapons of unprecedented characteristics’

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And the bloc has been urged to stand up to Putin’s threats by enforcing an immediate ban on all Russian gas and oil imports, which totalled almost £100billion last year. John Bryson, Professor of Enterprise and Economic Geography, Birmingham Business School, was writing at a time when Russia is widely expected to be poised to launch a massive offensive in the east of Ukraine, amid reports that it has now captured the key port city of Mariupol in the country’s south-east.

He explained: “The US, UK, the European Commission, and other countries, have applied sanctions and continue to identify new sanctions that could be imposed on Russia. Nevertheless, a lukewarm or lacklustre approach to sanctions has been applied thus far. Now is the time for all countries to impose maximum sanctions.”

It was “increasingly impossible” for any one country to claim neutrality, with any such claim represented tacit support for what Prof Bryson called “Putin’s on-going aggression against the Ukrainian people” – including “war crimes”.

He added: “We should acknowledge all sporting and cultural bodies that have imposed effective sanctions on Russia. But more is required.”

Prof Bryson drew attention to the behaviour of 15-year-old Russian go-kart driver Artem Severiukhin, who appeared to do a Nazi salute on the podium after winning a race in Portugal.

He said: “Anti-war rules prevented him from competing under the Russian flag and the national anthem could not be played during the post-race ceremonies.

“This type of passive anti-war rule supports Putin’s aggression; a total ban on all Russian participation in sporting and cultural activities is required immediately.”

Turning his attention to trade, Prof Bryson said: “Every day Russia’s military campaign is supported by revenue flows linked to the sale of gas and oil to European consumers.

“In 2021, EU energy imports from Russia were worth £82billion (€99billion). Since the start of Putin’s ignoble war, the EU has provided more funding to Russia than it has provided to support Ukraine.

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Now is the time for the European Commission, and all member states, to accept that it no longer possible for Europeans to continue to rely on Russian gas and oil

Professor John Bryson

“Now is the time for the European Commission, and all member states, to accept that it no longer possible for Europeans to continue to rely on Russian gas and oil.”

European citizens, businesses and economies would experience “major detrimental impacts”, Prof Bryson acknowledged, but emphasised the increasingly difficult of any one country. continuing to provide Russia with indirect support for its military campaign.

He stressed: “How does one balance rape, death, forced relocation, mass murder from indiscriminate shelling and war crimes against the difficulties that would result from no longer being able to consume Russian gas and oil?”

“It is impossible to negotiate with Putin; Russia needs to be forced to withdraw from Ukraine either by effective sanctions or by defeat in battle.

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“Russia likes to make threats. One of the current threats is that any attempt by Sweden and Finland to join NATO would come with repercussions. The European Union must now respond to Putin’s war with a threat that they would enforce immediately.”

Such a response would involve what Prof Bryson called “a novel and high-risk solution to Europe’s gas problem”.

He said: “All member states should be prepared to forego Russian gas immediately. Russia should be informed that all European Russian gas payments would now be placed in an escrow account with the funds eventually being disbursed to Ukraine as part payment of Russian war reparations.

“This fund would continue to grow and would be allocated to Ukraine once all conflict had ceased and all Russian forces had left Ukrainian territory.”

Once the war had ceased then the revenue flows would return to Russia – but not the accumulated escrow fund, Prof Bryson continued.

Russia might then respond by cutting off the supply of gas to European countries, but the European threat would be that this action would result in Russia’s permanent exclusion from the European energy market.

Prof Bryson warned: “Placing European gas payments to Russia in an escrow account would force Putin to act by turning off the gas, escalating the war even with nuclear weapons or it might hasten the end of his ignoble Ukrainian war.

“The danger is that Russia sells discounted gas and oil to other countries, but any such sales would be to nations that are directly endorsing Russian war crimes, and this should be acknowledged.

“There are alternatives to maximising sanctions and one of these is to provide Ukraine with all the military equipment that it requests and to provide this immediately.

“The danger is that the Ukrainian war will be lost as the US, UK, EU, and other nations continue to discuss options. Now is the time to act and to maximise both sanctions and military support.”

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