Boris Johnson has said it appears Vladimir Putin sees no way out of the Ukraine invasion “except to continue with the destruction”.
“It feels to me as though Vladimir Putin has decided to – and it’s clear from what’s happening – that he’s decided to double down,” he told European papers La Repubblica, Die Welt and El Pais.
“He sees no way out of the cul-de-sac that he’s in, except to continue with the destruction, the pulverising of innocent populations, in innocent European cities.
“We must not accept the narrative of Vladimir Putin that this is about him versus NATO, or him versus the West.”
Follow live updates on the Ukraine invasion
Zelenskyy calls for European support
He added that Mr Putin was wrong if he thought he was going to “get less NATO” by invading Ukraine, saying he’s “actually getting more NATO”.
“NATO is going to be closer, they’re going to be bigger. Defence spending is going up. So he’s ending up with the exact opposite of what he wanted,” he said.
• Mariupol, the main port on the Sea of Azov, remains surrounded by Russian forces and under heavy bombardment
• 47 people have reportedly been killed in Russian airstrikes in Chernihiv
• Russian troops have entered Mykolaiv – an hour up the road from key city of Kherson
• Fierce fighting between local forces and Russian troops on outskirts of Enerhodar – with casualties reported
• Russian parliament passes a bill introducing sentences of up to 15 years in prison for “fake” information about military action
• President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says only ‘urgent action by Europe’ can stop the Russians
What happened at Europe’s largest nuclear site?
Hit on nuclear power plant ‘European safety matter’
The prime minister also revealed how he was woken up in the middle of the night by a phone call from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after Russian forces hit a nuclear power plant in Ukraine on Friday morning.
Mr Johnson said all of Europe’s security is “equally jeopardised by such an attack”
“We remember what happened with Chernobyl, the radioactive clouds spread over the whole continent, and indeed, also to North America,” he added.
“There is clearly a risk.”
On Friday, Western officials said there had been no radiation leaks and the reactors were built to withstand impact from aircraft.
More: Three Russian commanders killed in Ukraine – and Kyiv convoy ‘enormously large traffic jam’
More than a million people have fled Ukraine
Europeans working together
Mr Johnson said Europeans need to “urgently” work together to stop a future nuclear disaster from happening.
“One of the reasons why Putin has, I think, miscalculated so badly in this appalling war is because he underestimated badly the willingness of the Ukrainians to fight and to defend their territory, their belief in their country, their love of their country.
“He misunderstood the character of the Ukrainians and of their resolve, and he underestimated President Zelenskyy as well, he’s been extraordinary.
“Putin also underestimated Western unity, and the governments of all the countries represented around this table have really worked together, very effectively, to produce a package of economic sanctions that has had a very considerable effect on Russia.”
A shopping centre in Mariupol after a missile strike.
Vladimir Putin underestimated the Ukrainians, the PM said
New UK sanctions powers proposed
On Friday, the UK government announced it is “bolstering” its package of sanctions against the Kremlin by including “new powers in our arsenal to go further and faster”.
It will put forward amendments to the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Bill to “help streamline the current legislation so we can respond even more swiftly and effectively to the current crisis in the way we sanction individuals,” the Foreign Office said.
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An “urgent designation procedure” will push through the changes quickly and will include shortening the length of time foreign owners of UK property will be given to declare their true identity from 18 months to six months.
Criminal penalties for non-compliance will also increase, if accepted, from up to £500 a day to up to £2,500 a day.