Sanctions on Russia could be lifted if Vladimir Putin abandons his invasion of Ukraine and promises not to do it again, Liz Truss said today.
The Foreign Secretary insisted there is a chance of the punitive measures against banks, businesses and oligarchs being eased if the Kremlin withdraws troops and commits to ‘no further aggression’.
She stressed that the West would keep the threat of ‘snapback sanctions’ if the Russian president did renew his attack.
The comments are in line with the stance taken by her US counterpart Antony Blinken, who has suggested the reprisals could ‘go away’ if there was an ‘irreversible’ withdrawal by Russia.
But they come after Joe Biden suggested that ‘butcher’ Putin ‘cannot remain in power’. The White House has desperately tried to row back the remarks, made during an impassioned speech in Warsaw, saying the US president was not calling for regime change.
Sanctions on Russia could be lifted if Vladimir Putin (right) abandons his invasion of Ukraine and promises not to do it again, Liz Truss (left) said today
Joe Biden suggested that ‘butcher’ Putin ‘cannot remain in power’. The White House has desperately tried to row back the remarks, made during an impassioned speech in Warsaw, saying the US president was not calling for regime change
With the Kremlin’s troops struggling, Ms Truss’s intervention will be seen as an attempt to give Putin an exit path from the crisis.
Moscow has given indications after a month of war that it might scale back its wider ambitions and focus on the Donbas region in the east of Ukraine.
But Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has warned he will not give up territory in peace talks as he noted that his troops have delivered ‘powerful blows’ to invading forces.
Boris Johnson says Western allies are looking to ‘steadily ratchet up’ the sanctions that have sought to punish Putin and those who prop up his regime.
But in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Ms Truss indicated that the process can still be reversed.
‘Those sanctions should only come off with a full ceasefire and withdrawal, but also commitments that there will be no further aggression,’ she said.
‘And also, there’s the opportunity to have snapback sanctions if there is further aggression in future. That is a real lever that I think can be used.’
Ms Truss said a ‘negotiations unit’ had been established in the Foreign Office to aid possible peace talks.
Mr Blinken, has previously said the travel bans and asset freezes are ‘not designed to be permanent’.
The secretary of state said the sanctions could ‘go away’ in the event of an ‘in effect, irreversible’ withdrawal of Russian troops.
In his speech, Mr Biden appealed to Russian people directly, with comparisons between the invasion of Ukraine and the horrors of the Second World War.
‘For God’s sake this man cannot remain in power,’ the US president said at the close of his speech of the Russian president he earlier described as a ‘butcher’.
Mr Biden pleaded ‘if you’re able to listen: you, the Russian people, are not our enemy’, as multiple rockets struck the city of Lviv near the Polish border in the west of Ukraine.
Smoke rises over Lviv, western Ukraine, this weekend after the latest attacks by Russian forces
But a White House official tried to argue that the US president’s point was that the Russian leader ‘cannot be allowed to exercise power over his neighbours or the region’.
‘He was not discussing Putin’s power in Russia, or regime change,’ the official added, before reports in the US suggested the remarks in question had not been scripted.
Mr Biden warned ‘we need to steel ourselves for the long fight ahead’ as he conceded the battle will not be ‘won in days, or months either’.
He told European nations they must end ‘dependence on Russian fossil fuels’, but said sanctions had been sapping Russia’s strength and have reduced the rouble ‘to rubble’.
Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative MP who chairs the Commons Defence Committee, described Mr Biden’s comment hinting at regime change as ‘unwise’.
He warned the Russian president will now see regime change as Mr Biden’s wider objective, adding: ‘Putin will spin this, dig in and fight harder.’
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