Russian president Vladimir Putin must leave Ukraine and pay “proper recompense” for his invasion through financial reparations before he can ever return to the international fold, Liz Truss has warned.
The prime minister used her first foreign trip to rally UN allies to keep up the pressure on Russia, with government sources insisting pulling out of Ukraine was a ‘red line’ for any resumption of diplomatic relations.
On the plane on her way to New York, Truss told reporters: “First Russia needs to leave Ukraine. And we need to make sure that there is proper recompense for what has happened in Ukraine and we need to make sure Russia is never again able to threaten countries on its border.”
It was unclear whether she meant Russia should leave all of Ukraine’s internationally recognised land, or whether she was exempting Crimea, which Putin annexed in 2014. Government sources suggested that “recompense” for Ukraine could range from economic reparations to war crimes tribunals if evidence was found.
Later, Truss told Channel 5 News: “Well, what I was saying is it’s not just important that Ukraine prevails. It’s also important this never happens again. And there has been grave damage caused across Ukraine. I’m proud that the United Kingdom has stepped up or is working with Kyiv to help them with their reconstruction. But I would expect that the Russian state which has vast oil and gas reserves should be contributing to rebuilding it.”
The US is currently looking at whether seized Russian assets could be used immediately to fund reconstruction or humanitarian projects in Ukraine, rather than waiting until the end of the conflict, but the move has to be signed off by the courts on a case-by-case basis.
The prime minister made her remarks ahead of launching an update to the integrated review of defence and foreign policy, by her foreign affairs adviser Prof John Bew, to counteract the threat of authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China.
She also doubled down on her campaign trail commitment to increase defence spending to 3% of UK GDP by the end of the decade.
During the US trip, Truss will pledge the UK will next year match or exceed the £2.3bn in military aid to Ukraine given in 2022. No 10 said she would reiterate the Nato spending commitment for 2030, which the Royal United Services Institute thinktank said would cost an extra £157bn.
Truss will use a speech to the UN’s general assembly on Wednesday to pledge to define a “new era” of “hope and progress”. She is expected to say: “The story of 2022 could have been that of an authoritarian state rolling its tanks over the border of a peaceful neighbour and subjugating its people.
“Instead, it is the story of freedom fighting back. But this must not be a one-off. Britain’s commitment to this is total. Together with our friends and allies around the world, we will continue to champion freedom, sovereignty and democracy.”