Theresa May describes ‘awful situation’ in Ukraine and condemns ‘illegal invasion’
Theresa May has condemned Russia’s “illegal invasion” of Ukraine, during a public conversation with another former prime minister on International Women’s Day.
The former British Prime Minister and MP for Maidenhead was speaking to former Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, as part of a program organized by the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership. Ms May told Ms Gillard she found the situation ‘absolutely horrendous’, adding: ‘I think we should remember this is an illegal invasion, an illegal war.
Asked if she was surprised by the brutality of the Russian advance – which included indiscriminate rocket attacks on Ukrainian towns and the shooting of fleeing civilians – Ms May referred to previous Russian outrages in Europe and in the UK.
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“I think here in the UK we are perhaps less surprised at anything Vladimir Putin might do given that he – that Russia used a nerve agent on the streets of one of our cities to try to kill two people and sadly a British citizen lost his life because of it,” the former Tory leader said.
“So the fact that he – that Russia has no qualms about using a chemical weapon on a street like that…I don’t think anyone can be surprised at anything,” he said. she added, choosing her words carefully.
Dawn Sturgess died in Amesbury, Wiltshire, several months after former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia were targeted by Russian assassins on the streets of Salisbury in 2018. The nerve agent used was identified by British scientists like Novichok, a deadly poison developed in the Soviet Union during the Cold War and recently added to the Chemical Weapons Convention’s global list of banned substances.
British intelligence officers said in 2019 they had established a chain of command directing the Salisbury attack, leading all the way to the Russian leader. The revelation led several countries to expel dozens of Russian diplomats – but President Putin has repeatedly denied any involvement, calling the poisonings a false flag attack by British agents.
Ms May also referred to the allegedly Russian-backed attack on defected intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko, who was fatally irradiated with polonium-210 in London in 2006. And she mentioned the attempted assassination with Novichok of the leader of political opposition and critic of Putin Alexei Navalny, who was almost fatally poisoned in Russia in 2020.
During the interview, Ms. May also reminded Ms. Gillard that the recent military advance towards Kiev is not the first Russian aggression in Ukraine.
“Vladimir Putin brought war to mainland Europe – but this is not his first invasion of Ukraine of course, he invaded Ukraine in 2014 when he took Crimea,” she said .
Ms May called Mr Putin an ‘opportunist’, making his latest move against his former Soviet neighbor as ‘many eyes were on China’. She called the battles now raging across Ukraine – which are believed to have claimed more than 10,000 lives so far – as battles for “the very essence of democracy”.
The former prime minister added: “I think President Putin… underestimated the response from Ukraine and probably underestimated the response from the West and the economic sanctions that were put in place. I think he dramatically underestimated the desire of Ukrainians to be free. He can’t understand what sense people have.
“I think the biggest thing you see from everyone in Ukraine is that they want to keep their country – they want that freedom, they want that independence.”
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