Dominic Raab will blast 'aggressive' Russia in speech to Nato summit

Dominic Raab will blast ‘aggressive’ Russia in speech to Nato summit – after saying Putin’s actions leave ‘democratic values under attack’

  • Dominic Raab to criticise Russia’s ‘aggressive behaviour’ at NATO summit today
  • Foreign Secretary to present ‘rap sheet’ of objections to Moscow’s recent action
  • Criticisms include Russian military build-up in Ukraine and support for Belarus
  • Ties with Russia strained by jailing of Navalny and alleged election hacking 

Dominic Raab will today criticise Russia’s ‘aggressive behaviour’ at a NATO summit after Moscow threatened to increase its military presence in the west of the country amid soaring tensions in Europe. 

The Foreign Secretary will present a ‘rap sheet’ of UK objections to Russia’s recent actions, including its enormous military build-up in annexed Crimea near Ukraine’s border and policing of the Black Sea. 

He will also draw attention to the hijacking of a Ryanair flight by the Putin-backed Lukashenko regime in Belarus in May, for the purpose of arresting an opposition journalist and his girlfriend on a dubious pretext.

Speaking ahead of the meeting of NATO allies, Mr Raab told the Telegraph: ‘From Russia’s aggressive behaviour towards Ukraine to Lukashenko’s assault on civil aviation, democratic values are under attack. As one of the biggest contributors to NATO, UK support for the transatlantic alliance is unwavering. 

‘We will work with Allies and partners to defend our allies and our values.’

Mr Raab will make his speech after Vladimir Putin’s top security officials announced 20 new ‘units and formations’ would be deployed in western Russia and that the armoury of existing forces would be boosted.

The NATO meeting comes ahead of a crunch summit between Mr Putin and US President Joe Biden later this month – which is thought to be the reason for recent military posturing by Russia in Ukraine. 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab leaves 10 Downing Street on May 27, 2021

Vladimir Putin speaks during the opening ceremony of a new auto plant via video conference in the Bocharov Ruchei residence in the Black Sea resort of SochI

The head of NATO has linked the Kremlin to the hijack of a Ryanair jet by Belarus as Russia begins blocking flights skirting around its ally’s airspace.

Jens Stoltenberg, speaking on the deck of British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, said it is ‘hard to believe’ that the Kremlin was not involved in Sunday’s operation to divert the Ryanair jet so a dissident journalist could be arrested.

‘We know the very close relationship between Russia and Belarus and therefore it’s hard to believe that the regime in Minsk could do something like this without any kind of coordination with Russia,’ he told Sky News.

Meanwhile European airlines revealed they have been blocked from flying into Russia because their flight plans involved skirting around Belarus in the latest tit-for-tat move between western leaders and powers in the east.

Air France and Austrian Airlines both said they have been forced to cancel trips after flight plans submitted to Russia ahead of the journey which showed them diverted around Belarus were rejected.

Stoltenberg spoke during NATO exercises which include drills close to Russia’s border, and ahead of a meeting between Putin and Belarus dictator Lukashenko in Sochi later today as the two sides square off.

Last week, Russia offered political support to its ally Belarus, which diverted a Ryanair plane flying from Greece to Lithuania on a ruse to arrest a dissident journalist. 

The EU denounced the flight’s diversion as piracy and responded by barring the Belarusian flag carrier from its airspace and advising European airlines to skirt Belarus’s airspace.

Mr Raab has already threatened Belarus with fresh UK sanctions over the seizure of the Ryanair airliner on May 23, which was flying from Greece to Lithuania – but was urged to go further by MPs. 

Tom Tugendhat, Tory chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, called for ‘very strict’ measures while Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said Britain should block flights from the Belarusian national airline.

Mr Raab said there would be a ‘coordinated response’ from Britain and its allies.

The Foreign Secretary will also slam Russia for designating key allies as ‘unfriendly countries’ and limiting staff at the US and Czech Embassies.

The Government says Russia’s actions are incompatible with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, while the Foreign Office said the meeting will also focus on climate security and stability in Afghanistan.

Russia’s ties with the West are strained over the jailing of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, a military build-up near Ukraine as well as allegations of election hacking. 

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu yesterday threatened to send more troops to the west of the country until the end of the year following huge NATO drills. 

He said military units there are also expected to receive 2,000 new pieces of weaponry, but gave no details about the number of troops involved or the location of the new bases. 

‘The actions of our Western colleagues are destroying the world’s security system and force us to take adequate countermeasures,’ the Interfax news agency quoted Shoigu as saying.

‘Around 20 military formations and units will be formed in the Western Military District by the end of the year,’ he was quoted as saying.

Last week thousands of NATO troops, several warships and dozens of aircraft took part in massive military exercises stretching across the Atlantic, through Europe and into the Black Sea region. 

The exercise, dubbed Steadfast Defender 21, was aimed at simulating the 30-nation military organisation’s response to an attack on any one of its members.

The alliance has in recent years deployed troops and equipment in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to try to reassure its members neighbouring Russia that their partners will ride to the rescue should they come under attack. 

The NATO meeting comes ahead of a crunch summit between Mr Putin and US President Joe Biden later this month – thought to be the reason for recent military posturing by Russia

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu speaks during a meeting with hight level military officials in Moscow, Russia, Monday, May 31

Moscow’s decision to send thousands of troops to the border area with Ukraine has raised concern at NATO, which launched one of its biggest defence spending initiatives after Russian troops annexed Crimea in 2014. 

The move sparked fears from Western leaders that the move could trigger an all-out war. 

NATO chiefs insist the military exercises, involving 9,000 troops from 20 nations, are not aimed at Russia specifically, but they focus on the Black Sea region, where Moscow stands accused of blocking the free navigation of ships.

The alliance’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg says the exercises send an important message to any potential adversary: ‘NATO is ready.’ 

‘NATO is there to defend all our allies, and this exercise sends a message about our ability to transport a large number of troops, equipment across the Atlantic, across Europe and also to project maritime power,’ he told the Associated Press aboard a British aircraft carrier off the coast of Portugal.

In April, a massive troop build-up in Russia’s south and south-west near the Ukrainian border raised concerns in Ukraine and the West, which urged Moscow to withdraw its forces 

A Ukrainian armed forces member walks near the rebel-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine

In April, a massive troop build-up in Russia’s south and south-west near the Ukrainian border raised concerns in Ukraine and the West, which urged Moscow to withdraw its forces. 

Chilling footage on social media showed thousands of Russian tanks, missile trucks, armoured vehicles and long-range guns being transported on freight trains to Crimea and the border of the disputed eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass. 

Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 following the ouster of the country’s Moscow-friendly president and then threw its weight behind separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine. 

More than 14,000 people have been killed in seven years of fighting in eastern Ukraine.

Russia has recalled some troops from its western part after sweeping manoeuvres in April, but Mr Shoigu ordered them to leave their weapons behind for Russia’s Zapad (West) 2021 military exercises in September.

He noted that preparations for the exercises, which will be conducted jointly with Belarus, are now in their final stage and emphasised that the manoeuvres have an ‘exclusively defensive character’. 

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