Boris Johnson has called on China to step out of the fence and join the global condemnation of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
The prime minister said he believed some in Xi Jinping’s administration had “different thoughts” about the neutral stance taken by Beijing following Russia’s actions against its neighbor.
Despite Mr Johnson’s proposal for a possible change of attitude, there was new criticism of it NATO Saturday from Kina as Russian forces continued their bombing of Ukrainian cities.
Johnson used one Sunday Times interview to urge China and other neutral nations to stand up to Russia.
He said: “As time goes on, and as the number of Russian atrocities increases, I think it is becoming increasingly difficult and politically embarrassing for people to either actively or passively tolerate Putin’s invasion.
“There are significant dilemmas now for people who thought they could sit here, who thought they could sit on the fence.
“And yes, I think people in Beijing are starting to see some other thoughts.”
US President Joe Biden had one two-hour video call with Chinese President Xi Friday, but there was little evidence of any change in Beijing’s position.
On Saturday China’s Deputy Foreign Minister Le Yucheng blamed NATO – a “Cold War” – for the war and criticized sanctions against Russia.
Leaders of the NATO alliance – including Mr Biden – are meeting in Brussels on Thursday, where Mr Johnson suggests it would be “extremely significant”, with the possibility of more promises of support for Ukraine and its president. Volodymyr Zelensky.
“People want to do more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves,” Johnson said.
“But I have to emphasize that it is very important that we do not fall into the trap of seemingly stacking Putin’s argument with his own country that this is really a war between Russia and NATO; between Russia and the West. That’s not what’s going on here. ”
The Prime Minister used a speech at the Tory Spring Conference on Saturday to argue that Mr Putin’s invasion was not motivated by fears that Ukraine would join an enlarged NATO, but rather because he was afraid of a successful democracy in the former Soviet republic.
He said Mr Zelensky – with whom he has regular talks despite the constant threat of attacks on Kiev – was an “absolutely charming guy, but he has also proved to be an inspiration and a heroic warlord”.
The possibility of offering Mr Zelensky and his family refuge in Britain had been discussed, but Mr Johnson told it Sunday Times: “I have to tell you that Volodymyr has always been clear, his duty is to the Ukrainian people; he must stay there, he must take care of them. I have to say I admire him. “
In his conference speech in Blackpool on Saturday, Mr Johnson said Mr Putin was in “total panic” over the prospect of a popular uprising if freedom were allowed to flourish in Kiev.
The war was a “turning point for the world” that forced countries to stand up to Russia instead of “creating accommodation with tyranny”.
“He (Mr Putin) has been in total panic over a so-called color revolution in Moscow itself, and that is why he is trying so brutally to extinguish the flame of freedom in Ukraine, and that is why it is so important that he fails, “said Mr. Johnson.
“A victorious Putin will not stop in Ukraine, and the end of freedom in Ukraine will mean the annihilation of any hope of freedom in Georgia and then Moldova, it will mean the beginning of a new era of intimidation throughout Eastern Europe from the Baltic to the Black Sea.”
Johnson used his interview to acknowledge that sanctions and the shift away from Russian oil and gas could have one “terrible” impact on consumers and motorists.
But he said the West needed to reduce its reliance on Russian hydrocarbons, suggesting it should have been done earlier after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“The West is paying something like $ 700 million (£ 531 million) a day to Putin in oil and gas revenues. And he is using that money to fund his barbaric aggression in Ukraine.”
Additional reporting from the Press Association