Boris Johnson has explained why Western countries cannot immediately stop using Russian gas and oil despite wanting to punish Vladimir Putin.
The prime minister said the world needs to “move away as fast as possible” from a reliance on Russian energy supplies but said there would need to be a “step-by-step transition period” while countries around the world find substitutes.
He added that although the UK could quickly move away from Russian hydrocarbons, as only 2.3% of UK gas comes from Russia, the world needs to move away from Russian hydrocarbons as one.
Mr Johnson said the UK was looking at using more of its own hydrocarbons during a transition phase towards green energy, and insisted that does not mean the government is abandoning its commitment to reducing CO2 emissions.
He also announced a further £175 million in aid to Ukraine, bringing the total amount from the UK since Russia’s invasion to around £400m.
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Record gas prices after call to halt Russian purchases
Natural gas prices smashed previous UK records on Monday, while Brent crude oil reached its highest level since 2008 after US secretary of state Antony Blinken suggested the US and European allies were discussing a Russian oil and gas ban in reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On the 12th day of the invasion, Russia said it would open humanitarian corridors from several Ukrainian cities to let civilians flee – but a spokesperson for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the fact most lead to Russia or Belarus was “completely immoral”.
Mr Zelenskyy also called for the West to stop buying oil and gas from Russia.
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‘A transition period’
However, talking alongside the Dutch and Canadian prime ministers, who are visiting London, Mr Johnson said: “There are different dependencies in different countries, we have to be mindful of that.
“You can’t simply close down use of oil and gas overnight, even from Russia. That’s obviously not something every country around the world can do.
“We can go fast in the UK, other countries can go fast but there are different dependencies.
“What we need to do is make sure we’re all moving in the same direction, all share the same assumptions, that we accelerate that movement. I think that is what you’re going to see.
“I see no inconsistencies in moving away from Russian hydrocarbons, and hydrocarbons at all.
“There’s going to be a transition period, we’re going to have to look for supply, for substitute supplies elsewhere and we’re going to have to look elsewhere across the whole coalition of countries that is now condemning Putin’s actions.”
Dutch PM Mark Rutte said it is a “painful reality” that Europe and a lot of the world is dependent on Russian gas.
But, he said: “It is a step-by-step process, we have to make sure we leverage our dependency on Russian gas, Russian oil, whilst acknowledging at the moment that dependency, to a certain extent, is still there.
“If you force companies to quit doing business with Russia in that realm, that will have enormous consequences because it would basically undermine supply chains the world over, particularly in Europe.
“But also would have an impact on Ukraine itself.
“Therefore, my plea is please do this diligently and not overnight and making sure we speed up the programmes in all our countries to decarbonise, to green our economies – it makes it more important to do that.”
Mr Rutte also admitted sanctions on Russian oligarchs by the West have so far “not had the desired effect” on Mr Putin but said in the longer term, they will have a “big impact” on how Russia moves forward.
Mr Trudeau said that was why the West was committed to helping Ukraine in the long-term and will stand up to the Russian invaders, with the West needing to be as determined as the Ukrainians in pushing back against Mr Putin and the Kremlin.