UK's Boris Johnson denies being 'anti-Russian' after Moscow criticism

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday that British prime minister is 'most active participant in the race to be anti-Russian'

Live updates: follow the latest news on Russia-Ukraine

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hit back at Moscow after the Kremlin effectively labelled him as enemy number one among western leaders.

The prime minister insisted after an emergency Nato summit in Brussels that he was not “remotely anti-Russian” after Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by the state-owned RIA news agency as saying that Mr Johnson is “the most active participant in the race to be anti-Russian”.

Speaking at the press conference in Brussels, the prime minister said: “Absolutely not, least of all me. I think I’m probably the only prime minister in UK history to be called Boris, I think I have that distinction, and I’m not remotely anti-Russian.

He also told reporters he has not, in principle, ruled out acceding to Ukraine’s request for tanks.

In a virtual address to leaders for, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s pleaded for “1 per cent of all your planes, 1 per cent of all your tanks”.

Despite hesitance among allies, Mr Johnson did not completely rule out Ukraine's request, saying instead that the move would be challenging “logistically”

Western leaders have said that providing such military equipment to Ukraine could further provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“What President Zelenskyy wants is to try to relieve Mariupol and to help the thousands of Ukrainian fighters in the city. To that end, he does need armour, as he sees it,” Mr Johnson told reporters.

“We are looking at what we can do to help. But logistically, it looks very difficult both with armour and with jets.”

But as Russian forces continue to pummel Ukrainian cities, causing millions to flee, Mr Johnson drew a line between the behaviour of Mr Putin and the Russian people.

“I think what we all agree is that what Vladimir Putin is doing, the way he’s leading Russia at the moment, is utterly catastrophic, that his invasion of Ukraine is inhuman and barbaric,” he said.

“And the conduct of that invasion is now moving into the type of behaviour that, as I said before, we haven’t seen.

“So, you can be sympathetic towards ordinary Russians, who are being so badly led, but you can be deeply hostile to the decisions of Vladimir Putin.”

Updated: March 25, 2022, 3:50 AM