Press conference with Baltic Foreign Ministers, 3 March 2022: opening statement by the Foreign Minister

Thank you, Minister Landsbergis, for bringing us together here in Vilnius.

The UK stands with its allies in doing all it can to support Ukraine against President Putin’s war of choice. We must ensure that Putin fails in this horrible enterprise and that his ambitions go no further.

We were delighted to support Lithuanian leaders who referred war crimes to the ICC.

I am here today in Vilnius with our Baltic friends because I want to say that the UK’s commitment to the Baltics and Article 5 is unyielding.

Our Baltic friends know what is at stake, having lived for a long time in the shadow of Russian aggression, and I admire your courage. We work together to achieve two clear goals.

First, Putin must lose in Ukraine. We are helping Ukraine to defend itself. Our UK defensive weapons are now used to stop Russian tanks. But we need to do more.

Second, we must contain this aggression. We are strengthening NATO’s eastern flank and supporting European security through the UK-led Joint Expeditionary Force.

We are here in the Baltic region – we are leading and have doubled our enhanced forward presence in Estonia. Our allies are leading troops across the Baltic. British Military Intelligence is working with the Lithuanian Army to strengthen border defences, including in the Suwalki Gap. 200 soldiers are currently participating in joint military exercises and we are working together on maritime security.

At the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers tomorrow, we will work together to strengthen our collective defense in light of the evolving security situation across Europe. In terms of supporting Ukraine with defensive armaments, the UK was the first European country to provide defensive military support to Ukraine – and we are now supporting it with humanitarian aid as well. We have pledged £220m in aid to Ukraine – and we are Europe’s biggest donor. And we will do more.

We have also been at the forefront of tightening the noose on the Kremlin through sanctions, and it is vital at this stage that we keep our foot on the accelerator.

We worked with the EU, US and G7 to cut off funding for Putin’s war machine, kicking Russian banks out of the financial system.

We have also closed our airspace to Russian planes, and we are rapidly advancing sanctions against Russian oligarchs, but we need to go further.

We must ensure that no Russian bank has access to SWIFT, and we must go further in reducing dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, including oil, gas and coal. We have also launched sanctions against Belarus for aiding and abetting aggression.

I will raise these issues tomorrow at the G7 and also at the Foreign Affairs Council of the European Union, alongside the United States, Canada and Ukraine, who have also been invited in these extraordinary circumstances.

This is a struggle not just for Ukraine’s freedom and self-determination, but for our common freedom and security. By continuing to react with force, together we will ensure that Putin loses.

And we stand with our brave allies here in the Baltics to make it happen.

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