It may take years for Vladimir Putin to be defeated in his conquest of Ukraine, Britain’s deputy prime minister has admitted, as Labour accused the government of moving too slowly over sanctions.
Dominic Raab said people who thought the crisis could be resolved in days were “deluding themselves” and that Nato would need to “show some strategic stamina” in its bid to force the Russian army to retreat.
As the war in eastern Europe entered its 11th day, Raab said Putin was resorting to “ever more brutal tactics to try and wrest back the initiative” given the military campaign run from Moscow had “stuttered”.
“I think the bottom line is none of the major cities have yet fallen,” Raab, who is also the justice secretary, told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme.
“But I think we ought to be under no doubt that our mission with our allies is to ensure Putin fails in Ukraine, and it’s going to take some time.
“We’re talking about months if not years, and therefore we’ll have to show some strategic stamina because this is not going to be over in days.”
Raab rejected Ukrainian calls for a no-fly zone. He said it would provoke a more “direct military conflict” between the western defensive alliance and Russia, marking a “massive escalation” in tensions.
“That feeds Putin’s narrative,” Raab said. “Putin wants to say that he’s actually in a struggle with the west. He’s not. This is an illegal invasion of a neighbour whose self-determination, democratic and territorial integrity needs to be protected. We do not want to feed Putin’s narrative.”
Amid concerns that ceasefires in safe corridors to allow passage of humanitarian aid had broken down, Raab said it was “always worth keeping the diplomatic door ajar” but that he was “very sceptical about any assurances or commitments that president Putin makes”.
He continued: “You can see with the impact of sanctions, which I don’t think he was expecting, the rouble falling, the stock market falling to record lows, the impact on interest rates in Russia. But I don’t think yet that will have created a kind of change of calculus.
“We need to keep up that pressure, keep supporting President Zelenskiy in the heroic defence that the people of Ukraine have put up.”
Raab added: “The cakewalk into Ukraine that Putin told his conscripts and the Russian people that they were engaged in has not materialised, and that shows the pressure that he’s under.”
The Labour leader, Keir Starmer, admonished ministers for failing to heed warnings contained in the 2020 “Russia report” from parliament’s intelligence and security committee.
He said Labour MPs would support the economic crime bill’s passage through the Commons, which begins on Monday, but that he was frustrated the government was “going slowly and they they didn’t look at this months ago”.
Stressing the importance of unity, Starmer said: “These sanctions could actually be in place by now if the government had a bit of forethought on this. I don’t want to divide, other than to push the government further and faster on this.”
He added: “There’s echoes of Afghanistan, which is that the government really only begins to get its act together and respond in the heat of the situation rather than preparing for it beforehand.”