West must end addiction to Russian energy, says PM

Boris Johnson has urged the West to end its “addiction” on Russian energy as he heads to Saudi Arabia to push for increased oil and gas production. The Prime Minister is today set to travel to the kingdom for talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the hope Saudi can raise its production of oil and gas to make up for a reduced reliance on Russia.

In an article for the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson said Western leaders had made a “terrible mistake” by letting President Vladimir Putin “get away with” annexing Crimea in 2014 and subsequently becoming “more dependent” on Russian power sources. He said the “addiction” on Russian fuel had “emboldened” Mr Putin to bomb civilians during his invasion of Ukraine, while at the same time profiting from soaring global oil and gas prices.

“We cannot go on like this. The world cannot be subject to this continuous blackmail,” said Mr Johnson, whose administration has already announced its plan to phase out importing Russian oil by the end of the year.

Mr Johnson said that Russia produces “virtually nothing else” that the “rest of the world wants to buy”. He added: “If the world can end its dependence on Russian oil and gas, we can starve him of cash, destroy his strategy and cut him down to size.”

Offering a glimpse of what could be in his British Energy Security Strategy, which is due to be published this month, he argued there was a need to press ahead with investment in renewables, including expanding the number of UK offshore wind farms and creating more solar power. Mr Johnson also said there needed to be a “series of big new bets” on nuclear power to make sure the UK’s energy supply was “no longer at the mercy of bullies like Putin”.

However, the Prime Minister looked to level with the public. He said that diverging from Russian power would be “painful” and that financial assistance offered by Chancellor Rishi Sunak to help pay with rising bills this year cannot be afforded “for long”.

Mr Johnson will jet to Riyadh in a bid to secure the route to diverging from Moscow energy supplies – but the Prime Minister faced calls to scrap the trip over human rights concerns, particularly over recent reports of a mass execution of Saudi prisoners. Before his evening flight, he is due to host leaders from the Joint Expeditionary Force (JEF), an alliance of northern European nations.

Representatives from Denmark, Finland, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway had been expected to dine with Mr Johnson at his Chequers country retreat on Monday night. They were set for talks in London today.

Domestically, Britons came forward in such large numbers to offer to take in Ukrainian refugees that the website for registering interest crashed shortly after opening. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities confirmed that, as of 9.30pm on Monday, more than 43,000 households had offered to put up those fleeing the conflict as part of the UK Government’s sponsorship scheme.

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