UK Politics

Russia says Boris Johnson embassy protest call 'shameful'

Boris Johnson Image copyright PA
Image caption Boris Johnson said those behind the attacks should face trial for war crimes

Russia has condemned Boris Johnson's call for demonstrations outside its London embassy as "shameful".

The foreign secretary said on Tuesday that he would "like to see" a protest against bombings of the Syrian city of Aleppo, which are being blamed on Vladimir Putin's forces.

But Moscow, which denies the claims, accused him of "Russophobic hysteria".

And the Stop the War Coalition said protests in the UK would not "make a blind bit of difference".

And a Labour spokesman suggested people were free to protest outside the embassies of all foreign powers intervening in Syria, including the US.

'Pariah'

The northern Syrian city of Aleppo has become the most high-profile battleground in the country's five-year civil war.

A UN relief convoy was attacked from the air last month - an action widely blamed on Russia, an ally of President Bashar al-Assad.

In an emergency House of Commons debate on Tuesday, Mr Johnson called for those responsible for strikes on the convoy and hospitals in Aleppo to face trial at the International Criminal Court.

Saying Russia risked becoming a "pariah" state, he told MPs the UK government was "taking the lead" in raising awareness of the situation in Syria.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Andrew Mitchell accused Russia of committing a war crime by attacking a UN relief convoy last month

He added: "There is no commensurate horror, it seems to me, amongst some of those anti-war protest groups.

"I would certainly like to see demonstrations outside the Russian embassy.

"Where is the Stop the War Coalition at the moment? Where are they?"

Russia's government has reacted angrily.

Its Ministry of Defence spokesman, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, said: "The Russophobic hysteria regularly whipped up by various members of the British establishment for a long time now has been quite underwhelming.

"Therefore, the frenzy that has gripped... Boris Johnson, who accuses Russia of committing every deadly sin, is a storm in a teacup full of muddy London water."

'Total destruction'

And Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told the Interfax news agency: "It is clear now what Boris Johnson meant when he said that the weapon that the West would be using against Russia was shame.

"The statement he made calling on protests in front of the Russian embassy is a shame. It is shameful.

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Media captionSir John Sawers says it was a mistake for Britain to leave Syria to the Russians.

"It is shameful for the simple reason that now it is becoming clear who is behind the so-called organisations and social movements and representatives of civil society that come out to Russian embassies on different occasions."

French foreign minister Jean-Marc Aryault, who has echoed Mr Johnson's call for the International Criminal Court to investigate Russia's actions in Syria, questioned the purpose of his counterpart's comments.

"Is it the job of a foreign minister to organise demonstrations?" he told journalists.

Air strikes on Aleppo continued on Tuesday, with at least 25 people reported dead.

The United Nations has warned that eastern Aleppo, where an estimated 275,000 people still live, could face "total destruction" within two months.

Last week, Russia vetoed a UN Security Council resolution drafted by France calling for an end to the bombing in the city.

Ex-MI6 boss warns

Stop the War vice-chairman Chris Nineham said the group would not organise demonstrations outside the Russian embassy in London.

Its aim was to "make a difference to what Britain does" and what its allies do, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, adding: "But if we have a protest outside the Russian embassy, it wouldn't make a blind bit of difference as to what Putin does, because we are in Britain and we are in the West.

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Media captionForeign Secretary Boris Johnson asks: "Where is the Stop The War coalition at the moment? Where are they?"

"And, not only that - a protest outside the Russian embassy would actually contribute to increasing the hysteria and the jingoism that is being whipped up at the moment against Russia."

Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6, told Today Mr Johnson should be wary of calling for demonstrations in London.

He urged him to "recall" the storming and ransacking of the British embassy by protesters in Iran in 2011.

He added: "I don't think that would happen in Moscow, but you have to be careful about the consequences of what you call for."

A spokesman for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Russia was not the only foreign power involved in the Syrian conflict and all of them needed to come together in pursuit of a negotiated settlement.

"Obviously, people are entitled and at complete liberty to demonstrate outside not only the Russian embassy, but all the other embassies of those intervening powers," he said.

"People are free to protest outside the intervening powers' embassies and there are a number of them - not just the US and Russia."

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