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News Item: UK lets in more Ukrainians, rejects Russian nuclear threat

The UK on Monday hit Russia’s central bank with new sanctions and relaxed visa rules for Ukrainians fleeing the invasion, but dismissed President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear readiness alert as sabre-rattling.

In his latest call with Ukraine’s leader Volodymyr Zelensky on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the “heroic” resistance of Ukrainians, according to Downing Street.

Johnson released a further £40 million ($54 million, 48 million euros) in humanitarian aid for Ukraine, after he gave an emotional address to worshippers at London’s Ukrainian Catholic cathedral.

“Never in all my study, my memory of politics and international affairs, have I seen so clear a distinction between right and wrong, between good and evil, between light and dark,” he told the congregation.

“And that is the real reason why Ukraine is our neighbour today.”

However, the UK government has come under strong pressure from opposition parties for its restrictive stance on Ukraine refugees, as the European Union debates throwing open its own doors.

In a tweet that was later deleted, one junior minister had suggested that Ukrainians could apply to come to Britain as seasonal workers, to pick fruit and vegetables.

In a concession, the government said that immediate family members could now join their Ukrainian relatives in Britain.

“We want to be as generous as we possibly can, and certainly we want people who have relatives in Ukraine to be able to bring them over as fast as possible,” Johnson said.

The opposition Labour party welcomed the concession but said it “should have happened days ago”.

“The government should also work with European countries on a wider sanctuary arrangement so the UK can also do its bit alongside others to help Ukraine,” Labour’s home affairs spokeswoman Yvette Cooper said.

– Don’t fight in Ukraine –

While pledging support for the people of Ukraine, Britain has also been turning the financial screw on the Putin regime in concert with its Western allies.

Finance minister Rishi Sunak is due to introduce legislation Tuesday to crack down on Russian “dirty money” in the UK economy, and said meanwhile that Moscow would find it harder to access its foreign reserves.

In parallel with the EU and United States, Britain is banning its citizens and companies from carrying out transactions with Russia’s central bank, finance ministry and sovereign wealth fund.

The West is determined “in imposing the highest costs on Russia and to cut her off from the international financial system so long as this conflict persists”, Sunak said in a statement.

On the military front, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Russia’s advance into Ukraine was running into trouble.

“There are many reports of Russians either sort of deserting or surrendering,” he told BBC radio.

“Because they are confused as much as anyone why they are engaged in a war with people they’re probably related to.”

Putin was trying to “flex muscles” by elevating his state of nuclear readiness, Wallace said in response to a shock announcement by the Kremlin leader on Sunday.

“No, we’re not going to have a nuclear war,” the defence minister said in a separate interview with LBC radio.

“We’ve looked at their posture. There isn’t a significant change.”

Wallace also rebuffed widely criticised remarks Sunday by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, suggesting that British volunteers were free to travel to Ukraine and fight against Russia.

“Unless you are properly trained, unless you are an experienced member of an armed forces, I think there are better ways for you to contribute to the security of Ukraine,” he said.

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