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Johnson calls for protests outside Russian embassy over Syria conflict

Boris Johnson has threatened to ignite a new diplomatic row with Moscow after he called for demonstrations outside the Russian embassy in protest at the bombing of Aleppo.

In an emergency Commons debate, the Foreign Secretary said President Vladimir Putin was in danger of turning his country into an "international pariah" with his continued support for the regime of President Bashar Assad.

He told MPs he would "certainly" like to see anti-war campaigners demonstrating outside Russia's embassy in London against the continued attacks by Russia warplanes on the stricken city of Aleppo.

Mr Johnson has previously angered the Russians by claiming their forces may have been guilty of war crimes last month when air strikes hit a UN aid convoy near Aleppo, finally ending a fragile ceasefire.

A posting on the Russian embassy Twitter feed said: "Very unusual call from the Foreign Secretary to hold demonstrations in front of the Russian embassy. New form of British diplomacy?"

Earlier, the embassy had appeared to taunt the British Government, posting: "Russia's record on Syria is thousands of freed villages, thousands of tons of humanitarian aid. What's Britain's?"

Mr Johnson's call for demos outside the Russian embassy appeared to be aimed as much at left-wing anti-war groups who have been critical of the West's actions in the Middle East as it was at Moscow.

"It is the UK week after week that is taking the lead together with our allies in America and in France, all the like-minded nations, in highlighting what is happening in Syria to a world where, I'm afraid, the wells of outrage are growing exhausted," he said.

"There is no commensurate horror, it seems to me, amongst some of those anti-war protest groups. I'd certainly like to see demonstrations outside the Russian embassy. Where is the Stop the War Coalition at the moment? Where are they?"

Mr Johnson also repeated his criticisms of the Russians over the attack on the aid convoy and called for an investigation into the repeated attacks on hospitals in Aleppo saying it was "difficult to avoid the conclusion" they amounted to a war crime.

"If Russia continues in its current path then I believe that great country is in danger of becoming a pariah nation and if President Putin's strategy is to restore the greatness and the glory of Russia then I believe he risks seeing his ambition turn to ashes in the face of international contempt for what is happening in Syria," he said.

However Mr Johnson sought to damp down calls from MPs on both sides of the House for the creation of a no-fly zone. While he said he had "every sympathy" with the demands, the Government had to think through the consequences of such a policy.

"We cannot do that unless we are prepared to shoot down planes or helicopters that violate that zone and we need to think very carefully about the consequences," he said.

His comments were echoed by a Downing Street spokesman who said: "The notion that we would somehow be engaged in enforcing a no-fly zone with Russian aircraft in the same airspace is clearly a potentially very difficult and challenging situation.

"It is one which would need to be very carefully looked at and the risks attached to it very carefully analysed before we would head down that path."


From Belfast Telegraph