Putin already at war with Europe and penny hasn't dropped, warns Tory MP

Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood says Russia's president is 'surviving' and his nation's economy on a war footing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with officials in the town of Tsivilsk, Republic of Chuvash, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024. (Alexander Kazakov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
A Tory MP has said Russian president Vladimir Putin is 'more dangerous' than Stalin. (AP Photo)

A Tory MP has warned the "penny hasn't dropped yet that Europe is at war" as he claimed Vladimir Putin is "more dangerous" and "more powerful" than Joseph Stalin.

Former junior defence minister Tobias Ellwood said Russia's president remains resolute in his desire to take Ukraine. Ellwood, who served in the British Army, has just returned from Ukraine, which marked two years since the Russian invasion at the weekend and is still battling for funding for weapons from the West.

He told ITV's Peston programme on Monday evening: "Putin is more dangerous, more powerful than Stalin, and until we wake up to that, what Putin's intentions are, then it's possible that Ukraine may not be able to claim any form of victory."

Tory MP Tobias Ellwood issued a warning about Vladimir Putin. (ITV)
Tory MP Tobias Ellwood issued a warning about Vladimir Putin. (ITV)

Stalin, the leader of the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953, led a totalitarian regime that oversaw ethnic cleansing, executions and famines that killed millions. Ellwood warned that Putin would be emboldened by any Russian indication of success in Ukraine.

Last week, Ukrainian troops withdrew from the town of Avdiivka, which had been besieged by Russian forces for months.

There was also widespread condemnation of Putin following the death on 16 February of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The 47-year-old died in his cell in a prison colony in Siberia where he was being held on charges his supporters said were politically motivated.

FILE - Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny gestures while speaking to a crowd during a political protest in Moscow, Russia on July 20, 2019. Russia’s prison agency says that imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died. He was 47. The Federal Prison Service said in a statement that Navalny felt unwell after a walk on Friday Feb. 16, 2024 and lost consciousness. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)
Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny died in his cell earlier this month. (AP Photo)

Ellwood said: "The penny hasn't dropped yet that Europe is at war. We are involved in that war and if Putin is able to claim any form of success he'll move further than Ukraine in various forms, affecting our economy, affecting Europe's security as well.

"We sometimes paint this picture that Russia is not doing well, it is true, 3,000 tanks that they've lost, over half a million casualties, but Putin is emptying his prisons to replenish them. He's actually moving his whole economy to a war footing. He is surviving."

Ukraine is still waiting for $60bn in US military aid that is currently being held up in Congress. Ellwood said it will be cheaper for Western allies to give Ukraine funding and equipment now rather than waiting for Putin to advance further.

"It's a very sombre mood in Ukraine at the moment, they're wondering where the money's going to come from," he said. "They're saying, 'We don't have the equipment by half in order to push the Russians back'."

Who was Alexei Navalny?

Alexei Navalny, 47, was a Russian opposition leader, lawyer and anti-corruption activist who died in a prison in Siberia on 16 February. He organised anti-government demonstrations and campaigned against Putin and corruption in Russia.

He finished second in the 2013 Moscow mayoral election but was then banned from running in the 2018 presidential election. In 2020, he was hospitalised after being poisoned with a nerve agent and accused Putin of being responsible.

He was sentenced to prison in February 2021 and then given another nine years in prison after being found guilty of embezzlement and contempt of court, a process branded a sham by Amnesty International. Last year, he was sentenced to an additional 19 years in prison on extremism charges. His death in his cell sparked mass condemnation and protests in Russia and other countries.

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