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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori on way to airport to leave Iran after release, MP says – live | Politics

Good morning. Boris Johnson is in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, where he has been meeting the crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. In a pooled interview, he said there was no prospect of Ukraine joining Nato any time soon. Asked about President Zelenskiy’s acceptance yesterday that Ukraine would not join Nato, Johnson replied:


I talked to Volodymyr [Zelenskiy], again, yesterday. And you know, of course, I understand what he’s saying about Nato and the reality of the position. And everybody’s always said, and we have made clear to Putin, there’s no way Ukraine is going to join Nato any time soon. But the decision about the future of Ukraine has got to be for the Ukrainian people and for Volodymyr Zelenskiy as their elected leader, and we will back him.

It is not clear quite what the significance of these remarks might be. Vladimir Putin wants Ukrainian membership of Nato to be ruled out for good, and so Zelenskiy’s comment – which Johnson has semi-endorsed this morning – may be a hint that the peace negotiations, which have so far been fruitless, are nudging into more serious territory.

But equally it might be that Zelenskiy and Johnson are saying what they think is obvious, without ulterior purpose (a more common occurrence in politics than one might assume). Asked about the significance of Zelenskiy’s remark in an interview on the Today programme this morning, Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, replied:


It’s a matter for Ukraine whether or not they decide to join Nato, and of course a matter for Nato members.

I’ve always thought that that isn’t the real issue, that it is a smokescreen. If you look at all of Putin’s public statements – his Munich security conference speech in 2007, his essay of last year – this is about recreating a greater Russia, and essentially subordinating Ukraine under Russian authority, as well as extending more broadly to other Eastern European states.

This is an assessment shared by the Economist’s Oliver Carroll.

Oliver Carroll
(@olliecarroll)

Nope. a) Zelensky and his team said Nato was not realistic before the war – but given constitutional commitment it was up to Nato announce. b) Putin also knew Nato wasn’t on the cards. c) much broader basis to Putin’s decision to invade. https://t.co/4Tvcs1YU9Y


March 16, 2022

In his pooled interview this morning Johnson also played down the prospect of his trip to the Gulf today – after the UAE, he will be in Saudia Arabia – being about persuading the Saudis to increase their supply of oil to the west. This is what No 10 seemed to be briefing at the end of last week, when the trip was first reported, but today Johnson claimed his visit was just as much about drumming up more investment in wind energy. In his pooled interview he said:


The reason for coming here is that it’s not just that they’ve got oil. They’re also some of the biggest investors here, in the Gulf, in UK renewables, in our wind farms. And that’s what we’ll be talking about.

Here is the agenda for the day.

10am: Kevin Foster, the immigration minister, and Lord Harrington, the new minister for refugees, give evidence to the Commons home affairs committee.

Morning: Keir Starmer is on a visit to Huddersfield, inspecting a retrofitting project.

10.15am (UK time): Boris Johnson is due to arrive in Saudi Arabia. He is meeting Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince, at 1pm, and he is expected to record a clip for the media in the late afternoon.

12pm: Dominic Raab, the deputy PM, faces Angela Rayner, the deputy Labour leader, at PMQs.

12pm: Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister, holds a briefing on new polling from Our Scottish Future, the group he set up to campaign for an alternative to “both ‘No Change Unionism’ and ‘No Compromise Nationalism’”.

After 12.30pm: MPs begin a debate on an SNP motion on Ukrainian refugees, saying they should not need to apply for visas prior to their arrival in the UK.

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Boris Johnson arriving for a media interview at the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photograph: WPA/Getty Images

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