The show of support for the UK amid growing tensions with Moscow over the nerve agent attack in Salisbury signals a turning point in how the world deals with Russia, Boris Johnson has said.
Speaking at the Lord Mayor’s Easter banquet, the Foreign Secretary said the 27 countries expelling Russian diplomats represented “a moment when a feeling has suddenly crystallised”.
He said nations were saying “enough is enough” after “years of vexation and provocation” which had “worn the collective patience to breaking point”. He said the Kremlin “underestimated the strength of global feeling”.
Mr Johnson went on to highlight the annexation of Crimea, cyberattacks and the concealing of chemical weapons in Syria.
“After all these provocations, this week was the moment when the world decided to say enough to the wearying barrage of Russian lies,” he said.
“The torrent of obfuscation and intercontinental ballistic whoppers. First they told us that novichok never existed, then they told us that it did exist but they had destroyed the stocks, then they claimed that the stocks had escaped to Sweden or the Czech Republic or Slovakia or the United States.
“And the other day they claimed that the true inventor of novichok was Theresa May.”
Mr Johnson said that the Foreign Office had heard a total of 24 “ludicrous fibs” with regards to Russian involvement in Salisbury.
In a colourful comparison, the MP added: “They make novichok, we make light sabres. One a hideous weapon that is specifically intended for assassination. The other an implausible theatrical prop with a mysterious buzz.
“But which of those two weapons is really more effective in the world of today?
“I tell you that the arsenals of this country and of our friends are not stocked with poison but with something vastly more powerful – the power of imagination and creativity and innovation that comes with living in a free society.”
The speech comes after Theresa May spoke to Donald Trump to thank the US leader for his “very strong response” as he expelled 60 Russian diplomats.
“The PM said the US had delivered a very strong response and welcomed the breadth of international action in response to Russia’s reckless and brazen behaviour,” a Downing Street spokesperson added.
On Wednesday, Russia called on the UK to prove British intelligence services did not poison former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
The Russian foreign ministry also said in the absence of that evidence it will consider the case a murder attempt on Russian citizens as part of a “massive political provocation”.
Moscow continues to deny any involvement in the nerve agent attack.