The Prime Minister condemned Moscow for sending more than 100,000 troops to its border with Ukraine, a number “far bigger than anything Russia has deployed against her before”. He promised the UK and its allies would not “bargain away” the vision of a free Europe, and would continue to react “in unison” to any Russian attack on Ukraine by imposing “coordinated and severe sanctions, heavier than anything we have done before”.
This morning, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the UK Government will be “bringing forward new legislation to make our sanctions regime tougher”. Her comments come after the US moved to impose further sanctions on Russia in November last year, in connection with the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, targeting Russia-linked Transadria Ltd. and its vessel.
Ms Truss added: “We are urging Russia to desist from an incursion and we’re making it very clear that if they were to do that there would be severe economic cost to Russia – severe sanctions.”
US President Joe Biden has said if Russia invades Ukraine with all of its forces, it would be the “largest invasion since World War 2” and would “change the world”.
Some 8,500 US troops have been put on heightened alert to go to eastern Europe to bolster NATO forces.
The Prime Minister also expressed concerns that a major military assault would lead to “bloodshed comparable to the first war in Chechnya or Bosnia”.
Mr Johnson added: “If Russia invades Ukraine, we would look to contribute to any new NATO deployments to protect our allies in Europe.”
The Prime Minister held a video conference on Monday night with leaders of the US, France, Germany, Poland, Italy, the UN and the EU where he said US President Joe Biden confirmed he is willing to speak with President Putin.
But President Biden is thought to have only angered Mr Putin further, after confirming he would consider sanctioning Mr Putin personally if there was an offensive.
In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said such a move would be politically destructive but not painful, adding that anyone making the suggestion does not have enough expert knowledge on the subject.
The UK is currently leading NATO troops in Estonia and last week supplied anti-armour missiles and a small training team of British troops to Ukraine, where the army has trained 21,000 Ukrainian troops since 2015.
NATO currently has about 4,000 troops in multinational battalions in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, backed by tanks, air defences and intelligence and surveillance units.
Mr Johnson added that in mid-December he spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin and told him NATO “had no thought of encircling or otherwise threatening his country” but Ukraine “of course enjoys an equal and symmetrical right to that of Russia”.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said his party “stands resolute” in supporting Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty.
Mr Johnson’s threats come as British Embassy staff in Kiev were withdrawn on Monday and advised to return home.
In a televised address on Tuesday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged his citizens to stay calm and said work was taking place for a meeting between him and the leaders of Russia, Germany and France.
Do you think Mr Johnson is making the right decision to stand against Russia? Have your say in the comments section below.
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