Johnson to call Putin to ‘accelerate diplomatic efforts’ – as Ukrainian reservists carry out military drills outside Kyiv

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Boris Johnson will step up his presence in the Russia-Ukraine crisis by holding a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin and visiting the region “in the coming days”.

The prime minister will “ramp up deterrence to avoid bloodshed” between the two former Soviet states and is determined to “accelerate diplomatic efforts” during the trip, a Downing Street spokeswoman said.

“He will reiterate the need for Russia to step back and engage diplomatically when he speaks to President Putin this week,” she added.

Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has said he is planning to move US troops to Eastern Europe and NATO countries “in the near term”, adding that the number would be “not a lot”.

The Pentagon has placed about 8,500 US troops on stand-by for possible deployment to Europe, while President Putin has amassed a force of around 100,000 Russian troops to its border with Ukraine.

Service members of the 28th Separate Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces take part in coastal defence drills in the Odessa region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released January 28, 2022. Ukrainian Defence Ministry/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
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Ukrainian soldiers take part in coastal defence drills in the Odessa region, Ukraine

Tougher sanctions expected

Last week, Mr Johnson asked defence and security chiefs to consider further defensive military options in Europe during a high-level intelligence briefing.

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This weekend, he will consider a range of options to alleviate Russian aggression in the region, including further deployments and bolstering NATO’s defences.

Tougher sanctions are expected to be announced by the Foreign Office on Monday, allowing the UK to target Russia’s strategic and financial interests.

Russian tanks take part in drills in the Rostov region
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Russian tanks take part in drills in the Rostov region

Russia says Truss will visit Moscow

Meanwhile, Russia’s foreign minister has said Liz Truss has “agreed a date” to visit Moscow within the next two weeks.

The foreign secretary has repeatedly spoken out against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last week, she declassified intelligence that suggested Mr Putin was plotting to install a pro-Moscow leader as head of Ukraine’s government.

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‘Are you downplaying risk of Russian attack?’

Ukrainian president says media gives impression country is already at war

It comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the media gave the impression Russia is already at war with Ukraine.

“There are no tanks in the streets,” he told reporters on Friday.

“But media give the impression, if one is not here, that we have a war, that we have army in the streets… That’s not the case. We don’t need this panic.”

The Royal Danish Air Force sent four F-16 fighter jets and crew to Lithuania to help bolster patrols over the Baltic region as fears of war grow.
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The Royal Danish Air Force sent four F-16 fighter jets and crew to Lithuania to help bolster patrols over the Baltic region

Biden warns of ‘distinct possibility’ Russia could take military action in February

Earlier in the week, President Biden warned President Zelenskyy there is a “distinct possibility” Russia could take military action against the country in February.

Similarly, the Kremlin said it saw “little ground for optimism” in resolving the crisis after the US rejected Russia’s main demands again.

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“President Biden said that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians could invade Ukraine in February,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Emily Horne said.

“He has said this publicly and we have been warning about this for months.”

Chris Philp, a minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told Sky News there is “deep concern” about the “unprecedented” build-up of Russian troops on the border, particularly after units from the east of Russia redeployed to the region.

“I think it is a very serious situation,” he said.

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