PM says next few days are ‘most dangerous moment’ in Ukraine crisis

UK

Boris Johnson has warned “the stakes are very high” amid ongoing fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, and warned that the next few days are probably the “most dangerous moment”.

Holding a news briefing with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the prime minister said it was “time to de-escalate” adding: “We must resist, we must oppose any return to the days when fates of nations are decided over their heads by a handful of great powers.”

He added: “I honestly don’t think a decision has yet been taken but that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible that something absolutely disastrous could happen very soon indeed.

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“Our intelligence, I’m afraid to say, remains grim. We’re seeing the massing of huge numbers of tactical battalion groups on the border with Ukraine.

“This is probably the most dangerous moment in the course of the next few days in what is the biggest security crisis Europe has faced for decades.”

UK forces train with Estonian forces near the Russian border
Image:
Boris Johnson has warned that Europe faces the ‘most dangerous moment’ in its ‘biggest security crisis’ for decades

Mr Johnson continued: “The stakes are very high and this is a very dangerous moment. At stake are the rules that protect every nation – big and small.”

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But he told broadcasters that Britain’s commitment to European security is “absolute and “immovable”.

Mr Stoltenberg said he is “prepared to listen to Russia’s concerns” but warned that this is “a dangerous moment for European security”.

But he added: “NATO will not compromise on core principles – the right of each nation to choose its own path and NATO’s ability to protect and defend all allies.”

The prime minister is visiting both Belgium and Poland today as part of diplomatic efforts in the face of Russia’s build-up of thousands of troops on the border with its neighbour.

Mr Johnson recently offered to double the number of British troops on Europe’s borders with Russia, as well as deploy more UK jets and ships to the region.

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Asked at the news briefing whether he is confident the UK’s action will be enough to ensure conflict does not break out, Mr Johnson said: “Whether we are going to be successful, I simply cannot say.”

The prime minister did not rule out going further in giving Ukraine military support in the event of an invasion by Russia.
he added that “at the moment we feel that this package is the right one”.

The PM once more reiterated that it would be “an absolute disaster” if there was to be “bloodshed on Ukrainian soil”, adding that war would be “a pointless, tragic and vastly economically costly to Russia”.

The prime minister will later today travel on to Warsaw to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow and that a war in Ukraine would be “disastrous” and could lead to UK introducing “severe sanctions” on Russian “individuals and institutions”.

Speaking at a news briefing in Moscow, Ms Truss warned Mr Lavrov that Russian’s actions are “undermining” its position on the world stage and urged him to dial down the “Cold War rhetoric”.

“The aggression by the Russian government and attempts to relitigate the past are seriously undermining Russia’s international standing,” she said.

Accusing Russia of “attempting to destabilise Ukrainian democracy” through “hybrid warfare and amassing over 100,000 troops on the border in a threatening manner”, she added: “These acts have actually had the effect of strengthening NATO’s resolve and turning the Ukrainian people further away from Russia.”

The UK’s foreign secretary said Mr Lavrov had told her that Russia has “no plans” to begin military action against Ukraine but said his words “must be followed up by actions”.

Mr Lavrov said there needs to be “mutual respect” on both sides for the talks to progress.

Ms Truss flew to Moscow on Wednesday for the two-day trip and will be joined later by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

On Wednesday, Downing Street said the prime minister would use Thursday’s trip to stress to allies that they must not compromise on NATO’s fundamental principles.

This includes the protection of countries’ sovereignty, the right of every European democracy to aspire to NATO membership, and the alliance’s mutual defence pact.

Ukraine’s plans for future membership of NATO has been cited as one of the key reasons behind the current tensions between Moscow and the West.

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