Johnson calls prospect of Russian invasion of Ukraine ‘disastrous’ as NATO deploys more resources eastward

Published by Scott Challinor on January 25th 2022, 12:00am

Prime minister Boris Johnson has said that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be a “disastrous step”, after the Foreign Office withdrew part of its embassy staff workforce from the country.

Meanwhile, NATO has deployed additional ships and jets in response to Russian forces amassing on Ukraine's border.

While Johnson did not say that war was inevitable, he admitted that the intelligence was “pretty gloomy”, and any invasion would come as “painful, violent and bloody business”.

He said: “There is certainly a very, very large array of Russian forces and we have to take the necessary steps. I don’t think it’s by any means inevitable now, I think that sense can still prevail.

“I think it's very important that people in Russia understand that this could be a new Chechnya.”

While non-essential staff at the UK embassy in Kyiv have been withdrawn, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said that the embassy remains open and “will continue to carry out essential work”.

The UK ambassador to Ukraine is one of around 30 British diplomats still in the country.

Foreign secretary Liz Truss said: “We have a full operation in Ukraine. Our embassy is operating and doing all the work it needs to do.

“It is important to prepare for any eventuality and there are very worrying signs about what could happen.”

Truss added that the UK was “absolutely at the forefront” of providing defensive support to Ukraine, including in terms of weaponry and in economic and trade support.

The foreign secretary also said that a “very strong package” of economic sanctions were ready to be triggered against Russia in the event of any invasion of Ukrainian territory. To support the sanctions in the event of an incursion, Truss has called for Germany to cancel its Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which carries natural gas exported from Russia.

In the wake of the escalating tensions, NATO has sent additional ships and fighter jets to its deployments in eastern Europe and placed forces on standby.

General Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said: “I welcome Allies contributing additional forces to NATO. NATO will continue to take all necessary measures to protect and defend all Allies, including by reinforcing the eastern part of the Alliance.

“We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including through strengthening our collective defence.”

Meanwhile, the US is considering increasing its military presence in eastern Europe.

Like the UK, the United States has kept its embassy in Ukraine open but ordered the families of all American embassy staff in the country to leave.

Talks last week between the US secretary of state Antony Blinken and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov did little to diffuse the situation, with Russia’s foreign ministry accusing NATO of escalating tension with disinformation around Russia’s supposed intent to launch military action against Ukraine. Russia has maintained throughout its build up of troops on the border that it does not intend to launch an invasion.

The US State Department has advised American citizens not to travel to Ukraine or Russia in the wake of the “increased threats of Russian military action and Covid-19”.

The UK Foreign Office has also advised against all travel to Crimea and the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in eastern Ukraine, and all but essential travel to the remainder of the country.

Elsewhere, Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney has said that Russian naval exercises are “not welcome” in its waters, in response to Russia’s announcement that its navy would carry out naval exercises across all its fleets spanning the Pacific to the Atlantic.

Coveney said: “We don't have a power to prevent this happening but certainly I have made it clear to the Russian ambassador in Ireland that this is not welcome. This isn't a time to increase military activity and tension.”

Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons

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Authored By

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
January 25th 2022, 12:00am

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