Russia must respect Ukrainian sovereignty, Truss says on visit to Moscow

Published by Scott Challinor on February 10th 2022, 10:10am

UK foreign secretary Liz Truss has called on Russia to abandon its “Cold War rhetoric” and “respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine” during a diplomatic visit to Moscow.

In recent weeks, Russia has amassed 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border but denies that it is planning an attack.

Russia has been demanding assurances that Ukraine will not be allowed to join the NATO alliance, but the West maintains its position that sovereign states should have the right to join any alliance they choose.

NATO’s member states have pledged to aid each other in the event of any armed incursion, and while Ukraine is not a member of the alliance, it holds “partner country” status and may be allowed to join in future. 

However, Russia views this possibility as a threat to its national security.

Speaking to her counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in what comes as the first visit to Russia by a UK foreign secretary in four years, Truss called on Moscow to positively engage with NATO to help improve European security.

She warned that a war in Ukraine would be “disastrous” and a severe blow to European security, making clear that any incursion would carry “massive consequences and severe costs”.

Truss said: “The reality is we cannot ignore the build-up of over 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and the attempts to undermine Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity," she said.

“There is an alternative route, a diplomatic route that avoids conflict and bloodshed.”

Ahead of his own visits to Brussels and Warsaw to meet with the NATO secretary-general and Polish president for solidarity talks, UK prime minister Boris Johnson said: “When NATO was founded, allies made an historic undertaking to safeguard the freedom of every member state. The UK remains unwavering in our commitment to European security.

“What we need to see is real diplomacy, not coercive diplomacy. As an alliance we must draw lines in the snow and be clear there are principles upon which we will not compromise.

“That includes the security of every NATO ally and the right of every European democracy to aspire to NATO membership.”

UK defence secretary Ben Wallace has also travelled to the Russian capital for talks, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer is also expected to travel to Brussels to meet with the NATO secretary-general later.

The diplomatic missions come as the UK doubles its efforts toward a peaceful solution to the crisis in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia and Belarus are preparing to commence 10 consecutive days of joint military drills.

In response, Johnson has said that 1,000 more British troops have been put on alert on home soil, which the defence secretary have said will be deployed to stave off any humanitarian crisis as a first priority.

The move is due to concern that any Russian invasion could spark an exodus of Ukrainians seeking shelter in nearby countries that will be in need of immediate help.

The UK has also deployed some 350 Royal Marine personnel to Poland, doubled its military presence in Estonia, and sent more RAF jets to southern Europe. A Type 45 destroyer and the offshore patrol vessel HMS Trent will be sent to the eastern Mediterranean to bolster the UK's presence in the area.

Wallace has informed the media that a new package of economic sanctions against Russia to be used in the event of an invasion is "almost complete" and will be outlined in Parliament in the near future.

Elsewhere, French president Emmanuel Macron has suggested that he could resume talks with Russia and Ukraine on Thursday to aid the push toward a diplomatic solution.

Photo taken from Wikimedia Commons

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Scott Challinor
Business Editor
February 10th 2022, 10:10am

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