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Final warning for Putin as PM and Biden tell Russia to 'step back' or pay high price




Boris Johnson and Joe Biden

Ultimatum: Boris Johnson and Joe Biden (Image: Toby Melville-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The PM held a crisis conference call with US President Joe Biden amid fears Russia for diplomacy was still open” to avert Vladimir Putin’s feared invasion of Ukraine.

The leaders sent a stark message to Putin threatening widespread “damage” to Russia with a “significant package of sanctions” if he ordered his 130,000-strong army into Ukraine.

It comes as Ukrainian officials said they expect Russia to launch an invasion tomorrow.

Mr Johnson admitted that the world is “on the edge of a precipice” with intelligence agencies reporting that a massive armoured offensive targeting Kiev could be hours away.

The PM said: “We need to get ready to impose some very, very severe economic consequences on Russia.”

Mr Johnson will today chair a meeting of the Whitehall emergency planning committee to discuss the imminent Ukraine invasion threat with ministers and security chiefs. Last night, he cut short a tour of the UK planned for this week to dash back to Downing Street to focus on the crisis.

Boris Johnson

The PM visited Scotland to show that his government are getting on with levelling up the country. (Image: JEFF J MITCHELL/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Joe Biden

Biden tried to send Vladimir Putin an ultimatum in an hour long conversation on Saturday. (Image: Leigh Vogel/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Speaking in Scotland yesterday before abandoning his tour, the PM said: “I think the evidence is pretty clear. You’ve got about 130,000 troops massing on the Ukrainian border. There’s all sorts of other signs that show there are serious preparations for an invasion.

“And we’ve got to respect that, we’ve got to realise that this is a very dangerous, difficult situation. We are on the edge of a precipice, but there is still time for President Putin to step back.

“And what we’re urging is for everybody to engage in dialogue, for a conversation to take place, and for the Russians to avoid what I think everybody, certainly everybody in the UK, can see would be a disastrous mistake, disastrous for Russia.

“The signs are, as you’ve heard from President Biden, that they’re at least planning for something that could take place as early as in the next 48 hours.

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“That is extremely concerning. What we need to do is make sure that President Putin understands the economic consequences, the political consequences of doing this. I think what needs to happen is that the world needs to learn the lesson of 2014. If you remember, Russia took eastern Ukraine, they took Crimea. But we didn’t really do enough to divest, to move away from dependence on Russian hydrocarbons.

“And what I think all European countries need to do now is yank out that hypodermic drip feed of Russian hydrocarbons that is keeping so many economies going.

“We need to find alternative sources of energy and we need to get ready to impose severe economic consequences on Russia.”

On Twitter last night, the PM said: “President Biden and I agreed this evening there is a crucial window for diplomacy and for Russia to step back from its threats towards Ukraine.

Main Battle Tanks in military drill in Russia

Main Battle Tanks of Russian Army take part in a military drill. (Image: RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTRY/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Russian Navy submarine

Russia has been reinforcing its Black Sea Fleet over the past week. (Image: Oguz Yeter/dia images via Getty Images)

“We are united in the face of such threats. Further incursion into Ukraine will result in far-reaching damage for Russia and the world.”

Mr Johnson appealed to Nato allies to stand united in the face of Russian aggression.

He added: “I think it’s very important that we all stand together, and that we show a united front, particularly when it comes to economic sanctions.

“And the UK, as you know, has been in the lead in bringing our allies together so that there’s a tough package of sanctions.

“It’s very important that the West should stand united, and particularly that Nato should stand united, and it is. It’s been really encouraging to see the way countries have pulled together.”

And he insisted the Ukrainian government should not give in to the Kremlin demand for it to rule out ever joining Nato. Mr Johnson added: “I think that it’s very important that we have a dialogue, that we have a conversation. But what we can’t do is trade away the sovereign rights of the Ukrainian people to aspire to Nato membership.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss had warned an invasion could happen “immediately”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said last night he expects Russia to launch their invasion of his country tomorrow as he urged his nation not to panic.

Mr Zelensky said: “We are told that February 16 will be the day of attack. We will make it a day of unity.

“We have one great European aspiration. We want freedom. We all want to live happily, and happiness loves the strong. We have never been able to give up and we are not going to learn that.

“Our military should feel our support, our togetherness and our unity.”

Officials have warned that missiles and bombs could strike Ukrainian cities within minutes should President Putin order an invasion.

Ukrainian President Zelensky

Ukrainian President Zelensky said last night he expects Russia to launch their invasion tomorrow. (Image: Irina YakovlevaTASS via Getty Images)

Boris during a news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Boris during a joint news conference with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this month. (Image: PETER NICHOLLS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

There are also warships in the Black Sea capable of launching an amphibious landing on Ukraine’s coast and firing precision missiles against targets across the country.

Russia’s military continued its exercise drills yesterday as the tension mounted.

Eight more US F-15 fighter jets arrived in Poland yesterday to bolster Nato air patrols in the region.


Analysis by Bob Stewart

Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Image: THIBAULT CAMUS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

I suspect no one knows what’s going to happen next except Vladimir Putin.

He has got his forces massed around Ukraine and has the power to invade.

But the decision has not been made and will depend on if Mr Putin reckons it is an advantage to do it. Right now he probably doesn’t know.

In other words, his trump card is the uncertainty which has been created. He is playing poker.

All we in the West and in Nato can do is make plain the grave disadvantages.

UK ministers have said we won’t be fighting in Ukraine. Nevertheless, the impact of sanctions for example is not small because nearly half the Russian economy is dependent on oil and gas.

The second thing is, I don’t think Ukraine will be a pushover. They’ve got good armed forces and will fight.

The third thing is, does Mr Putin really want to be at war with fellow Slavs? Russians might not like that at all.

And diplomatically he’ll be put into the cold. Those are the sorts of things that will be arguing against him invading.

On the other hand, he desperately wants Ukraine not to be a member of Nato.

But if the country wants to join and we agree, and if they satisfy our criteria, then so be it. And Nato is not an offensive alliance.

Wars are primarily caused by miscalculation and my hope and belief is that the Russians will see an invasion as not being worth doing.

Additionally, Putin also wants to bring the Baltic states into his sphere – but Ukraine is his focus now.



'Have to kick the pedal to the metal' Ex-Ukrainian leader slams Macron tank aide hesitancy




Ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk sat down on LBC Radio to discuss NATO leaders. NATO has been allying themselves with Ukraine, sending help and weaponry and taking fleeing Ukrainian refugees. NATO members held a conference on the Russian invasion earlier this week to discuss more ways to help Ukraine.

Mr Yatsenyuk pushed for Macron to send over military tanks as promised, slamming him for dragging his feet, and claiming that the war in Ukraine affects the security of every European country.

Mr Yatsenyuk said: “That’s what Putin is closely watching, as for now, Putin didn’t expect this kind of unity and consolidated and concerted actions against the Russian federation.

“But you know, the time is running and we don’t have enough time to wait until some EU member states decide to supply more weapons to Ukraine.

“Or to impose tougher and stronger sanctions on the Russian Federation, so the EU has to be decisive and they have to speed up the process of new sanctions.

“And the shipment and delivery of weapons to Ukraine, because it’s not just about Ukraina and they realise it clearly, this is about the free world.

“And this is about the security of every single nation in the European Union, so the French have to kick the pedal to the metal.”

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky explained this week that he expected “serious steps” from Western-allied countries.

Mr Zelensky repeated the calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine to be imposed by NATO forces and complained that the Western allies had not yet provided Ukraine with sufficient planes, up to date modern anti-missile systems, tanks or anti-ship weapons.

Mr Zelensky added: “At these three summits we will see who is our friend, who is our partner and who sold us out and betrayed us.”

President Zelensky also expressed that he was grateful for the support Ukraine was continuing to receive from individual NATO member countries from around the world.

Mr Zelensky added: “But NATO has yet to show what the alliance can do to save people,” he said. “It feels like we’re in the grey zone between the West and Russia, but we’re protecting all our and your shared values.

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Mr Johnson added: “We’ve got to tighten the economic vice around Putin, sanctioning more people today, as we are, sanctioning the Wagner Group, looking at what we can do to stop Putin using his gold reserves, and also doing more to help the Ukrainians defend themselves.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has been playing an active role in trying to de-escalate the war with Russia by imposing tight sanctions on Russia to try and stop Putin’s warpath of destruction.

Ms Truss has warned that infighting between NATO countries at the moment could be highly detrimental for progress in ending the war.

Mr Truss said: “Russia’s targeting of critical national infrastructure is calculated and dangerous.

“It shows Putin is prepared to risk lives to sow division and confusion among allies.”


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Brexit news: What happens when Article 16 is triggered?




After Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) was confirmed, the two parties have been attempting to renegotiate terms for a special Brexit deal relating to Northern Ireland. Coined the Northern Ireland protocol it’s been a point of contention that’s led to threats from each side of triggering a mechanism called Article 16. But what is it?

What is Article 16?

The UK and EU agreed to the creation of the Northern Ireland protocol, in October 2019.

By allowing goods to flow freely between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland the deal removed the threat of a hard border.

But the arrangement has also resulted in what’s been labelled as an ‘Irish Sea border’.

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Goods that now arrive into Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK are subjected to more stringent checks and controls.

In the scenario that either the UK or EU feel that the protocol is leading to significant issues or hampering their capacity to trade, then they have the option of activating Article 16.

The component sets out the process for taking unilateral “safeguard” measures, which in reality would amount to suspending parts of the deal.

Specifically, Article 16 says safeguard measures can be taken if the protocol is leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties” that are liable to persist.

He said: “Triggering Article 16 now would severely disrupt the unity of the UK and EU response to the war in Ukraine.

“It is thus perhaps not surprising that key US figures chose this week to restate that any uncertainty around the stability of the Good Friday Agreement would hinder a future UK-US trade deal.”

In recent months talks between Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and her EU counterpart Maros Sefcovic have stalled, leading to calls from Brexiteers for the UK to act.

However, Professor Menon cautioned that triggering Article 16 won’t “rid” Britain of the protocol.

He added: “I think the British Government if it triggers Article 16 will do something relatively small and contained.

“And then there’s not a massive bust-up. You don’t end up getting rid of the protocol. You end up with months if not years of negotiations, mediation and arbitration.

“So, it’s a way of doing something but it’s not a way of solving anything. In a sense you’re still stuck with the protocol and you’re still negotiating about the future of the protocol.”

In essence, were Article 16 to be triggered it wouldn’t have a huge impact on the ground.

Many of the checks on goods flowing from Britain to Northern Ireland have already been unilaterally suspended.

Triggering the mechanism itself would only start a formal dispute process that requires both sides to go into talks to resolve.


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NATO slammed as former US Army chief exposes ‘two big issues’ in united Russia response




US Army vice chief of staff general Jack Keane, sat down on LBC radio to talk about the NATO conference which took place earlier this week. Mr Keane discussed the possibility that Putin could deploy chemical biological weapons on the battlefield. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already used the highly condemned thermobaric weapons since the war started just over a month ago.

The US Army chief acknowledged there had been no public policy declaration on the consequences Putin would face if he was to take such a barbaric action.

Mr Keane said: “Listen I was very disappointed by the NATO summit.

“I totally applaud the fact that they’re going to increase by 40k troops in Eastern Europe.

“And they’re increasing sanctions and it seems like a sense of unity.

“But on two big issues, it’s got to be disappointing, there’s no NATO public policy declaration.

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Mr Keane added: “At the end of that summit to deal with this particular issue, chemical biological weapons and nuclear weapons which the Russians have been waving in front of our face now for almost 30 days.

“What we need is… Think policy statement, not something that’s left to a reporter to ask a question on.

“And then you get a statement that you just repeated, which leads to more confirmation than anything else.

“A much better statement, using my words… I don’t want to put words into other people’s mouths.

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“But with me, the use of any form of WMB would be unacceptable.

“We will not let it stand, it will result in decisive consequential actions and all options are on the table.

“Words to that effect, in a public policy statement, and we didn’t get it and it’s really unfortunate.

“And what it does it leaves in the minds of Putin and his  leaders just what would the reaction be, ambiguous like that and I think it’s very unfortunate.”

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Fear of the Russian military deploying chemical biological weapons has been heightened.

Ukrainian outlet InformNapalm has warned that: “Our conclusions may sound premature or too apocalyptic, but after the missile attacks and bombing of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, which the Russian army resorted to, we believe that it is necessary to make these data public and try to thwart any such intentions of Russia.”

And NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in Brussels on Thursday: “We’ve tried to be very clear about the gravity of the use of any such chemical weapons.

“These are agents that should never be employed and certainly not on the battlefield, as we are concerned Russia might.”


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