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'Outlook is grim but there is still time to avoid a world catastrophe', says Boris

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Boris warns over fears Russia could attack in days (Image: getty)

The Prime Minister spoke as US President Joe Biden issued a fresh warning that a Russian invasion could be launched imminently.

In a joint statement with Poland and Ukraine, the UK pledged to “intensify our joint work to safeguard stability” and strengthen democracy in eastern Europe.

Speaking during a visit to RAF Waddington, Lincs, Mr Johnson admitted the outlook was “very grim”.

But he said: “There is still time to avoid a catastrophe, a catastrophe for Russia, a catastrophe for Ukraine and for the world.

“If Russia were so mad as to invade, I don’t think people should imagine that this would be a brief business. This would be a bloody and protracted conflict in which, I’m afraid, there will be many casualties and including many Russian casualties.

“I just hope that people in Russia can see that.”

Tensions between the two countries have been high since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and Ukraine said it wanted to join Nato.

Russian President Vladimir Putin wants security guarantees, including a pledge Ukraine will never be admitted to the Western military alliance.

Moscow now has 150,000 troops massed on Ukraine’s border.

The three-way statement, issued by the Foreign Office, said: “The UK, Poland and Ukraine enjoy deep historical ties, built on shared values, a shared commitment to peace and security and a shared history of standing together against aggressors who threaten freedom in Europe.

“We reiterate that each European state is free to choose or change its security arrangements, including treaties of alliance, and no state can consider any part of Europe as its sphere of influence.”

It said the UK and Poland was “fully committed to stand with [the] Ukrainian nation in its efforts aimed at defending Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders”.

Speaking after Russia expelled America’s deputy Moscow ambassador, Mr Biden said “every indication we have” is that Mr Putin will trigger an attack on Ukraine in days.

He agreed with Nato that shelling in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine yesterday, which hit a kindergarten and a school, may have been staged as a “false flag” excuse for launching an invasion. No one was injured.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the UN Security Council Moscow had 150,000 troops on Ukraine’s borders in Russia, Belarus and Crimea. He said: “Russia says it’s drawing down those forces. We do not see that happening on the ground.”

Mr Johnson also spoke of the shelling while at RAF Waddington.

He said: “I wish I could give everybody better news… but I have to tell you that the picture is continuing to be very grim.

“A kindergarten was shelled in what we are taking to be, well we know, was a false flag operation designed to discredit the Ukrainians, designed to create a pretext, a spurious provocation for Russian action.

“We fear very much that that is the kind of thing we will see more of over the next few days.”

He added: “What we are doing is making sure that we do everything to strengthen the package of sanctions that will follow immediately, should there be a Russian invasion.

“We are strengthening the eastern frontier of Nato and I’ll be going to the European Security Conference in Munich over the weekend to talk about what we are going to do to unify the West.”

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One sanction highlighted by Mr Johnson was a Home Office visa clampdown on Russian business activities in the UK, following corruption concerns.

The Tier 1 investor visa route – available to those who invest £2million – will be shut to all new applicants from all nationalities with “immediate effect”, the Home Office said.

Mr Johnson added: “We have already some very tough laws on money laundering, on people laundering ill-gotten gains here in the UK. But, clearly, it’s time to bring in some tough sanctions against the Russian regime, against big Russian companies – organisations of strategic importance.”

Mr Johnson also reiterated that Europe and the West had to end its dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, adding: “We can’t be blackmailed this way by Vladimir Putin.

“I just want to say one thing finally – there is still time for the Putin regime to step back.” Nato’s Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, also warned of Russian false flag operations.

He added: “We know that there are many Russian intelligence officers operating in Ukraine. They are present in Donbas and we have seen attempts to stage a pretext – false flag operations – to provide an excuse for invading Ukraine. Of course this is a concern.”

—————–

COMMENT BY MATHIEU BOULÈGUE

DON’T believe the talks around withdrawal or de-escalation. It could very well be the start of a withdrawal but it could also mean these troops will be redeployed somewhere else, potentially even closer to the Ukrainian border.

Conversely, this does not mean that the Kremlin will not use force again against Ukraine.

What we have now is a much shorter fuse if a political decision is taken for potential military action. Armed forces have now reached full combat potential.

They are in extreme stages of readiness and can be mobilised very quickly, within a few hours or days, depending on where they are. The Russian armed forces are preparing for a long siege. They are preparing to stay there, at least for a long while, not least because ground forces are assembled increasingly in attack formations.

We’ve had an influx of ground artillery systems that have been moved closer to the Ukraine border but followed on by air superiority assets, missile systems – very worryingly like the Iskander-M in Crimea, and air defence systems that have a very offensive potential against Ukraine.

It’s also worrying that the forces of Donbas have announced military exercises to test readiness and preparedness. In terms of the timing, such formations cannot sustain a lengthy deployment for months.

A modern army cannot stay in maximal combat readiness for a very long time, not least because of critical pieces of equipment that might have been deployed. There were rumours that blood might have been deployed to forward operating bases. You can’t keep blood very long off the shelf. There were also rumours and open source intelligence showing fuel rods and fuel storages being transported closer to the border. You can’t keep the fuel very long either.

You can’t keep a helicopter from freezing on the ground just as much as you need to build a safe space for them to remain in combat potential.

So all these things need to be moved at some point whether it is back to the home base or whether it is in or through Ukraine. The next few days and week and a half or two weeks will be critical in terms of what will happen next.

– Mathieu Boulègue was speaking at the webinar Situational Assessment of Russia’s Military Deployments Against Ukraine.

  • MATHIEU BOULÈGUE – Research Fellow Chatham House



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

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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.”

JUST IN: Putin’s ‘biggest’ Achilles’ heel exposed as ‘derided’ Russian despot facing furious REVOLT

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.

READ MORE:Mum left fuming after letter describes her ‘active’ four-year-old daughter as overweight

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?

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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’.

READ MORE: ‘Totally undeniable’ MPs colluded with Remainers to try stop Brexit

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

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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.

JUST IN: Putin’s ‘biggest’ Achilles’ heel exposed as ‘derided’ Russian despot facing furious REVOLT

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.

READ MORE: Mum left fuming after letter describes her ‘active’ four-year-old daughter as overweight

“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.”

DON’T MISS: Russia scaling back invasion as troops retreat to eastern Ukraine after weeks of stalemate

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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