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PM accused Putin of 'mixed signals' after troops withdrawn from Ukraine's border

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Russia invading Ukraine to cause consequences at home says Biden

The Russian president yesterday insisted his country “of course” did not want a war in Europe – while Western intelligence indicated continued invasion preparations, including the construction of field hospitals. Mr Johnson expressed scepticism about the “signs of a diplomatic opening” coming from the Kremlin after the Russian Defence Ministry released images of tanks being loaded on to a train as a sign of withdrawal.

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A Russian rocket launcher in Ukraine (Image: Reuters)

The Prime Minister warned intelligence from the frontline in the stand-off was “not encouraging”.

And Joe Biden also said the US has “not yet verified” claims that Russian troops are withdrawing from the Ukrainian border.

He said: “Indeed our analysts indicate that they remain very much in the threatening position.”

Mr Johnson also told the EU’s top official that “more could be done” by Western allies to show a united commitment to imposing tough sanctions on Russia if an invasion goes ahead.

His comments came as it was announced a cyber attack had hit the websites of Ukrainian government agencies and major banks.

At least 10 Ukrainian websites stopped working due to distributed denial-of-service attacks, including those of the Defence Ministry, Foreign Ministry, Culture Ministry and Ukraine’s two largest state banks.

The Ukraine government suggested Moscow could be behind the incident. A statement said: “It is possible that the aggressor resorted to tactics of petty mischief, because his aggressive plans aren’t working overall.”

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Armed forces of Russia and Belarus in the Gomel region (Image: Reuters)

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss cautioned that tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine could continue “for months”.

In a letter sent to all MPs, she said conflict in the Ukraine remained a serious possibility and was likely to be “drawn out”.

Mr Johnson chaired a meeting of his Cobra emergency planning meeting yesterday while the Western diplomatic push to try to resolve the crisis continued with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz holding talks with President Putin in Moscow.

Mr Johnson said: “Clearly there are signs of a diplomatic opening. There always has been an opportunity to talk…On the other hand, the intelligence that we’re seeing today is still not encouraging.

“We’ve got Russian field hospitals being constructed near the border with Ukraine in Belarus; that only can be construed as a preparation for an invasion.

“So mixed signals, I think, at the moment, and all the more reason, therefore, for us to remain very tough and very united.”

Mr Johnson called for much clearer signals that Russia was pulling back from the invasion threat.

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Boris Johnson says there are signs of diplomatic opening (Image: PA)

“I think what everybody needs to see is a programme of de-escalation. We think there is an avenue for diplomacy. We’ve seen some positive signs from conversations…let’s build on that.”

The PM said Britain was leading the way in preparing swingeing sanctions to impose on Russia in the event of an invasion.

“The UK has been out in the lead for a while. What we’re doing is targeting particular Russian banks, Russian companies, and making sure that we take even more steps to unpeel the facade of Russian property holdings whether in London or elsewhere, unpeel the facade of Russian ownership of companies, and also take steps to stop Russian companies from raising capital on London financial markets. Now that is a very, very tough package of sanctions. It’s ready to go if Russia is so rash, so reckless as to invade Ukraine.”

Mr Johnson rejected claims that his Government had been slow to root out Russian criminal funds in the UK.

He said: “We have imposed some very tough sanctions – if you recall, after the Russian invasion, or the Russia annexation, of Crimea in 2014, those sanctions remain in place. We have sanctions against everybody involved in the poisoning of [Russian opposition figure] Alexei Navalny, for instance. But what we want to do is strengthen now the package that we have.”

In a phone call yesterday afternoon, the Prime Minister thanked Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, for her “close co-operation on sanctions to date”.

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Putin has withdrawn some troops from Ukraine’s border (Image: Getty)

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister said that the UK and the EU should continue to work with allies to prepare a package of economic measures that would punish Russia if they breached Ukraine’s sovereignty.

“He welcomed the unity of allies, but said more could be done to strengthen coordinated measures at pace.”

As the diplomatic flurry continued, Ms Truss last night spoke to her Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.

And in a series of broadcast interviews the Foreign Secretary called for the “full-scale removal” of Russian troops. She said: “I’m very worried about the situation.

“We could be on the brink of a war in Europe, which would have severe consequences not just for the people of Russia and Ukraine, but also for the broader security of Europe.”

However, Russia yesterday failed to attend a meeting of members of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the world’s largest security body, to explain its military build-up.

Ms Truss said: “Russia is patently failing to live up to the international commitments it has made around transparency.”

Ukraine called the meeting to ask Russia to address its concerns.

At the same time President Biden warned that the US would defend Nato territory from any future Russian aggression.

He said: “While I will not send American servicemen to fight in Ukraine, we have supplied Ukrainian military with equipment to help them defend themselves, and provided training and advice and intelligence for that purpose.

“And make no mistake, the United States will defend very inch of Nato territory with the full force of American power.”

And the president added: “I have been clear that if Russia targets Americans in Ukraine we will respond forcefully.”



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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.”

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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.

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.

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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.

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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