LBC: Russia invasion of Ukraine 'does look imminent'
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Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, in a meeting with a close NATO ally on Wednesday, said stopping Russia from invading Ukraine was up to “an international effort” which the UK had already started to take part in by sending extra troops to European areas under threat.
The UK’s Admiral Sir Tony Radakin called the conflict “deeply worrying” and alerted an escalation could lead to the worst war since the Second World War.
He said: “The worst scenarios, in terms of a full invasion, would be on a scale not seen in Europe since World War Two.”
It comes as President Vladimir Putin told US President Joe Biden during a two-hour virtual summit Moscow “has the right to defend its security”.
The two leaders discussed Russia’s gathering of troops near its border with Ukraine.
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Kyiv told parliament last week it had spotted more than 94,000.
Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said: “Our intelligence analyses all scenarios, including the worst.
“It notes that the likelihood of a large-scale escalation from Russia exists.
“The most likely time to reach readiness for an escalation will be the end of January.”
The defence minister stressed that, although they would not do anything to provoke the situation, they would fight back if Moscow launched an attack.
On a visit to Denmark on Wednesday, Mr Wallace said: “This is an international effort to persuade President Putin not to use those troops to invade or threaten the sovereignty of Ukraine.
“And that international effort includes everything from diplomatic, economic, and potentially defence capabilities to try and make sure it deters any aggression.”
In the meeting with his Danish counterpart this week, Mr Wallace also touched upon Belarus’s use of migrants as a political weapon by luring them into its territory to then send them to the EU.
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Russia is Belarus’s largest and most important economic and political partner and only true ally in Eastern Europe.
Belarus’s practices, implicitly backed by Russia, have led to more than a dozen deaths, many of them due to subfreezing temperatures.
The latest fatality involved someone thought to be from Nigeria found in a forest near Poland’s border with Belarus, it was reported on Wednesday.
Mr Wallace said: “Our commitment to European security is unwavering and we will always offer support to our allies.”
In what can be viewed as a sign of commitment to NATO, Mr Wallace has sent extra troops to Poland and Lithuania to protect them from the pressures “originating from Belarus and facilitated by the Lukashenko regime for a number of months”.
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NATO is of huge concern for President Putin, as he views the potential for Ukraine to join the alliance as an important threat.
Ties between Moscow and Kyiv collapsed after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Mr Putin told Mr Biden in their video call earlier this week: “We cannot but be concerned about the prospect of Ukraine’s possible admission to NATO because this will undoubtedly be followed by the deployment of appropriate military contingents, bases and weapons that threaten us.”
The US President, in an update to NATO allies of where his conversation with the Russian president had led, said: “The leaders underscored their support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as the need for Russia to reduce tensions and engage in diplomacy.”
US National security adviser Jake Sullivan, meanwhile, emphasised the US would act against an annexation such as Crimea’s.
He said: “Things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now.”
He added that if Russia were to invade Ukraine, sanctions could include stopping Russian gas exports through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
Mr Sullivan said: “If Vladimir Putin wants to see gas flow through that pipeline he may not want to take the risk of invading Ukraine.
“The fundamental object of the policy the United States is pursuing in lockstep with our European allies is to deter a Russian military invasion.”
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