It is very unlikely the UK will send troops into Ukraine if Russia invades its neighbour, according to Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab.
Raab said the UK would still stand “shoulder to shoulder” and “support them in defending themselves”, after Boris Johnson’s government gave the country anti-tank weapons and millions of pounds in non-lethal military equipment last week.
Russia has an estimated 127,000 troops stationed along the border with Ukraine, with fears growing that President Vladimir Putin will soon launch an invasion of the country.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace is set to meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu in a bid to cool tensions and move toward a negotiated settlement.
Raab, a former foreign secretary, told Sky News the threat of a Russia-Ukraine war was “very significant” and urged Putin to “step back from the brink”.
“We will support them in defending themselves but also to the international community, to NATO allies in the West, we’re standing shoulder to shoulder saying there will be very serious consequences if Russia takes this move to try and invade and also install a puppet regime,” he said.
When asked if the UK would send troops to fight in a potential Russia-Ukraine war, Raab said: “It’s extremely unlikely we would do that but what we can say is we’re already willing and engaging in training programmes to support Ukrainians defending themselves, that’s absolutely right.”
It comes as the UK Foreign Office last night warned that the Kremlin was trying to install a pro-Russia government in Kiev, with a number of potential names floated.
The department said Ukrainian MP and media owner Yevhen Murayev was one of several potential candidates Russia was looking at.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss said: “The information being released today shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking.
“Russia must de-escalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy. As the UK and our partners have said repeatedly, any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake with severe costs.”