Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that the shock of a Russian invasion of Ukraine would “echo around the world” as he told leaders that the crisis in Ukraine was a “moment of extreme danger”.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference today, the Prime Minister called for “unity and resolve” and urged the Kremlin to de-escalate tensions and renew dialogue, although he said the “omens are grim” over President Putin’s intentions.
In a meeting ahead of his speech with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Johnson said that Europe stood “on the brink of what could be a war”.
Western leaders have coordinated a package of heavy economic sanctions to impose on Russia in the event of attack.
“The UK has worked with the European Union and the United States to put together the toughest and strongest package of sanctions, and I spoke recently to President Ursula von der Leyen to discuss the measures prepared by the EU, in the closest coordination with our own,” Johnson said today.
British sanctions on Russia would include both individuals and companies of strategic importance to the Russian state, Johnson said, as he vowed today to make it impossible for them to raise finance on the London capital markets.
Government has been readying a spate of economic measures to sever Russia’s ties to the city, with the home secretary Priti Patel on Thursday announcing the end of the so-called “golden visa” scheme used by many oligarchs to win British citizenship.
The scheme offered visas and the opportunity for residency if applicants inject more than £2m into the UK economy.
Johnson went on to urge leaders to stand “four-square” behind Ukraine in the event of an attack, warning that a lack of response to an invasion risked projecting the image that “aggression pays” and that “might is right”.
The Prime Minister’s warnings followed a tough address by US Vice President Kamala Harris who similarly told Moscow that the US and its allies would impose “significant and unprecedented” economic costs on Russia in the event of an invasion.
The speeches from the two leaders came as Western powers warned that a Russian invasion could be imminent.
Leaders have accused Russia of staging so-called false flag operations in a region of eastern Ukraine to give it a reason to invade, with U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin saying that Russian forces were beginning to “uncoil and move closer” to the border with its former Soviet neighbour.
“We hope he steps back from the brink of conflict,” he told a news conference on a visit to Lithuania, saying an invasion of Ukraine was not inevitable.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin launched exercises by strategic nuclear missile forces today alongside Belarussian President Lukashenko and Washington said Russian troops massed near Ukraine’s border were “poised to strike”.