Liz Truss has said the Ukraine-Russia war could “last for years” and that it could mark the “beginning of the end” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The foreign secretary also warned that Russian forces may be preparing to use worse weapons in its invasion of Ukraine, after firmer resistance than the Kremlin expected.
The invasion of Ukraine has been much tougher than Putin expected, with Russian troops taking on large numbers of casualties in the first days of fighting.
Russian forces are still advancing into Ukraine on multiple axis, after launching an invasion from air, land and sea on Thursday morning.
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky today said: “We will fight as long as it takes to liberate the county… glory to Ukraine.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson today said that “Ukrainian forces have engaged the remnants of Russian irregular forces within the city of Kyiv for the second night in a row”, but that “fighting has been at a lower intensity than the previous evening”.
They also said “intensive exchanges of rocket artillery overnight have been followed by heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces” in the country’s second largest city of Kharkiv.
Speaking to Sky News today, Truss said: “I fear this this will be a long-haul. This could be a number of years. What we do know is Russia have strong forces, but we know the Ukrainians are brave, they are determined to stand up for their sovereignty.”
Western officials believe the Kremlin will be willing to use thermobaric bombs and other highly destructive weapons en masse in Kyiv and other built up areas if the Ukrainian army continues to hold out.
The example being used in the Ministry of Defence is the Chechen War, which saw Russian forces raze the capital of Grozny after getting bogged down in fighting.
“We do need to be prepared for Russia to use even worse weapons,” Truss said.
The UK is preparing to hit Russia with tougher economic sanctions, with Truss saying that a “hit list” of Kremlin-linked oligarchs has been drawn up.
The EU agreed yesterday that it was supportive of a push to ban Russia from the SWIFT international payments system, which would cripple the country’s ability to take part in the global financial system.
The UK, EU, US and Canada also agreed to stop the Russian central bank from using its international reserves of currency.
Truss said the unified western sanctions could mean the “beginning of the end” for Putin as they cripple the Russian economy.
“This week we will be introducing the Economic Crime Bill which will create a lot more transparency around the structure of these companies and make it much clearer what is going on,” the foreign secretary said.
“There are over 100 billionaires in Russian. We have compiled a hit list of oligarchs. We are working through and putting the cases together, and every few weeks we will sanction new oligarchs.
“We will go through the hit list. We will be targeting oligarchs’ private jets, we will be targeting their properties, we will be targeting other possessions that they have and there will be nowhere to hide.”