Ukraine shows unity as West sees no sign of Russian pullback
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson flew to Kiev to meet with president Volodymyr Zelensky at the beginning of the month, where he said a Russian incursion was a “clear and present danger”. The UK has supplied military aid to Ukraine, and has sent a limited number of troops to the country for training purposes, but has remained steadfast that the UK will not commit soldiers to combat if Russia invades.
During Mr Johnson’s visit, delegates of the Ukrainian Parliament held up a number of flags in a show of gratitude for the support received by NATO countries.
In the display, the Union Jack flag was front and centre in the parliament building, known as the Rada.
Mr Johnson added this week the UK’s embassy in the capital would remain open, saying: “One of the things we want to do is to show the UK’s continued support for Ukraine, for stability in Ukraine – and I believe that keeping our embassy going for as long as possible is an important symbol.”
Mr Zelensky took to social media on Thursday to say he “appreciates” the “support of Great Britain”, specifically thanking Mr Johnson.
He described how the UK’s choice to support Ukraine was “very important” to the country, and urged continued collaboration “to keep the peace”.
This comes as the UK expresses concern over Russia’s claims of a military climbdown in the crisis, with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warning Russian president Vladimir Putin could extend the crisis for months to come.
Ms Truss is due to visit Kiev this week, after missing Mr Johnson’s trip due to contracting COVID-19.
She wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “We must not be lulled into a false sense of security by Russia claiming that some troops are returning to their barracks, while in fact the Russian military build-up shows no signs of slowing.
“There is currently no evidence the Russians are withdrawing from border regions near Ukraine.
“We must have no illusions that Russia could drag this out much longer in a brazen ploy to spend weeks more – if not months – subverting Ukraine and challenging Western unity.
“This is a test of our mettle.”
A US official has claimed Russia has deployed a further 7,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, as NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the West was “prepared for the worst”.
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Defence Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed the UK was doubling its military presence in Estonia, as well as sending more tanks and armoured vehicles to the Baltic state.
He told Sky News on Wednesday: “What we haven’t seen is evidence of withdrawal that has been claimed by the Kremlin.
“Until we see a proper de-escalation we should all be cautious about the direction of travel from the Kremlin.”
Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has also warned the UK that Russia will retaliate if faced with fresh sanctions.
He met with Ms Truss in Moscow last week, adding afterward he was “honestly disappointed” with the little progress made during the talks.
The new sanction laws, brought in last week, mean further individuals close to the Russian leadership and implicated in the tensions over Ukraine could face heavy penalties.
The Foreign Office said the sanctions will apply “not just those linked directly to the destabilisation of Ukraine, but also Government of Russia affiliated entities and businesses of economic and strategic significance to the Russian government, as well as their owners, directors and trustees.”
Boris Johnson reiterated the UK will enact a “very, very tough” set of sanctions in the event of a Russian invasion.
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