Boris Johnson said an invasion appeared to be ‘in motion’ but it may still be possible to avoid war. He warned the ‘omens are grim’ as he addressed NATO allies at the Munich Security Summit
Image: Russian Defence Ministry/AFP via)
The wheels of Russia ’s war machine are already turning say western leaders, after a day of shelling and false flag attacks in eastern Ukraine.
Boris Johnson today told world leaders an invasion appeared to be “in motion” but it may still be possible to avoid war.
And he branded reports of Russian withdrawal “fake” as Washington estimated Vladimir Putin now has between 169,000 and 190,000 troops massed on Ukraine’s borders.
Warning the “omens are grim”, Mr Johnson told NATO allies at the Munich Security Summit: “At this moment of extreme danger for the world, it has seldom been more vital to preserve our unity and resolve.
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UK Ministry of Defence 2021)
“After a generation of freedom, we’re now staring at a generation of bloodshed and misery.” Following crisis talks with US president Joe Biden and the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, NATO and the EU, Mr Johnson added: “We should not underestimate the gravity of this moment.
He pledged to ban Russians from raising cash on London’s money markets and to delve into the ownership of companies to sanction those really in control if Ukraine is invaded.
Mr Johnson also urged European countries to “wean” themselves off Russian President Putin’s oil and gas.
The UK is now sending aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales and 3 Commando Brigade to the region to reinforce our 2,000 troops in Estonia and 600 in Poland. A further 1,000 soldiers are on standby to give humanitarian aid.
Putin, who with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko yesterday watched nuclear drills from his situation centre in Moscow, continues to deny he plans to invade Ukraine.
But President Biden cited US intelligence reports that an invasion will happen this week.
POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Mr Johnson did hold out an olive branch to Putin saying he was prepared to hold talks on the presence of NATO forces in countries neighbouring Russia.
He said: “NATO is a peaceful and defensive alliance and we are willing to work with President Putin to demonstrate that.”
Labour leader Keir Starmer said signs of escalating violence were “deeply concerning” and showed the “threat of invasion by Russia remains real and immediate”.
He added: “The stakes could not be higher, but we share the view of our allies that diplomacy can still succeed.”
Russian special forces and rogue ‘Wagner’ mercenaries have already arrived in the city of Donetsk, according to Ukrainian intelligence.
Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
Ukrainian army bosses believe the forces – feared worldwide for their brutal methods in Syria and Africa – will commit a terrorist attack on a civilian building before the finger of blame is pointed at Ukraine.
The separatist-held “republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk this week ordered the evacuation of all civilians, except men between 18 and 55 who are expected to “take up arms” in the event of a so-called Ukrainian attack.
Those who fled to the Rostov region were met with bemusement by locals who refused to house them, according to videos on the Telegram social media site.
Meanwhile shells continued to rain down on stricken communities in eastern Ukraine yesterday.
Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
Tonight the Kyiv government said two of its troops had been killed as separatists increased the intensity of their attacks.
“As of 5pm, two of our soldiers were killed and five wounded in shelling by Russian forces,” it said.
It also branded as false Russia’s claims that two Ukrainian shells had landed close to Rostov.
Half a mile from pro-Russian lines in Stanytsia Luhanska the Sunday Mirror witnessed a constant bombardment.
Mortars and artillery rounds were heard close by – even near the FairyTale Kindergarten where kids ran for cover from a shell attack three days ago.
Teacher Natalia Butenko, 38, recalled the horror of that day, in which a round blasted through a wall into the nursery’s sports room, which minutes earlier had been filled with around 20 kids aged two to six.
She said: “I was on the other side when the explosion happened. We gathered the kids who were very scared.
Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)
“The kids were having their breakfast, they had just finished gymnastics class.”
The attack has been dubbed a “false flag” incident in which Moscow tried to blame Ukrainian soldiers.
Ukraine’s deputy PM for reintegration of temporarily occupied territories, Iryna Vereshchuk, who yesterday toured the area, said: “The Russian Federation fabricated information to make it look like the kindergarten is in uncontrolled territory and Ukrainian forces shelled it. Of course that is not true.”
Ukrainian soldiers who escorted us yesterday, warned us to “stay close as it is extremely dangerous here”.
Col Oleksander Gain, 38, a dad of two, said: “You can hear for yourself what is happening. It is being shelled and it is a civilian area.
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Asked if Ukrainian forces were firing back he said: “I would say this happens only when there is a danger to lives of our soldiers and we have to suppress the fire.”
He added: “The Russians are occupiers and invaders. They don’t care about life and quality of life. If we fire back we have to be mindful that when they retaliate they could harm these communities.”
As we walked grandad and former engineer Volodymyr, 59, cycled casually past on his way to go shopping. He has no plans to leave with his wife despite “the worst shelling since 2015” and having seen most of his family flee.
“I was born here and I am not leaving,” he said. “I have no choice but to stay as I have no job – where would I go anyway?
“Every day we get a morning hello from Russian shelling. Yes, it’s frightening. “My family are very worried about me but maybe it will be OK.”
Additional reporting by Nigel Nelson, Political Editor, Jack Clover and Sean Rayment
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