A Cabinet minister said it is “a very dark day in Europe” after claiming that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has already begun.
This stark warning comes as Boris Johnson led a Cobra meeting on Tuesday (22 February) morning to consider the UK’s response to President Vladimir Putin’s actions.
Here we take a look at how the government could respond to Russia and what has been said about the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Has the Russian invasion of Ukraine begun?
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that the invasion of Ukraine has already started.
He said: “We are waking up to a very dark day in Europe and it’s clear from what we have already seen and found out today that the Russians, President Putin, has decided to attack the sovereignty of Ukraine and its territorial integrity.”
Mr Javid told Sky News: “We have seen that he has recognised these breakaway eastern regions in Ukraine and from the reports we can already tell that he has sent in tanks and troops.
“From that you can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun.”
What action could the UK take against Russia?
The Government is preparing to issue sanctions on key Russian figures and businesses.
The Cobra meeting will co-ordinate the UK response and agree a “significant package of sanctions to be introduced immediately”, No 10 said.
Following the meeting the Prime Minister will have calls with other world leaders and will update MPs on the sanctions package at around 12.30pm.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss tweeted about the new sanctions from the UK on Monday evening after saying Mr Putin’s actions could not be allowed to go “unpunished”.
The European Union and United States were also imposing sanctions in response to the crisis.
Putin recognises two regions of Ukraine as independent states
President Putin recognised two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine as independent states on Monday (21 February).
At the early meeting of the Cobra committee, the Prime Minister was briefed on the latest intelligence after Mr Putin ordered his troops to carry out “peacekeeping” duties in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The meeting follows an emergency session of the UN Security Council.
The UK’s ambassador Dame Barbara Woodward said Russia has “brought us to the brink”, warning that the country’s actions “will have severe and far-reaching consequences”.
She said an invasion would unleash “the forces of war, death and destruction” on the people of Ukraine.
“The humanitarian impact will be terrible on civilians fleeing the fighting. We know that women and children will suffer most.”
She said the Security Council must be united in calling on Russia to “de-escalate immediately”, as well as “condemning aggression against a sovereign nation and defending the territorial integrity of Ukraine”.
“Russia has brought us to the brink,” she said. “We urge Russia to step back.”
The Kremlin said Russian forces will “maintain peace” in eastern Ukraine.
Mr Johnson said on Monday the decision from Mr Putin to recognise Donetsk and Luhansk was an “ill omen” and a flagrant breach of international law.
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