Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned of the potential for a “humanitarian crisis” if Russia invades Ukraine as he urged President Putin to step back from the brink.
Speaking in the House of Commons Mr Wallace also said Russia continues to be ready to attack Ukraine and has increased troop numbers in the region.
What did Ben Wallace say?
He said: “I believe he is in danger of setting himself on a tragic course of events leading to a humanitarian crisis, instability and widespread suffering, not just of Ukrainians but also of the Russian people.”
The Defence Secretary also warned of continued “false flag” operations orchestrated by the Kremlin, which he described as of “strong cause for concern that President Putin is still committed to an invasion”.
Mr Wallace told MPs: “In the last 48 hours, contrary to Kremlin assurances we have see a continued increase in troop numbers and a change in… position including from holding areas and potential launch locations.
“All the indicators point to increasing numbers and readiness of Russia forces and, not surprising to many of us, the pledge to withdraw Russian troops from Belarus at the end of their joint military drills on 20 February, were not carried out and the exercise has now been extended until further notice.”
What did he say about sanctions?
The Russian people will “suffer most” if any of the planned sanctions are implemented should an invasion of Ukraine take place, the Defence Secretary.
He issued a direct warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin and asked whether he cares what will happen to his citizens as a result of collective sanctions by Nato allies.
Mr Wallace told MPs there is a “danger” Mr Putin would “play into a divide and rule narrative” if the UK acted unilaterally with sanctions ahead of any invasion.
He added in the Commons: “There are plenty of measures we can take, we are planning a serious set of sanctions and I think the reality and the question to President Putin is do you actually care what’s going to happen to your people because it’ll be them who suffer most as a result of the sanctions – and it’ll be interesting, as a responsible leader, whether he will listen to that.
What has been said about a crisis summit with Putin and Biden?
Downing Street has said there is still a “window for diplomacy” to avert war over Ukraine after Joe Biden and Vladimir Putin tentatively agreed to a possible crisis summit.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said intelligence reports suggest Russia still intends to attack its neighbour, with the Kremlin’s plan beginning to play out.
However, after French President Emmanuel Macron worked to broker a meeting between the US and Russian leaders in a series of calls over the weekend, the spokesman said there is still a chance of a diplomatic resolution to the crisis.
“Intelligence we are seeing suggests Russia intends to launch an invasion and President Putin’s plan has in effect already begun,” the spokesman said.
“We are seeing elements of the Russian playbook we would expect to see in those situations starting to play out in real time.
“Crucially we still think there is a window for diplomacy. I think that is what we have seen in discussions over the weekend and we want to explore those.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that while Mr Putin and Mr Biden could meet if they considered it necessary, no plans for a summit have been agreed.
“It’s premature to talk about specific plans for a summit. The meeting is possible if the leaders consider it feasible,” he said.
Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin, said it is still too early to say whether a meeting between Mr Biden and Mr Putin would take place.
He told the PA news agency it would be a “good result” if sufficient progress was made in talks to allow the summit to go ahead.
But he said the West is “not very interested in resolving the core question, the issue of the enlargement of Nato, the open door policy”.
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