British nationals urged by Foreign Office to leave Ukraine immediately as invasion threat rises

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British nationals have been warned to leave Ukraine immediately as the threat of invasion from Russia increases

Britons have been told to leave Ukraine immediately over concerns of a possible invasion by Russian forces.

The Foreign Office updated its advice on Friday evening to tell UK nationals to “leave now while commercial means are still available”.

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Ukrainian servicemen receiving a delivery this week of FGM-148 Javelins, a man-portable anti-tank missile provided by US as part of a military support amid the growing crisis.Ukrainian servicemen receiving a delivery this week of FGM-148 Javelins, a man-portable anti-tank missile provided by US as part of a military support amid the growing crisis.
Ukrainian servicemen receiving a delivery this week of FGM-148 Javelins, a man-portable anti-tank missile provided by US as part of a military support amid the growing crisis. | AFP via Getty Images

What has the Foreign Office said?

The warning came after Boris Johnson voiced fears for the security of Europe during a call with world leaders including US President Joe Biden.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The safety and security of British nationals is our top priority, which is why we have updated our travel advice.

“We urge British nationals in Ukraine to leave now via commercial means while they remain available.”

It comes as Ukraine received a delivery of ammunition as part of US military support this week.

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Ukranian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov wrote on Twitter on Thursday: “Two more birds in Kyiv! Javelins, grenades & other defensive ammunition for @ArmedForcesUkr.”

What was said about the threat of Russia invading?

Russia could mount an invasion of Ukraine “at any time”, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Friday as he warned that conflict would have “tragic consequences” for both countries.

Following talks in Moscow with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu, Mr Wallace said he had received an assurance the Kremlin was not planning to attack its southern neighbour.

But with 130,000 Russian troops massed along the borders and large-scale military exercises taking place in Belarus, he said they would judge such assurances by Moscow’s actions.

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“Currently there’s over 130,000 troops stationed at readiness or exercising – plus warplanes, plus ships into the Black Sea – on the borders of Ukraine and that is an action that is not normal,” Mr Wallace told a news conference in the British embassy.

“It is beyond normal exercising therefore we will judge that statement on the evidence.”

Mr Wallace said his discussions with Mr Shoigui had been “frank and constructive”.

While he said that he took the minister’s assurances “seriously”, he admitted that he was less optimistic than he had been previously that there could be a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

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He said the current disposition of Russian forces meant they could do “a whole range of actions, including an invasion of a neighbouring country, at any time”.

“I was clear about the tragic consequences that any invasion of Ukraine could have for all people – both Ukrainian (and) Russian – and the security of Europe,” he said.

“I think we have had a constructive and frank discussion and I hope it has contributed to a better atmosphere but also to de-escalation, but there is still considerable way to go between the two of us.”

Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (second left) walking with his counterpart Defence Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergei Shoigu (fourth left), during talks in Moscow, Russia.Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (second left) walking with his counterpart Defence Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergei Shoigu (fourth left), during talks in Moscow, Russia.
Ministry of Defence (MoD) of Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (second left) walking with his counterpart Defence Minister of the Russian Federation, Sergei Shoigu (fourth left), during talks in Moscow, Russia. | PA

Will the UK send special forces troops to Ukraine?

During a press conference he said he and Mr Shoigui discussed “confidence building measures” as well as the importance of implementing the Minsk Agreement, brokered by France and Germany, which was supposed to end the fighting between the Ukrainian military and Russian-backed separatist rebels in the east of the country.

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“I reiterated that, to its very core, Nato is defensive. We are not interested in dividing and ruling Russia. We are not seeking confrontation,” he said.

He said that 2,000 anti-tank missile launchers supplied by the UK to the Ukrainian military were purely defensive.

He added: “They’re not strategic, they’re short range. They are designed really for the protection of infantry at short range from armour he said.

“They in no way would pose a threat to an external state as long as that state did not invade that country.”

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Mr Wallace denied reports the UK was planning to send 600 Special Forces troops to Ukraine, saying it had only a small number of military trainers in the country whose presence had been fully declared.

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