Russia-Ukraine crisis: missiles could hit Ukraine within ‘minutes’ of Vladimir Putin giving order to invade
Armed forces minister James Heappey said that he feared an invasion is “now very imminent”
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Armed forces minister James Heappey told Sky News that he feared an invasion is “now very imminent”.
Vadym Prystaiko told BBC Radio 5 that the country would, due to threats and blackmail, consider “serious concessions”.
Will Russia invade Ukraine?
Mr Heappey warned that a Russian attack could arrive with “no notice”.
He added that he fears that “we are closer than we’ve been on this continent” to war “for 70 years”.
However, the government minister also told the BBC that there are still “lots of opportunities” for “compromise” and for “diplomacy”.
Boris Johnson is set to join western diplomatic efforts to stop a conflict in eastern Europe.
Downing Street conceded Moscow could be planning to invade “at any moment” but the Prime Minister will hold talks with world leaders before a trip to Europe during this week’s “window of opportunity” for de-escalation.
Mr Johnson, who is receiving daily intelligence briefings from security chiefs, was understood to be working with allies to provide further defensive and economic support to Kyiv, with an announcement touted for the coming days.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said: “The crisis on Ukraine’s border has reached a critical juncture. All the information we have suggests Russia could be planning an invasion of Ukraine at any moment. This would have disastrous consequences for both Ukraine and Russia.
“There is still a window of opportunity for de-escalation and diplomacy, and the Prime Minister will continue to work tirelessly alongside our allies to get Russia to step back from the brink.”
A key moment in the diplomatic efforts this week is German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Moscow meeting with Mr Putin on Tuesday.
US officials have discussed receiving intelligence that Russia is considering Wednesday as a target date to strike, but just how definitive that material is remains unclear.
Will Ukraine decide not to join Nato?
One of the most contentious issues in this crisis is the possibility of Ukraine joining the Nato alliance in the future.
Russia has demanded that Nato membership is ruled out for Ukraine and other former Soviet countries.
Mr Prystaiko has hinted that Ukraine could consider dropping its ambition to join the alliance to avoid war.
However, Mr Heappey said the UK Government did not believe that Ukraine giving up its goal of Nato membership was now official policy.
He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “I think what the British Government has a position on is Ukraine sovereignty and, therefore, their right to choose which alliances they want to be part of.
“Now, if Ukraine makes a sovereign decision that it doesn’t want to be a part of Nato, we respect that, there are plenty of other countries in Europe who have also made that judgment and with whom we have good relations.
“Similarly, as the course of the diplomatic negotiations has gone on, we’ve been clear that we wouldn’t support any effort that rules out the Ukrainian membership of Nato. This is their sovereign right and that’s what we respect.”
What is the advice to UK citizens living in Ukraine?
Britons living in Ukraine have been told to leave the country immediately over concerns of a possible invasion by Russian forces.
The Foreign Office updated its advice on Friday evening (11 February) to tell UK nationals to “leave now while commercial means are still available”.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Heappey said it is impossible to know how many British nationals have left Ukraine.
He said: “It’s impossible to know how many have left so far because this is a very different type of country to Afghanistan. There is free movement across the border of Ukraine into the European Union and people can just get in their cars and drive across into Poland.”
He added: “I’m being very, very clear to people that they should leave Ukraine now whilst there are the commercial means to do so and whilst the motorways are available for them to drive out over the border.
“This isn’t a warning about something that could happen in three months’ time, this isn’t a warning that will be followed by further warnings because greater imminence has been reached.
“This is a warning because minutes after Putin gives the order, missiles and bombs could be landing on Ukrainian cities, and that means British citizens should leave now whilst they have the opportunities to do so.”
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