UK Foreign Office in 'crisis mode' as Russian invasion of Ukraine could be days away

19 January 2022, 00:25 | Updated: 19 January 2022, 08:51

There are concerns that Russia could attack Ukraine at any time. (stock photos)
There are concerns that Russia could attack Ukraine at any time. (stock photos). Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

The Foreign Office is reportedly in "crisis mode" over fears that Russian troops could be days away from invading Ukraine and conquering the capital Kiev.

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Weapons were flown from Britain to Ukraine as US intelligence suggests Russia could be planning an invasion, according to The Telegraph.

Today James Heappey said there was a "grave possibility" that Russia may launch military action in Ukraine. 

 The Armed Forces minister told Nick Ferrari at Breakfast that it would be "an extraordinarily stupid thing to do" and that Ukraine was "ready to fight for every inch of their country".

Russia has massed 100,000 troops with tanks and other heavy weapons on its own soil near the Ukrainian border, adding to fears an invasion could be imminent.

Ministry of Defence chiefs are reportedly fearing large-scale war and high civilian death tolls if Russia were to proceed.

A senior US State Department official told reporters the situation was "extremely dangerous", with an increased risk of Russia launching an attack on Ukraine "at any time".

On Tuesday Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told LBC the UK Government was "worried" about the apparent escalation of tensions.

"We are worried about the aggressive sounds and build-up on the Russian side of the border," he told Nick Ferrari at Breakfast.

"We do stand with our allies and partners in supporting the territorial integrity of Ukraine, making sure we can support them in defensive measures."

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The UK has supplied defensive weapon systems to Ukraine amid a Russian military build-up on its border
The UK has supplied defensive weapon systems to Ukraine amid a Russian military build-up on its border. Picture: Ukrainian Defense Ministry/Getty

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be in Kiev on Wednesday to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as tensions continue to escalate.

He will then move on to Berlin, and then meet Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in Geneva on Friday, according to the State Department.

The hastily arranged trip aims to show US support for Ukraine and impress on Russia the need for de-escalation.

The meetings follow inconclusive diplomatic talks between Moscow and the West in Europe last week that failed to resolve stark disagreements over Ukraine and other security matters.

The meetings appear to have increased fears of a Russian invasion, and the Biden administration has accused Russia of preparing a "false flag operation" to use as a pretext for intervention.

Russia has denied the charge.

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In Berlin, Mr Blinken will meet his German, British and French counterparts to discuss a possible response to any Russian military action.

In Geneva on Friday, he will be testing Mr Lavrov on Russia's interest in a "diplomatic off-ramp" for the crisis, the senior State Department official said.

Russia has massed 100,000 troops with tanks and other heavy weapons on its own soil near the Ukrainian border in what many observers believe may be preparation for an invasion.

Mr Blinken's "travel and consultations are part of the diplomatic efforts to de-escalate the tension caused by Russia's military build-up and continued aggression against Ukraine", the State Department said.

He will meet Mr Zelenskyy and Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba on Wednesday "to reinforce the United States' commitment to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity", a statement said.

"The trip follows extensive diplomacy with our European allies and partners about a united approach to address the threat Russia poses to Ukraine and our joint efforts to encourage it to choose diplomacy and de-escalation in the interests of security and stability," it said.

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CIA Director William Burns visited Kiev last Wednesday to consult with his Ukrainian counterparts and discuss assessments of the risk to Ukraine, a US official said.

Mr Burns also discussed the situation with Mr Zelenskyy.

Mr Blinken spoke by phone on Tuesday with Mr Lavrov, discussing the diplomatic talks and meetings held last week.

The State Department said Mr Blinken "stressed the importance of continuing a diplomatic path to de-escalate tensions" surrounding the Russia-Ukraine situation and "reiterated the unshakable US commitment" to Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

On Monday, Mr Lavrov rejected the US allegations that his country was preparing a pretext to invade Ukraine, telling reporters it was"total disinformation".

He reaffirmed that Russia expects a written response this week from the US and its allies to Moscow's request for binding guarantees that Nato will not embrace Ukraine or any other ex-Soviet countries or station its forces and weapons there.

Mr Blinken underscored to Mr Lavrov on Tuesday that any discussion of European security "must include Nato allies and European partners, including Ukraine", the State Department said.

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The Russian Foreign Ministry said Mr Lavrov emphasised in the call with Mr Blinken the key aspects of Russian draft documents envisaging "legally binding guarantees of Russia's security in line with the principle of indivisibility of security approved by all countries in the Euro-Atlantic".

It said he stressed the importance for Washington to quickly deliver a written response to the Russian proposals.

The US and its allies firmly rejected Moscow's demands during last week's Russia-US negotiations in Geneva and a related Nato-Russia meeting in Brussels.