Michael Gove warns Russia's invasion is the world's biggest crisis since 9/11

7 March 2022, 18:32 | Updated: 8 March 2022, 13:05

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Michael Gove has told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is "undoubtedly the biggest foreign policy and economic event since at least 9/11".

The minister told Andrew the conflict was a "hinge" moment when asked if the "entire world was going to feel different" after developments over the last two weeks.

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He said: "You can't contemplate the land invasion of one European country by another with the biggest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War without thinking that this is a hinge moment.

"It's sometimes the case that people draw early lessons when there's a big change that are subsequently refined by events.

"There may be some things that are small factors in people's minds now that grow, other instant takes that may prove to be a little too instant.

"It is undoubtedly the biggest foreign policy and economic event at least since 9/11."

Andrew pressed the Levelling Up Secretary on the hard times the UK public may face as a result of Vladimir Putin's war, asking: "Do you think it's time to level with them and say hard times are coming?"

Mr Gove compared the situation to the one the world faced in the 1970s when oil prices spiked after the Yom Kippur War.

The conflict was fought between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria in October 1973.

"There were lots of other things going on in the global economy at that time that were difficult," he said.

"We all know that there are real cost of living difficulties but I think it's important in levelling with the British people to stress two things, yes, real challenges ahead but also we can get through this.

"I think that what we mustn't do is for any reason to imagine that these challenges will overwhelm a country like ours."

Mr Gove also said Mr Putin has a number of "grisly" options at his disposal before he turns to using nuclear weapons against Ukraine, but warned he will "stop at almost nothing".

"His army has faced a much tougher level of resistance than it was clear he had anticipated," he said.

"It's also the case that he has a number of other options, all grisly, that he has at his disposal, before he ever goes anywhere near the use of tactical nuclear weapons."

Andrew asked: "When Putin threatens nuclear war, uses that blood curdling language, should we take him seriously?"

Mr Gove replied: "I think we have to take very seriously the threat Putin imposes, but I think none of us should imagine that he is going to immediately escalate to nuclear warfare.

"There are many more steps and thresholds before we ever get anywhere near there. But we do need to bear in mind that Russia has a nuclear armed power."

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It comes as Ukraine's military says it has wrested back a city from Russian control in another blow to Mr Putin's invading forces.

The armed forces said Russia suffered "heavy losses" in the fighting, in which Chuhuiv, near Kharkiv, was recaptured.

High-ranking officers were killed, it claimed.

The Ukrainian forces' general staff also said Russia has lost more than 11,000 troops, nearly 300 tanks, more than 40 war planes and more than 60 helicopters during 11 days of fighting.

Russia has told Ukraine the onslaught, including the killing of civilians, will end if Kyiv agrees to Kremlin demands.

It wants Ukraine to cease military action, change its constitution to enshrine neutrality, acknowledge Crimea as Russian territory and recognise the separatist republics of Donetsk and Lugansk as independent territories.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: "They were told that all this can be stopped in a moment."

There have been further talks between the two countries on Monday, with the Kremlin insisting Russia is not seeking to make any further territorial claims on Ukraine.