Russia is 'flexing muscles unnecessarily' as RAF intercepts bombers, Minister tells LBC

3 February 2022, 09:24 | Updated: 3 February 2022, 09:43

Foreign Office Minister reacts to Russian bombers flying near UK

By Asher McShane

A Government minister has told LBC that Russia is 'unnecessarily flexing its muscles' as tensions rise on the Russia-Ukraine border.

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When asked about the Russian jets intercepted near the UK and the Russian ships in the English channel, James Cleverly told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast the country's actions were "counterproductive" and were not the right way for it to be taken seriously.

"It's really difficult for me to credibly assess what [Putin's] motivations are," said Mr Cleverly, the Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa.

"I think Russia is very keen to be seen as a powerful force on the world stage, and the point that I think he needs to understand is that actually these provocative military actions are not the best way of Russia being seen as a relevant - as a serious - player.

Read more: Boris warns Putin Ukraine invasion would be 'tragic miscalculation' as US deploys troops

Read more: 'Even children are laughing at him': Boris mocked by Russia as tensions rise over Ukraine

"There are a whole load of issues around the world where they could exert a positive influence, they are a member of the P5 in the United Nations, there's a huge amount of work that could be done for the benefit of all there.

"This military flexing of muscle is unnecessary and counterproductive and Russia could and should engage on the world stage in a much better way."

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Russia has amassed around 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border, adding to growing fears an invasion could be imminent.

In a call on Wednesday afternoon, Boris Johnson warned president Putin that an invasion would be a "tragic miscalculation".

The pair "agreed that aggravation was in no-one's interest" - but clashed on whether Ukraine had a right to aspire to Nato membership.

Read more: RAF jets intercept Russian 'Bear' bombers flying to UK as Boris warns Putin on Ukraine

Read more: Boris Johnson to visit Ukraine as Russian invasion fears rise

Meanwhile, US president Joe Biden is sending about 2,000 troops to Poland and Germany, while 1,000 already based in Germany will move to Romania.

Mr Biden has said he will not put American troops in Ukraine, although the US is supplying the country with weapons to defend itself.

Ukraine invasion will be 'very damaging' to Russia – ex UN Ambassador

On Wednesday the RAF intercepted four Russian 'Bear' bombers that were flying towards the UK's "area of interest".

An RAF spokesperson said: "Quick Reaction Alert Typhoon fighters based at RAF Lossiemouth supported by a Voyager from RAF Brize Norton were scrambled today against unidentified aircraft approaching the UK area of interest.

"Subsequently we intercepted and escorted four Russian Bear aircraft."

The bombers did not enter UK airspace.

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