'We don't trust them': Foreign Sec fears Russia is plotting 'false flag' invasion

15 February 2022, 09:17 | Updated: 15 February 2022, 11:56

Foreign Secretary warns of possible false flag operation in next few days

By Sophie Barnett

The Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned Russia could be plotting a "false flag" invasion of Ukraine "in the next few days", as she declared she doesn't trust Vladimir Putin.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast with Tom Swarbrick, Ms Truss said they fear a false flag operation, where the Russians "pretend that there has been provocation from Ukraine in order to justify an invasion".

Asked by Tom whether she thinks the Russians are reliable partners, Ms Truss said: "What we are hearing from them, in terms of the rhetoric, is very different from what they are actually doing.

"Stationing 100,000 troops on the Ukraine border is undoubtedly threatening and yet they claim they are under a security threat. That simply is incredible."

"So they are fundamentally unreliable?" Tom asked the minister.

"I do not trust what they have said," she replied.

"There have been numerous occasions where we've seen, as I've said, false flag incidents set up by the Russians. We very much fear a false flag incident in the next few days, where the Russians pretend that there has been provocation from Ukraine in order to justify an invasion."

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It comes as US intelligence reportedly suggests Russia is planning to invade Ukraine at 1am tomorrow UK time - 3am local time.

Liz Truss: UK is providing Ukraine with 'defensive weaponry'

Her comments come as Russia's defence ministry says some troops positioned on the border with Ukraine are returning to their bases.

"Units of the Southern and Western Military Districts, which have accomplished their missions, are boarding trains and trucks and will head for their garrisons later today. Some units will join military convoys and will perform self-propelled marches," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.

But large-scale drills across the country continue, Interfax news agency said.

The news broke while Ms Truss was being interviewed by Tom.

She told him she had not seen the reports and "would need to see more details to understand if that has any major implications".

Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee later today to consider the latest developments as hopes rise that diplomacy may still avert war.

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The Prime Minister held talks with US President Joe Biden on Monday where they agreed a "crucial window for diplomacy" remained open, while Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign policy chief Sergei Lavrov have also agreed to continue down the path of negotiations.

A Downing Street source said there was "some hope" that diplomacy could work and Russia could step back.

But Foreign Secretary Liz Truss stressed the threat of an invasion remained as she confirmed some British embassy staff had moved out of the capital Kyiv to Lviv in western Ukraine, further away from the troops massing on the Russian side of the border.

The US has closed its Kyiv embassy and moved remaining staff to its mission in Lviv, but Ms Truss said the UK would retain a presence in the capital.

One possible path out of the crisis could come in the form of reassurances to Russia about the timeline for Ukraine's future Nato membership - one of the concerns highlighted by Mr Putin's administration.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that Nato membership was "like a dream" but "we don't know when it will happen".

Read more: 'You'll be met with force not flowers': Ukrainian diplomat's stark warning to Russia

David Lammy: 'Has the West been too weak in standing up to Putin over the last 20 or so years?'

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who met Mr Zelensky on Monday and was holding talks with Mr Putin on Tuesday, said Ukraine joining the Nato alliance was "practically not on the agenda".

The Prime Minister cut short a planned overnight stay in Cumbria on Monday, instead returning to Downing Street to chair Tuesday's Cobra meeting.

He received a briefing on Monday from the UK's intelligence chiefs, who presented the latest information on the Russian military build-up.

The UK and Western allies have warned that any Russian incursion into Ukraine would be met with an unprecedented package of sanctions.

That could include shutting down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline intended to carry gas from Russia to Germany, although Mr Scholz has been reluctant to explicitly commit to that despite Mr Biden's insistence it could not go ahead if troops invaded Ukraine.

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