Boris Johnson warns of possibility of Ukraine invasion in ‘next 48 hours’

No 10 says there is ‘grave possibility of an invasion this week’

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 14 February 2022 16:49 GMT

Boris Johnson has warned a Russian invasion of Ukraine could come as early as the “next 48 hours”, as he urged Vladimir Putin to step back from the “edge of a precipice”.

The prime minister stressed the evidence was “pretty clear” that the Kremlin was planning such a move, with an estimated 130,000 Russian troops massing on the Ukrainian border.

His remarks came as Liz Truss chaired a Cobra meeting to “to discuss the consular response to the crisis”, after British nationals were urged to leave the Eastern European country on Friday.

The foreign secretary, who met with her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow last week, echoed Mr Johnson’s comments, saying Mr Putin could launch an invasion of Ukraine “almost immediately”.

The prime minister, who cut short an official trip to Cumbria in order to head back to No 10 on Monday evening, will also hold a full meeting of the government’s emergency committee on Tuesday.

He told reporters: “This is a very, very dangerous, difficult situation, we are on the edge of a precipice but there is still time for President [Vladimir] Putin to step back.”

Mr Johnson called for more dialogue and urged Russia to avoid a “disastrous” invasion, as he said the Russian president needed to understand the economic and political consequences if he launched an invasion of Ukraine.

Asked whether an invasion could be hours or days away, he replied: “The signs are from president [Joe] Biden they are at least planning for something that could take place as early as the next 48 hours. That is extremely concerning.”

Mr Johnson said “the world needs to learn the lesson of 2014” when not enough was done to move away from Russian gas and oil following the Russian action in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

“What I think all European countries need to do now is get Nord Stream out of the bloodstream,” he said. “Yank out that hypodermic drip feed of Russian hydrocarbons that is keeping so many European economies going.

“We need to find alternative sources of energy and we need to get ready to impose some very, very severe economic consequences on Russia.”

Foreign secretary Liz Truss says Russia could launch an invasion of Ukraine ‘almost immediately’ (PA)

Downing Street also reiterated comments from the armed forces minister, James Heappey, who told broadcasters on Monday morning that there was a “grave possibility of invasion this week” as tensions continue to build on the continent”.

A No 10 spokesperson said: “This afternoon the foreign secretary will chair a Cobr meeting to discuss the consular response to the crisis in Ukraine following Friday’s update to travel advice.

“The prime minister will receive a security briefing from his intelligence chiefs today. Tomorrow the prime minister will chair a full meeting of Cobr to discuss the UK’s response to the current situation.”

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