Bombs could fall on Ukraine ‘minutes after Putin gives the order’, UK government warns

Warning comes as Boris Johnson joins last-ditch diplomatic efforts to stop invasion

Adam Forrest
Monday 14 February 2022 09:41
Comments
'All conditions are set for Russia to launch attack on Ukraine': Armed Forces Minister

Russia could attack Ukraine with no notice, the UK government has warned as British citizens were told to leave the eastern European country immediately.

Armed Forces minister James Heappey said bombs could land on Ukrainian cities within “minutes” of Russian president Vladimir Putin giving an invasion order.

Mr Heappey said it was impossible to know how many British nationals have left Ukraine, urging all those who remain there to “leave now”.

He told Sky News: “This isn’t a warning about something that could happen in three months’ time, this isn’t a warning that will be followed by further warnings.”

The defence minister added: “This is a warning because minutes after Putin gives the order, missiles and bombs could be landing on Ukrainian cities, and that means British citizens should leave now whilst they have the opportunities to do so.”

It comes as Boris Johnson is set to join last-ditch diplomatic efforts to bring Putin “back from the brink” of war in Ukraine as the crisis enters a “critical juncture”.

Downing Street conceded Moscow could be planning to invade “at any moment” but the prime minister will hold talks with world leaders before a trip to Europe during this week’s “window of opportunity” for de-escalation.

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK had suggested that the country could consider dropping its ambition to join Nato to avoid war with Russia.

Vadym Prystaiko told BBC Radio 5 that the country would, due to threats and blackmail, consider “serious concessions” – including, he appeared to suggest, removing the goal of joining the Nato alliance from the Ukrainian constitution.

But the ambassador later clarified his remarks, saying Ukraine was not shifting its bid to become a Nato member.

“We are not a member of Nato right now and to avoid war we are ready for many concessions and that is what we are doing in conversations with the Russians,” Mr Prystaiko told the BBC. “It has nothing to do with Nato which is enshrined in the constitution.”

Mr Heappey said Britain would support whatever Ukraine decides to do on its ambition to join Nato. “If Ukraine decides that it is going to offer that it won’t become a Nato member, we support that – that’s for the Ukrainians to decide,” he told Sky News.

But the defence minister also made clear that the UK government does not believe that suggestions of Ukraine giving up its goal of Nato membership is now the country’s official policy.

“Now, if Ukraine makes a sovereign decision that it doesn’t want to be a part of Nato, we respect that, there are plenty of other countries in Europe who have also made that judgment and with whom we have good relations,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

He added: “Similarly, as the course of the diplomatic negotiations has gone on, we’ve been clear that we wouldn’t support any effort that rule out the Ukrainian membership of Nato. This is their sovereign right and that’s what we respect.”

The US said on Sunday that Russia could invade Ukraine at any time and might create a surprise pretext for an attack. Moscow denies any such plans and has accused the West of “hysteria”.

Russia has more than 100,000 troops massed near Ukraine, which is not part of the Atlantic military alliance, and Washington – while keeping open the diplomatic channels that have so far failed to ease the crisis – has repeatedly said an invasion is imminent.

Mr Heappey said: “We’ve seen now that there’s 130,000 combat troops around Ukraine’s land borders. There’s thousands more on amphibious shipping in the Black Sea.

The British defence minister said there were also “ominous” signs that Russian logistics, fuel, medical supplies and bridging assets are all also now in place.

Mr Heappey suggested that parliament could be recalled this week, saying it may offer an “opportunity” for parliamentarians to show the UK’s resolve in opposing Russia.

“I’ve got to be honest on that, I think that … if you consider what the UK is doing in all of this, parliament being recalled may offer an opportunity for parliamentarians to show the UK’s resolve in opposing what might happen or to give it support to the diplomatic efforts.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in