Boris Johnson will urge Putin to ‘step back from the brink’ over Ukraine in phone call today

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 31 January 2022 13:31 GMT
Ukraine's ambassador on possible conflict with Russia

Boris Johnson is to warn Vladimir Putin to “step back from the brink” over Ukraine in a phone call this afternoon, before travelling to Kyiv on Tuesday for talks with president Volodymyr Zelensky.

Speaking ahead of the call, the prime minister said that Putin faces “bitter and bloody” resistance from the people of Ukraine if Russia launches an invasion of its neighbour.

Mr Johnson said a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be “an absolute disaster for the world”.

The prime minister will be joined by foreign secretary Liz Truss on tomorrow’s one-day visit to Ukraine, which takes place with tensions sky-high over the Russian military build-up on the other side of the border.

The trip represents a very visible display of British support for Ukraine, and comes after Mr Johnson sent a small deployment of troops on a training mission to the country, as well as providing defensive weaponry including anti-tank armaments.

Speaking to reporters during a visit to Tilbury in Essex, Mr Johnson said: “What I will say to President Putin, as I have said before, is that I think we really all need to step back from the brink.

“I think that an invasion of Ukraine - any incursion into Ukraine beyond the territory that Russia has already taken in 2014 - would be an absolute disaster for the world, and above all it would be a disaster for Russia.”

Mr Johnson said that any Russian invasion would be “bitterly and bloodily resisted” by the Ukrainian people.

Today’s call comes as Ms Truss announces new legislation in the Commons this afternoon to widen the scope of the UK’s sanctions regime to cover Russian individuals and companies with links to the Kremlin as well as those directly involved in any intervention in Ukraine.

It is not expected that the foreign secretary will announce any new sanctions today.

Ahead of today’s call, Mr Johnson’s official spokesperson said: “Our aim is to continue to encourage Russia to take a diplomatic path, to de-escalate and to step back from what could be a very costly exercise if they were to follow the path of further aggression.

“He has been clear at all points that pursuing that path would be extremely costly for the Russian people and it’s something we want to avoid and will continue to negotiate on.”

Mr Zelensky has urged other world leaders to tone down their rhetoric about the risk of war.

But the No 10 spokesperson said: “We, on our part, are seeking to reflect and shine a light on some of the approaches and tactics being used by Russia with the intention of encouraging them to step back from going any further.

“That is what we are seeking to do at all costs. But the prime minister will be speaking directly to President Zelensky tomorrow.”

Join our commenting forum

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


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