UK urges Putin to ‘de-escalate’ Ukraine tensions or risk serious sanctions

Technology minister Chris Philp urged Russia to peacefully work out a solution amid fears that an invasion could happen in February.

Patrick Daly
Friday 28 January 2022 11:05
Sanctions against Russia could include cancelling the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a UK minister has said (Vadim Ghirda/AP)
Sanctions against Russia could include cancelling the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, a UK minister has said (Vadim Ghirda/AP)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has been urged to “de-escalate” the military build-up on the border of Ukraine as the international community steps up retaliation threats in the event of an invasion.

UK minister Chris Philp said Moscow should “get to the table” to resolve the tension peacefully as he warned of “very serious” sanctions should Russian troops make an incursion into neighbouring territory.

It came after US President Joe Biden told Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyyon there is a “distinct possibility” that Russia could take military action against Ukraine in February.

We are urging Russia to get to the table, to discuss issues that are relevant and to de-escalate the situation

Technology minister Chris Philp

One of the threats Washington has put on the table is to halt the opening of a key gas pipeline, Nord Stream 2, between Russia and western Europe if the Kremlin’s forces advance.

Mr Philp, a minister in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said there is “deep concern” about the “unprecedented” build-up of Russian troops on the border, particularly after units from the east of Russia redeployed to the region.

“I think it is a very serious situation,” he told Sky News.

“I think President Biden and our Prime Minister are right to warn President Putin that the consequences if they do invade Ukraine will be very, very serious indeed for Russia in terms of sanctions.

“The Americans made clear yesterday that the Nord Stream 2 pipe would not happen if they invade.”

US President Joe Biden has warned that Russia could invade Ukraine next month (Andrew Harnik/AP)

The technology minister said the UK has provided military equipment and training to support the Ukrainians, but pressed for Russia to engage diplomatically and avoid the need for combat.

“We are urging Russia to get to the table, to discuss issues that are relevant and to de-escalate the situation,” Mr Philp added.

“De-escalation is clearly in the interests of all concerned – it is not too late to de-escalate, and that is what now needs to happen.”

This week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace admitted he is “not optimistic” that a Russian mobilisation into Ukraine can be stopped.

The Cabinet minister confirmed on Thursday that he is due to meet his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, in Moscow soon to discuss the stand-off.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has used public statements this week to issue a stark warning that a military clash would be a “painful, violent and bloody business” as he called a possible invasion a “disastrous step”.

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