Ukraine: Boris Johnson warns of ‘clear and imminent danger’ of attack by Russia on Kiev visit

‘There are 200,000 men and women under arms in Ukraine [ in fact around 280,000] they will put up a very, very fierce and bloody resistance,’ says PM

Kim Sengupta
in Kiev
Tuesday 01 February 2022 22:40
Comments
Russian invasion a ‘clear and present danger’ to Ukraine, says Johnson

The two press conferences took place around the same time about the same crisis. But the views expressed by leaders in Kiev and Moscow presented a bleak scenario and showed little sign of the compromises needed to avert a conflict in Europe.

Speaking in the Ukrainian capital, Boris Johnson and Volodymyr Zelensky spoke respectively of “clear and imminent danger” of an attack by Russia and the prospect of “a European war, a fully-fledged war”.

In Moscow, Vladimir Putin accused the US of using Ukraine as “a tool” to block “Russia’s development” and refusing to listen to its security concerns. Ukraine joining Nato may lead, he warned of a “fight” between Russia and the alliance.

After weeks of Russian forces building up on Ukraine’s borders to around 125,000, and rounds of diplomacy, public pronouncements continued to be belligerent raising fears that the tensions being ratcheted up could trigger hostilities – the law of unintended consequences.

The prime minister, facing fierce criticism at home over accusations of serial Covid rule-breaking parties, and misleading Parliament, had sought recently to present himself lately as the leader of resistance to Russia.

Standing beside Ukraine’s president, Mr Zelenskiy, he accused Russian president Putin of planning a “ military campaign” and holding “ a gun to Ukraine’s head”. Mr Johnson continued “he is trying to redraw the security map of Europe and to impose a new Yalta, new zones of influence.

“It would not just be Ukraine that was brought back into the Russian zone of influence. It would be Georgia and Moldova and other countries. This is absolutely critical this moment.”

Neither the UK or any other Nato member states would put boots on the ground to defend Ukraine. No member country of the Alliance has provided Kiev with much needed long-range weaponry.

But Mr Johnson was keen to warn Moscow with Ukrainian might. “There are 200,000 men and women under arms in Ukraine [ in fact around 280,000] they will put up a very, very fierce and bloody resistance. I think that parents, mothers in Russia should reflect on that fact” he said.

Mr Zelenskiy had claimed previously that the US and UK was exaggerating the Russian state. But, this time his message was “This is not going to be a war between Ukraine and Russia; this is going to be a European war, a fully-fledged war.”

In Moscow Mr Putin accused the Ukrainian government of failing to implement the Minsk Agreement with, he implied, the connivance of Washington.

“It seems to me that the United States is not so much concerned about the security of Ukraine... but its main task is to contain Russia’s development. In this sense Ukraine itself is just a tool to reach this goal,” he said.

The Russian president laid out his view of what would happen if Ukraine joined Nato – a membership the Kremlin demands must not take place. “Imagine that Ukraine is a Nato member and a military operation [to regain Crimea] begins. What - are we going to fight with Nato? Has anyone thought about this? It seems like they haven’t,” he stated.

Sitting beside Mr Putin was Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister whose authoritarian policies had led to frequent clashes with the fellow members of the European Union (EU), and friendship with the Kremlin has led to unease among fellow Nato members.

Mr Orban, gesturing towards Mr Putin, said: “This is our thirteenth meeting. That is a rarity. Practically all those who were my colleagues in the EU are no longer. I have high hopes that for many years to come we can work together.”

He continued: “Obviously, we cannot avoid talking about the security situation in Europe, where Hungary’s position is completely clear. We are interested in peace.”

Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, has declared that “nobody can request” that his country re-evauates relations with Russia in the current circumstances. He has accused Ukraine of “depriving” ethnic Hungarians of rights and of being “ provocative”. That, he said, makes it difficult for Budapest to help Ukraine “even in this conflict” with Russia.

Germany, meanwhile, has faced criticism for blocking the supply of German made arms to Ukraine and continuing with the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline with Russia. As accusations and recriminations continue in the Ukraine crisis, there is unease within Nato and the European Union that the Kremlin will seek to exploit the differences among the membership.

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