PRIME Minister Boris Johnson sent a warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday amid fears Russia will invade Ukraine.
Mr Johnson warned the Russian leader that invading the Ukraine would be a “disastrous step” and a “painful, violent and bloody business” as Britain and the United States removed diplomats from its embassies in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.
Russia has denied any intention to invade Ukraine, but has massed an estimated 100,000 troops along the country’s border.
The UK Home office said the removal was a “response to growing threat from Russia”.
The Foreign Office added: “The British Embassy remains open and will continue to carry out essential work.”
The Biden administration also told diplomats’ and their families to leave Ukraine and warned that a Russian invasion “could come at any time”.
Mr Johnson added that intelligence suggested Russia was planning a “lightning raid” on Kyiv as British staff and their families began leaving the Ukrainian capital.
He sent a warning to Putin that an invasion of Ukraine would be a “disastrous step” that could see Russia bogged down in a bloody and protracted conflict.
Mr Johnson said he did not believe war was inevitable and there was a chance that “sense can still prevail”.
Mr Johnson said: “We do think it prudent to make some changes now.”
“The intelligence is very clear that there are 60 Russian battle groups on the borders of Ukraine, the plan for a lightning war that could take out Kyiv is one that everybody can see.”
“We need to make it very clear to the Kremlin, to Russia, that that would be a disastrous step.”
He warned that the people of Ukraine would resist any invasion and “from a Russian perspective, (it) is going to be a painful, violent and bloody business”, he said.
“I think it’s very important that people in Russia understand that this could be a new Chechnya.”
UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, speaking to the media in Brussels, said a “very strong package of sanctions” has been prepared “should Russia stage an incursion into Ukraine”.
Mr Johnson joined talks with allies, including US President Joe Biden last night.
France’s Emmanuel Macron, Germany’s Olaf Scholz, Poland’s Andrzej Duda and Italy’s Mario Draghi were also on the call, along with the leaders of the European Union and Nato.
The Prime Minister’s comments came after Mr Biden suggested that a “minor incursion” may result in a more measured response by the United States and allies.
Denmark is sending a frigate to the Baltic Sea and is set to deploy F-16 fighter jets to Lithuania, Spain is sending ships and is considering sending fighter jets to Bulgaria, France has expressed its readiness to send troops to Romania, and the Netherlands is sending two F-35 fighter planes to Bulgaria from April.
Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, who held talks with Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in Brussels, suggested additional battle groups could be deployed to eastern Europe.
He said: “We continue to call on Russia to de-escalate and choose the path of diplomacy.”
But in response to Russia’s calls for Ukraine to be blocked from joining the alliance, he added: “We stand for the right of each nation to choose its own alliances and Nato’s door remains open.”
Troops are also taking part in exercises in Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north.
The UK has also accused Russia of increased cyber activity and widespread disinformation, as well of plotting to install a puppet government in Kyiv, something dismissed as “nonsense” by Moscow.