Bombs could drop on Ukraine within minutes of Russian President Vladimir Putin giving the order, the armed forces minister has warned.
After telling all Britons on Friday to leave Ukraine immediately, James Heappey told Sky News: “My fear is it [an invasion] is very imminent, that’s not to say it’s definitely going to happen.
“This is a warning because minutes after Putin gives the order, missiles and bombs could be landing on Ukrainian cities.”
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Image: The Russian Navy’s submarine Rostov-on-Don in the Bosphorus, Istanbul, on its way to the Black Sea
He said the UK suddenly changed its advice because there are now about 130,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, thousands more at sea and the UK can see Russia has brought in “combat enablers” in the form of fuel, medical supplies and bridging assets.
Confusion over Ukraine’s NATO commitment
Mr Heappey also said the UK will support Ukraine whether it wants to become a member of NATO or not.
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There was confusion over the weekend after the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK said Kyiv was willing to be “flexible” over its goal to join the military alliance.
Kyiv had previously made its ambitions to become a NATO member clear, but Moscow says this could make it a launch pad for NATO missiles targeted at Russia, which is why it is amassing troops at the border – although Moscow has denied it is planning to invade.
But this morning, ambassador Vadym Prystaiko clarified his remarks, saying the former Soviet republic would not be reconsidering its attempt to join the military alliance.
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A spokesman for the Ukrainian foreign ministry said Mr Prystaiko’s comments were “taken out of context” and Ukraine’s “immediate accession” to NATO would be the best security guarantee for Ukraine but something needs to be done now as the threat is imminent.
The Kremlin later claimed Ukraine had a “confirmed and somehow formalised commitment” to abandon its plan to join NATO, with Mr Putin’s press secretary telling Russian news agency Interfax that would “certainly be a step that would substantially promote the formulation of a more meaningful response to Russia’s concerns”.
G7 warn of ‘massive’ consequences for Russian economy
Finance ministers from G7 nations, including British Chancellor Rishi Sunak, held a meeting on Monday morning in which they said they are ready to act “swiftly and decisively” to support the Ukrainian economy if Russia invades.
They warned any further military aggression by Moscow will be met with a coordinated response, including economic sanctions which will have “massive and immediate consequences on the Russian economy”.
We stand united as @g7 Finance Ministers to protect the economic and financial stability of Ukraine.De-escalation is the top priority, but we are prepared to collectively impose sanctions in the face of further military aggression by Russia. https://t.co/DbQpnyr3f6
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) February 14, 2022
Diplomatic efforts by multiple leaders are ongoing, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson travelling to Europe later this week to build support to end the standoff with Russia.
US President Joe Biden warned Mr Putin in a phone call on Saturday that the West would respond decisively to any invasion and such an attack would harm and isolate Moscow. The US also sent about 180 tonnes of ammunition to Ukraine over the weekend.
Airlines cancel flights to Ukraine
Mr Heappey reassured Britons trying to get out of Ukraine that despite lots of embassy staff having already left consular assistance is still available there, and also from London and neighbouring Poland, and said the motorways and some commercial flights are still running but warned that may not be the case for very long.
China has taken a different view, with its foreign ministry spokesman on Monday saying its Kyiv embassy is operating as normal but Chinese citizens should closely monitor the situation on the ground.
Image: A military exercise for civilians conducted by a far-right radical group, Right Sector, in Kyiv
Several airlines have cancelled flights to Ukraine, including KLM and Ukrainian charter airline SkyUp after Ukraine’s air traffic safety agency declared the airspace over the Black Sea to be a “zone of potential danger” and recommended planes avoid flying over the sea from 14-19 February.
WizzAir and Lufthansa said they are continuing flights but is monitoring the situation carefully and flights from London to Kyiv can still be booked on Ryanair.
Source : Sky News