UK says invasion 'highly likely'
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who has just returned from a trip to Moscow, says he believes it’s “highly likely” that Russia will invade Ukraine, even if the former has categorically denied having any plans to do so.
Speaking to the Sunday Times, Wallace cited the alleged build-up of Russian troops near the border with Ukraine, calling it a telltale sign that Moscow could “launch an offensive at any time.”
He appeared to characterize the recent series of meetings and calls between senior Russian officials and their Western counterparts as attempts to placate an aggressor, drawing parallels between the current geopolitical tensions over Ukraine and the situation in Europe before WWII.
“It may be that he [Putin] just switches off his tanks and we all go home but there is a whiff of Munich in the air from some in the West,” Wallace said in an apparent reference to the Munich Conference between Germany, Italy, France, and Great Britain in 1938, which paved the way for Germany’s annexation of part of former Czechoslovakia.
Wallace’s interview came out shortly after he met with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu in Moscow on Friday. Wallace described the meeting – the first between the countries’ defense ministers in years – as “constructive,” while his Russian counterpart said cooperation between London and Moscow is almost non-existent.
Speaking immediately after the talks, Wallace said that he “heard clearly from the Russian government that they had no intention of invading Ukraine.” He added that there was “absolutely no deafness or blindness” in his dialogue with Shoigu.
On Saturday, the UK announced that it would remove all troops from Ukraine amid concerns of “a conflict” breaking out. The day before, London urged all British nationals in Ukraine to leave the country.
Moscow has repeatedly denied that it harbors any intention to invade Ukraine, dismissing reports to the contrary as fake news.