‘Omens are grim’ for Ukraine, UK PM warns
Moscow could be just moments away from ordering a full-blown invasion of Ukraine, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has alleged, amid reports of heavy shelling and explosions near the contact line in the Donbass.
Speaking at a press conference alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Johnson claimed that the world is at “a very dangerous moment in history” and stands “on the brink of what could be a war in Europe.”
“If Ukraine is invaded and if Ukraine is overwhelmed, we will witness the destruction of a democratic state,” the British PM went on. In the event the Kremlin were to order its troops to cross the border, he said, the “shock will echo around the world.”
At the same time, Johnson admitted that “we do not fully know what [Russian President Vladimir] Putin intends,” but insisted that “the omens are grim.” According to him, Western leaders have developed the “toughest and strongest package of sanctions” possible to impose on Moscow in the event of war.
Western leaders have been warning for weeks that Russia could order an invasion of the former Soviet Republic, citing reports that more than 100,000 troops are massed on the shared border. The Kremlin has consistently denied it has any aggressive intentions and has dismissed American and British intelligence reports as “hysteria.”
Ukrainian forces and those in the separatist-held Donbass accused each other of escalating the tense standoff along the front lines on Friday, with claims of heavy shelling coming from both sides. The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR) announced that they had begun evacuating civilians to Russia on Friday, and declared that they were mobilizing forces to deal with a potential offensive. Their leaders have previously said they expect Moscow’s support in the event of war.
Alexey Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s’ National Security and Defense Council, denied on Friday that Kiev was planning to attack the DPR and LPR.
“There is an attempt to provoke our forces,” Danilov claimed, adding that Ukrainian troops “can only open fire if there will be a threat to the lives of our service members.”
In a statement issued shortly after the evacuation order, Kiev’s Foreign Ministry said that “allegations that the Ukrainian authorities allegedly intend to launch an offensive in the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts are untrue.”
Speaking on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin again called for a diplomatic solution to the growing crisis.
“All Kiev needs to do is sit down at the negotiating table with representatives of the Donbass and agree on political, military, economic, and humanitarian measures to end this conflict. The sooner this happens, the better,” Putin said.