Russia's sons won't come home if they invade Ukraine: Boris issues stark warning to Putin

26 January 2022, 02:16

By Sophie Barnett

Boris Johnson has warned Vladimir Putin that many of Russia's soldiers "won't come home" if they invade Ukraine, as he stressed the UK "won't hesitate" to toughen its national sanctions against Russia.

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Speaking in the House of Commons amid the partygate scandal, the Prime Minister told MPs he "shudders to contemplate the tragedy that would ensue" if Russia sends troops to Ukraine.

In a stark warning to families amid rising fears of a possible military invasion, Mr Johnson said: "If Russia pursues this path then many Russian mother's sons will not be coming home."

He said the Russian military build-up is "a spectacle that we hoped had been banished from our continent", comprising of over 100,000 troops - far bigger than anything Russia has deployed against Ukraine before.

It came as US president Joe Biden said he would consider personal sanctions on Putin if Russia invaded Ukraine, making it clear to Moscow that there would be a price to pay.

Read more: Putin must 'step back' from war and free world will 'stand its ground', says Foreign Sec

"If the worst happens, and the destructive firepower of the Russian army were to engulf Ukraine's towns and cities I shudder to contemplate the tragedy that would ensue," Mr Johnson told MPs.

"Ukrainians have every moral and legal right to defend their country and I believe their resistance would be dogged and tenacious, and the bloodshed comparable to the first war in Chechnya or Bosnia, or any other conflict that Europe has endured since 1945.

"No one would gain from such a catastrophe."

Mr Johnson also said the UK would "contribute" to any new Nato deployments if Russia did invade Ukraine, telling the Commons that Western allies will react "in unison".

Read more: Ukraine: 8,500 US troops on high alert as Boris warns of 'violent and bloody business'

Read more: Boris willing to 'cooperate fully' with Met's partygate probe 'to draw a line under it'

But Ukraine's leaders have called for calm and said there is "no need to panic".

Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov said that on Monday Russia's armed forces had not formed battle groups, which would have indicated an imminent attack.

However the Ukrainian government acknowledged the threat from Russia, and Mr Reznikov said that, whilst not expected in the next day, an attack is "possible and probable in the future".

He told MPs the UK will not hesitate to "toughen our national sanctions" against Russia in response to "whatever President Putin may do".

It follows a virtual meeting held on Monday between Mr Johnson, Mr Biden, French President Macron, German Chancellor Scholz, Polish President Duda, Italy's Prime Minister Draghi, Nato General-Secretary Stoltenberg, President of the European Council Michel and EU President von der Leyen.

During the meeting it was agreed diplomacy should continue, but also to prepare massive economic consequences if Moscow invades.

"We agreed that we would respond in unison to any Russian attack on Ukraine, in unison by imposing co-ordinated and severe economic sanctions heavier than anything we have done before against Russia," Mr Johnson said.

"And we agreed on the necessity of finalising these measures as swiftly as possible in order to maximise their deterrent effect."

Read more: Maida Vale killings: Son leads tributes to mum stabbed to death as murder probe continues

He added: "We in the UK will not hesitate to toughen our national sanctions against Russia in response to whatever President Putin may do, and the House will soon hear more on this from... the Foreign Secretary.

"We've already declassified compelling intelligence, exposing Russian intent to install a puppet regime in Ukraine. And we will continue to disclose any Russian use of cyber attacks, false flag operations or disinformation."

Mr Johnson's warning comes as tensions soar between Russia and the West over concerns that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine, with Nato outlining potential troop and ship deployments, Britain saying it would withdraw some diplomats from Kiev, and Ireland denouncing upcoming Russian war games off its coast.

The US is anticipating the potential for Nato to activate what it calls the Nato Response Force, a multi-national force totalling about 40,000 troops.

Around Nato 4,000 troops currently based in multinational battalions in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, backed by tanks, air defences and intelligence and surveillance units. Russia has massed around 100,000 troops near Ukraine's border.

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