PM joins world leaders in pledging 'swift action' amid concerns over Russian invasion

25 January 2022, 00:35 | Updated: 25 January 2022, 00:46

World leaders have said they will act 'swiftly' if Russia invades Ukraine
World leaders have said they will act 'swiftly' if Russia invades Ukraine. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Boris Johnson has joined world leaders in pledging "swift" action against Russia amid concerns that Moscow plans to invade Ukraine.

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Several Western countries agreed that an "unprecedented package of sanctions" would be put in place if Russia did invade, with the US also revealing that it had 8,500 troops on standby for potential deployment to eastern Europe.

It comes as the Prime Minister attended a virtual meeting with the US, Italy, Poland, France, Germany, the European Council, the European Commission and NATO to discuss growing tensions between the West and Russia.

Nato outlined potential troop and ship deployments and Britain said it intends to withdraw some diplomats from Kyiv.

Ukrainian Servicemen of the 25th Air Assault Battalion
Ukrainian Servicemen of the 25th Air Assault Battalion. Picture: Getty

During the talks, Mr Johnson highlighted the steps the UK had taken to support Ukraine.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said: "The leaders agreed on the importance of international unity in the face of growing Russian hostility.

"The Prime Minister underlined the real human cost of any Russian aggression and the need to take all steps within our power to prevent that outcome.

"The leaders stressed that diplomatic discussions with Russia remain the first priority, and welcomed talks that have already taken place between Russia and Nato allies.

Read more: Boris warns Putin that invading Ukraine will be 'painful, violent and bloody'

Read more: Ukraine support about 'caring for Russia and liberating it from tyranny', says ex-ambassador

"They also agreed that the international community should not tolerate any action which undermines Ukrainian sovereignty.

"The Prime Minister outlined the steps the UK has taken to increase Ukraine's defensive capacity. He emphasised the need to support Ukraine's defences against the full spectrum of malign Russian activity.

"The leaders agreed that, should a further Russian incursion into Ukraine happen, allies must enact swift retributive responses including an unprecedented package of sanctions.

"They resolved to continue co-ordinating closely on any such response."

A statement from the White House later read: "The leaders underscored their shared desire for a diplomatic resolution to the current tensions and reviewed recent engagements with Russia in multiple formats.

"The leaders also discussed their joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including preparations to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia for such actions as well as to reinforce security on NATO’s eastern flank."

Thousands of US-based troops are on heightened alert for their potential deployment to Europe, in a bid to reassure allies.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said no final decisions had been made on deployments, which he said would happen only if the Nato alliance decides to activate a rapid-response force "or if other situations develop" in connection with tensions over Russia's military build-up along Ukraine's borders.

However, Moscow has denied planning to take military action, despite tens of thousands of troops being on the Ukraine border.

Read more: Europe must 'provide weapons to Ukraine' for defence against Russia, Rory Stewart warns

Boris Johnson earlier warned Putin that invading Ukraine will be "painful, violent and bloody".

Speaking to reporters in Milton Keynes as the Foreign Office pulled some embassy staff out of Kyiv, 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."

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