Boris Johnson has warned an invasion of Ukraine could cause ‘the destruction of a democratic state’ and ‘the shock will echo around the world’.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference today, the Prime Minister said the ‘omens are grim’ from Russia on the possibility of an invasion in the coming days, and that the world could not ‘underestimate the gravity of this moment’.
Mr Boris jetted to the annual summit in Bavaria to make a plea to avoid ‘unnecessary bloodshed’ by diplomatic means if the West speaks with ‘one voice’.
In a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Mr Johnson said: ‘If Ukraine is invaded and if Ukraine is overwhelmed, we will witness the destruction of a democratic state, a country that has been free for a generation, with a proud history of elections.
Boris Johnson has warned an invasion of Ukraine could cause ‘the destruction of a democratic state’ and ‘the shock will echo around the world’. Pictured: The Prime Minister meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference today, the Prime Minister said the ‘omens are grim’ from Russia on the possibility of an invasion in the coming days, and that the world could not ‘underestimate the gravity of this moment’
‘And every time Western ministers have visited Kyiv, we have reassured the people of Ukraine and their leaders that we stand four-square behind their sovereignty and independence.
‘How hollow, how meaningless, how insulting those words would seem if at the very moment when their sovereignty and independence is imperilled we simply look away.
‘If Ukraine is invaded, the shock will echo around the world, and those echoes will be heard in East Asia they will be heard in Taiwan.
Speaking about Ukraine tensions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the ‘omens are grim’ from Russia.
He added: ‘We should not underestimate the gravity of this moment and what is at stake.
‘As I speak to you today, we do not fully know what President Putin intends, but the omens are grim and that is why we must stand strong together.
Before his arrival at the security conference in Germany, Mr Johnson posted a video on social media from his plane in which he said: ‘Unity is absolutely vital if we are going to deter what I think would be an absolutely catastrophic act of aggression by Vladimir Putin.
‘My message today is that there is still time to avert a disaster, that diplomacy will prevail.’
The Prime Minister has arrived at the Munich Security Conference where he will make a plea for ‘unnecessary bloodshed’ to be avoided by pursuing a diplomatic route to prevent a conflict in eastern Europe
It is Mr Johnson’s third trip to Europe this month to meet allies to discuss the situation in Ukraine, having met NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg and Poland’s leaders last week.
He also held a meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on February 1, where Mr Johnson said: ‘A further Russian invasion of Ukraine would be a political disaster, a humanitarian disaster, and in my view it would also be for Russia and the world a military disaster.’
Whitehall figures are now said to be convinced Vladimir Putin is planning to order Russian forces to attack.
Melinda Simmons, the British ambassador to Ukraine, has said she hopes to be working in the Ukrainian capital again ‘as soon as possible’ after it was announced the UK’s embassy was being ‘temporarily’ relocated to the west of the country, near the border of Poland.
World leaders are convening in Bavaria as fears grow that instability in Russian separatist-held areas of Ukraine could spark an invasion by Moscow forces.
The annual summit comes against a backdrop of President Joe Biden warning that the US has reason to believe Russian forces ‘intend to attack’ Ukraine in the coming days, including targeting the capital Kyiv – a city with a population of 2.8 million people.
Mr Biden told a White House press briefing on Friday he was ‘convinced’ Mr Putin had ‘made the decision’ to move his military across the border, having spent weeks saying he thought the Russian leader was undecided.
In a video posted on social media, the Mr Johnson said: ‘Unity is absolutely vital if we are going to deter what I think would be an absolutely catastrophic act of aggression by Vladimir Putin’
Only hours before his statement, the UK Foreign Office announced it had decided to ‘temporarily’ move its diplomats out of Kyiv, relocating them to the west of the country.
The department said British embassy officials will relocate to Lviv, situated near the border with Poland.
With estimates that 150,000 Russian troops are posted around Ukraine’s borders, Mr Johnson has previously called the situation ‘very grim’.
But in comments made before embarking on his trip to Germany, the Prime Minister said ‘diplomacy can still prevail’ if the West puts on a united front in terms of agreeing punishing sanctions to slap on Moscow.
‘There is still a chance to avoid unnecessary bloodshed, but it will require an overwhelming display of western solidarity beyond anything we have seen in recent history,’ he said.
The annual summit comes against a backdrop of President Joe Biden warning that the US has reason to believe Russian forces ‘intend to attack’ Ukraine in the coming days, including targeting the capital Kyiv – a city with a population of 2.8 million people. Pictured: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the conference today
‘Allies need to speak with one voice to stress to President Putin the high price he will pay for any further Russian invasion of Ukraine.
‘Diplomacy can still prevail.
‘That is the message I will take to Munich today as we redouble our efforts to prevent a grave miscalculation which would devastate Ukraine, Russia and the rest of Europe.’
The Bavarian summit will take place against the backdrop of Mr Putin continuing to parade Russia’s military might.
The Russian defence ministry has announced it will be carrying out fresh exercises on Saturday involving its strategic nuclear forces.
Mr Putin will observe the drills involving multiple practice launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles and cruise missiles in a demonstration that Russia remains a nuclear superpower.
The Russian leader has insisted that the large-scale military exercises with Belarusian forces close to the Ukrainian border are ‘purely defensive’ and do not represent a threat to any other country.
There are concerns among western allies that the Kremlin could use ‘disinformation’ and a possible ‘false flag’ operation to justify an offensive, particularly with growing activity in separatist-held areas of Ukraine.
Mr Biden said claims by Russian separatists that Ukraine is planning to launch an offensive into the battle-torn Donbas region ‘defies basic logic’, given the country is currently surrounded by foreign troops.
The US leader also said suggestions made in the Russian state media that a genocide is taking place in the Donbas were ‘phoney’.
Tensions in separatist areas have increased with reports of separate explosions in recent days.
Two explosions shook the rebel-controlled city of Luhansk early on Saturday, while another was reported to have occurred in the centre of the city of Donetsk on Friday.
The Luhansk Information Centre said one of the blasts was in a natural gas main and cited witnesses as saying the other was at a vehicle service station.
There was no immediate word on injuries or a cause.
Luhansk officials blamed a gas main explosion earlier in the week on sabotage.
The conflict between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists erupted in 2014 following the ousting of the pro-Moscow government in Kyiv and has killed more than 14,000 people.