Vladimir Putin appears “bent on a full-scale invasion” of Ukraine, Boris Johnson warned as he vowed to swiftly introduce the “first barrage” of sanctions against Russia.
The Prime Minister said on Tuesday that the Russian President had “completely torn up international law” and is seemingly intent on capturing the capital of Kyiv.
Johnson’s warnings came after Moscow ordered troops into two breakaway regions of eastern Ukraine, allegedly to carry out “peacekeeping” duties.
The dramatic escalation came after Mr Putin recognised the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in the Donbas as independent states.
After chairing an early morning emergency meeting of the Cobra committee, Johnson said he would later reveal sanctions against entities in Russia and the Donbas.
“This is I should stress just the first barrage of UK economic sanctions against Russia because we expect I’m afraid that there is more Russian irrational behaviour to come,” he told broadcasters.
“I’m afraid all the evidence is that President Putin is indeed bent on a full-scale invasion of the Ukraine, the overrunning, the subjugation of an independent, sovereign European country and I think, let’s be absolutely clear, that will be absolutely catastrophic.”
Cabinet minister Sajid Javid has earlier said: “We are waking up to a very dark day in Europe and it’s clear from what we have already seen and found out today that the Russians, President Putin, has decided to attack the sovereignty of Ukraine and its territorial integrity.”
The UK Health Secretary told Sky News: “We have seen that he has recognised these breakaway eastern regions in Ukraine and from the reports we can already tell that he has sent in tanks and troops.
“From that you can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun.”
The Kremlin said Russian forces will “maintain peace” in eastern Ukraine.
Johnson said on Monday the decision from Mr Putin to recognise Donetsk and Luhansk was an “ill omen” and a flagrant breach of international law.
The Cobra meeting will co-ordinate the UK response and agree a “significant package of sanctions to be introduced immediately”, No 10 said.
Following the meeting the Prime Minister will have calls with other world leaders and will update MPs on the sanctions package at around 12.30pm.
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