There is strong cause for concern that Russian President Vladimir Putin “is committed to invasion” of Ukraine, Britain’s defense chief warned on Monday.
“In the last 48 hours, contrary to Kremlin assurances, we have seen a continued increase in troop numbers and a change in force disposition moving from holding areas to potential launch locations. All the indicators point to increasing numbers and readiness of Russia forces,” Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told MPs in parliament.
He continued: “Complementing this troop buildup has been a prolific proliferation of false-flag operations, propaganda stunts, and Russian news outlets carrying fictitious allegations. These are not the actions of a Russian government fulfilling its repeated declarations that it has no intention of invading Ukraine.
“In fact, we’ve seen over the last few weeks, the Russian playbook being implemented in a way that gives a strong cause for concern that President Putin is still committed to an invasion.”
‘Russians will suffer’
Wallace said he believed Putin is “in danger of setting himself on a tragic course of events leading to a humanitarian crisis, instability, and widespread suffering, not just of Ukrainians but also of the Russian people.”
He added: “There are plenty of measures we can take, we are planning a serious set of sanctions and I think the reality and the question to President Putin is do you actually care what’s going to happen to your people because it’ll be them who suffer most as a result of the sanctions – and it’ll be interesting, as a responsible leader, whether he will listen to that.”
“Intimidation and aggression must not be rewarded,” Wallace said.
He added: “The government urges President Putin, for the sake of his own people, even at this eleventh hour, to rule out an invasion of Ukraine and recommit to the diplomatic process.”
He said that if Britain could not trust Russia’s word then “it’s a very dangerous place to be in Europe.”
“We hope Mr. Putin will back down from invasion, but we must prepare for the event he does not,” Wallace said.
Wallace warned that the UK is ready to launch cyber-attacks on Russia if they target the UK’s cyber networks following an invasion.
“I’m a soldier – I was always taught the best part of defense is offense,” he said.
The US and other Western countries have accused Russia of amassing nearly 150,000 troops along the Ukrainian border in preparation for an imminent invasion.
Moscow has repeatedly denied any plan to invade Ukraine and instead accused Western countries of undermining Russia’s security through NATO’s expansion toward its borders.