Ukraine: Ben Wallace set for Moscow trip as Joe Biden urges US citizens to leave country now
The trip will follow the Prime Minister’s visits to Brussels and Warsaw on Thursday, where he insisted Vladimir Putin must not be allowed to “bully” eastern Europe as he warned the continent faced its biggest security crisis in decades.
It comes as the Government confirmed preparations to allow the UK to “toughen and expand” its sanctions against Russia have come into force.
The UK could now impose sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals in a range of significant sectors, such as the chemical, defence, extractives, ICT and financial services industries.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss was involved in testy exchanges with Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, with no sign of a diplomatic breakthrough being achieved following their meeting in Moscow.
The visit to Moscow was the first by a foreign secretary in four years.
Mr Lavrov said “ideological approaches, ultimatums and moralising is a road to nowhere” and accused Ms Truss of being ill-prepared for the negotiations.
It has now been reported that Ben Wallace will make clear to Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defence minister, that invading Ukraine would be a “lose-lose” situation.
The UK has put 1,000 troops on standby in case of a humanitarian crisis in the east if the current Russian military build-up leads to war.
It has also pledged extra help for Nato allies, with 350 Royal Marines arriving in Poland to coincide with the Prime Minister’s visit on Thursday.
Russia has insisted it has no plans to invade Ukraine but the Nato alliance is alarmed by the build-up of more than 100,000 troops on the borders with its neighbour.
During his overseas engagements, Boris Johnson indicated further military support could be offered to Ukraine if Russia invades.
But he made it clear that Britain could not intervene militarily if Ukraine was attacked.
In a pooled clip for broadcasters at a military base in Warsaw, he said: “The UK has been supplying some defensive weaponry in the form of anti-tank missiles, we have been training Ukrainian troops. That is as far as we can go at the moment.
“Ukraine is not part of Nato. What we are sticking up for is the right of Ukraine like any other sovereign independent country to aspire to that.”
At an earlier press conference, speaking alongside Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, the Prime Minister called on Russia to engage in meaningful talks because it was “far better to begin a discussion now than to have a catastrophe”.
The UK has already supplied 2,000 anti-tank missiles, body armour, helmets and combat boots to Ukraine and Mr Johnson indicated he could go further.
Asked if he could authorise military support to an insurgency in Ukraine in the event of an invasion, he said: “We will consider what more we can conceivably offer.
“The Ukrainians are well prepared, there are things we’ve offered that they, in fact, don’t seem to need because they think they have them in enough numbers already.
“It’s possible, I don’t want to rule this out, but at the moment we think the package is the right one.
“But I want to stress it would be an absolute disaster if it was to come to that and if there was to be serious bloodshed on Ukrainian soil.”
While diplomatic works continues between Russia and the West, US President Joe Biden has called on all American citizens remaining in Ukraine to leave the country immediately, citing increased threats of Russian military action.
Mr Biden said he would not send troops to rescue Americans if Moscow invades Ukraine.
When asked if there would be a situation that would see him send in troops, President Biden said: “"There's not. That's a world war when Americans and Russia start shooting at one another. We're in a very different world than we've ever been."
"American citizens should leave now.
"We're dealing with one of the largest armies in the world. It's a very different situation and things could go crazy quickly."
Russia have rejected calls for a pull back from Ukraine, with Sergei Lavrov saying: “The demands to remove the Russian troops from the Russian territory cause regret. We don’t want to threaten anyone. It’s us who are facing threats.”