Boris Johnson has stated that Russia is sending “mixed signals” after it announced the withdrawal of some of its soldiers from neighbouring Ukraine.
The prime minister stated that negotiations between Russia and Western nations had revealed “signs of a diplomatic opening” to avoid confrontation.
However, he said that the most recent intelligence on Russian military operations was “not encouraging”
Despite having more than 100,000 troops stationed on Ukraine’s border, Russia denies any plans for an assault. The build up has resulted in more dire warnings in recent days, with the UK joining the US in predicting an invasion at any time.
Mr Johnson told reporters following an emergency meeting of UK ministers to examine the issue that Russia has showed a “openness to conversations” about diplomatically resolving the problem.
He did, however, add that data on Tuesday indicated Russian military “being brought closer to the border” with Ukraine.
According to intelligence, Russia is also building field hospitals near the border, which can only be interpreted as “as preparation for an invasion”
He stated that the West desired a “programme of de-escalation” from Russia and that a “very tough” set of sanctions was “ready to go” in the event of an invasion.
He went on to say that the UK was willing to target Russian banks and firms and prevent them from raising funds on London’s financial markets.
He also stated that British officials took a “balanced decision” to keep the UK embassy in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, operational after the US indicated it would relocate its embassy activities to the western city of Lviv.
Mr Johnson stated that the UK must “face the fact that there is a risk,” but that maintaining the embassy open “for as long as possible” is a “an important symbol” of the UK’s ongoing support for Ukraine.
He also warned that if Russia did go ahead with an invasion, a series of sanctions would be prepared, with the UK ready to target company ownership and Russians’ ability to raise capital on London’s markets.
Conservative MP and former British army commander Tom Tugendhat, who leads the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, has cautioned that Russian comments regarding the situation in Ukraine can not be trusted.