London, Feb 24 (PTI) The UK on Thursday condemned the “path of bloodshed and destruction” chosen by Russian President Vladimir Putin with an invasion of Ukraine, promising decisive action with international allies as Russian forces launched an assault on Ukraine.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson termed it a “catastrophe” for the European continent as he prepares to address the nation over the escalating crisis. He said he is approaching leaders of the G7, which includes the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, to coordinate response.
“This is a catastrophe for our continent. I will make an address to the nation this morning on the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” Johnson said in a Twitter statement after an emergency Cabinet Office Briefing Room A (COBRA) meeting at Downing Street.
“I will also speak to fellow G7 leaders and I am calling for an urgent meeting of all NATO leaders as soon as possible,” he said.
He is also expected to outline further sanctions against Russia in Parliament later on Thursday after the UK had imposed a freeze on 5 Russian banks and three Putin allies as a “first barrage”.
Earlier, Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the early hours of Thursday morning for an update and pledged that the west would not stand by as Putin waged a campaign against Ukrainian people.
“I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to President Zelenskyy to discuss next steps,” Johnson tweeted soon after the call.
“President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine. The UK and our allies will respond decisively,” he said.
Downing Street said the Ukrainian President updated the UK Prime Minister on the attacks taking place.
“The prime minister said the West would not stand by as President Putin waged his campaign against the Ukrainian people. The prime minister said he hoped Ukraine could resist and that Ukraine and its people were in the thoughts of everyone in the United Kingdom people during this dark time,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the UK stood with Ukraine and would work with international partners to respond to Russia’s “terrible act of aggression”.
UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he has instructed the country’s Civil Aviation Authority to ensure airlines avoid Ukraine airspace “to keep passengers and crew safe”.
There have been reports of explosions near major cities across Ukraine after Putin announced a “special military operation” in Ukraine’s Donbas region in a televised address to the Russian people on Thursday morning. Ukraine has declared a month-long state of emergency, as Russia said it had carried out air strikes on Ukraine’s military infrastructure and border guard units and not targeted populated areas.
UK Foreign Office minister James Cleverly warned that Putin’s comments in recent days suggested he wanted to create “a wider Russian empire in all but name”.
“We do fear that this is the start of quite an extensive military operation. This is not just limited to the east. There have been military strikes across a number of parts of Ukraine,” he told the BBC.
Asked about the prospect of UK boots on the ground in Ukraine, Cleverly said while Ukraine was a “good friend” of the UK, it was not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military alliance – which obliges members to come to one another’s aid in the event of an armed attack against a member state.
The UK is providing additional military support to eastern NATO member states and will support Ukrainians in their defence of their homeland, the minister said. PTI AK SCY SCY
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