Johnson fears Russian ‘false flag’ action to discredit Ukraine ahead of invasion

Boris Johnson said he feared more violence following the shelling of a nursery school in clashes between Ukraine and Moscow-backed separatists.

17 February 2022

Russia has been accused by the UK of orchestrating “false flag” attacks in Ukraine as a pretext for an invasion.

The claims by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss came as tensions continued to mount between Russian-backed separatists and state forces in east Ukraine, with shells hitting a nursery school.

Ms Truss said reports alleging “abnormal military activity” by Ukraine in the eastern Donbas region were a “blatant” attempt by the Kremlin to fabricate a reason for an invasion.

The Prime Minister claimed there was a “false flag operation designed to discredit the Ukrainians” and “we fear very much that that is a thing we will see more of over the next few days”.

Western allies fear Russia will carry out or support attacks in Ukraine which it will then falsely blame on the Kyiv government in order to justify an invasion.

Despite Russian claims to be pulling units back to base following the conclusion of military exercises, the UK and US have claimed that thousands more troops have been deployed, along with supporting assets such as field hospitals and new bridges.

Mr Johnson, speaking at  RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, said: “The picture is continuing to be very grim.

“Today, as I’m sure you’ve already picked up, a kindergarten was shelled in what we are taking to be, well, we know, was a false flag operation designed to discredit the Ukrainians, designed to create a pretext, a spurious provocation for Russian action.

Ukraine – Russian tensions
Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits Royal Air Force Station Waddington in Lincolnshire (Carl Recine/PA)

“We fear very much that that is the kind of thing we will see more of over the next few days.”

Ms Truss, who is in Ukraine, said she was very concerned about the exchanges of fire in Donbas and the continued build-up of Russian troops.

Separatist authorities in the Luhansk region claimed there had been an increase in Ukrainian shelling along the tense line of contact, describing it as a “large-scale provocation” and that they then returned fire.

The Kyiv government disputed the claim, saying separatists had shelled its forces but they did not fire back

A nursery school building in Stanytsia Luhanska was hit, wounding two civilians, according to the Ukrainian military.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said “the shelling of a kindergarten in Stanytsia Luhanska by pro-Russian forces is a big provocation”.

Ms Truss, who has warned that Russian president Vladimir Putin could mount a “false flag” operation to justify an invasion, said: “Reports of alleged abnormal military activity by Ukraine in Donbas are a blatant attempt by the Russian government to fabricate pretexts for invasion.

“This is straight out of the Kremlin playbook.”

Ms Truss said she was “very concerned about reports today of increased Russian aggression: over 7,000 extra troops near the Ukraine border and an attack by pro-Russian troops on a kindergarten in Ukraine”.

She urged Russia to withdraw its troops as there was “still time for diplomacy and de-escalation”.

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.