Still strong concern that Russia intends to invade Ukraine, says Wallace

As the military build up continues, No 10 says there remains a ‘window for diplomacy’ to resolve the crisis and avert war.

21 February 2022

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said there is still “strong cause for concern” that Vladimir Putin remains committed to an invasion of Ukraine, despite diplomatic moves to end the crisis.

In a Commons statement, Mr Wallace said Russian forces were continuing to move towards the border zone contrary to repeated assurances given by Moscow.

“These are not the actions of a Russian government fulfilling its repeatedly declarations that it has no intention of invading Ukraine,” he told MPs.

“We have seen over the last few weeks the Russian playbook being implemented in a way that gives us strong cause for concern that President Putin is still committed to an invasion.

“I believe he 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.”

Earlier, Downing Street said intelligence reports suggested the Russian plan “has in effect already begun” and that it was “starting to play out in real time”.

Nevertheless the Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said there was still a “window for diplomacy” after it appeared that a tentative agreement had been reached on a crisis summit between Mr Putin and US president Joe Biden.

Followed a series of lengthy calls involving French president Emmanuel Macron, the White House said talks could go ahead provided there had been no invasion.

However Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said later that while the two leaders could meet if they considered it necessary, no plans for a summit had been agreed.

“It’s premature to talk about specific plans for a summit. The meeting is possible if the leaders consider it feasible,” he said.

Russia’s ambassador to the UK, Andrei Kelin, said it is still too early to say whether a meeting would take place.

He told the PA news agency it would be a “good result” if sufficient progress was made in talks to allow the summit to go ahead.

But he said the West is “not very interested in resolving the core question, the issue of the enlargement of Nato, the open door policy”.

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