UK PM urges Russia to step back from ‘precipice’

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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to step back from “the edge of a precipice,” warning that an invasion of Ukraine could come within 48 hours.

“You’ve got about 130,000 troops massing on the Ukrainian border. This is a very, very dangerous, difficult situation,” Johnson told reporters.

“We are on the edge of a precipice but there is still time for President Putin to step back,” he added, echoing US warnings that an invasion could be imminent.

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Johnson called on Western allies to “stand together and show a united front,” and on European leaders to learn the lessons from Moscow’s actions in Crimea in 2014, when Russia annexed the peninsula, and reduce their dependency on Russian gas.

“All European countries need to get [gas pipeline] Nord Stream out of the bloodstream, yank out that hypodermic drip-feed of Russian hydrocarbons that is keeping so many European economies going,” he said.

Johnson said he had no plans to visit Moscow, but that he would be discussing the crisis with “various leaders, including [US President] Joe Biden, very soon.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will later Monday chair a meeting of the emergency COBR committee to discuss the consular response to the crisis following Friday’s update to travel advice, in which all British citizens were urged to leave Ukraine, according to Johnson’s spokesperson.

The prime minister will also receive a security briefing from intelligence chiefs and will on Tuesday chair a full meeting of COBR to discuss the UK’s overall response, said his office.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz landed in Kyiv on Monday for crisis talks ahead of a visit to Moscow to head off what Berlin sees as the “very critical” threat of a Russian invasion.

European leaders warn that the crisis is the worst threat to the continent’s security since the Cold War, with Putin demanding a rollback of Western influence in eastern Europe and a ban on Ukraine joining NATO.

The US has warned that Russia’s forces are poised to attack Ukraine, and the western allies have prepared what they warn would be a crippling package of economic sanctions in response.

US intelligence officials worry that weeks of crisis talks have given Russia the time to prepare a major offensive, should Putin make the ultimate decision to attack Ukraine.

Despite a recent diplomatic push, a growing number of Western countries are withdrawing staff from their Kyiv embassies and urging their citizens to leave Ukraine immediately.

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