The Russian invasion plan has ‘in some senses already begun’, says Johnson

Boris Johnson has warned that evidence suggests Vladimir Putin’s plan to invade Ukraine has ‘‘in some senses already begun”, with the aggression in the Donbas region potentially a “prelude to bigger action”.

Citing intelligence relayed to western leaders by US President Joe Biden, the plan, the PM continued, involves an invasion of neighbouring Ukraine that will encircle the country’s capital of Kiev. US intelligence warns, furthermore, that a full-scale invasion will happen this week.

Speaking to BBC One’s “Sunday Morning” show, the PM said he wanted people to “understand the sheer cost in human life” that an incursion into Ukraine would bring.

However, Mr Johnson and other world leaders still hope it may still be possible to avoid war. The PM told the BBC: “People need to understand the sheer cost in human life that could entail”. He added: “I’m afraid to say that the plan we are seeing is for something that could be really the biggest war in Europe since 1945 just in terms of sheer scale.”

Mr Johnson did say that he was prepared to hold talks on the presence of NATO forces in countries neighbouring Russia. He said: “NATO is a peaceful and defensive alliance and we are willing to work with President Putin to demonstrate that”.

The comments came after Mr Johnson’s speech at the annual Munich Security Summit, where he met with NATO allies as fears that a Russian invasion is in motion heighten. Estimates suggest Vladimir Putin now has between 169,000 and 190,000 troops massed on Ukraine’s borders.

In his speech, Mr Johnson said: “At this moment of extreme danger for the world, it has seldom been more vital to preserve our unity and resolve, and that was the theme of my discussion last night with fellow leaders, including President Biden, President Macron, Chancellor Scholz and Prime Minister Draghi, as well as the leaders of NATO and the EU”.

“If Ukraine is invaded and if Ukraine is overwhelmed, we will witness the destruction of a democratic state, a country that has been free for a generation, with a proud history of elections”.

Following crisis talks with Mr Biden and the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, NATO and the EU, Mr Johnson added: “We should not underestimate the gravity of this moment.”

Reports of violence in Donetsk have highlighted fears that Russia will justify an invasion of Ukraine through false flag attacks. According to Russian reports, an explosive device was placed in the car of the Russia-Backed separatist republic’s police chief, Denis Sinenkov. It did not cause any casualties. And, on Thursday, Moscow alleged that Ukraine has been “exterminating the civilian population of the People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk” over a prolonged period and mounting civilian casualties amounted to “genocide of the Russian-speaking population of Donbas”.

Putin accused Ukraine of “systematic” human rights violations and insisted that large-scale military exercises close to the Ukrainian border were “purely defensive”. The Russian President was with Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko yesterday watching nuclear drills from his situation centre in Moscow.

Fuelling fears of false flag attacks, hundreds of artillery shells exploded the morning along the contact line between Ukrainian soldiers and Russia-backed separatists, according to the Associated Press.