Johnson warns of ‘full-scale invasion’ of Ukraine as the UK imposes sanctions on Russia

Boris Johnson has warned Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine is “the pretext for a full-scale offensive”.

In a statement to the House of Commons this afternoon, Johnson warned that the worst-case scenario of a “full-scale war” in Ukraine was now a distinct possibility.

The prime minister said: “By denying Ukraine’s legitimacy as a state… Putin is establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive.”

This afternoon, Western officials indicated Russia’s invasion of Ukraine marked “the next phase” of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s plan.

“It’s very hard to see after Putin’s broadcast yesterday, where compromise might be found, but we will not stop trying.”

Last night, Russia recognised the ‘independence’ of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine and began to move its forces into the breakaway territories for ‘peacekeeping missions’, sparking international outrage.

In this morning’s Downing Street lobby briefing, the prime minister’s spokesperson said Russian forces moving into Ukraine “amounts to a renewed invasion”.

Number 10 added Putin’s actions had broken international law and repudiated the Minsk Agreements.

In the House of Commons this afternoon, the prime minister announced, “the first barrage” of economic sanctions against Russia, targeting five Russian banks and freezing the assets of three “high net worth individuals”.

The prime minister added the UK “should steel ourselves for a more protracted crisis”.

The leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, described Russia’s move into Ukraine as “a dark day for Europe.

Welcoming the government’s sanctions, Starmer said the government “must be prepared to go further.”

“If we do not respond with a full set of sanctions now, Putin will once again take away the message that the benefits of aggression outweigh the costs.”

Chris Bryant, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on Russia, described the sanctions as “remarkably thin”.

Pressed on why the UK has not imposed its full set of prepared sanctions against Russia, Downing Street claimed, “we are not seeing a full-scale invasion at this point.”

Johnson admitted to the Commons: “It’s inevitable that we will be coming forward with a much bigger package of sanctions”.

The UK’s new economic sanctions follows Germany’s decision to halt the $10 billion Nord Stream II pipeline.

Germany’s chancellor Olaf Scholz has previously been reluctant to impose sanctions that would affect the control project, however, Scholz said “the situation today is fundamentally different”.

The prime minister’s spokesperson confirmed Johnson was pleased to see the cancellation of the project.

Number 10 said: “This is something the prime minister has been calling for some time… Europe has to wean itself off Russian hydrocarbons”.

The UK currently receives 3% of its gas supplies from Russia, whereas around 32% of Germany’s gas is imported from Russia.

The Foreign Office has also confirmed today that Liz Truss has summoned the Russian ambassador, Andrei Kelin, to explain his country’s actions.

Earlier this morning, health secretary Sajid Javid said the Russian invasion of Ukraine is “as serious as” the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.