‘This will be a long-running quagmire’: Truss warns Ukraine conflict could last ‘years’

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned that the war in Ukraine could go on for a “number of years”, as the Kremlin’s military offensive enters its fourth day. 

Fighting intensified overnight in Ukraine, with combat concentrated in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s “second city”. Moscow’s forces are understood to be targeting oil and gas facilities. The Ukrainian government revealed this morning that a natural gas pipeline had been blown up in Kharkiv, which lies 20km south of the Russian-Ukraine border. 

Street battles have continued into the morning, with footage in the Ukrainian media showing Russian vehicles moving across Kharkiv and a light vehicle burning on the street.

Asked for an update on the situation on the ground, the foreign Secretary said there were no “significant” changes in Ukraine overnight. But told Sky News’ “Trevor Phillips on Sunday” that the ongoing conflict will become “a long-running quagmire”.

The foreign secretary said that Ukraine’s fierce resistance is likely to have been unexpected to the Russians, adding that a feeling of frustration may lead to “greater firepower” being exhibited by Russian forces. “It’s our role as key supporters of Ukraine to continue to supply them with defensive weapons, continue to supply them with economic support to help them resist this egregious invasion”, Ms Truss continued.

With mounting pressure from opposition parties calling for stronger sanctions, Ms Truss said the UK government had drawn up a “hit list of oligarchs” whose property and private jets would be targeted.

The foreign secretary’s remarks come after Boris Johnson praised the resistance of the Ukrainian people but warned there were “very grim days ahead” for the Eastern European country.

Johnson announced today that the UK, EU, US and Canada would remove “selected Russian banks” from the Swift international banking payment system. The intention is to “further isolate Russia from the international financial system”, a joint statement said.

Ms Truss admitted that the West did not do enough to “deter Putin in 2008 and 2014”, adding: “We simply cannot afford to be importing Russia oil and gas, [and] we cannot afford to have such a strong Russia presence in our financial system”. Although the damage to the Russian economy is evident already, Truss stressed: “I fear that this will be a long haul”—weaning Europe off Russian oil and gas “will take time”. 

Truss cautioned that sanctions may have an inflationary effect in the short term but said: “this will help freedom and democracy in the long term” and that the “very strong” sanctions will “cut the Russian economy to its knees”.

Continuing her discussion with Sky’s Trevor Phillips, Ms Truss suggested that this conflict could mark the “beginning of the end” for Vladimir Putin. She said: “We’ve already seen the response from the Russian government, we’ve seen the actions taken despite all of the warnings of the severe cost of this conflict in terms of humanitarian cost, in terms of cost for the Russian state”.

Pressed about the possibility of visas for fleeing Ukrainians, Ms Truss said the PM has been “clear” that “we are a country that welcomes refugees”.