UK pledges 'economic and diplomatic' reprisals if Russia invades Ukraine

British PM Johnson agrees on plan with US President Biden and key EU leaders to protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity

A Ukrainian soldier holds a cat on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels near Debaltsevo, Ukraine, on December 3. AP

The UK will use “all the economic and diplomatic tools at its disposal” to prevent an invasion of Ukraine by Russia, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told world leaders.

Before a key meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, Mr Johnson spoke to Mr Biden and other leaders to agree on a “united front”.

In the call, which also included Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the leaders “reaffirmed their staunch support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity”, Downing Street said.

“The leaders agreed to speak again following President Biden’s conversation with President Putin tomorrow,” a UK government representative said.

Mr Biden and Mr Putin are due to speak in a video call on Tuesday amid rising tensions over a Russian troop build-up on the Ukrainian border.

US intelligence officials have said Russia could be planning for a possible invasion as soon as early next year, while Ukrainian officials have said it could be next month.

A senior US administration official said on Monday that Mr Biden would directly address the concerns with Mr Putin.

The official said the president had agreed with European leaders that there was the option to apply “substantial economic counter-measures by the Europeans and the United States that would impose significant and severe economic harm on the Russian economy, should they choose to proceed”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirmed plans on Saturday for the much-anticipated call.

Russia is adamant the US should guarantee that Ukraine will not be admitted into the Nato military alliance.

Ukraine’s Defence Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said the number of Russian troops near Ukraine and in Russia-annexed Crimea is estimated at 94,300, and warned that a “large-scale escalation” was possible in January.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, recently said a group of Russians and Ukrainians planned to attempt a coup in his country and the plotters tried to enlist the help of Ukraine’s richest man, Rinat Akhmetov.

Moscow has denied that any plot is under way, but the Russians have become more explicit recently in their warnings to Ukraine and the US.

The Kremlin said on Friday that Mr Putin, during his call with Mr Biden, would seek binding guarantees precluding Nato membership for Ukraine.

Updated: December 7th 2021, 12:08 AM