WW3 fears rising as UK warns Russia tensions reaching crucial moment

UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has issued a stern warning to Vladimir Putin over the build-up of Russian troops near to the Ukrainian border.

Truss said that Russia was the clear “aggressor” in the simmering standoff, and that any invasion would be a “strategic mistake” on Russia's part.

She also threatened that any violation of Ukrainian sovereignty would be met with “massive economic consequences” for both Russia and its wealthy oligarchs residing in the UK.

Ahead of a meeting in Ukraine’s capital Kiev later this month, Ms Truss added: "Any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would come at a severe cost."

Ms Truss also called for Europe to “reduce its dependence” on Russian gas as wholesale prices soar across the continent.

After Russian forces massed near the border, she added: "I see next week – and there is a series of crucial meetings next week – as making sure Russia is holding firm to the commitments it has made."

Truss committed to forging a “network of liberty to ensure that democracy doesn’t just survive, but thrives”.

Talks between Western allies will begin next Monday, followed by a NATO-Russia Council meeting in Brussels on January 12, and a January 13 meeting in Vienna involving the Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe.

Russian BM-21 'Grad', Soviet truck-mounted 122 mm multiple rocket launchers, shoot during military drills near Orenburg, Russia in December 2021

In a related event, a NATO-Ukraine Council meeting will take place on Tuesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded legally binding guarantees that NATO will not be expanded further, and that Ukraine will not join the transatlantic alliance.

If Ukraine joined NATO, and Russia invaded, Western allies would traditionally go to war to defend it.

In an update to MPs, Ms Truss said: “We are reaching a crucial moment.

“The only way forward is for Russia to de-escalate and pursue a path of diplomacy.

“We will continue to stand together with our allies, steadfast in our support of Ukraine and its future as a free and sovereign democracy.”

She went on: “I’ve been clear that Russian military aggression will be met with strength, including massive economic consequences through co-ordinated economic sanctions by allies and partners targeting Russian financial transactions and individuals.

“I can’t speculate on future sanctions”.

Ms Truss said Russia's behaviour is “appalling”, including “stirring up problems in the Balkans”. She said: "Russia is the aggressor here. They have amassed a huge number of troops along the Ukrainian border and illegally annexed Crimea.

"There is no justification whatsoever for Russia’s bellicose stance towards Ukraine. It is unprovoked and it is part of a wider pattern of behaviour by the Kremlin, reliant on disinformation and mistrust to seek to gain an upper hand.

"Moscow has long run a campaign to subvert freedom and democracy in Ukraine."

Ms Truss said Moscow’s demands are “completely unreasonable”, adding: "I am absolutely clear that in the face of this aggression we should not see any concessions made."

But opposition MPs accused the government of not doing enough to reveal trails of ownership in the UK that stop dirty money being laundered.

Labour MP Kevan Jones also raised questions about Tory donors.

He told Ms Truss: "Before she has lunch again with a Russian donor to the Conservative Party, can she just think and ask the question of where that money came from originally?"

The Tory leadership hopeful replied: "We have a very tough anti-corruption regime."

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