Government Says Russian Invasion Of Ukraine Has Begun
Russia has been building up its forces on the border of Ukraine
Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said it is a "dark day" for Europe as he confirmed that Russian forces have now advanced into eastern Ukraine.
Russian tanks and troops were seen entering two breakaway regions in the east of Ukraine after Vladimir Putin formally recognised Donetsk and Luhansk on Monday evening, where Russian-backed forces are based.
Speaking to Sky News, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the UK government believes the actions amounted to an "invasion" of Ukraine, and said the UK was preparing its response.
"We have seen that [Putin] has recognised these breakaway eastern regions in Ukraine and from the reports we can already tell that he has sent in tanks and troops," Javid said.
"From that you can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun."
He added: "We are waking up to a very dark day in Europe and it's clear from what we have already seen and found out today that the Russians, President Putin, has decided to attack the sovereignty of Ukraine and its territorial integrity."Javid added that the UK was in close contact with the Ukrainian leadership and had confirmed their committment to impose tough economic sanctions "as we said we always will".
"We will make those sanctions as targeted as possible to the people who are responsible for this flagrant breach of international law," he added.
The cabinet minister also reiterated the UK would continue to provide arms and training to Ukraine, but would not conduct direct military actions against Russia.
Speaking to the BBC's Today programme, Javid said: "We have already, as a leading member of Nato, played a significant role in shoring up and protecting Nato members and that will certainly continue.
"We have ruled out any forces or military action by soldiers in Ukraine itself. The defence secretary has been clear on that but in terms of support for Ukraine in other ways, including support through military equipment and arms, that will continue."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson held a meeting of the emergency COBRA committee early on Tuesday morning to discuss the UK response, and is expected to announce the first package of sanctions against Russia later today.
Following the meeting, Johnson said he now believed Putin was "bent on a full scale invasion."
"The sad thing is that in every turn in this crisis, the UK's pessimistic predictions have been vindicated," he said.
"We said there would be false flag operations and there have been false flag operations, we said there would be provocations in the Donbass and that is exactly we are now seeing."
He added: "I'm afraid all the evidence is that President Putin is indeed bent...on a full scale invasion of Ukraine.
"The overrunning, the subjucation of an independent, soverign, European country. I think that would be absolutely catastrophic."
Speaking on Monday evening, Johnson said Russia's actions were "plainly in breach of international law".
"It's a flagrant violation of the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine," he said.
"It's a repudiation of the Minsk process and the Minsk Agreements. I think it's a very ill omen and a very dark sign."
And at an emergency session of the UN Security Council on Monday, the UK's ambassador, Dame Barbara Woodward, said President Putin had "brough us to the brink", warning a full invasion would unleash the "forces of war, death and destruction" on the Ukrainian people.
"The humanitarian impact will be terrible on civilians fleeing the fighting. We know that women and children will suffer most," she added.
Other countries are also expected to bring forward sanctions against Russia, with senior EU diplomat Josep Borrell saying the council of foreign ministers will meet later today to "take political decisions regarding the European retaliation."
"Obviously, this response will be in the form of sanctions, the scope of which the ministers will discuss under my proposal," he added.
But in a split from the UK's analysis of the situation, Borrell said he wouldn't describe Russia's actions as a "fully fledged invasion" but added that "Russian troops are on Ukranian soil."
The United States are also expected to announce new measures, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeting that "Russia's move to recognise the 'independence' of so-called republics controlled by it's own proxies is a predictable, shameful act."
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