British foreign secretary does not ‘trust’ Putin government
Europe ‘on the brink of war’, warns Liz Truss
Hopes of a diplomatic path out of the crisis rose after Russia’s defence ministry announced on Tuesday morning that some troops taking part in military exercises would return to their bases.
But Ms Truss stressed the threat of an invasion remained, as she insisted on a complete withdrawal order to believe the Russians when they say they have no plans to invade Ukraine.
Asked about reports by the Interfax news agency about the pull-out of some Russian troops, Ms Truss told LBC: “I haven’t seen the reports that you’re referring to.”
She added: “The Russians have claimed that they have no plans for an invasion, but we will need to see a full-scale removal of troops to show that is true.”
Ms Truss said the latest UK intelligence still suggests “that an invasion is imminent, that it’s highly likely, and that we’ve seen 100,000 troops stationed around the border”.
When pressed further on the reports of a partial withdrawal, Ms Truss added: “I would need to see more details to understand if that has any major implications.”
Asked about the reliability of Russian claims during the crisis, Ms Truss said: “What we are hearing from them, in terms of the rhetoric, is very different from what they are actually doing … I do not trust what they have said.”
Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba also called on Moscow to pull back all of its remaining troops from the border. “We have a rule – don’t believe what you hear, believe what you see. When we see a withdrawal, we will believe in a de-escalation.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Ms Truss said an invasion remained “highly likely”, as she shared fears that “we could be on the brink of a war in Europe”.
A Downing Street source said there was “some hope” that diplomacy could work and president Vladimir Putin could step back, but the government is still waiting to assess the scale of the reported Russian withdrawal.
Boris Johnson and US president Joe Biden stressed on Monday evening there remains “a crucial window for democracy” as they maintained there is still time for a diplomatic solution to the crisis following a call on Monday evening.
The prime minister is to chair Tuesday’s Cobra meeting at No 10, after receiving a briefing on the latest intelligence from the UK’s spy chiefs.
Meanwhile, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borell said the bloc was ready to discuss Russia’s security concerns. “In order to fulfil the concerns of everybody, the only way is speaking on the table and discuss,” Mr Borrell told BBC Radio 4.
He also warned: “If there is a war between Russia and Ukraine, Nord Stream 2 would not become operational.”
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