Liz Truss set to visit Vladimir Putin in Russia 'for talks'
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Before the end of 2021 fears began to grow that Russian President Vladimir Putin was planning to invade the country’s ex-Soviet neighbour Ukraine. Russia has insisted that it has no plans to attack but has issued a set of demands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) to abide by with regards to its movements in eastern Europe. On Sunday the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister weighed in on whether an invasion is likely or not. So, is it?
What’s the chances of an invasion?
Russia has said on a number of occasions that it does not intend to invade Ukraine. In fact, Valery Gerasimov, Russia’s armed forces chief, even labelled media reports of an incursion as a lie.
But tensions remain high and Mr Putin has threatened “appropriate retaliatory military-technical measures” if what he calls the West’s aggressive approach continues.
US President Joe Biden’s guess is that Russia will strike, while Nato’s Secretary General has warned that the probability of conflict is real.
The US has also said that no explanation has been offered by Russia for the build-up of close to 100,000 troops on the border it shares with Ukraine.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister compared the current situation to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, when the US and Soviet Union came close to nuclear conflict.
Ukraine has already lost territory to Russia in the last decade when the southern peninsula of Crimea was annexed in 2014.
What has the UK said?
Earlier this week the Prime Minister’s deputy official spokesman warned Russia’s Government will be “punished” if it “crosses the line” on Ukraine.
On Sunday Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab admitted there was “a very serious risk” of a Russian invasion, adding there would be “severe economic consequences”, including sanctions, if Russia took that step.
He told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme that Russia “needs to live up to the basic tenets of international law and invading another country is not one of those”.
Elsewhere, the Foreign Office has accused President Putin of plotting to install a pro-Moscow figure to lead Ukraine’s Government.
The ex-Ukrainian MP Yevhen Murayev has been named alongside four other Ukrainian politicians who the Foreign Office said maintained links with the Russian intelligence services.
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Russia has labelled the allegations as “nonsense” and urged the Foreign Office to “cease these provocative activities”.
What are Mr Putin’s demands?
As part of a series of demands issued by Russia last month the Kremlin is seeking a ban on Ukraine entering Nato and a limit to the deployment of troops and weapons to Nato’s eastern flank.
Mr Putin also wants Nato to remove any troops or weapons deployed to countries that entered the alliance after 1997 and has demanded that the West provide Russia “legal guarantees” of its security.
No further expansion, including the accession of Ukraine into the alliance, is also listed as part of an eight-point draft treaty that Russia wants the West to agree to.
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