Vladimir Putin is “highly likely” to be planning a move on Ukrainian capital Kyiv, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has told Sky News – as she warned Russia that “nothing is off the table” when considering further Western sanctions.
The UK, US and EU have announced a raft of fresh sanctions on Russia following Mr Putin’s order to send “peacekeeping” troops into two eastern regions of Ukraine, which Moscow has declared as “independent” states.
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However, there have been calls for Western powers to go further in sanctioning Russia over its actions against its neighbour.
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• Australia, Canada and Japan join other nations in sanctioning Russia
Putin ‘highly likely’ to be targeting Kyiv
Ms Truss told Sky News’ Kay Burley that a trigger for more punitive measures against Moscow would be a “full-scale invasion” of Ukraine.
“Regrettably the Russian forces are encircling Ukraine so we don’t know exactly where that would happen,” she said.
“But we will know it when we see it and we will react immediately.”
The foreign secretary warned that Kyiv, a city of nearly three million people, was among Mr Putin’s possible targets for conquest.
“We think it’s highly likely that is in his plans,” she added.
“This is one of the reasons we have advised British citizens to get out while commercial flights are still available, because the situation is extremely concerning.”
Truss defends UK’s ‘very serious’ sanctions
Conservative MPs are among those demanding tougher sanctions on Russia, as the government faced criticism for not going far enough in the initial measures announced on Tuesday.
However, Ms Truss defended the UK’s “very serious package” and said the measures would be “inflicting pain” on Mr Putin, his regime and the Russian economy.
“It targets key oligarchs, we’re clear that sovereign debt will not be able to be raised by the Russian government,” the foreign secretary said of the current collection of sanctions.
“It targets key Russian banks that fund the military and fund the activities of the Russian government.
“But we are aligned with our international allies in saying that we will escalate the sanctions, that there will be even more tough sanctions on key oligarchs, on key organisations in Russia, limiting Russia’s access to the financial markets, if there is a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which I’m afraid to say… we are very much expecting.”
Ms Truss said it was currently “ambiguous” as to whether Russian troops had crossed into Ukraine, following Mr Putin’s declaration that Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions are “independent” states.
“We’ve heard from Putin himself that he is sending in troops,” she added. “We don’t yet have the full evidence that that has taken place.”