British Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab said there would be “severe economic consequences” if President Vladimir Putin invades Ukraine or installs a pro-Kremlin leader in the former Soviet state.
Raab said Britain would support Ukrainians in “defending themselves” but would not deploy its own forces.
“But also, to the international community, to NATO allies in the West, we’re standing shoulder to shoulder saying there will be very serious consequences if Russia takes this move to try and invade and also install a puppet regime,” Raab told Sky News on Sunday.
But asked about sending UK troops into Ukraine, he said: “It’s extremely unlikely we would do that but what we can say is we’re already willing and engaging in training programs to support Ukrainians defending themselves, that’s absolutely right.”
Britain’s Foreign Office on Saturday accused Russia of wanting to replace Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with a Putin puppet.
In a statement on Saturday, the Foreign Office said it had “information” that the Kremlin was looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine,” naming former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevhen Murayev as a potential candidate.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the information “shines a light on the extent of Russian activity designed to subvert Ukraine, and is an insight into Kremlin thinking.”
She also called on Russia to “deescalate, end its campaigns of aggression and disinformation, and pursue a path of diplomacy,” adding that “any Russian military incursion into Ukraine would be a massive strategic mistake with severe costs.”
Putin has amassed more than 100,000 troops and military equipment along Russia’s eastern border with Ukraine and the US and its allies say an attack is imminent.
Families of US embassy personnel in Ukraine will be ordered to evacuate as early as Monday because of the Russian aggression, according to reports.
Russia and Murayev both rejected the accusation.
“The disinformation spread by the British Foreign Office is more evidence that it is the NATO countries, led by the Anglo-Saxons, who are escalating tensions around Ukraine,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Sunday. “We call on the British Foreign Office to stop provocative activities, stop spreading nonsense.”
Murayev, who owns a pro-Russian television station in Ukraine, laughed off the allegation that he was involved in a scheme to overthrow the government.
“I have a hard time digesting stupidity and nonsense: Maybe someone wants to shut down yet another independent TV channel,” Murayev said in a series of text messages, according to the Telegraph.
With Post wires
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