UK Foreign Secretary Warns Russia of 'Severe Consequences' in Event of Ukraine Invasion
The Kremlin, the Russian Foreign Ministry and the country's military have reiterated repeatedly that Moscow has no intention of 'invading' anyone amid weeks of increasingly shrill claims by Western media and officials that Russia may be preparing to launch aggression against Ukraine.
Any Russian incursion into Ukraine would be a "mistake," and Moscow will be made to pay a "severe" economic penalty in case of aggression against its neighbour, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has warned.
"Any incursion by Russia into Ukraine would be a strategic mistake," Truss said, speaking at Chatham House, a UK-based foreign affairs think tank this week. The UK and its allies need to "make sure there would be severe economic consequences" in the event of Russian aggression, she said.
Truss, seen as a potential challenger to beleaguered Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the Tory leadership amid revelations that senior officials held multiple holiday get-togethers last Christmas even as ordinary Britons were forced into strict lockdowns, assured the think tank that London and its allies would continue to work to "deter Russia" from any hostile action in Ukraine.
"What we're doing this weekend is working with like-minded allies to spell that out," the foreign secretary said, referring to the summit of G7 foreign ministers set to kick off Saturday in Liverpool.
Truss stressed that London was doing its part, "providing [Ukraine] with support" and "working to help them with their energy resilience, so they're not solely dependent on Russian energy supplies. And that is the way ultimately that we will help support Ukraine," she said.
Ukraine is in the midst of a severe energy crunch, having made the decision to stop buy natural gas from Russia in 2015, and instead purchasing more expensive supplies from European countries like Slovakia - which is often just gas bought from Russia and sold back to Kiev at inflated prices. The country's nuclear energy sector is also facing problems, with power plants reporting regular shutdowns amid problems with fuel rods purchased from US energy nuclear Westinghouse operating in the country's Soviet-built reactors. Ukraine's coal reserves, the third potential source of electricity and heating, are also out of reach, with the majority of these concentrated in the country's east and controlled by independence-seeking militias. Last month, Ukrenergo reported that a whopping ninety percent of its state-owned thermal power plants lay idle due to lack of coal to power them.
Britain and the West have done little to assist Ukraine amid its energy crisis apart from urging Kiev to further "reduce its dependence" on Russia, leading to skyrocketing utilities prices and forcing some ordinary Ukrainians to penny pinch and depend on traditional wood stoves in winter.
In her conversation with Chatham House, Truss insisted that not only Ukraine but Europe as a whole needs to reduce its energy contacts with Russia. "We absolutely need to reduce dependence on Russian gas and energy. And this should be part of an overall strategy of reducing dependence on non-market economies, reducing dependence on malign actors, and making sure that the free world is able to have that strategic independence it needs to survive and thrive," the foreign secretary stressed.
Truss's comments come in an atmosphere of growing tensions between Russia and the West over Ukraine, with the US and its allies claiming that Moscow is concentrating troops on the border with its neighbour and possibly preparing to invade. Russian officials and the military have dismissed these claims as "propaganda" and fearmongering.
Russia and some Ukrainian politicians have also expressed concerns that Kiev and its Western patrons may be preparing to try to resolve the stalemate in eastern Ukraine by force amid a lack of progress on peace negotiations. This week, Ukrainian opposition lawmaker Ilya Kiva warned that Kiev may be preparing some kind of provocation against Russia in the new year, seeking to "kill two birds with one stone" - allowing the West to impose new sanctions against Moscow, while helping the Ukrainian government "write off their failures," the "hunger and cold" faced by the population "on the war."
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