Boris Johnson raises hopes of ‘diplomatic opening’ to end Ukraine crisis

Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine crisis could still be found.

The Prime Minister made the comment after chairing a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on Tuesday morning, but added things were still “not encouraging”.

It comes as Russian field hospitals were built close to Belarus’ border with Ukraine despite the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign policy chief Sergei Lavrov agreeing to continue negotiations.

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Mr Johnson said: “Last night going into today, clearly there are signs of a diplomatic opening.”

“Intelligence that we are seeing today is still not encouraging, you have got more battalion tactical groups being brought closer to the border.

“So, mixed signals, I think, at the moment.”

The Prime Minister added Russia had “a lot of options” for entering the country.

He explained: “We think they have a huge preparation ready to go virtually at any moment.

“130,000 troops or more, a huge number of battalions – more than 90 battalions, tactical groups – and they are stationed around the Ukrainian border.

“Everyone can see what the potential routes in are – down to the south from Belarus, encircling the Ukrainian army in the east around the area, the enclave in Donbas or even coming up from the south from the sea, taking Odesa, Curzon.

“That’s the kind of thing they (could do).”

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The Prime Minister called for Russian activity to be “scaled back”. He continued: “I think what everybody needs to see is a program of de-escalation.

“That means withdrawing the battalion practical groups away from a potential theater of conflict, not constructing field hospitals on the border with Belarus and between Belarus and Ukraine.

“A sense that things are being scaled back, scaled down, that the threat is over and that a conversation and negotiation is beginning.

“We think there is an avenue for diplomacy, we’ve seen some positive signs from conversations between Mr Ushakov (Mr Putin’s foreign policy adviser) and his American counterpart, between Sergei Lavrov (Russia’s foreign minister) and others.

“If that’s correct, then let’s build on that.”

Speaking to journalists, Mr Johnson also dismissed criticism from some of his Conservative colleagues that the Government has not done enough to stop the flow of dirty money into the UK.

He said: “I don’t think that it’s fair to say the UK hasn’t done a huge amount on dirty money, whether it’s from Russia or anywhere else.

“What we want to do is strengthen now the package that we have, strengthen the measures we have against potential ill-gotten Russian money, whether here or anywhere for … which we have responsibility with new measures that will hit the companies and concerns that I ‘ve talked about.

“But also open up the Matryoshka doll, if you like – you know what I’m talking about – so that we see … who really owns the companies that we’re talking about, who really owns the properties that we’re talking about , and those measures, yes, we will be bringing forward from the Economic Crime Bill.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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