Boris Johnson spoke Russian in a direct address to the country’s citizens last night, as he warned that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is “a tragedy for Russia”.
Russia faces “complete isolation” as a result of its president’s “needless and bloody war”, the prime minister warned, adding it will mean many of the country’s soldiers “will never see their families again”.
Speaking briefly in Russian, Mr Johnson added: “I do not believe this war is in your name.”
As Kyiv was rocked by explosions during an overnight assault, in which Ukraine said its military had successfully held Moscow’s forces at bay, Mr Johnson commended the “fierce bravery and patriotism” of Ukraine’s government, military, and people.
Describing the conflict as the worst bloodshed seen in Europe “for a generation or more”, Mr Johnson said: “The people of the United Kingdom stand with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in the face of this unjustifiable assault on your homeland.”
His address, concluded with the words, “Slava Ukraini” – meaning “glory to Ukraine” – came as the UK, United States and European Union announced plans to impose personal sanctions on the Russian president and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
Britain said that it was also extending a ban of Aeroflot flights landing in the UK to cover Russian private jets favored by Moscow’s oligarchs.
Despite the west’s imposition of sanctions on Russia, including the UK’s moves against more than 100 individuals and entities, there remained no sign they were having any impact on Mr Putin’s determination to pursue his military offensive against his neighbour, with Russia having reportedly amassed a $630 bn war chest.
As Joe Biden signed a memorandum to provide up to $600m (£448m) in “immediate military assistance” to Ukraine on Friday, Nato leaders agreed to send elements from the alliance’s 40,000-strong response force to protect member states in the east.
It is clear the Kremlin’s objectives are “not limited to Ukraine” and the alliance will “do what it takes to protect and defend every ally and every inch of Nato territory”, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said.
“We are facing a new normal in European security where Russia openly contests the European security order and uses force to pursue its objectives,” he said.
It came as authorities in Kyiv urged residents to seek or remain in shelters, avoid going near windows or on balconies and take precautions against being hit by debris or bullets, as small Russian raiding groups’ attempts to infiltrate the capital resulted in street clashes.
Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky turned down a US offer to evacuate him from the city, with a US official quoting him as saying in response: “The fight is here – I need ammunition, not a ride.”
Hours later, Mr Zelensky shared a video of himself in central Kyiv and encouraged people to “not believe fake news. I am here.”
“We aren’t going to lay down weapons. We will protect the country,” Mr Zelensky said. “Our weapon is our truth, and our truth is that it’s our land, our country, our children. And we will defend all of that.”
At a meeting of the United Nations Security Council in New York, Russia – as expected – used its veto to block a motion calling for Moscow to cease the attack and withdraw its troops.
The UK’s ambassador to the UN, Dame Barbara Woodward, called the veto “absurd” and said Russia was “isolated”, adding: “History will record how we voted today and which countries stood up to be counted in defense of the charter and the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
There was disappointment in Western capitals that India and the United Arab Emirates joined China in abstaining, weakening the international show of opposition to Russia’s actions.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss noted Russia’s isolation and called Moscow “a global pariah”, adding: “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and violation of the UN Charter will have severe consequences.”
The latest intelligence update from the Ministry of Defense in London said Russian forces made advances throughout Friday – with a probable amphibious landing in southern Ukraine around Mariupol.
However the primary target remains Kyiv, with Russian forces advancing on “multiple axis” in an attempt to encircle the city.
Giving his latest assessment of the situation on Saturday morning, the UK armed forces minister Mr Heappey told Sky News: “The main armored columns approaching Kyiv are still some way off.”
He added: “Clearly the Russian plan is to take Kyiv but the reality is that the Ukrainians are thwarting them thus far. It looks like the Russian plan is nowhere near running to schedule.
“I think that will be a great cause of concern for President Putin and rather points to the fact that there was a lot of hubris in the Russian plan and that he may be awfully advised.”
With reports of sporadic fighting in the suburbs, there are fears of heavy civilian casualties as the main body of Russian troops reaches the capital.
Britain’s Chief of Defense Intelligence, Lieutenant General Sir Jim Hockenhull, said Moscow’s objective was to “secure control of the population and change the regime”.
Additional reporting by PA
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.