Defense secretary Ben Wallace has issued a warning to Vladimir Putin, advising the Russian president not to “underestimate” or “test” the West amid his ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
It comes after Mr Putin sent his own warning to Nato countries on Saturday, telling them that any attempt to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine would be considered as entering the conflict by the Kremlin.
He also lashed out at the sanctions imposed on Russia by countries such as the UK, EU and US, claiming they “are akin to a declaration of war” but added: “Thank God it has not come to that.”
However, in an interview with The Sunday TelegraphMr Wallace said the West “must not be afraid of Putin” – who he said was “acting irrationally and inflicting horrors on Ukraine” – and that “the thing to say to Putin is don’t underestimate us, don’t test us ”.
“History is littered with authoritarian leaders underestimating the wider West and the United Kingdom. [Putin] clearly underestimated the international community,” the Cabinet minister said. “If we stick together and refuse to be intimidated then I believe he will fail.”
Ukraine’s western allies are locked in a bitter feud with Putin over his bloody invasion, with the US supposedly ready to unleash a new set of sanctions against Moscow, according to Ukraine’s foreign minister.
Following a meeting between Dmytro Kuleba and US secretary of state Antony Blinken, who was in Eastern Europe visiting the border between Ukraine and Poland, Mr Kuleba suggested further sanctions would be put in place by the US “in the coming days” – and that more weapons would be sent to Ukraine.
Speaking in an online briefing afterwards, the Ukrainian also said it was frustrating that the Nato alliance was refusing to enforce a no-fly zone, insisting it would lead to more civilian deaths.
But Putin insisted earlier that Russia would see “any move in this direction” as an intervention that “will pose a threat to our service members”.
“That very second, we will view them as participants of the military conflict, and it would not matter what members they are,” the Russian leader said in a rambling speech to a group of flight attendants at an Aeroflot training center near Moscow.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, in an interview with the sunday expressbranded the Ukrainian conflict the “struggle of our generation”.
She said western countries would “continue to support them through thick and thin”, though. “We are there for the long haul,” she added.
Ms Truss’ words echoed the sentiments of a leading charity boss who this week called on Britons to send “cash” – rather than donated items – to reputable aid charities, saying it would reach the country’s most vulnerable as they take cover within their borders or seek refuge outside of them.
Saleh Saeed, CEO of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which is made up of 15 leading UK aid charities aiming to raise funds quickly and efficiently at times of crisis overseas, said support for Ukraine is likely to be needed for “months and years ” and urged people to keep donating.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is set to tell international leaders that “the world is watching”, as he urges them to back a six-point plan he hopes will help crush Putin’s onslaught of Ukraine.
The proposal includes an international humanitarian coalition to help Ukraine’s civilians, support for the country’s self-defense capabilities and greater economic pressure being brought to bear on Putin.
Mr Johnson, in an essay for the New York Times on Sundaywill call on his counterparts worldwide to make a “renewed and concerted effort” to tackle Mr Putin, according to No 10.
And in a continued show of support, he will also say that while diplomatic paths to resolving the war must be pursued, this can only be done with the full participation of the “legitimate government of Ukraine”.