Both Britain and NATO are skeptical of Russia’s claims about troop withdrawals, with Defense Minister Ben Wallace warning that Vladimir Putin’s forces still have the potential to subdue Ukraine.
The prime minister discussed the crisis with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida on Wednesday, and the leaders agreed that the situation was “deeply worrying.”
A Downing Street spokesman said: “Both sides agreed that the international community needs to unite against an attack on a free country, and that they will not tolerate Russian aggression.
“An attack would shake the foundations of the international system, and it would have serious consequences,” he agreed.
“The two leaders pledged to work closely together to address today’s and tomorrow’s threats through close cooperation in defense technology and their shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry claims that troops are returning to the base after the end of military exercises, with units leaving Crimea on Wednesday.
However, Defense Secretary Wallace warned that Moscow would be examined for its actions, but said he did not see “evidence of evacuation”.
Reports from US intelligence sources said he could see the Russian president launch his offensive on Wednesday, but Mr Wallace said he had never talked about a specific date when the military crossed the border. can.
He told Sky News: “I’ve never talked about history, because in all the intelligence I’ve seen, history is not a problem, the problem here is a significant amount of troops.”
Mr Wallace added that “there are definitely dates in the mix” and that the Russians “did not step on the gas”.
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The senior minister said NATO would “try to reduce tensions and reduce tensions” but that Russia had “a power that would be defeated if it deployed Ukraine”.
He said more than 100 battalions of Russian ground forces, tactical groups – which make up “60% of all Russian ground combat forces” – were on Ukraine’s borders.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg insisted that “we have not seen any withdrawal of Russian forces.”
“We will continue to send a clear message to Russia that we are ready to sit down and talk to them, but at the same time we are ready for the worst,” he said.
And if Russia invades Ukraine again, it will pay a heavy price.
This came as Sir John Sawers, the former head of MI6, suggested that the threat of an attack was “never as great as some Western governments are suggesting”.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “I do not think President Putin has ever decided to invade the country and, in fact, I think it has always been a very dangerous path for him. “
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Wednesday ridiculed the West over its plans to launch an attack.
He added: “Even the return of several Russian units to their permanent duty stations after the end of the exercises was presented as a cunning ploy designed to divert attention from the impending attack. . “