Moscow Kremlin's Spasskaya Tower (L), and St Basil's Cathedral 240620 CREDIT PA
Moscow Kremlin's Spasskaya Tower (L), and St Basil's Cathedral (Picture: PA).
Russia

Ben Wallace to meet Russian counterpart amid fears Ukraine invasion could be 'imminent'

The Russian defence minister has accepted the UK Defence Secretary's invitation to discuss the situation, it is understood.

Moscow Kremlin's Spasskaya Tower (L), and St Basil's Cathedral 240620 CREDIT PA
Moscow Kremlin's Spasskaya Tower (L), and St Basil's Cathedral (Picture: PA).

The Russian defence minister has accepted an invitation to meet with UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace amid tensions over Ukraine, it is understood.

Mr Wallace extended an invitation to his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, to visit London to discuss mutual security earlier this week.

Mr Shoigu has offered to meet in Moscow instead, given the last bilateral defence talks between the countries took place in London.

A senior defence source said: "The Defence Secretary is glad that Russia has accepted the invitation to talk with his counterpart.

"Given the last defence bilateral between our two countries took place in London in 2013, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has offered to meet in Moscow instead.

"The Secretary of State has been clear that he will explore all avenues to achieve stability and a resolution to the Ukraine crisis. We are in communication with the Russian government."

Mr Wallace told MPs the Prime Minister has been "clear" that any "destabilising action by Russia in Ukraine would be a strategic mistake" and "have significant consequences".

Commons Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood warned a Russian incursion could be "imminent" as President Vladimir Putin looked to exploit Western weakness.

"Putin is taking full advantage of a weakened West. We are looking risk-averse, somewhat timid," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

Watch: Why is Ukraine not a member of NATO?

"Putin's ultimatum demanding NATO push back, of course, that was dismissed but that's given him the pretext to say that there is an aggressor and that he must act.

"We see these combat-ready troop formations. He has actually boxed himself into a corner because so much effort has been put into this.

"He also recognises that he will never again be as strong as this to take advantage of the West’s weakness. I suspect that an invasion is now imminent."

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee told BBC Breakfast the UK should be ready to give Ukraine financial support.

Watch: What does Russia want from NATO?

Tom Tugendhat said Ukraine needs money to be prepared for an invasion.

"I'd like to see all of us going further, because one of the things that's delaying the ability of the Ukrainian people to mobilise their armed forces to meet any such invasion is, that has a huge effect on any country's economy," he said.

"If you take hundreds of thousands of people out of the workforce in order to stand guard they will have a real impact on jobs and lives in other sectors.

"We saw that over lockdown over the last couple of years – the impact that has. So, we need to be ready to support the Ukrainian people financially as well, and that may be with loan guarantees and things like that."