Snipers of the Russian armed forces take part in military exercise at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region, Russia, in January (Picture: Alamy).
Russia

Boris Johnson uses Ukraine trip to urge Russia to 'step back' from potential 'military disaster'

Mr Johnson said intelligence shows "preparations for all kinds of operations that are consistent with an imminent military campaign".

Snipers of the Russian armed forces take part in military exercise at the Kadamovsky range in the Rostov region, Russia, in January (Picture: Alamy).

Boris Johnson has warned Russia that Britain will hit Moscow with sanctions the "moment the first Russian toecap crosses further into Ukrainian territory".

During a diplomatic mission to Kyiv, the Prime Minister said it is vital the Kremlin "steps back" from what would be a "military disaster" for both Russia and the world.

At a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Mr Johnson said: "We have done all this and prepared all this not as a show of hostility towards Russia, but as a demonstration that we will always stand up for freedom and democracy and Ukrainian sovereignty in the face of aggression.

"It is vital that Russia steps back and chooses a path of diplomacy, and I believe that is still possible," he added.

"We are keen to engage in dialogue, of course we are, but we have the sanctions ready, we're providing military support, and we will also intensify our economic cooperation."

Watch: NATO has a 'gun held to its head' by Putin.

The Prime Minister also said intelligence showed there was a "clear and present danger" for Ukraine, amid an amassing of Russian troops on its border.

"Somebody said were we exaggerating the threat, were the US and the UK in any way trying to big this up," Mr Johnson said.

"I've just got to say, that is not the intelligence that we're seeing.

"This is a clear and present danger and we see large numbers of troops massing, we see preparations for all kinds of operations that are consistent with an imminent military campaign.

"And the reason we feel it is so important for the UK to take the role we are in trying to bring the West together is because, yes of course it is about Ukraine and that matters deeply to us, but this is about something even bigger I’m afraid.

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"It is about the whole European security architecture, because be in no doubt about what I think President Putin is trying to achieve here."

Mr Johnson also suggested Russia wants to "redraw the security map of Europe" with its threat to Ukraine, warning that Europe is in a "critical" moment.

"I think he (Russian president Vladimir Putin) is trying, by holding a gun, as it were, to the head of the Ukraine, by intimidating Ukraine, to get us to change the way we look at something that was absolutely fantastic," he said.

"And it wouldn't just be Ukraine that was drawn back into the Russian sphere of influence, you've got to think about Georgia, you've got to think about Moldova, other countries.

"I've just got [to] repeat what I said: our view is that time is urgent and this is something that needs to be addressed now."