Boris Johnson promised the UK would be “steadfast” in supporting Ukraine and said any concessions to Moscow would be a “disaster”, as Western officials indicated mass mobilisation is imminent in Russia.
The Prime Minister vowed to ensure “fresh political, military and financial support from the international community” to the war-torn country as he warned of “growing fatigue” around the conflict, his official spokesman said on Tuesday.
“The Prime Minister’s concern is that it may not be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, because of… some of those wider global challenges we’re facing, not least on inflation around the world,” according to the official.
Mr Johnson told Cabinet that “we must not allow anyone to believe that making concessions to (Russian president Vladimir) Putin would lead to anything but disaster”, as this could be “perceived to be a reward for their unwarranted aggression” and “would embolden not just Russia but their allies and have an impact on UK security and on our economy,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Western officials have suggested that mass mobilisation is “about to happen” in Russia, although the Kremlin is “concerned” because this would effectively be an “admission of failure” in what was intended to be a quick, clean operation in Ukraine and has instead turned into a slow and grinding conflict.
Because Moscow also fears that country-wide mobilisation could stoke unrest in Russian cities, it is attempting to increase the pool of fighters by “doing very significant recruitment” in poor areas and raising the age limit for serving.
Officials also said there is “more chatter” about Putin’s health and “more speculation” about who will replace him in Russia, although there is no “immediate threat” to his grip on power.
The Prime Minister’s comments came after he made an unannounced trip to Kyiv for talks with Volodymyr Zelensky, when he told the Ukrainian president that Britain would be prepared to train tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops as they continue to fight back against the Russian offensive in the Donbas.
He said it was important to prevent the Russians “freezing” the conflict so they could consolidate their gains before mounting another attack.
Ukrainians should be supported in their ambition to regain territory occupied by the Russian forces since they invaded in February, Mr Johnson said, but stopped short of calling for the recovery of all the lands Ukraine had lost since 2014 – including Crimea.
At the Cabinet meeting, Mr Johnson also said Britain would work to “drain the grain from Ukraine” as “the bombardment of cities and infrastructure and the blockade of ports is crippling Ukraine’s ability to export its produce”.