It is highly unlikely that London and its allies would send troops to Ukraine in case of a Russian invasion, UK defence secretary Ben Wallace said.
A joint statement issued on Thursday, signed by Wallace and his Ukrainian counterpart, defence minister Oleksii Yuriyovych Reznikov, said that “the United Kingdom stands shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine and will continue its longstanding determination to support them.“
On the same day, Wallace told The Spectator that Ukraine “is not a member of NATO so it is highly unlikely that anyone is going to send troops into Ukraine to challenge Russia.”
“We shouldn’t kid people we would. The Ukrainians are aware of that,” he continued, explaining that instead, there are significant and long-lasting sanctions that could be imposed against the Kremlin.
British PM Boris Johnson warned Russian president Vladimir Putin that any attempt to destabilise Ukraine and the rest of the region would be a "strategic mistake" with "significant consequences," his spokesperson said on Monday.
In November, the authorities in Kyiv claimed that about 90,000 Russian soldiers and heavy equipment including tanks were repositioned close to Ukraine, stoking fears of a possible invasion.
Ukraine's defence ministry stated units of Russia's 41st Army have been stationed about 260 kilometres north of the border.
Russia demands no NATO involvement
On Friday, Moscow submitted draft security documents demanding that NATO deny membership to Ukraine and other former Soviet countries and roll back the alliance’s military deployments in Central and Eastern Europe.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Interfax the next day that Russia may take unspecified new measures to ensure its security if Western allies continue to take provocative action.
"We will take care of our security and act in a way similar to NATO's logic and also will start extending the limits of what is possible sooner or later.“
“We will find all the necessary ways, means and solutions needed to ensure our security,” Ryabkov said.
NATO’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg emphasized on Friday that any security talks with Moscow would need to take into account NATO concerns and involve Ukraine and other partners.
He added that the 30 NATO countries “have made clear that, should Russia take concrete steps to reduce tensions, we are prepared to work on strengthening confidence-building measures.”
Russian troops were also observed in the rebel-controlled parts of Donbas in the east of Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian defence ministry.
The war in eastern Ukraine, which began in 2014, is an ongoing conflict between the Ukrainian army and Russian-backed separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
The seven-year war has seen about 14,000 casualties, while more than 2 million Ukrainians have sought refuge either in other parts of the country or abroad.
Since the revelations of the troop build-up came to light, the Kremlin has repeatedly stated that any troop movement within the Russian territory is its own business.
“Russia maintains troop presence on its territory wherever it deems necessary,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier in November.