Western allies are preparing to offer Ukraine a series of “security guarantees” which should make the country “impregnable” to a future Russian invasion, Boris Johnson has said.
The Prime Minister said it is essential to step up immediate military support to Kyiv, as he warned there is a “realistic possibility” that the conflict could drag on for a “long period”.
He said Britain is looking to send tanks to “backfill” in Poland so Soviet-era T-72s – with which Ukrainian crews are familiar – can be released to the government in Kyiv.
But, speaking in the Indian capital, New Delhi, Mr Johnson said a long-term vision for Ukraine’s place in the future “security architecture” of Europe also needs to be developed.
While he said it will not be the same as the Nato Article 5 guarantee – in which an attack on one member state is considered to an attack on all – he hoped it would offer “deterrence by denial”.
“What the Ukrainians want – and I think are now going to get – is a collection of guarantees from like-minded countries about what we can do to back them up with weaponry, with training and with intelligence-sharing,” he said.
“It will, I hope, enable the Ukrainians to offer deterrence by denial and make sure their territory is so fortified as to be impregnable to further attack from Russia. That is what we need to do.”
The Prime Minister said the improving security situation around Kyiv means that Britain will be able to reopen its embassy there for next week.
However, he accepted a Western intelligence assessment that the conflict could continue for most of the rest of the year, potentially ending with a victory for President Vladimir Putin.
But he insisted the Russian artillery bombardment will never succeed in crushing the spirit of the Ukrainian people.
“Putin has a huge army. He has a very difficult political position because he’s made a catastrophic blunder,” he said.
“The only option he now has, really, is to continue to try to use his appalling, grinding approach driven by artillery, trying to grind the Ukrainians down.
“No matter what military superiority Vladimir Putin may be able to bring to bear in the next few months – I agree, it may be a long period – he will not be able to conquer the spirit of the Ukrainian people. That is an observable fact.
“On the contrary, what he is doing is reinforcing that will to resist in the people of Ukraine.”
In its latest intelligence update, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Mr Putin’s decision to blockade Azovstal steel works in the besieged city of Mariupol was intended to release troops for the Russian offensive in the Donbas region.
An estimated 2,000 Ukrainian troops remain holed up in the vast plant, where they have been holding out against numerically superior Russia for weeks.
“A full ground assault by Russia on the plant would likely incur significant Russian casualties, further decreasing their overall combat effectiveness,” the MoD assessment said.
“Despite Russia’s renewed focus, they are still suffering from losses sustained earlier in the conflict.
“In order to try and reconstitute their depleted forces, they have resorted to transiting inoperable equipment back to Russia for repair.”
Mr Johnson said the situation in the region remains “unpredictable”, underlying the need to maintain support for Ukraine.
“We have got to look at what more we can do militarily. We have got to keep intensifying economic sanctions. We want to make sure there is wave upon wave of intensifying pressure on Putin,” he said.
Published: by Radio NewsHub