UK will give 'defensive support' to Ukraine after warnings it's 'weeks' from war with Russia

Foreign Office minister Vicky Ford tells the Commons 'any military incursion by Russia into Ukraine would be a strategic mistake'

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The Government is considering “defensive support” for Ukraine amid warnings that the country may be “weeks away” from war with Russia.

Foreign Office minister Vicky Ford told MPs that any “military incursion” by Russia into the Eastern European country would be a “strategic mistake”.

She was warned by Conservative MP Bob Seely (Isle of Wight) that war in Ukraine could be imminent, as he called for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project to be cancelled, with the aim of weakening Russia’s energy leverage over European nations.

Minister Ms Ford told the Commons: “Any military incursion by Russia into Ukraine would be a strategic mistake.

“The Russian government should expect significant strategic consequences. The costs of an incursion would be catastrophically high.”

She added: “Let us be very clear, we stand by Ukraine and we are considering an extension of purely defensive support to Ukraine to help Ukraine defend itself.

“Putin needs to de-escalate now and return to diplomatic channels.”

Asking an urgent question on the issue in the Commons, Mr Seely had warned: “We may be weeks away from a major war in Eastern Europe.”

The Isle of Wight MP suggested that Russian president Vladimir Putin wants to “dismember Ukraine”, “shatter the unity of Nato” and “cement Russian identity” as a state opposed to the west.

He added: “The tools to prevent war are few but one is an insistence that Nord Stream 2 does not go ahead, and an insistence that gas continues to flow through Ukraine and indeed Poland.”

Conservative Sir Bernard Jenkin (Harwich and North Essex) told the Government it should realise the UK and its allies are in a “hybrid war” against Russia.

Mr Jenkin said: “We have a crisis in the Balkans, we have Russia spiking our gas supplies, we have Russia creating the migration crisis in Belarus, we have Russia on aggressive military manoeuvres around Europe with their massively renewed military hardware”.

He added: “When is the Government going to take on board the fact we are in a hybrid war against Russia now, and that there needs to be a comprehensive and united Western response whilst at the moment Nato is weak and divided?”

Ms Ford replied: “We have been very, very clear about the threat that Russia poses not only to our own security but to that of our allies as well. This is precisely why the Foreign Secretary (Liz Truss) and the Prime Minister have been working so closely with our friends and allies.”

The minister said that Boris Johnson had met with allies including France, Germany, Italy and the USA to discuss the issue of Russian troops reportedly lining up at the border with Ukraine.

Elsewhere in the debate, Labour shadow foreign secretary David Lammy called for the Government to fully implement the recommendations of the Russia Report, which investigated links between corrupt Russian money and the UK.

He told MPs: “We know too that the UK continues to be a soft touch for corrupt elites and dirty money that helps sustain the Putin regime.

“More than 18 months after the Russia Report was published, none of its recommendations have been full implemented.”

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock (Aberavon) and SNP MP David Doogan (Angus) also raised the Russia Report with the minister, who did not respond directly to the questions.

However, Ms Ford said the Government always “stands ready” to carry out sanctions.

Nord Stream 2 is a planned gas pipeline running from Russia to Europe across the Baltic Sea, bypassing an existing pipeline running through Ukraine and Belarus.

Critics have claimed the project could be used by Russia as a political weapon, as it would continue Europe’s reliance of Russian natural gas.