BRITAIN is today slamming a “barrage” of sanctions on Russia for rolling tanks into Ukraine ahead of a “full scale invasion”.
Boris Johnson vowed to hit Moscow with a package of crippling punishment beatings being unveiled in the Commons this lunchtime.
After chairing a dawn Cobra meeting on the escalating crisis, the PM warned sabre-rattling Vladimir Putin was hell bent on invading.
He said the Kremlin aggressor has “completely torn up international law” and the West will clobber his economy “as hard as we can”.
Putin was dealt a further gut punch this morning as Germany pulled the plug on the multi-billion-pound Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
In key developments:
- The Foreign Office summoned the Russian ambassador to an urgent meeting
- A Cabinet Minister warned the Russian invasion had “already begun”
- Liz Truss told all Brits still in Ukraine to get out now and bolstered support in the region
- The US moved its embassy staff out of Kyiv as the situation worsened
Following Cobra Mr Johnson said: “This is just the first barrage of UK economic sanctions against Russia because we expect there is more Russian irrational behaviour to come.
“All the evidence is that President Putin is bent on a full scale invasion of Ukraine, the overrunning, the subjugation of an independent, sovereign European country.
“Let’s be absolutely clear, that will be absolutely catastrophic.”
He added: “It is absolutely vital that effort, that conquest of another European country, should not succeed and that Putin should fail.”
The PM said the Kremlin had “gravely miscalculated” Ukraine’s determination to fight an invasion.
Last night he spoke to Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky and vowed a swift and strong response against Moscow.
Today the health secretary called Vladimir Putin’s decision to send forces into two breakaway regions “a very dark day in Europe”.
And he said the current escalation in tensions is “as serious” as the Cuban Missile Crisis at the height of the Cold War.
‘WORDS AREN’T ENOUGH’
Sajid Javid said: “He’s sent in tanks and troops. From that you can conclude that the invasion of Ukraine has begun.”
He confirmed today’s COBRA meeting will discuss the possibility of sending more military support like weapons to Ukraine.
And he pledged: “We will make sanctions as targeted as possible to people responsible for this flagrant violation of international law.
“I am sure close contacts with the Russian regime will be targeted, as will certain economic sectors.
“Words aren’t enough. Putin has decided that he prefers confrontation. We have always been clear we will take action.
“It’s a violation of international law and we and Nato will not accept it.”
TANKS ROLL IN
Russian tanks are already on the move after Putin reportedly ordered troops into Ukraine and recruited medics to prepare for “bloodshed”.
Videos obtained by Al-Jazeera show Russian military vehicles in two breakaway areas of eastern Ukraine.
The Kremlin recognised Donetsk and Luhansk as independent states last night – effectively annexing them into Russia.
Fears were mounting the Moscow is now poised to move beyond the rebel held pockets to snatch more territory from Ukraine.
Russian MP Leonid Kalashnikov said Russia would recognise the whole of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions – rather than just the areas currently under rebel control.
With tension mounting, Ukraine said two of its soldiers were killed and 12 others wounded in heavy shelling overnight.
Shock new Terminator-style Russian forces were seen in Makiivka, in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic.
Kremlin troops and tanks have also rolled into the neighbouring Luhansk People’s Republic under the guise of “peacekeepers”.
Celebratory fireworks were fired and Russian flags were waved following Putin’s announcement recognising both last night.
An eyewitnesses spotted huge columns of troops moving through Donetsk in the direction of Yasinuvata even before he finished his hawkish and bellicose rant.
The sources later clarified that the witnesses could not be certain that the troops seen were Russian.
But Yasinuvata is just nine miles from the 250-mile First World War-style “contact line” of trenches which has separated Ukrainian and pro-Russian separatists for the past eight years.
The president has signed off orders to parliament which made Russia the first country in the world to recognise the two mini-states created when he orchestrated a land grab in 2014.
The last paragraph of his orders to parliament said he was ordering Russian armed forces to “provide peacekeeping on the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic”.
In a further alarming development, Russia’s parliament was also said to be adopting plans to build military bases in self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk – and stay for 10 years.
The US has ordered its embassy staff to leave Ukraine immediately in the wake of the revelations. Officials from America said warnings had been sent to Russian political opponents on a Kremlin “kill or capture” list.
And Ukrainian citizens say they’ll take up arms and “fight to the death” to defend their country.