The British government has warned Russia that it needs to “step back from the brink” and desist from a possible invasion of Ukraine, or oligarchs linked to the Kremlin may be subject to sanctions.
Downing Street said that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will speak to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday afternoon, and will visit Ukraine on Tuesday for a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
During a visit to Tilbury on Monday, Johnson said that he would tell Putin “Russia needs to step back from the brink” and an incursion into Ukraine would be “a disaster for Russia.”
He said the UK supports the “territorial sovereignty” of Ukraine and he believes Ukrainians will “bitterly” defend the country against aggression.
Downing Street said the prime minister would tell Putin to “take a diplomatic path” and avoid a “very costly” military action in Ukraine.
“Our aim is to continue to encourage Russia to take a diplomatic path, to deescalate and to step back from what could be a very costly exercise if they were to follow the path of further aggression,” the prime minister’s official spokesman said.
The spokesman warned the Russian elite that they will suffer from the consequences. “The Russian elite should be in no doubt that we have significant powers and will take them further, which will place massive pressure on them should they continue on this path of aggression,” he said.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Sunday that the British government will change sanctions regulations to broaden the scope of measures it can apply to Russia to try to deter aggression towards Ukraine.
She said London should be able to target “any company of interest to the Kremlin and the regime in Russia” and that “there would be nowhere to hide for Putin’s oligarchs.”
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the threat of such measures would amount to an attack on Russian businesses that would backfire because it would end up hurting British companies and Western shareholders.
“It’s not often you see or hear such direct threats to attack business,” Peskov said. “An attack by a given country on Russian business implies retaliatory measures, and these measures will be formulated based on our interests if necessary.”
Ukraine welcomed Britain’s tough talk on sanctions, saying it was an important way of deterring Russian aggression.
“When Russian dignitaries realize that they are talking about their assets, real estate, and money abroad, where they—the patriots of Russia—keep them, the hotheads in the Kremlin will cool down,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
Reuters and PA Media contributed to this report.