Putin warned of ‘long, hard’ period in EU-Russia relationship: ‘Dangerous deterioration’

Biden warns of 'severe consequences' if Putin moves on Ukraine

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Russian forces have been building up on Ukraine’s border in recent months, with authorities in Kiev saying Moscow could be planning a military offensive at the beginning of the new year.  The Kremlin has accused Ukraine of provocation, and sought guarantees against their deployment of weapons close to the border and their NATO expansion. On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Mr Putin about his “deep concern” over the growing tension between Russia and Ukraine.

Mr Johnson reiterated the need to use diplomacy to deescalate tensions and warned that there would be “significant consequences” to any “destabilising action” by Russia. 

Last week, Mr Putin stressed that war in eastern Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels have been fighting Ukrainian troops since 2014, looked like genocide. 

In response the G7 warned Russia of “massive consequences” if it invades Ukraine.

The relationship between the Kremlin and the West has suffered in the past two years over Ukraine tensions and the imprisonment of anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny. 

Read More: Klitschko asks Germany for help to fight off Putin’s invasion

Mr Navalny, who is the most prominent Russian voice against Mr Putin, nearly died in August 2020 when he was attacked with a Novichok nerve agent in Siberia and has been imprisoned by the Russian state since February this year.

In April the EU’s foreign policy chief Mr Borrell warned that the bloc should brace for worsening relations with Russia.

Speaking to the European Parliament Mr Borrell said: “We cannot discard that this negative trend continues and that we reach even more dangerous levels of deterioration.

“We don’t want to feed a dynamic of escalation, let it be clear. 

“But we nevertheless are showing that we will not accept intimidatory tactics and that we have to respond to them if they happen.”

Mr Borrell, whose offers to cooperate with Russia were rebuffed during a February trip to Moscow, said ties between the EU and the Kremlin were worsening.

He added: “I see a worrying trend from Russian authorities that seems to be choosing to deliberately deepen the confrontation with the West, with us.

“We must therefore define a modus vivendi that will avoid permanent confrontation with a neighbour who seems to have decided to act as an adversary. 

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“I think we have to be prepared for a long, hard period in our relationship with Russia.”

After Mr Johnson’s conversation with Mr Putin this week, Downing Street released a statement detailing the ground covered by the two leaders. 

It said: “[The Prime Minister] expressed the United KIngdom’s deep concern over the build-up of Russian forces on Ukraine’s border, and reiterated the importance of working through diplomatic channels to deescalate tensions and identify durable solutions.

“The Prime Minister emphasised the UK’s commitment to Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, and warned that any destabilising action would be a strategic mistake that would have significant consequences.”

Commentators have widely suggested that the “significant consequences” Russia might face would in the most part be economic measures.

However, last week the US said it would send reinforcements to NATO’s eastern flank if Russia were to invade Ukraine, and impose severe economic measures. 

According to The Guardian, in the same week US President Joe Biden insisted that the US would not rule out future Ukrainian membership of NATO, as Mr Putin had demanded. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and reiterated Washington’s “unwavering support” in the face of “Russian aggression”.

Mr Zelenskiy then said in a tweet that he and Mr Blinken agreed to continue “joint and concerted action”.

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