Ukraine-Russia crisis: West ‘blinked’ over troop deployment and sanctions will push Russia towards China, senior MP warns

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The West “blinked” and did not understand troops needed to be on the ground in Ukraine earlier this year and sanctions will only push Russia towards China, the chair of the defence committee has told Sky News.

Tobias Ellwood, in Kyiv, told Kay Burley: “It would have taken five days to mobilise those forces, at the request of Ukraine, this is what they actually wanted but we blinked, we didn’t appreciate the full picture.

“We didn’t have the situational awareness to say ‘my goodness, this is not just about Ukraine there’s something else going on here’.

“The West is now appreciating that, there’s no doubt about that.

“But, I worry that still isn’t fully understood. Any sanctions that are imposed onto Russia, they will retaliate and it will give Putin the excuse to pivot his country away from the West towards an alliance with China.”

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The former army captain and defence minister added that Moscow turning to Beijing could have “massive implications for geo-security over the next few decades”.

US accuses Russia of adding troops to border – Ukraine live updates

Russia has said units are moving back to their bases but the armed forces minister, James Heappey, told Sky News that is “disinformation” and over the last 48 hours more troops have been moving towards the border.

Asked if Russia is closer or further from invading Ukraine than Monday, Mr Heappey said: “My view is we’re closer.

“If we’re wrong, brilliant – tens of thousands won’t die but unfortunately what we’re seeing, it’s hard not to be sombre.”

Mr Ellwood added that he started calling for the UK and the rest of NATO to take action at the end of last year and said the consequences of allowing Russia to invade would have “massive consequences” for the British economy, including food and gas prices.

The Conservative defence committee chair also said Russia could still invade Ukraine “at any moment”, despite Moscow saying it is pulling troops back to their bases following training exercises.

But, he said it is “far too late” to bring in a NATO division and instead the alliance should look at other measures to prevent a Russian invasion.

Mr Ellwood added: “Privately, I think the international community is regretting not stepping forward but we still can act, we still can offer a no-fly zone.

“And critically, this initiative Britain put forward, this alliance between Poland, Ukraine and Britain is something that’s very very important indeed – that needs to be explored as to how we can support the Ukrainian people.

“If we do nothing and allow an invasion to take place, it will have a totemic effect on European security.

“This is a serious moment and we’re being tested.”

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