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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson PA
false flag

Johnson fears Russian ‘false flag’ action to discredit Ukraine ahead of invasion

Boris Johnson said he feared more violence following the shelling of a nursery school in clashes between Ukraine and Moscow-backed separatists.

RUSSIA HAS BEEN accused by the UK of orchestrating “false flag” attacks in Ukraine as a pretext for an invasion.

The claims by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss came as tensions continued to mount between Russian-backed separatists and state forces in east Ukraine, with shells hitting a nursery school.

Truss said reports alleging “abnormal military activity” by Ukraine in the eastern Donbas region were a “blatant” attempt by the Kremlin to fabricate a reason for an invasion.

The Prime Minister claimed there was a “false flag operation designed to discredit the Ukrainians” and “we fear very much that that is a thing we will see more of over the next few days”.

He warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be “mad” to invade because it would result in a “bloody and protracted conflict”.

Western allies fear Russia will carry out or support attacks in Ukraine which it will then falsely blame on the Kyiv government in order to justify an invasion.

Despite Russian claims to be pulling units back to base following the conclusion of military exercises, the UK and US have claimed that thousands more troops have been deployed, along with supporting assets such as field hospitals and new bridges.

Johnson, speaking at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, said: “The picture is continuing to be very grim.

“Today, as I’m sure you’ve already picked up, a kindergarten was shelled in what we are taking to be, well, we know, was a false flag operation designed to discredit the Ukrainians, designed to create a pretext, a spurious provocation for Russian action.

“We fear very much that that is the kind of thing we will see more of over the next few days.”

Johnson, who sat in the cockpit of an RAF Typhoon jet during his visit, again called for Europe to end its reliance on Russian gas so western allies “can’t be blackmailed” by Putin, and threatened tough sanctions in response to an invasion.

embedded265373900 UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson inside a RAF Typhoon PA PA

But he said there was “still time for the Putin regime to step back” from what would be a “catastrophe” for the world.

“If Russia were so mad as to invade, I don’t think people should imagine that this would be a brief business,” he said.

“This would be a bloody and protracted conflict in which, I’m afraid, there will be many casualties and including many Russian casualties.”

Truss, who is in Ukraine, said she was very concerned about the exchanges of fire in Donbas and the continued build-up of Russian troops.

Separatist authorities in the Luhansk region claimed there had been an increase in Ukrainian shelling along the tense line of contact, describing it as a “large-scale provocation” and that they then returned fire.

The Kyiv government disputed the claim, saying separatists had shelled its forces but they did not fire back

A nursery school building in Stanytsia Luhanska was hit, wounding two civilians, according to the Ukrainian military.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said “the shelling of a kindergarten in Stanytsia Luhanska by pro-Russian forces is a big provocation”.

Truss, who has warned that Putin could mount a “false flag” operation to justify an invasion, said: “Reports of alleged abnormal military activity by Ukraine in Donbas are a blatant attempt by the Russian government to fabricate pretexts for invasion.

“This is straight out of the Kremlin playbook.”

Truss said she was “very concerned about reports today of increased Russian aggression: over 7,000 extra troops near the Ukraine border and an attack by pro-Russian troops on a kindergarten in Ukraine”.

She urged Russia to withdraw its troops as there was “still time for diplomacy and de-escalation”.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg also claimed Putin is attempting to engage in “false flag operations”, with “many” Russian intelligence officers active in Donbas.

“Of course this is a concern,” he said. “This is the reason why we are so closely monitoring what is going on.”

Moscow has denied it plans to invade Ukraine but has concerns about western influence on its neighbour and the presence of Nato forces in eastern Europe.

Russia released footage in recent days claiming to show troops and equipment moving back to base following military exercises in regions close to the Ukraine border.

But Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said nearly 60% of Russia’s land combat forces were still in place around the borders of Ukraine and the Ministry of Defence said there was no evidence of a withdrawal.

Although an invasion is highly unlikely to result in British troops fighting, as Ukraine is not a Nato member, the military build-up has caused anxiety among eastern members of the alliance,

The UK has bolstered its forces in eastern Europe and Wallace said Putin should understand that Nato is united and “deadly serious in how we are going to face the threat that is currently being posed to both Ukraine and potentially to our security”.

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