BBC Newsnight: Russia attack ‘imminent’ says Tobias Ellwood as Putin ‘running the show’

Biden says Putin will pay ‘dear price’ if he invades Ukraine

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Fiona Hill, the former US National Security Council Europe and Russia director, and Tobias Ellwood, chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, joined the programme to discuss the ongoing situation on the Ukrainian border.  The comments come after US President Joe Biden predicted that Russia would attack Ukraine during his press conference on Wednesday.

Ms Hill said that western divisions are playing into the hands of the Russian President.

She said: “What President Biden is worried about is that we will not get the unity we need to respond to things.

“The biggest risk we run right now is not having a unified response.

“Our European partners are basically saying oh look it was only a cyber attack or it was moving further forces in and around Donbass.

“This isn’t a full force invasion, and we don’t need to make any major painful steps here.”

President Biden appeared to sow further confusion by differentiating between “minor incursion” and a full-scale invasion.

When asked what he meant by a “minor incursion” Mr Biden appeared to imply that because of the divisions on how to respond in NATO the western response may be limited in the case of limited Russian military involvement on Ukrainian territory.

However Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a Tweet that he wanted to remind the “great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations”.

Ms Hill reiterated the Ukrainian President’s comments that no incursions into Ukraine would be acceptable.

She said: “What Zelenskiy said is really important, there is no such thing as a further minor incursion into Ukraine.”

Mr Ellwood echoed the comments and added that a Russian invasion of Ukraine is “imminent”.

He said: “I think we’re going to see the endgame. We’re going to see Russia walk out of those talks and claim they have failed.

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“Putin has been running this show ever since NATO and the West said we were not going to support Ukraine militarily.”

He added: “Everything is ready to go. An attack is now imminent and the West is looking very, very weak indeed.”

When asked whether the Russian attack will be an invasion or an incursion, the Defence Select committee chair said: “It will be an invasion. Only Putin will know how far he will go.”

Continuing the conversation with Ms Hill, the BBC show host then asked whether certain European powers were politically compromised by Russia.

Ms Hill said: “The more we fight about these things the more we have these disagreements even just fighting about what Vladimir Putin is going to do.

“That plays exactly into the game that Putin is playing and he keeps changing the terms of the game.

“At every point he seems to be heading in the direction he wants to.

“He’s a unitary actor, that’s his big advantage and we really need to get our act together.”

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