Russias attack start of Third World War – ex-Ukraine prime minister warns

Putin ‘sealed his own doom’ says General Lord Dannatt

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Russia launched an all-out invasion of Ukraine by land, air and sea on Thursday in the biggest attack by one state against another in Europe since World War Two. Ukraine’s former PM, Oleksiy Honcharuk, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “It’s a serious moment of our history. I believe it could be the start of the Third World War. I believe it is now critically important to have [an] adequate and strong reaction from Western capitals.

“Putin recognises only power. Russia recognises only power and the only measures [that] can stop Mr Putin and his criminal crowd is a direct signal from the West that this is a red line.

“And I believe that Nato should provide direct military support to Ukraine now.”

Missiles have rained down on Ukrainian cities with Kiev reporting columns of troops pouring across its borders into the eastern Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions. Ukraine also said Russia has landed by sea at the cities of Odessa and Mariupol in the south.

Ukraine’s President Volodymur Zelenskiy said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aim was to destroy his state.

Explosions could be heard before dawn in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. Gunfire rattled out near the main airport and sirens blared across the city.

Asked if members of Nato should assist a country not in the military alliance, Mr Honcharuk said: “Look, we should realise that Ukraine is a part of [the] Western, democratic world. Officially, formally, we are not part of Nato.

“But Ukraine is a Western country, a European democracy and we [have been] invaded by Russian troops now. Economic sanctions [are] good. Thank you for your support, but not enough. It could be the start of the third world war. We should realise it because Putin will not stop.

“He will go as far as we let him go. Ukraine is much stronger than before. Our forces are much stronger than before. But to stop the second [most] powerful military power in the world, it is not enough, our effort.”

READ MORE ABOUT PUTIN’S ATTACK ON UKRAINE

On Mr Putin’s ultimate goal in Ukraine, he said: “I want to be very clear. Putin’s goal is to undermine democracy because the main threat for Putin is a democracy in the region. Ukraine is an independent, democratic state with a huge part of Russian speaking population.

“For Putin, Ukraine is a main threat so Putin will destroy our country or make sure that he will install here the authoritarian regime like he has, a puppet regime, like he has in Belorussia. This is not only about Ukraine. It’s about democracy in the world.

“If Ukraine will fall, if Putin achieves his goal to install here an authoritarian state, Poland and all eastern Europe will be in danger directly.”

Asked if Ukrainian citizens were preparing to fight on the streets he said: “Of course, we don’t have any choice. A lot of people are ready to push back. But it is impossible to fight with just a gun against missiles, against aircraft. It [makes] absolutely no sense. As our president said, it’s our land and we will protect it.”

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Nato ambassadors are due to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday.

General Sir Richard Shirreff, former deputy chief commander of Nato in Europe, told the BBC: “There is profound sadness and a sense of appalling horror at what is about to unfold for the people of Ukraine.

“The Russians don’t hang around. They will look to establish overwhelming force. I think we have to assume that there will be multiple attacks on different axes from north, the east and from the maritime flank in the south and I think we have to assume that this is not just Russia biting off a chunk of Ukraine, but a full blown military offensive to occupy Ukraine.”

Asked if the attack forms part of a plan to revive the former Soviet Union, Sir Richard said it was entirely plausible.

He said: “[Putin] sees Russia dominating eastern Europe as the Soviet Union dominated eastern Europe in Communist times. This has all been on the cards for some time.”

He called for more bilateral support for Ukraine, adding: “Clearly, there can be no question of Nato forces actually deploying on the ground because that would precipitate a Third World War, but there will be other ways of providing support, however limited that might be.

“We in this country must recognise that our security starts not on the white cliffs of Dover, but it starts in the forests of Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. That means we must really man the ramparts in eastern Europe as an alliance.

“[Governments] must send the most powerful signal possible that Nato is ready and willing to defend its territory.”

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly told BBC Breakfast: “It’s clear that [Putin] is trying to bully the international community, as he has attempted to bully Ukraine for years, and we will have none of it.

“The international community stands shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian government and the Ukrainian people in their defence of their homeland.

“If Vladimir Putin thinks that he can scare the international community away from supporting Ukrainians in defence of their homeland, he is absolutely wrong on that and should be under absolutely no illusion that we will continue to support the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian people.”

He said further economic sanctions against Russia will be announced later on Thursday, amid criticism that those already set out by the Government are weak.

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