UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on Friday that he had heard “clearly” from the Russian government that it had no intention of invading Ukraine.
Speaking at a news conference in Moscow after talks with Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu amid Russia-West tensions over Ukraine, Mr Wallace said: “I have heard clearly from the Russian government that they have no intention intend to invade Ukraine.”
Mr Wallace said the UK would consider actions in support of Russia’s assurances that Moscow would not invade Ukraine.
“When they tell me they’re not going to invade Ukraine, we’ll take that seriously, but as I’ve also said, we’ll look at the actions that go with it,” he said.
Wallace also said that “the placement of Russian forces, which we see more than 100,000 men in both Belarus and Ukraine, clearly allows the size of that force to be capable of carrying out a wide range of actions, including invasions.” neighboring countries at any time.”
Wallace said that he had “constructive and candid discussions” with Shoigu, and both agreed on the importance of implementing the Minsk agreement as “a clear path forward”. .”
He added: “I am well aware of the tragic consequences that any invasion of Ukraine can have on all its people, both Ukraine, Russia and the security of Europe.
“We call for dialogue as a way to address any concerns about Russia that the Russian government may have,” Wallace said.
Wallace said he would put the level of Anglo-Russian relations “on the air” following his meeting with Shoigu on Friday, after Russia’s state news agency RIA-Novosti earlier reported that Shoigu had told Wallace that level “near zero.”
“Of course, Britain has some ongoing problems with the Russian government, especially the poisoning and deployment of nerve agents, by Russian state agents in Salisbury, and we obviously have the demands on those suspected of committing that crime. And that’s happening and needs to be addressed,” said Wallace.
However, “this is the first meeting of a British defense minister with Minister Shoigu since 2013,” he said. “So it’s been nine years, and I think the starting point of this process is to understand each other’s concerns, and to be able to have a much better line of communication than zero percent.”
Wallace went on to say that he looks forward to a long-term relationship with his Russian counterpart.