Vladimir Putin warned of Ukraine invasion backlash at home in Russia: ‘Our brothers!’

Russia: Tensions with Ukraine explained

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Armed Forces Minister James Heappey warned this morning that a Russian attack on Ukraine could arrive with “no notice”. Speaking on Sky News this morning, Mr Heappey warned bombs could strike in eastern Europe within minutes of Vladimir Putin giving the order. He said: “My fear is it is very imminent, that’s not to say it’s definitely going to happen.” The warning comes after the Foreign Office urged British nationals to leave Ukraine immediately on Friday.

US officials believe Russia could launch an invasion of Ukraine this week, though there remains some hope that a diplomatic solution could be reached.

Russia has surrounded Ukraine on three sides, with more than 100,000 troops amassed at the border, but has always denied that an invasion is planned.

Dr Paul Flenley, who is a senior lecturer in politics at the University of Portsmouth and an expert in Russian foreign policy, told Express.co.uk that the consequences of any invasion would be “enormous”.

He said: “I think the Russian population has not been prepared for an invasion of Ukraine and the consequences.

“Psychologically, the consequences would be enormous. It wouldn’t fit well with the whole rhetoric of Ukrainians as our brothers, and they should be part of a wider association.

“An invasion of Ukraine and taking Kiev would just be a disaster for all that ideology that Putin has.”

After World War 2, the western part of Ukraine merged with the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, making the whole country a part of the Soviet Union.

It regained its independence in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Many Russians, including Mr Putin and other figures within the Kremlin, still consider Ukraine a part of Russia.

Vladislav Surkov, Mr Putin’s right-hand man, dubbed ‘the most powerful man you’ve never heard of’, said in a 2020 interview that “there is no Ukraine”.

He said: “There is Ukrainian-ness. That is a specific disorder of the mind. An astonishing enthusiasm for ethnography, driven to the extreme.”

Though Russian is still widely spoken across Ukraine, Dr Flenley explained the country is very divided in terms of support for Russia.

He said: “Kiev is very different from eastern Ukraine, where there’s a degree of support for Russia and relative alienation from Kiev.

“But to take Kiev itself would be madness really, and would have repercussions for Russia at home.

“People would start complaining, ‘What are we doing invading our brothers in Kiev? We’re supposed to be brothers with the Ukrainians.’”

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Dr Flenley also explained that simply invading would be no easy feat for Russia: “If you’re going to invade Ukraine and take Kiev, you’ve got to not only invade, but then secure it.

“You might be able to enter Kiev and then withdraw, but to actually hold Kiev and establish an alternative government, the logistics of that are enormous, especially against resistance.”

Dr Flenley questioned whether Russian troops might have as much passion to fight as Ukrainian troops would, so any invasion would be a “great gamble”.

He said: “They’d be questioning why we are invading Ukraine, especially when the body bags start going home, whereas Ukrainians would be fighting for their independence, so the passion would be much greater on the Ukrainian side.”

He added: “The Ukrainian army has been re-equipped and they would resist.

“So it wouldn’t be a certainty for Putin, and that’s where he would run a great risk if he actually invaded. They would resist and they would have the will.”

Despite the ongoing uncertainty, life in Kiev appears to be continuing as normal.

The Ukrainian capital is not deserted and there does not appear to be any visible preparations for a Russian invasion.

According to the BBC, there are “no signs” that anything will happen this week.

German chancellor Olaf Scholz is today visiting Kiev and Moscow in the latest Western bid to defuse the conflict.

According to Steve Rosenberg, the BBC’s Moscow correspondent, there is a “nervousness creeping in” on the streets of the Russian capital.

He said: “Some liberal voices are expressing concern that the Kremlin is taking Russia down the path to a large-scale conflict with Ukraine.

“But I think many Russians still don’t believe that a major escalation by Moscow is likely, largely because state television — which is incredibly powerful in shaping public opinion — continues to dismiss such claims.”

Ukraine has called for a meeting with Russia within the next 48 hours to explain the build-up of troops on the border.

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