LONDON (Reuters) – Britain sees signs of a diplomatic opening with Russia over Ukraine, but the latest intelligence is still not encouraging, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday.
Russia said some of its military units were returning to their bases after exercises near Ukraine, following days of U.S. and British warnings that Moscow might invade its neighbour at any time.
“Going into today clearly there are signs of a diplomatic opening, there always has been an opportunity to talk, there are grounds for a conversation about Ukraine, with Ukraine – and that’s good. We are seeing Russian openness to conversations,” Johnson told reporters.
“On the other hand, the intelligence that we’re seeing today is still not encouraging.”
Britain has threatened sanctions against Russia for any further incursion into Ukraine, which Johnson said could extend to stopping Russian companies raising money in London.
Johnson said that British intelligence suggested Russian field hospitals were being constructed in Belarus near the border with Ukraine, which he said “certainly can be construed as preparation for an invasion.”
“You’ve got more battalion tactical groups actually being brought closer to the border with Ukraine,” he said.
“So mixed signals I think at the moment and all the more reason therefore for us to remain very tough and very united, particularly on the economic sanctions.”
(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan, writing by William James and Alistair Smout)