Boris Johnson is due to hold a virtual meeting with fellow G7 leaders this afternoon which is expected to include discussions of a collective response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
According to Western officials, Putin’s forces are entering Ukraine from a number of directions, including via Belarus, and are using a combination of precision missile strikes, air strikes, and ground forces.
It is believed that the scale of the build up of Russian forces indicates the Kremlin’s intent to seize control of a large section of Ukraine, and that the scale of their military capacity gives them a marked advantage over Ukrainian defences.
The Prime Minister is set to deliver an address to the Commons later this afternoon in response to the incursion, during which he is expected to announce further sanctions as agreed with G7 allies during this afternoon’s meeting.
The Prime Minister’s spokesperson did not rule out the possibility that Parliament could be recalled over the weekend to allow MPs to respond to the crisis, claiming that the government would “take any steps necessary to act in the interests of the United Kingdom”.
Johnson gave a televised address to the nation on Thursday morning in which he promised that “a massive package of economic sanctions” would be agreed with UK allies which would be intended to “hobble the Russian economy”.
“Our mission is clear, diplomatically, politically, economically – and eventually, militarily – this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure,” he said earlier.
He added that the world could not stand by and allow the freedom of Ukraine to be “snuffed out” by Russia and warned the state will become a “pariah”.
Western officials believe Russia must secure Kyiv in order to fulfil its objectives of controlling breakaway regions in the east of Ukraine. It is therefore believed to be likely that Putin will have to deploy ground troops to the capital city.
Large numbers of people are currently believed to be fleeing Kyiv, but there are no exact figures on the numbers leaving.
Officials also warned that Russia was unlikely to consider “proportionality” in their offences, which could lead to a large number of casualties.
The Prime Minister spoke to the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy at 4:30 am GMT on Thursday to discuss the invasion, before convening an emergency Cobra meeting a few hours later.
Setting out Britain’s response so far, Johnson’s spokesperson said that the UK was “the largest contributor to NATO troops at present” on the eastern border of Ukraine, and that the UK air force was increasing its support policing the air space over Poland’s border with Ukraine.
“We are providing defensive capability to the Ukrainians, and the Prime Minister will be setting a significant package of sanctions later,” they said.
The UK is set to provide further military capabilities in the form of defensive weaponry, as well as non-lethal aid such as body armour and helmets.
The spokesperson added that the government was looking at the possibility of a no-fly zone over Ukraine among measures to respond to the invasion.
On support for people fleeing Ukraine, they said that a “relatively small number of British nationals” had contacted the embassy in Kyiv and were being provided “consular support”.
They also confirmed that there were no plans for measures to protect household bills from potential price increases, as previously reported by PoliticsHome yesterday, as existing measures were believed to be sufficient.
It comes after the price of natural gas in the UK rose by around 10% on Tuesday, and by 13% on the continent, as the market reacted to the ongoing crisis.
Additional reporting from Adam Payne.
PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe