Russia 'hasn't learned lessons of history' as Truss warns Putin to 'step back' from Ukraine

Liz Truss warned Vladimir Putin during a speech in Australia. Credit: AP

Russia's aggression against Ukraine shows the Kremlin "has not learned the lessons of history", foreign secretary Liz Truss has said.

Ms Truss spoke in Sydney at independent think tank the Lowy Institute amid warnings from US president Joe Biden and Boris Johnson over Russia's threats to Ukraine.

She also said that Russia and China were aligning with authoritarian regimes around the world and are empowered in ways that haven't been seen since the Cold War.

Russia must "step back" from Ukraine, she warned.

A Ukrainian soldier stands in the trench on the line of separation from pro-Russian rebels, in Mariupol, Donetsk region, Ukraine. Credit: AP

"The Kremlin haven't learned the lessons of history," she said. "They dream of recreating the Soviet Union or a kind of greater Russia, carving up territory based on ethnicity and language.

"They claim they want stability while they work to threaten and destabilise others. We know what lies down that path and the terrible toll in lives lost and human suffering it brings.

"That's why we urge President Putin to desist and step back from Ukraine before he makes a massive strategic mistake."

President Putin has a number of demands of the west, including that Ukraine be kept out of Nato.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will hold talks with Russia's foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in Geneva on Friday.

'We're on the brink of something catastrophic'

It comes as another minister warned intelligence indicates "something catastrophic" lies ahead as threats of a Russian invasion of Ukraine continue.

Armed Forces minister James Heappey told ITV News: "What I see… is intelligence that suggests that we are on the brink of something quite catastrophic in Ukraine – and that will have national security and economic consequences for the UK."

He had said on Wednesday it is not “remotely realistic” that British troops would engage in combat with the Russian military, but he added the Ukrainians are “ready to fight for every inch of their country.”

Tens of thousands of people could die if Russia launches into an “extraordinarily stupid” conflict with Ukraine, he said.