Boris Johnson uses Ukraine trip to urge Russia to ‘step back’ from military action

How have Boris Johnson's pledges been welcomed in Ukraine? ITV News Europe Editor James Mates reports

Boris Johnson has warned Russia that the UK will hit Moscow with sanctions the “moment the first Russian toecap crosses further into Ukrainian territory”.

During a diplomatic mission to Kyiv, the prime minister said it is vital the Kremlin “steps back” from what would be a “military disaster” for both Russia and the world.

Later on Tuesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin said that the UK, US and allies have ignored Russia’s top security demands, but added that Moscow remains open to more talks with the West.

Tensions between Russia and the West have reached critical levels over the past few weeks, over concerns Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine.

Around 100,000 Russian troops have been massing at the border with the former Soviet country for months, prompting Nato countries to respond by considering its own deployment of troops.

Already the US has put 8,500 troops on heightened alert over the issue.

James Mates outlines whether or not the PM's trip to Ukraine will have a significant impact

At a joint press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the prime minister accused Mr Putin of effectively “holding a gun … to the head of Ukraine” as he told the Kremlin to step back from a “military disaster”.

Mr Johnson warned of a “clear and present danger” presented by the massing of Russian troops, which he described as possibly the greatest act of hostility “towards the Ukraine in our lifetimes”.

He continued: “We are also preparing a package of sanctions and other measures to be enacted the moment the first Russian toecap crosses further into Ukrainian territory.

“We have done all this and prepared all this not as a show of hostility towards Russia, but as a demonstration that we will always stand up for freedom and democracy and Ukrainian sovereignty in the face of aggression.”

He added: “It is vital that Russia steps back and chooses a path of diplomacy, and I believe that is still possible, we are keen to engage in dialogue, of course we are, but we have the sanctions ready, we’re providing military support, and we will also intensify our economic cooperation.”

Meanwhile, Mr Putin argued that it’s possible to negotiate an end to the standoff if interests of all parties, including Russia’s security concerns, are taken into account. “I hope that we will eventually find a solution, although we realise that it’s not going to be easy,” he said.

Speaking after talks with Hungarian prime minister Victor Orban, who forged close ties with Moscow even though his country is a member of NATO, Mr Putin noted that it’s still possible to negotiate a settlement that would take every party’s concerns into account. “We need to find a way to ensure interests and security of all parties, including Ukraine, European nations and Russia,” Mr Putin said, emphasising that the West needs to treat Russian proposals seriously to make progress.

Ukrainian soldiers training amid fears of a Russian invasion.

The UK is expected to bolster military presence in eastern Europe as part of Nato’s efforts to secure the region.

But British and Nato combat forces are not expected to be deployed in Ukraine, which is not a member of the alliance.

Around 100 British personnel are involved in a training mission in the country, and Downing Street said that since 2015, British Armed Forces had trained more than 22,000 Ukrainian troops.

During a trip which was meant to show the UK's support for Ukraine, Mr Johnson was forced to fend off questions about the scandal hanging over his leadership surrounding alleged lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street.