Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “not on schedule” and Vladimir Putin’s forces “are in some significant areas of disarray”, the defence secretary has told Sky News.
Ben Wallace said the Russian invasion launched last week is not having the “strategic impact” that Moscow believed it would.
Live updates as conflict enters fifth day
Key developments in the Ukraine crisis:
• Russia hikes key interest rate to 20% after rouble sinks to record low
• Putin orders nuclear deterrent forces to be put on high alert
• Zelenskyy: Ukraine and Russia to hold talks at Belarus border
• Ukraine claims control of key city Kharkiv after fierce clashes
‘Staunch Ukrainian resistance’
His comments come after the Ministry of Defence shared an intelligence update of the latest situation on the ground in Ukraine.
In a tweet, the MoD said: “The bulk of Putin’s ground forces remain more than 30km to the north of Kyiv, their advance having been slowed by Ukrainian forces defending Hostomel airfield, a key Russian objective for day one of the conflict.
“Heavy fighting continues around Chernihiv and Kharkiv; however both cities remain under Ukrainian control.
“Logistical failures and staunch Ukrainian resistance continue to frustrate the Russian advance.
“Despite continued attempts to suppress details of the conflict from the Russian population, the Russian Armed Forces has for the first time been forced to acknowledge suffering casualties.”
Read more: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine mapped – what happened on day four
Next 24 hours ‘crucial period’
Boris Johnson spoke with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on Sunday evening and promised to do “all he could to help ensure defensive aid from the UK and allies reached” the country.
Mr Zelenskyy told the PM the next 24 hours would be a “crucial period” for Ukraine.
A meeting of the government’s emergency committee, COBRA, will be held on Monday, before a cabinet meeting takes place in Downing Street.
In a tweet on Monday morning, Mr Johnson said he was working with allies in the G7 group of nations and elsewhere to impose the “most severe economic measures possible” against Putin for his “abhorrent campaign against Ukraine”.
We have further isolated Russia from the international financial system this morning. Working with our partners, and the G7, we are determined to impose the most severe economic measures possible against President Putin for his abhorrent campaign against Ukraine. Putin must fail.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 28, 2022
The government has said it will target the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, in conjunction with the US and EU, to prevent the CBR from trying to undermine the impact of sanctions already imposed and its efforts to shore up the Russian rouble.
Mr Johnson has announced that immediate family members will be able to join Ukrainians settled in the UK as they flee the Russian invasion.
Speaking to Sky News, the defence secretary said this announcement was only a “first step” and “we’re absolutely looking at all the different range of options we can apply to welcome Ukrainians in need”.
It is understood there will be movement on the issue in the coming days, but government sources have told Sky News that it is “not fully cooked” yet.
There is understood to be some frustration in government that “we are being criticised for not having a free for all”.
It has also been confirmed that plans to tackle the flow of “dirty money” and stop the laundering of ill-gotten wealth in the UK property market will be fast-tracked by the government.
The move, first reported on Saturday by Sky News political correspondent Tamara Cohen, comes just days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
‘Better ways’ to help for those without military experience
Mr Wallace was also asked about comments from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who told LBC on Sunday that she supported anyone who wanted to travel to Ukraine to help fight Russian forces.
He said that for those without military experience, there were “better ways” to help.
The defence secretary said his cabinet colleague was right that it was a “just cause”, but he said: “If you’re keen to help and you’re a United Kingdom citizen, come and join our armed forces.”
He continued: “Look, there are people who will go… I think what I would say is unless you are properly trained, unless you are a – you know – experienced member of an armed forces, I think there are better ways for you to contribute to the security of Ukraine.”
Mr Wallace said the Russian president’s nuclear warning is a “big attempt to distract away from his troubles in Ukraine”.
Asked if Mr Putin was “crazy enough” to start a nuclear conflict, Mr Wallace said “he has certainly done a lot of irrational things recently”.
But he added: “I think I’m not going to speculate on what he would or wouldn’t do, but that’s why we all keep our deterrents at a state of readiness in the West.”