‘Putin will not stop’: Former Ukrainian PM says Russian invasion ‘could be start of WW3’

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The former prime minister of Ukraine has warned the Russian invasion could be the start of a third world war.

Oleksiy Honcharuk said the wide-ranging attack on Thursday morning marked a “critical moment” and argued a strong reaction was needed because Russian president Vladimir Putin “recognises only power.”

Mr Honcharuk, who served as prime minister between 2019 and 2020, said: “It could be the start of a third world war. We should realise it, because Putin will not stop.”

He called for Nato to provide direct military support to Ukraine, warning economic sanctions were not enough.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he believes Moscow wants to undermine Ukraine’s democracy.

“Putin will destroy our country” or “install a puppet regime”, Mr Honcharuk said, adding that he and his friends were “ready to fight” on the streets to defend Ukraine.

Mr Putin has warned other countries any attempt to interfere would lead to “consequences you have never seen”.

The first explosions were heard across Ukraine shortly after 5am, in cities including Kiev, Kharkiv and Odesa. A Ukrainian presidential adviser has said more than 40 soldiers have died and dozens more have been wounded.

This map shows major cities in Ukraine as well as Moscow-backed separatist regions. As of early this week, rebels held only parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions highlighted (The Independent)
This map shows major cities in Ukraine as well as Moscow-backed separatist regions. As of early this week, rebels held only parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions highlighted (The Independent)

Russian ground troops have crossed the Crimea border, and Putin has told Ukraine’s soldiers lay down their arms.

Meanwhile a former deputy supreme commander of Nato Europe has warned there is a possibility Britain could be at war with Russia in the future.

“We have to assume the worst,” General Sir Richard Sherriff told the Today programme. “This is not just Russia biting off a chunk of Ukraine... but a full-blown military offensive to occupy Ukraine.”

This infographic, created for The Independent by statistics agency Statista, shows the relative military strength of Ukraine and Russia (Statista/The Independent)
This infographic, created for The Independent by statistics agency Statista, shows the relative military strength of Ukraine and Russia (Statista/The Independent)

He added: “Absolutely there is a possibility that we as a nation will be at war with Russia. Because if Russia puts one boot step across Nato territory, we are all at war with Russia – every single member of the Nato alliance.”

Mr Putin has denied he plans to occupy the country, saying his goal was the “demilitarisation and denazification” of Ukraine. He said he wanted to protect civilians and end eight years of conflict involving pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country.