British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will fly to Ukraine next week and hold crisis talks by phone with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, his office said.
In recent months Putin has amassed a force of more than 100,000 soldiers at the border and regional tensions have escalated sharply.
“The prime minister is determined to accelerate diplomatic efforts and ramp up deterrence to avoid bloodshed in Europe,” a rep for Johnson told The Guardian Friday. “He will reiterate the need for Russia to step back and engage diplomatically when he speaks to president Putin this week.”
Russia has demanded that Ukraine not be allowed to join NATO. The Cold War era US-led military alliance now includes a number of countries that were once dominated by Russia.
Johnson said the UK could deploy troops to NATO nations in eastern Europe in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Denmark and Spain have already deployed military hardware.
On Friday President Biden announced that a small contingent of US troops would be deployed to eastern Europe and 8,500 soldiers have been put on heightened alert for the job. He ruled out any possibility of deployment inside Ukraine, but the US has been sending lethal military aid to the country in the hopes of deterring an invasion.
In a press conference Friday, Gen. Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would bring “horrific” and “terrible” consequences.
“If that was unleashed on Ukraine, it would be significant, very significant, and it would result in a significant amount of casualties,” Milley said, the BBC reported.