Peace talks to end the Ukraine conflict could be a "smokescreen" for more extreme Russian military manoeuvres, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss warned on Saturday.
“I’m very sceptical,” Ms. Truss told The Times newspaper in an interview. “What we’ve seen is an attempt to create space for the Russians to regroup. Their invasion isn’t going according to plan.
“I fear the negotiation is yet another attempt to create a diversion and create a smokescreen. I don’t think we’re yet at a point for negotiation,” she added.
Ms. Truss echoed comments by British intelligence that Mr. Putin could turn to "more and more extreme actions," adding "we've seen appalling atrocities already."
“The Kremlin has so far failed to achieve its original objectives. It has been surprised by the scale and ferocity of Ukrainian resistance and has been bedevilled with problems of its own making,” Chief of Defence Intelligence Jim Hockenhull said on Friday.
“Russia is now pursuing a strategy of attrition. This will involve the reckless and indiscriminate use of firepower. This will result in increased civilian casualties, destruction of Ukrainian infrastructure and intensify the humanitarian crisis,” he added.
Ms. Truss said that Britain could potentially act as a guarantor if any settlement is reached, and that Mr. Putin "didn't believe" the international community would impose the scale of sanctions that it has.
Britain has recently targeted high-profile oligarchs, including Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.
Ms. Truss suggested it was "extremely difficult" to envisage these sanctions being lifted, saying "these oligarchs have enabled Vladimir Putin to do what he's doing."