Bombs will drop on Ukraine within minutes of Vladimir Putin giving the order, the armed forces minister has warned.
After telling all Britons to leave Ukraine immediately, James Heappey told Sky News: “My fear is it is very imminent, that’s not to say it’s definitely going to happen.
“This is a warning because minutes after Putin gives the order, missiles and bombs could be landing on Ukrainian towns and cities.”
He said the UK suddenly changed its advice because there are now about 130,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, thousands more at sea and the UK can see Russia has brought in “combat enablers” in the form of fuel, medical supplies and bridging assets.
Mr Heappey also said the UK will support Ukraine whether it wants to become a member of NATO or not.
There was confusion over the weekend after the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK said Kyiv was willing to be “flexible” over its goal to join the military alliance.
Kyiv had previously made its ambitions to become a NATO member clear, but Moscow says this could make it a launch pad for NATO missiles targeted at Russia, which is why it is amassing troops at the border.
But this morning, ambassador Vadym Prystaiko clarified his remarks, saying the former Soviet republic would not be reconsidering its attempt to join the military alliance.
Ahead of his clarification, Mr Heappey told Sky News: “If Ukraine decides that it is going to offer that it won’t become a NATO member we support that, that’s for the Ukrainians to decide.
“Similarly, if Ukraine wanted to reserve its position and say that in the future it may want to join NATO, we would
support that too because that’s what sovereignty is and that’s what we support.”