Ukraine conflict could last ‘months, if not years’, deputy PM warns

Ensuring Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine fails could take “months, if not years”, the deputy prime minister has told Sky News.

Speaking to Trevor Phillips on Sunday, Dominic Raab said Ukrainian forces have “proved a far tougher prospect than Putin expected”.

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Economic sanctions have “put the squeeze” on Russia‘s president, prompting him to respond with “evermore brutal tactics”, Mr Raab added.

With the conflict entering its 11th day, the deputy PM noted that no major cities in Ukraine have fallen to Russian forces.

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Deputy PM says ‘strategic stamina’ will be needed

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Mr Raab warned that the West should expect to be in this for the long haul, saying: “I think we ought to be under no doubt that our mission with our allies is to ensure Putin fails in Ukraine, and it’s going to take some time.

“We’re talking about months, if not years, and therefore we will have to show some strategic stamina because this is not going to be over in days.”

Mr Raab, who is also the justice secretary, warned Russian commanders and those around Putin risk being prosecuted for war crimes at the International Criminal Court over what is happening in Ukraine.

The “reckless and frankly appalling tactics by the Putin regime must be held to account”, he said, adding this applied “not just [to] Putin himself, but also anyone taking illegal orders”.

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Raab reiterates government’s rejection of no-fly zone

The deputy PM also reiterated Boris Johnson’s dismissal of imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine.

Mr Raab said this would cause a “massive escalation” and feed into Putin’s narrative.

“Putin wants to say that he’s actually in a struggle with the West – he’s not,” he told Sky News.

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Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey said such a move would give the Russian president a “get-out-of-jail-free card”.

“The best thing that Britain and Western countries can do at the moment is step up the military assistance as we have been doing to help Ukrainians defend themselves,” he told Phillips.

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Sanctions against Russia ‘not an act of war’

Party leader Sir Keir Starmer said Labour supported the government in ruling out a no-fly zone and direct military assistance, but told ITV News that ministers need to go “further and faster” on sanctions.

In his Sky News interview, the deputy PM rejected Putin’s claim that the sanctions imposed on Russian individuals and entities over the invasion were a declaration of war from the West.

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“Just to be clear, sanctions are not an act of war, international law [is] very clear about that,” he said.

“Our sanctions are entirely both legally justified but also proportionate to what we’re trying to deal with.”

And he dismissed recent comments from the Russian president about nuclear weapons as “rhetoric and brinkmanship”, accusing Putin of having “a track record as long as anyone’s arm of misinformation and propaganda”.