Boris Johnson puts Vladimir Putin on hold, allowing France to take the diplomatic initiative

The prime minister’s official spokesman insisted there had been no ‘set time’ for the call and that they still hoped to agree a time with the Kremlin for the two leaders can talk.

He added that it was not unusual for the timing of calls between world leaders to change, and added that Mr Johnson had ‘undertaken to come to the House to provide an update’ after the publication of the Gray report.

Speaking ahead of his visit to Kyiv on Tuesday, Mr Johnson warned Moscow that as a ‘friend and democratic partner, the UK will continue to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty against those who seek to destroy it’ .

“We urge Russia to step back and engage in dialogue to find a diplomatic solution and avoid further bloodshed,” he said.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Johnson said he intended to urge Mr Putin to ‘step back’ and not stage an invasion of his neighbour.

He said: “I think an invasion of Ukraine, any incursion into Ukraine beyond the territory that Russia already took in 2014, would be an absolute disaster for the world, and above all it would be an absolute disaster for the Russia.”

Mr Johnson added that any Russian invasion would be “bitterly and bloodily resisted” by the Ukrainian people.

Tobias Ellwood, the chairman of the Commons defense select committee, warned that “cancelling this call will remind Putin of how distracted Britain has become”.

He told the Telegraph that “any call with Putin should confirm that we are rallying a NATO force to directly support our Ukrainian friends.”

Plans for new sanctions unveiled

Meanwhile, Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, on Monday announced plans for legislation with new powers to sanction individuals and companies linked to the Russian state.

She told the Commons: ‘We will be able to target any company linked to the Russian state, engaged in activities of economic importance to the Russian state or operating in a sector of strategic importance to the Russian state.

Ms Truss added that it would be the ‘toughest sanctions regime we have ever had against Russia’ as she insisted it was the ‘most radical diversion of approach since leaving the EU.

“Those inside and around the Kremlin will have nowhere to hide,” she added.

The UK is expected to boost its military presence in Eastern Europe as part of NATO efforts to secure the region, in response to the gathering of around 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.

Mr Putin has denied he was planning an attack, but is demanding guarantees that Ukraine will never join NATO, while calling on the Western alliance to withdraw its forces in Eastern Europe.

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