The UK and US have expressed “deep concern” that Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops at the Ukraine border, as the allies warned of consequences if there is an invasion.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss discussed the threat of a Russian incursion into Ukraine during talks with her US and German counterparts before a G7 foreign ministers meeting in Liverpool on Saturday.
With US secretary of state Antony Blinken, she agreed there would be “serious consequences” for Moscow if troops were sent across the border.
US president Joe Biden has spoken to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the leaders of Germany, Italy and France – dubbed the Nato “quint” – twice this week as they discuss how to deal with the threat.
A spokesman for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said Ms Truss and Mr Blinken “both agreed their support for Ukraine” and “expressed deep concern about the build-up of Russian troops on Ukraine’s border”.
“In addition, they said that any incursion by Russia would be a strategic mistake for which there would be serious consequences,” he said.
“The Foreign Secretary and secretary Blinken both agreed on the importance of defending and promoting freedom and democracy, and the need for a unity of purpose from the G7 to achieve this.”
Speaking to broadcasters ahead of the meeting, Ms Truss said she was working to make sure there would be “severe economic consequences” if Moscow mobilised against Kiev.
With the UK on Friday recording the highest number of Covid-19 infections since January 9, the Foreign Secretary chose to greet fellow ministers with fist and elbow bumps during their discussions at the Museum of Liverpool.
She told allies from the US, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan they needed to “defend ourselves against the growing threats from hostile actors”.
Opening the main plenary as part of the UK’s year-long G7 presidency, she said: “We need to come together strongly to stand up to aggressors who are seeking to limit the bounds of freedom and democracy.
Ms Truss also spoke about “growing economic ties” to ensure “all nations have alternatives to dealing with authoritarian regimes”, with the UK looking to convince major economic powers to wean themselves off reliance on cheap Russian gas.
Along with the US and German talks, Ms Truss was expected to hold bilateral meetings on Saturday with other G7 counterparts and the European Union, as well as guest countries such as Australia and South Korea.
During her conversation with French foreign minster Jean-Yves Le Drian, there was a call for a “practical” and “pragmatic” approach to dealing with disputes over migration and fishing rights after recent diplomatic rows.
In the evening, Ms Truss was due to host guests at a working dinner at The Beatles Story Museum, with Southport potted shrimp among the local food to be showcased on the menu – while a tribute band played hits from the fab-four’s repertoire.
At the dinner, officials said Ms Truss would discuss her vision for a global “network of liberty”, based on the UK building closer economic, tech and security links with allies and drawing more countries “into the orbit” of free-market democracies.
On Sunday she will host plenary sessions on global health security as well as the Indo-Pacific region, with foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations joining the G7 meeting for the first time.
It comes after the UK’s integrated review on foreign policy announced a “tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific, in a move seen as aiming to counter China’s growing influence in the region.