OPINION - Russian victory in Ukraine is ‘a realistic possibility’, PM admits

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 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

A Russian victory in Ukraine is a “realistic possibility”, the Prime Minister said today as Vladimir Putin intensifies his assault on eastern Ukraine.

As our Deputy Political Editor David Bond reports, speaking from New Delhi on the second day of his India trip, Boris Johnson warned that Moscow’s renewed focus on the Donbas region could enable Putin to claim victory. It’s worth reading some of the quotes:

“Putin has a huge army. He has a very difficult political position because he’s made a catastrophic blunder. The only option he now has really is to continue to try to use his appalling grinding approach led by artillery, trying to grind the Ukrainians down.

“He’s very close to securing a land bridge in Mariupol. The situation is I’m afraid, unpredictable at this stage, but we’ve just got to be realistic about it.”

Britain is considering a plan to send tanks to “backfill” in Poland so that Soviet-era T72s – which Ukrainian crews are familiar with – can be supplied to Kyiv. President Joe Biden has also announced an additional $1.3 billion (£1 billion) in military aid and financial support for Ukraine.

It comes as new satellite images released appeared to show mass graves near Mariupol, where local officials accused Russia of burying up to 9,000 Ukrainian civilians to conceal the slaughter taking place in the ruined port city. The city’s mayor, Vadym Boychenko, said today that 100,000 people remained trapped in the city and needed a “full evacuation”.

Elsewhere in the paper, France goes to the polls for the second round of voting in the presidential election, in a re-run of 2017. Sky’s Sophie Ridge has a fascinating letter from Paris.

Johne Dunne talks to voters in one of France’s largest cities, London, who fear what a victory for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen would mean for Europe and beyond. And in case you missed it, here’s a handy recap of what went down in the Macron-Le Pen debate on Wednesday evening.

In the comment pages, Emily Sheffield says Prince Harry’s big achievement is the Invictus Games: now he’s spoiling it.

Meanwhile, I mount a defence of not always doing the Brave Thing. TL;DR, you don’t have to apply for that role, slide into those DMs or order off the specials menu. There’s even an unexpected defence of Dominic Raab.

And finally, it’s the weekend. Here’s what to do, what to watch and what the weather is up to. Have a good one.

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