Ukraine crisis: What is a COBRA meeting and what does COBRA stand for?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called an urgent COBRA meeting today.

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In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called an emergency COBRA meeting.

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These meetings are often called in times of emergency or to face threats like war, extreme weather, or terrorism – but what does the acronym mean, and what do the meetings entail?

Prime Minister Boris JohnsonPrime Minister Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Here’s what you need to know about COBRA meetings.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London followed by his Chief of Staff, Stephen Barclay, after chairing a meeting of the Government's COBRA emergency committee to discuss latest developments regarding Ukraine. Photo:: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

What does COBRA stand for?

The acronym stands for ‘Cabinet Office Briefing Room A’ and refers to the British emergency council that meets when a crisis arises.

These councils are designed for situations that call for various different departments to work closely with one another.

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Foreign Secretary Liz Truss in Downing Street, London, following a COBRA meeting called by the Prime Minister to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.

They meet in the Cabinet Office’s briefing rooms, usually room A, which gave the meetings their name.

What is a COBRA meeting?

A COBRA meeting is designed to bring all the key decision-makers and advisers into one place.

It is a similar idea to the White House’ Situation Room.

First formed in 1972, COBRA meetings have been used to handle situations like terrorist attacks at home and across Europe and the United States, and the Novichok poisoning case, as well as the recent storms plaguing the UK.

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Is there a COBRA meeting today?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called an urgent COBRA meeting today in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The meeting finished at around 9am on Thursday February 24th, ahead of Johnson’s address to the public and to parliament later on.

The emergency COBRA meeting included top government officials and likely discussed further sanctions to be placed on Russia following the invasion and what response the UK should give.

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On Twitter, Johnson promised that the UK will respond “decisively”.

"I am appalled by the horrific events in Ukraine and I have spoken to President Zelenskyy to discuss next steps,” the Prime Minister wrote.

“President Putin has chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction by launching this unprovoked attack on Ukraine. The UK and our allies will respond decisively.”

A Downing Street spokesperson told the press that Johnson had assured Zelenskyy that the West “would not stand by as President Putin waged his campaign against the Ukrainian people”.

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“The prime minister said he hoped Ukraine could resist and that Ukraine and its people were in the thoughts of everyone in the United Kingdom people during this dark time,” the spokesperson continued.

The Foreign Office minister James Cleverly promised there would be an “unprecedented” fresh set of sanctions imposed on Russia for the “appalling decision” to invade Ukraine.

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