Defence Secretary Insists Ukraine Should Have “Whatever It Needs” To Fight Russia
Ben Wallace said Ukraine should be given “whatever it needs to protect itself” from the Russian invasion (Alamy)
Defence secretary Ben Wallace has said Ukraine should have “whatever it needs to protect itself” as a row unfolds over supplying Kyiv more fighter jets.
The US is urging Poland to to send MiG-29 planes, which are the specific type of plane that can be used by the Ukrainian air force, offering to to replace them with American F-16s.
Poland had initially rejected the idea of sending the jets for fear Vladimir Putin would interpret the move as an act of war, but as Russian troops continue to shell civilian targets they are being pressured to change.
Wallace said he would support Poland whether or not it decided to donate the MiG-29s, but called for Ukraine to be given as much military hardware as it needs to repel the invasion.
“I think Ukraine should have whatever it needs to protect itself, to defend itself from this naked Russian aggression,” he told Sky News.
Wallace said he understood that Poland deciding to support Ukraine in this way would "bring them into direct line of fire" from Russia and Belarus.
"They will have to calibrate that," he continued. "That's a really big responsibility on the shoulders of the President of Poland and, indeed, defence minister.
"It's not for me to second-guess their choice. But it is for me as a fellow Nato member to say I will stand by Poland."
The defence secretary said he would update MPs tomorrow on the support being offered by the UK, which includes thousands of anti-tank weapons, along with hundreds of millions of pounds in aid.
He said "Britain is stepping up” and that the government was "in a good place to make sure they get better defence and more defence”.
The Ministry of Defence has said Russia is "likely" ramping up claims Ukraine is developing nuclear or biological weapons as "retrospective justification" for its invasion.
"Since the end of February there has been a notable intensification of Russian accusations that Ukraine is developing nuclear or biological weapons," a MoD statement said.
"These narratives are long standing but are currently likely being amplified as part of retrospective justification for Russia's invasion of Ukraine."
The UN is reporting that almost two million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began 12 days ago, but the UK has been criticised for issuing just 300 visas so far.
Wallace acknowledged the processing of applications could be speeded up, saying his Cabinet colleague the home secretary Priti Patel “is determined to speed that up”.
He said the Ministry of Defence would help the Home Office get through the backlog, as 17,700 family scheme applications have been started as of last night.
But the defence secretary acknowledged "we need to do more" to address the situation in Calais, after the BBC reported that hundreds of Ukrainians who turned up at the border in France were told they needed to travel back to Paris or Brussels to apply for a visa where they faced a lengthy wait.
"We need to upscale it, I know that the Home Secretary has already doubled, or trebled in some cases, more people in different processing centres,” he told BBC Breakfast.
"We can do more, we will do more."
He insisted the government's compassion was "huge" and would result in hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians coming to the UK.
"It's not the case that we are only allowing 300 people in, it is the case that the system has not been quick enough, which is what we're going to address," Wallace added.
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