LONDON: Britain denied Thursday it was over-reaching against Russia after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said “the whole of Ukraine” must be liberated, indicating that Crimea must also be regained.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Truss’s remark, made in a high-profile speech, complied with the West’s longstanding stance since Russia seized the Crimean peninsula in 2014.
“We’ve constantly said that Russia should leave Ukraine sovereign territory, so that hasn’t changed,” Wallace told Sky News.
But when asked whether Britain would support Ukraine militarily for any offensive to recapture the peninsula, he said: “There’s a long way to go before Ukraine pushes into Crimea.
“I think what I would certainly say is, we are supporting Ukraine’s sovereign integrity. We’ve done that all along. That of course includes Crimea.
“But you know, first and foremost, let’s get Russia out of where they are now in its invasion plans.”
Addressing diplomats and business leaders in London late Wednesday, Truss said Britain was “doubling down” on its military support.
“We will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole of Ukraine,” she said, urging Western allies to increase military production including tanks and planes to help Kyiv.
Wallace reiterated that any UK tanks and planes would not go directly to Ukraine but instead “backfill” Soviet-era supplies being sent by the likes of Poland.
He clarified that long-range Brimstone missiles being sent to Ukraine, which can be fired at sea, “will be used over the ground”, but that Britain was examining help with anti-ship missiles.
“It’s incredibly important that the grain that affects us all, the food prices, does get to get out of Ukraine, that the Russians can’t control the Black Sea,” he said.
Wallace also said that President Vladimir Putin was “rolling the pitch” for a major announcement to mark Russia’s World War II “Victory Day” celebration on May 9.
“He’s going to have to admit, if he wants to mobilise more of the Russian people, that it is a war,” the minister told BBC radio, after Putin had described the invasion as a “special military operation”.
“He can’t admit it by saying ‘I got it wrong’. He’s going to have to admit it by trying to blame everybody else” including NATO, Wallace said.