Britain is open to sending more weapons to Ukraine to try to thwart any Russian invasion, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said last night.
He told the Daily Mail the UK may add to the 2,000 anti-tank missile launchers sent this week.
It comes as Russia has amassed an estimated 127,000 troops at the border with Ukraine along with tanks and other weapons in apparent preparation for an invasion.
Britain is open to sending more weapons to Ukraine to try to thwart any Russian invasion, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said last night. Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers are seen along the frontline near the town of Zolote
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry confirms it has already received a shipment of ‘light anti-tank weapons’ provided by UK
It comes as Russia has amassed an estimated 127,000 troops at the border with Ukraine along with tanks and other weapons in apparent preparation for an invasion
In an exclusive interview, Mr Wallace said: ‘I will keep the question of sending more defensive weapons to Ukraine under close review. I do not rule anything out within helping Ukraine deliver self-defence.
‘The UK is determined to stand by Ukraine, its sovereignty and our mutual interests. We have been helping them build defensive capacity for eight years now and we decided to step up that assistance in light of Russian aggression. Britain stands by its allies.’
Russia last night accused the UK of fuelling tensions in the region with the weapons deployment. Moscow’s embassy in London tweeted: ‘It is crystal clear that UK shipment of lethal weapons to Ukraine will only fuel the crisis and increase tensions.’
A convoy of Russian armored vehicles moves along a highway in Crimea on Tuesday 18 January
Ukrainian soldiers stand in a trench near the front line on January 17, in the village of New York, formerly known as Novhorodske, Ukraine
Snipers started the shooting training at the Kadamovsky training ground in the Rostov region, Russia
Ukraine yesterday demanded economic sanctions against Russia before any invasion rather than afterwards. Defence minister Oleksii Reznikov insisted he wanted action now against Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s regime to avoid ‘a lot of blood’ in his country.
He told the BBC’s Hardtalk: ‘Our partners can do more – like sanctions before the invasion, not after. Let’s show the Kremlin you understand the threat and how the invasion can be made very expensive for them.’
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who has flown to Kiev for crisis talks with Ukrainian officials, warned Russia could attack ‘at very short notice’.
The possibility that Britain could send more arms will be welcomed by the Ukrainian government which described this week’s delivery by the RAF as a ‘necessary first step’.
Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine, Anatolii Petrenko (L) attends the delivery of light, anti-armor, defensive weapon systems, supplied by the UK
Further UK deliveries may convince other Western governments to boost their help.
The US has already sent missiles and heavily-armed patrol boats while Turkey has sold Ukraine drones equipped with guided missiles. Sweden is providing medical training to Ukrainian troops.
The Mail can also reveal that British military trainers being sent to Ukraine to instruct its troops on how to use the anti-tank weapons will be drawn from the newly formed Ranger Regiment.
The 800-strong unit was established last year to provide training for the UK’s allies and to fight beside them in certain situations.
A member of the 503Ã¢d Naval Infantry Battalion stationed in Donbas, Ukraine on January 18, 2022
British military trainers being sent to Ukraine to instruct its troops on how to use the anti-tank weapons will be drawn from the newly formed Ranger Regiment
It had been thought Mr Putin would choose the ‘simple option’ of sending troops into the Donbass region in south-eastern Ukraine and then negotiate for it to become an independent state, providing a buffer between pro-western Ukraine and Russia
Members of the 503Ã¢d Naval Infantry Battalion relax and prepare lunch while stationed in Donbas, Ukraine on January 18, 2022
But as Nato has said there will be no direct military response to a Russian invasion, the Rangers’ assistance will be restricted to a training package expected to last a few weeks before they head home.
Ukraine released intelligence reports yesterday suggesting Russia had bolstered the size of its forces on the border to 127,000.
Officials said they believed Russia had ‘almost completed’ the build-up of soldiers and hardware required to mount an invasion.
Moscow denies it plans to launch an attack but has pressed the US for security guarantees. It is wary of pro-Western Ukraine’s desire to join the EU and has demanded a withdrawal of Western troops from former Soviet republics.