Vladimir Putin has threatened a ‘response’ involving ‘military-political consequences’ if the UK supplies planes to Ukraine in the fight against Russian forces.
President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday made his first visit to Britain since the outbreak of the invasion last year, warning that the war could ‘stagnate’ if jets are not forthcoming from the West.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, speaking at a joint press conference, responded to his plea by admitting ‘nothing is off the table’ when pushed on providing aircraft before stressing that Britain will now start preparing the Ukrainian air force.
But Moscow has threatened a ‘response’ if the Government does supply planes, with some Nato states concerned about provoking a direct clash.
The Russian Embassy in London strongly warned the UK against supplying the warplanes, saying Britain would bear responsibility ‘for another twist of escalation and the ensuing military-political consequences for the European continent and the entire world’.
Britain has offered to train Ukrainian fighter pilots on top of an existing programme that has already prepared 10,000 troops for battle.
Boris Johnson, meanwhile, has urged the UK to offer all its fighter jets and tanks, saying that countering Russian aggression was the ‘best use’ for the UK’s 100 Typhoon jets and similar stocks of Challenger tanks
Mr Sunak has cautioned that ‘first step’ will take ‘some time’. ‘Throughout this conflict we have been out in front,’ he said denying there was any ‘reticence’.
He said it was important Ukraine pilots can ‘actually operate the aircraft that they will be using’.
Offering a readout of the Prime Minister’s talks in Downing Street with the Ukrainian leader, a No 10 spokeswoman said: ‘The Prime Minister hosted President Zelensky for a bilateral meeting during his visit to the UK today.
‘He paid tribute to President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people’s courage and sacrifice. The Prime Minister thanked the president for his visit and powerful address to Parliament.
Read More: Putin chillingly threatens a ‘response’ if UK gives fighter jets to Ukraine