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France and Germany could be doing more to help Ukraine defend itself, a Cabinet minister has said as he called on the West to respond to a change in Russian tactics.
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden said the West needs to “continue to tighten the ratchet on Russia” as he said Moscow is now focusing on the east of Ukraine with a “determination to keep on going and going”.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky told a press conference in Kyiv on Saturday that the UK, along with the US, was supplying the “biggest military aid” in its struggle against Moscow’s invading forces.
He praised Britain’s efforts in training his military amid accusations the UK blocked requests to strengthen Kyiv’s defences after Russia’s first strike eight years ago.
Mr Dowden was asked on the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme what had influenced the Prime Minister’s thinking when he conceded the Kremlin could be victorious.
The Cabinet minister responded: “What I think we are seeing is both changing Russia tactics, so Russia concentrating on the east of Ukraine, and a Russian determination to keep on going and going.
“That’s why I think it is really important that we need to continue to tighten the ratchet on Russia, whether that’s, for example, the 120 armoured personnel carriers that the Prime Minister agreed with Zelensky just last week or whether it is continuing to increase aid and tighten our sanctions.
“So, the West has to respond in turn and we are willing to do so.”
Asked whether he thought Russia could win, he replied: “That has always been a possibility that Russia could come out of this victorious. We don’t want that to happen.”
He also called for more support for Ukraine, telling Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “I would like to see more, but the Prime Minister is engaging on precisely that point.
“So, earlier this week he had a call not just with President Biden but also President Macron and the leaders of other countries such as Germany.
“There is a desire for us all to do it but it would be good to see more from France and Germany as well.”
His comments come after a former defence secretary accused previous Downing Street operations of being reluctant to support Kyiv in the aftermath of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s annexing of Crimea in 2014.
Michael Fallon told The Sunday Times that, when serving under former Conservative prime minister David Cameron, he was told to turn down requests for assistance in upgrading Ukraine’s defences despite the Ministry of Defence wanting “to do more”.
The Mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Fedorov, who was abducted by Russian forces in Ukraine, said many countries “closed their eyes” to the situation in Ukraine after the annexation of Crimea.
When asked on Times Radio if he would have liked to have seen more help from the West prior to the invasion, he said the world’s understanding of the situation in Ukraine between 2014 and February this year was the “greatest mistake” and that many countries made “huge business with the Russian Federation”.
He appeared to suggest the profit of that business was then seen in Ukraine in the “blood of our children”.
In the run-up to and during the current incursion, London has emerged as one of Ukraine’s closest allies in terms of supplying Nato-class weapons.
In a phone call on Saturday, Mr Zelensky personally thanked Boris Johnson for Britain providing training on home soil, with Ukraine’s armed forces being taught how to use armoured vehicles that are being given to boost the war effort in eastern Europe.
And asked during a briefing about military support from the West, Mr Zelensky told reporters: “We want more than we’re being given, but we’re satisfied.
“We cannot refuse or reject anything during the war from the biggest military aid, which is coming from the United States and the United Kingdom.
“There are many other friends in Europe, but I’m talking about volumes of help and I’m grateful for it.”
The Ukrainian president also announced that he will hold talks with the US secretary of state Antony Blinken and secretary of defence Lloyd Austin in Kyiv on Sunday – a meeting taking place more than two weeks after Mr Johnson made a similar trip east.
The battle for Donbas in eastern Ukraine continues to rage but Saturday also saw fresh attacks in the south, with a missile strike in Odesa killing a three-month-old baby and another five people.