Farage says West 'provoked' Russia's invasion of Ukraine with EU and NATO expansions

Nigel Farage has reiterated that he blames the West and NATO for the Russian invasion of Ukraine - as he confirmed that he previously said he "admired" Vladimir Putin as a statesman.

Speaking to the BBC, the Reform UK leader was asked about his previous comments on Russia and Ukraine.

Asked about Russia's 2022 invasion, Mr Farage told Nick Robinson that he had been saying since the fall of the Berlin Wall that there would be a war in Ukraine due to the "ever-eastward expansion of NATO and the European Union".

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He said this was giving Mr Putin a reason to tell the Russian people "they're coming for us again" and go to war.

The Reform leader confirmed his belief the West "provoked" the conflict - but said it was "of course" the Russian president's "fault".

Previous comments Mr Farage made about Mr Putin were also put to him.

He was asked about comments he made in 2014 stating that Mr Putin was the statesman he most admired.

Mr Farage said he disliked the Russian leader - but "I admired him as a political operator because he's managed to take control" of running the country.

"This is the nonsense, you know, you can pick any figure, current or historical, and say, you know, did they have good aspects?" he added.

"And if you said, 'well, they were very talented in one area,' then suddenly you're the biggest supporter."

Conservative candidates - who may be feeling the threat of a Reform surge in the polls - were quick to condemn the Reform leader.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said Mr Farage was "echoing Putin's vile justification for the brutal invasion of Ukraine".

Deputy Conservative chair Jonathan Gullis added that Putin is "certainly not someone who should be admired" - adding that he "unleashed chemical warfare on the streets of our country to commit murder, which endangered further innocent British lives".

Labour's shadow defence secretary, John Healey, said: "These are disgraceful comments, which reveal the true face of Nigel Farage: a Putin apologist who should never be trusted with our nation's security.

"Up until now, there has been a united front amongst Britain's political leaders in supporting the people of Ukraine against the unprovoked and unjustifiable assault they have suffered at the hands of Vladimir Putin.

"Nigel Farage has put himself outside that united position, and shown that he would rather lick Vladimir Putin's boots than stand up for the people of Ukraine. That makes him unfit for any political office in our country, let alone leading a serious party in parliament."

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Mr Farage was also asked about Brexit, and how it has impacted the UK.

He was asked about previous comments he made when he said Brexit had "failed".

The former UKIP leader said this is what "the Conservatives have done with it".

"If you put me in charge it'd be very, very different," he claimed, "but of course they didn't do that, did they?"

On his party's climate policies, Mr Farage said he wants to "go for nuclear energy" and scrap the existing net zero programme.

He rejected that he was "arguing the science" on climate change, but that "we spend too much time hyperventilating about the problem, rather than thinking practically and logically what we can do".

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Mr Farage added that King Charles - who was then a prince - made a "very stupid comment" when he said carbon dioxide was a pollutant.

The Reform leader then said that, by deindustrialising, the CO2 production had been sent offshore to places like India and "all we've done is to export the emissions".