UK will support allies who have fighter jets ready to hand over to Ukraine: PM

The Prime Minister said the UK “stands ready” to support allies who have fighter jets ready to hand over to Ukraine immediately.

Rishi Sunak made the comments after undertaking a diplomatic blitz in Munich on Saturday as he looked to shore up support for Kyiv.

The UK has refused to commit to providing Royal Air Force aircraft to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s forces, with the Prime Minister only saying he has not ruled it out.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visit to UK
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (Peter Nicholls/PA)

But the Conservative Party leader said he would back allies who are in a position to supply war planes with immediate effect to aid Kyiv’s struggle against Russia.

The Prime Minister told broadcasters in Germany: “We will happily provide assistance to any country that is able to provide Ukraine with fighter jets right now.

“The UK stands ready to support those countries as well.”

Downing Street used a visit by Mr Zelensky to Britain last week to announce that the Ministry of Defence would train Ukrainian pilots on Nato-standard aircraft.

Despite No 10 opening the door to potentially sending jets to Kyiv, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said the move could be years away, if it happens at all.

Some experts have suggested RAF aircraft are ill-equipped for the warfare being seen in eastern Europe.

And any deal on giving planes used by the British armed forces to the Ukrainians would also be complicated by the fact other countries would need to sign-off on the move.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak held a host of meetings while in Munich, including with US Vice President Kamala Harris (Ben Stansall/PA)

Polish aircraft, more similar to Ukrainian jets, are seen in some quarters as planes that could be ready to be used in combat sooner than British planes.

The Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki reportedly told the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that Warsaw wanted to discuss transferring its Soviet-era MiG fighter jets, as part of a wider coalition led by the US.

Mr Sunak, asked whether he had spoken to Mr Morawiecki about providing his MiGs to Ukraine during discussions on the fringes of the summit, said: “What I’ve done is said to all allies that we stand ready to support them if they can provide fighter jets for Ukraine now.”

Separately, Mr Sunak also suggested he was in favour of allies joining Britain in training Ukrainian pilots to use Nato-standard aircraft.

His comments to the media followed an intensive day of meetings for the Prime Minister in the Bavarian capital as he looked to press home the main theme of his speech to the summit.

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks during the Munich Security Conference in Germany (Ben Stansall/PA)

Earlier in the day, he had told the conference that Ukraine required military bolstering now to push back the Kremlin’s invasion and fend off any potential Russian spring offensive, urging the West to “double down” on its backing for Kyiv.

But he also said that the war-torn nation would need long-term protection against future Moscow aggression.

The Prime Minister told the conference that Kyiv had been “failed” by the West’s “security guarantees” and that Nato’s approach to dealing with threats should be reviewed at its summer summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Any lasting peace would mean “upholding international law” and making Moscow pay reparations, Mr Sunak also said.

Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey said the UK Government should “set out a full plan” for 2023 and beyond, explicitly detailing to Mr Zelensky the level of military, economic and humanitarian support he could expect from Britain.

“This would give Ukraine the confidence in a sustained stream of future supplies,” he told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme.

“It would make clear to Putin that things will get worse, not better, for Russia.”

On the fringes of the summit, Mr Sunak met US vice-president Kamala Harris and German chancellor Olaf Scholz, along with Mr Morawiecki.

No 10 said Mr Sunak and Mr Morawiecki had “discussed working with allies to provide further strategic military support to Ukraine’s defence”.

The Prime Minister also held talks with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, with Mr Sunak broaching the topics of Ukraine and a fix for the Northern Ireland Protocol with the Brussels leader.