Ukraine can hit Russia with weapons supplied by UK, says armed forces minister

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Ukraine can hit Russia with weapons supplied by UK, says armed forces minister
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A minister has backed Ukrainian strikes on military targets behind Russian lines, even if the weapons used have been supplied by the UK.

The UK’s armed forces minister James Heappey said on Tuesday there is “every chance” that Moscow’s forces will be repelled with the support being supplied to Kyiv by allies.

But he dismissed Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov’s claims that Western allies are “pouring oil on the fire” by providing Ukraine with firepower.

Mr Heappey said “of course” the UK backs reported strikes on fuel depots in Russia.

He told Times Radio it is “completely legitimate for Ukraine to be targeting in Russia’s depth in order to disrupt the logistics that if they weren’t disrupted would directly contribute to death and carnage on Ukrainian soil”.

And the minister said it is “not necessarily a problem” if British-donated weapons are used to hit sites on Russian soil after accepting that weapons now being supplied by allies to Ukraine have the range to be used over borders.

“There are lots of countries around the world that operate kit that they have imported from other countries; when those bits of kit are used we tend not to blame the country that manufactured it, you blame the country that fired it,” he added.

The comments mark a further strengthening of the UK’s position, as allies shift from caution against antagonising President Vladimir Putin to supplying more and more lethal aid.

Russian foreign minister Mr Lavrov has warned that the threat of nuclear conflict “should not be under-estimated”.

He accused Nato forces of “pouring oil on the fire” by providing weapons, as he warned against provoking “World War Three”.

But Mr Heappey told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the chances of nuclear warfare are “vanishingly small”.

He told Mr Lavrov to “reflect” on the reason there is a war in Ukraine being that Russia invaded, telling Sky News: “All of this noise from Moscow about somehow their attack on Ukraine being a response to Nato aggression is just utter, utter nonsense.”

Mr Heappey has said there is “every chance” that the Ukrainians will see off the Russians in the invasion, arguing that Moscow’s victory in the east of Ukraine is not inevitable.

“We’ll see a conflict between two forces that are much more evenly balanced, where the Ukrainians have the advantage of defensive positions that have been dug in and prepared over the last eight years, and that’s going to make it an extraordinarily difficult nut for the Russians to crack,” he told Sky News.

“And with all the support that the Ukrainians are getting from around the world, there’s every chance the Ukrainians can see them off.”

Britain is sending a small number of Stormer armoured vehicles fitted with launchers for anti-aircraft missiles in the latest shipment to repel the Russians.

Germany is also expected to approve the delivery of Gepard anti-aircraft systems to Ukraine in a significant increase of support from Berlin.

In the UK, the Ministry of Defence said it has seen reports that the city of Kreminna, in the eastern region of Luhansk, has fallen to the Russians.

Amid “heavy fighting” in Izium and forces trying to advance to the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the intelligence update said Moscow’s troops are “likely attempting to encircle heavily fortified” positions.

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