UK says it backs Ukraine's right to attack Russian territory as Kremlin claims NATO is fighting a proxy war

·3 min read
Oleg, a Ukrainian soldier, demonstrates a next generation light anti-tank weapon provided by the UK
A Ukrainian soldier demonstrates a weapon provided by the UK in April 2022.Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • The UK's armed forces minister said it is "completely legitimate" for Ukraine to attack Russian territory.

  • James Heappey said UK-supplied weapons had the range to be used in Russia, and that's "not necessarily a problem."

  • He also rubbished Russia's claim that NATO was waging a proxy war and increasing the risk of nuclear war.

It is "completely legitimate" for Ukraine to attack Russian territory, a British defence minister has said, as Russia accused the NATO military alliance of waging a proxy war.

James Heappey, the UK armed forces minister, told Times Radio on Tuesday that Ukraine was justified in seeking to disrupt Russian supplies.

"In war, Ukraine needs to strike into its opponents' depth to attack its logistics lines, its fuel supplies, its ammunition depots, and that's part of it," he said.

"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."

Heappey acknowledged the weapons provided by the West to Ukraine "have the range to be used over the borders" in Russia, but stressed: "That is not necessarily a problem."

He added: "Ukraine is targeting what I would say are completely legitimate targets to disrupt Russian logistics supplies, and they make those choices just as the Russians make choices to indiscriminately bomb Ukrainian towns and cities."

The UK has donated a range of lethal aid to Ukraine over the two months since the conflict began, including armoured vehicles, drones and anti-tank weapons.

Ben Wallace, the UK defence secretary, confirmed Monday that Britain would be "gifting" a number of armored vehicles fitted with anti-air missile launchers. Ukrainian soldiers have also been receiving training in the UK on how to use 120 armoured vehicles that will be supplied to the resistance effort against Russia.

Heappey's comments come as Russia's foreign minister accused NATO of fighting a proxy war by supplying military aid to Ukraine. Putin's regime has long cited what it called NATO's eastward expansion as one of its justifications for invading Ukraine.

"NATO, in essence, is engaged in a war with Russia through a proxy and is arming that proxy. War means war," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian state media on Monday.

Lavrov also claimed the risks of nuclear conflict were now "considerable," saying there was a "serious, real" risk of entering a third world war.

But Heappey rubbished this, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme the chances of nuclear warfare were "vanishingly small."

Speaking to Sky News, the minister added: "All of this noise from Moscow about somehow their attack on Ukraine being a response to NATO aggression is just utter, utter nonsense."

NATO and the West would continue to "avoid being actively involved so it doesn't escalate and become a European war," Heappey told Times Radio. However as an independent country, Ukraine has "a sovereign right to have whoever it wishes into its country," he said.

His intervention comes as more than 40 countries and the NATO secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, meet in Germany on Tuesday to discuss how to increase security assistance to Kyiv.

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