PM urges West to ‘move faster’ in arming Ukraine as supplying fighter jets not ruled out

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Rishi Sunak is urging the West to “move faster” in arming Ukraine as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace refused to rule out providing the war-torn nation with fighter jets.

The prime minister will use today's G7 meeting - held on the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion - to urge allies to supply longer-range weapons to Ukraine, stressing the urgent need for Kyiv to gain a “decisive advantage” on the battlefield.

The UK held a national minute’s silence to mark the anniversary, amid fears that the war could drag on for at least another year.

Defence Secretary Wallace told ITV News he's "not sure" whether Ukraine will be supplied with fighter jets and said it's "unlikely" in the coming weeks, but added: "One thing I've learned from this conflict is I wouldn't rule anything in and I wouldn't rule anything out."

Britain has already agreed to training Ukraining pilots to fly fighter jets and Mr Wallace was asked following Volodymyr Zelenskyy's recent UK visit to investigate whether the aircraft could be provided.

Ben Wallace on whether the UK will send Ukraine fighter jets:

He said one difficulty aside from training is that fighter jets require a big crew of 200 people and Britain is "not going to be deploying the RAF into Ukraine and nor are any other international countries".

"It's important to recognise that yes, in the long term we're going to start training people to fly our Typhoons but in the here and now we think there are other ways to deliver the same effects Ukrainians need."

“For Ukraine to win this war – and to accelerate that day – they must gain a decisive advantage on the battlefield. That is what it will take to shift Putin’s mindset. This must be our priority now. Instead of an incremental approach, we need to move faster on artillery, armour, and air defence,” Mr Sunak is expected to tell G7 leaders in a virtual meeting.

“The coming weeks will be difficult for Ukraine, but they will also be difficult for Russia. They are over-reaching once again. So now is the time to support Ukraine’s plan to re-arm, regroup, and push forward.”

Mr Sunak, who will host members of the Ukrainian armed forces in Downing Street as well as ambassador Vadym Prystaiko, will also reiterate his offer of UK support to countries able to provide jets to Ukraine.

The Prime Minister, with his wife Akshata Murty, is also expected to hang a blue and yellow wreath on the door of No 10.

“As we mark one year since a full-scale war broke out on our continent, I urge everyone to reflect on the courage and bravery of our Ukrainian friends who, every hour since, have fought heroically for their country”, he said.

“I am proud that the UK has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Ukraine through this horrific conflict. As I stand with brave Ukrainian soldiers outside Downing Street today, my thoughts will be with all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend freedom and return peace to Europe.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Volodymyr Zelensky during the Ukrainian President’s visit to the UK Credit: Peter Nicholls/PA

The UK remains a prominent supporter of Kyiv and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, with Mr Sunak announcing earlier this year that Britain would be the first country to supply tanks to its armed forces.

Mr Zelenskyy’s call for jets has so far been met with reluctance by western allies, although the UK has announced training for Ukrainian pilots on Nato-standard jets.

Sir Keir Starmer, as he marked the anniversary, said that the UK’s support “is as firm and unstinting today as it was on that dark day one year ago”.

The Labour leader met with Mr Zelensky in the Ukrainian capital recently.

He said: “The resolve and the bravery of the Ukrainian people, supported by their allies across the world, has doomed Putin’s barbaric invasion to failure. We should take inspiration from their courage and resolve to double down on our support for them.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...

“When I visited President Zelenskyy in Kyiv recently, I was deeply moved by the way people there are continuing with their lives. Despite the appalling suffering being inflicted upon them, they remain steadfast and united.

“As we mark this solemn anniversary and look ahead to the coming months, we must do the same. Regardless of what other political disagreements we may have, we stand in lockstep with the Government on this issue.

“No one should ever have to face the hardship and loss that the Ukrainian people have over the last year. Their fight for democracy, freedom and liberty in the face of tyranny is also our fight. Standing with our Nato allies, we will ensure Putin’s defeat and Ukraine’s victory.”