UK will send long-range weapons to keep Russian troops on the run in Ukraine
Longer range artillery and armoured vehicles will be sent to Ukraine in a significant ramping up of Western support, Ben Wallace announced on Thursday.
The Defence Secretary confirmed that Britain and its allies would send more lethal aid after he convened an international donor conference.
The aid will include the provision of air and coastal defence systems, longer-range artillery and counter battery weapons, armoured vehicles as well as more training and logistical support.
“First of all Ukraine needs longer-range artillery and that’s because of what the Russian army has been doing – it has been now digging in and starting to pound these cities with artilleries,” Mr Wallace said.
“The best counter to that is other long-range artillery, so they will be looking for and getting more long-range artillery, ammunition predominantly.”
Boris Johnson was said to have personally pushed for armoured vehicles to be sent. Britain has been leading the way in calls for more lethal aid to Ukraine.
Whitehall sources have expressed concern that allies including the US, France and Germany are “over-eager” to secure an early peace deal and are pushing Ukraine to “settle”.
It came as a Ministry of Defence chief suggested Britain needs a national effort to boost its nuclear weapons programme.
While more than 30 international partners will pitch in with the latest donations, The Telegraph understands that the UK will send so-called loitering munitions such as drones, and will “lift and shift” other donations.
Prof Malcolm Chalmers, deputy director general at the Royal United Services Institute, told The Telegraph such kit would be “especially useful for Ukrainian counter offensive operations” against already retreating Russians.
“This is a significant step up in both quantitative and qualitative terms,” he added. “The provision of longer range artillery and armoured vehicles could be of significant benefit to Ukrainian forces.”
Prof Chalmers cautioned that the Ukraine war is “increasingly turning into one of attrition, where both sides risk running out of supplies of weapons and ammunition”.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence would not speculate on what types of armoured vehicles the UK could supply to Ukraine, but said it would consist of various types of protective vehicles used to transport equipment.
It comes as Russian forces were said to have retreated from a Ukrainian airfield that was key to their original plan of overthrowing the government of Volodymyr Zelensky.
Hostomel airport, just outside Kyiv, was the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the war as Vladimir Putin sought to establish an air bridge to the Ukrainian capital.
Control of the airport, 20km from Kyiv, changed hands several times as Ukrainians at first defended fiercely, and then attacked the Russian occupiers.
However, according to a senior US defence official the Russians have now moved out, having failed in their mission.
Meanwhile the Pentagon said that it was not clear Russia’s convoy of military vehicles to Kyiv, which once stretched some 40 miles, even existed anymore after failing to accomplish its mission.
John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman said: “I don’t even know if it still exists at this point… They never really accomplished their mission.”
The stalled convoy became a symbol of Russia’s battlefield difficulties and had been repeatedly attacked by Ukrainian forces during the first weeks of the more than month-long invasion.
The Ukrainian state nuclear company said that most of the Russian forces that occupied the Chernobyl nuclear power station after invading Ukraine have also left, having been driven away over radiation concerns.
Speaking from the White House on Thursday, Joe Biden, the US president, said Vladimir Putin may have fired some of his advisers or put them under house arrest, and that it’s an “open question” as to whether Mr Putin is fully informed on his military’s performance in Ukraine.
He added that “there’s a lot of speculation” about how informed Mr Putin is on Russian military progress in Ukraine, where his army has suffered staggering casualties while failing to capture major cities including the capital, Kyiv.