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'Get on with it': Boris Johnson rejects Sunak's claims it's 'not practical' to send fighter jets to Ukraine
8 February 2023, 17:22 | Updated: 8 February 2023, 19:30
Boris Johnson has rejected Rishi Sunak’s claim that it would not be practical for the UK to send fighter jets to Ukraine, with the former prime minister telling his successor to “get on with it”.
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Speaking exclusively to LBC immediately after Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s historic address to Parliament, Mr Johnson insisted that the UK should agree to the Ukrainian president’s request for the UK to supply his country with jets.
Downing Street has previously said it is not “practical” for the UK to provide the planes because it would take at least three years to train Ukrainian pilots to fly them. But Mr Johnson dismissed that claim – telling LBC “it can be done”.
Praising Mr Zelenskyy’s “magnificent” speech in Westminster Hall, he said: “The important thing now is that his message is heard. What he’s asking for is the tools to finish the job – that’s all he wants.
“He just wants the ability to use the long-range missiles - the deep fryers as they’re called - to take out Putin’s positions and he wants the ability to keep his country safe with more tanks and planes. His appeal was very, very interesting for the focus he put on aviation and on planes.”
Boris Johnson telling LBC he wants the PM to speed up the supply of military arms to Ukraine
Rebuffing Mr Sunak’s claim that it would not be “practical” to provide jets, Mr Johnson pointed out that during the Second World War, the UK trained Polish pilots in London in how to shoot down Nazi planes.
He said: “It can be done and the point I’d make is the faster we do it the better. The faster we do it, the bigger the saving in life, the bigger the saving in our defence expenditure. Ultimately once Putin is beaten in Ukraine, the world is going to be a much, much safer place, so helping the Ukrainians now is a massive down payment on future security.”
Asked if his message to Mr Sunak was to “get on with it”, Mr Sunak said: “Yeah. I think they are getting on with it but it’s clear from what Volodymr Zelenskyy was saying today that we need to do as much as we possibly can.”
Helmet of UKR pilot: 'We have freedom - give us wings to protect it'
An hour later, No10 appeared to shift position significantly, announcing that Mr Sunak had asked his Defence Secretary, to look into the possibility of supplying jets to Ukraine.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The Prime Minister has tasked the Defence Secretary with investigating what jets we might be able to give but, to be clear, this is a long-term solution rather than a short-term capability, which is what Ukraine needs most now.”
“What we have not made a decision on is whether we send UK fighter jets. Obviously there is an ongoing discussion among other countries about their own fighter jets, some of which are more akin to what Ukrainian pilots are used to.”