Ben Wallace hits back at critics generating 'conspiracy b****cks' over PM's Ukraine trip

17 June 2022, 15:34 | Updated: 20 October 2022, 13:54

Boris Johnson has visited Kyiv again
Boris Johnson has visited Kyiv again. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Defence secretary Ben Wallace has hit back at critics generating "conspiracy b****cks" over Boris Johnson's second surprise trip to Kyiv.

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The Prime Minister faced backlash for pulling out of a Yorkshire meeting of northern Tories to go on the trip.

Head of the Northern Research Group and organiser of the event Jake Berry was one of many to criticise the move, saying he was "disappointed" and the PM should listen to the demands and ideas aired at the event.

No reason was immediately given as to why Mr Johnson pulled out of the event so close to Thursday's Wakefield by-election.

But he soon turned up in the Ukrainian capital for his second wartime visit to see President Volodymyr Zelenskyy - a day after France, Germany and Italy's leaders travelled there.

Responding to criticism, Ben Wallace said on Friday evening: "So there is a lot of rubbish being spouted about the PM’s trip to Ukraine.

"1. Firstly these trips are organised in total secrecy. Very few, and I mean very few, people know the dates and arrangements. Russia is still launching missile strikes right across Ukraine.

"2. Visits are sometimes necessary in person because not everything can be discussed securely over phones etc. Russia has an aggressive electronic warfare and signal intelligence operation.

"3. The timings of such visits are usually a matter for the hosts but I know the PM wanted to visit before Nato Leaders summit in 10 days time.

"4. As a Northern MP myself, I am not affronted by the fact he had to cancel speaking at the conference. The PM can remedy that in many ways.

"However, taking the opportunity to visit a country and ally at war to ensure we are doing everything we can to help is also important. As a northern MP, I am proud that Britain has been at the forefront of the international effort to support Ukraine.

"Helping Ukraine win and trying to help at home are linked. Part of the inflation we see comes from gas and food prices which are partly driven upwards because of this conflict.

"Amazing how an important trip can generate so much conspiracy b****cks."

Read more: UK in talks to host Eurovision as 2023 contest cannot be held in war-torn Ukraine

Sharing a photo of himself and Mr Zelenskyy earlier in the day, Mr Johnson said: "Mr President, Volodymyr. It is good to be in Kyiv again."

Mr Johnson continued: "My visit today, in the depths of this war, is to send a clear and simple message to the Ukrainian people: the UK is with you and we will be with you until you ultimately prevail.

"As Ukrainian soldiers fire UK missiles in defence of your nation's sovereignty, they do so also in defence of the very freedoms we take for granted.

"That is why I have offered President Zelenskyy a major new military training programme that could change the equation of this war - harnessing that most powerful of forces, the Ukrainian determination to win."

The two are understood to have a very positive relationship.

But Boris' no-show in Doncaster means he is missing an event designed to rally Tory supporters ahead of the Wakefield by-election, which the party fears it will lose to Labour as it looks to rebuild its red wall.

Read more: You can trust Tories - you still trust GPs after Harold Shipman, says Wakefield candidate

It is already fighting an uphill battle to replace Imran Ahmad Khan, who has resigned his seat and been jailed for sexually assaulting a teenage boy in 2008.

That task was not helped by the Conservative candidate, Nadeem Ahmed, making a bizarre reference to serial killer doctor Harold Shipman when saying why the people of Wakefield could still trust his party.

"Harold Shipman committed suicide in Wakefield prison. He was a GP, he was a trusted professional, just like teachers and others," the former Wakefield council leader said.

"When they put a vaccine in our arms, we trust what they are putting in us.

"Have we stopped trusting GPs? No, we still trust GPs and we know that he was one bad apple in there."

It comes after President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis met with Mr Zelenskyy.

The European Commission has recommended that Ukraine be given candidate status, though actual membership of the European Union could be years or even decades away.

"Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective," Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

"We want them to live with us, the European dream."

Downing Street said Mr Johnson told Mr Zelenskyy that the UK is ready to start a "major" new programme that will train up Ukrainian troops.

It could see Britain educate up to 120,000 soldiers every 120 days.

If Ukraine accepts, other countries will be invited to host the training mission.

Andriy Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, tweeted: "Today, together with Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Office and Government team, we met with our good friend and ally, Boris Johnson.

"With Boris, we discussed the much-needed heavy weapons and air defence systems supplies, economic support for Ukraine, increasing sanctions pressure on RF."

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