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Sunak must 'think twice' about helping Ukraine, senior Russian diplomat warns as he says no update on Brit aid workers

12 January 2023, 18:58 | Updated: 12 January 2023, 19:10

Mr Polyanskiy repeated accusations without evidence over the aid workers
Mr Polyanskiy repeated accusations without evidence over the aid workers. Picture: LBC

By Will Taylor

A senior Russian diplomat is unaware of any updates on the condition of two British aid workers in eastern Ukraine after a notorious mercenary group claimed to have found one dead.

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Dmitriy Polyanskiy, Russia's first deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, said he had only heard the claims but could not provide an update.

And he warned Rishi Sunak to "think twice" about Britain's role in the conflict as he threatened the new tanks the UK is considereding sending to Ukraine with destruction – continuing the bellicose rhetoric that rarely matches Russia's constant failures and setbacks on the battlefield.

Aid workers Chris Parry, 28, and Andrew Bagshaw, 48, went missing in eastern Ukraine last week.

The infamous Wagner Group said it has found a body and it claimed documents belonging to both Britons had been found on his body. It was not clear which man they claimed to have found.

The Foreign Office said it was in touch with the families but the information has yet to be verified.

Read more: Russia says it has found the dead body of one of the British men missing in Ukraine

Dmitriy Polyanskiy says there 'wouldn't have been a war' if Ukraine allies hadn't got involved

Asked for any news on LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, Mr Polyanskiy said: "I also heard news sources, I think there are channels of communications through which our former British partners can get this kind of information."

Shrugging, he added: "Nothing [information] beyond what you already said."

And later, he said: "I really don't have much to say. I don't have first hand information and I don't really engage in speculation."

Without providing any evidence, he claimed: "I heard one of the bodies was found with full military ammunition, totally armed. I don't think this is really something aid workers are doing but I don't want to imply this is the real situation there."

Read more: Marr: Russia has turned Soledar into the Ypres or Stalingrad of the 21st century - what does peace look like to them?

Russia has previously tried to brand British aid workers in Ukraine as mercenaries, using them as pawns to try and exchange them for people held by Ukraine that Moscow wants back.

Inventing claims of Nato soldiers operating in Ukraine also helps add to the Kremlin's attempts to explain the failure of its "special military operation".

Asked what he would say to Rishi Sunak, the Mr Polyanskiy said: "I would advise him to better think twice.

Chris Parry (L) and Andrew Bagshaw (R).
Chris Parry (L) and Andrew Bagshaw (R). Picture: Supplied

"Again, he is becoming more and more involved in the confrontation, almost direct confrontation with military power, I think the stakes are very high."

He also tried to dismiss Britain's offer of supplying a handful of Challenger 2 tanks – far more advanced than the Soviet era machines used by Russia – to Ukraine.

Although the number is small, it is thought that such a move could convince other countries with greater stocks of armoured vehicles, like Germany, to send their tanks to the fight.

The Russian representative said they would be "a legal target… it will be destroyed and demolished, as all the other deliveries that were sent before".

That is a bold claim given that Russian forces continue to be struck by Western-supplied vehicles and weapon systems like the Himars long-range missile launcher, which Moscow's forces are desperate to find and destroy.

He said it would be a case of Nato getting more involved and branded it a proxy war, an excuse the Kremlin has often used to try and justify why its forces failed to capture Ukraine.

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