'We could only fight for a month': Starmer told to raise defence spending after Russia bombs children's hospital

8 July 2024, 23:06 | Updated: 9 July 2024, 07:06

Ukrainian authorities work the site after missile strikes hospital in Kyiv

By Emma Soteriou

Keir Starmer is facing mounting pressure to increase defence spending after Russia's attack on a children's hospital in Ukraine.

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Former head of the army General Sir Patrick Sanders warned that Britain’s armed forces would not be able to last longer than a month in a small war.

His comments come after Russian missiles hit Okhmatdyt children's hospital, Ukraine's biggest children's medical facility on Monday morning, with 41 confirmed dead.

Sir Patrick said troop numbers had dropped due to cuts, adding that the army's stockpiles were extremely low after two years of donations to Ukraine.

The “new axis powers” of Russia, China and Iran could pose an even bigger threat than the Nazis in 1939, he told the Times.

It comes ahead of a Nato summit in Washington on Wednesday - Sir Keir's first foreign trip since becoming PM.

Read more: Russia ‘cannot claim ignorance’, Zelenskyy says, as 31 killed in attacks on Ukraine including children’s hospital

Read more: Russia strikes Kyiv children’s hospital as Putin launches hypersonic missile attack on multiple targets across Ukraine

The Prime Minister has said he will increase defence spending to 2.5 per cent of GDP but has not set a date to reach the goal.

Foreign Secretary David Lammy and Defence Secretary John Healey have said Britain will hit the target “as soon as possible”.

They will call on all other Nato countries to "adopt this as a new defence target" at the summit too, according to a joint article in the Telegraph.

The current target for Nato members is to spend two per cent of GDP on defence.

But eastern Nato countries bordering Russia are expected to ask Nato members to increase their spending even further to three per cent this week.

Children's hospital lies wrecked after missile strike in Kyiv

“At the moment, what we’re being asked to do by the government is well beyond what we are funded or capable of doing,” General Sir Patrick Sanders told the Times.

“We are carrying some very, very big financial commitments at the moment, the biggest is the renewal of the nuclear deterrent, which is absolutely necessary to do.

“But we’re trying to do that at the same time as modernising the air force, the Navy and the Army, and restock empty magazines, and regrow our defence industrial base, and ensure that we’re looking after our people properly in terms of their accommodation and their reward packages.

"What we have at the moment doesn’t stack up to doing all of that."

A Children's Hospital Damaged By Russian Missiles In Kyiv, Amid Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine.
A Children's Hospital Damaged By Russian Missiles In Kyiv, Amid Russia's Invasion Of Ukraine. Picture: Getty

Mr Lammy and Mr Healey admitted that Russia is currently the "foremost adversary".

"We must strengthen our defences to deter Putin effectively,” they said.

“And we must reinvigorate our support for the brave people of Ukraine, as they defend their freedom against Vladimir Putin’s new form of fascism."

It comes as the Russian missile barrage on Monday killed 31 people overall, with more than 150 people injured.

The total death toll from the hospital attack remains unclear, though reports from Ukraine suggest at least two people may have been killed.

Russia "cannot claim ignorance" over the attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Monday.

Reacting to the most recent strikes, Mr Zelenskyy said: "We must hold Russia accountable for its acts of terror and Putin for ordering the strikes."

"Every time there are attempts to discuss peace with him, Russia responds with attacks on homes and hospitals.

"This is why we can only force Russia into peace, and we can only achieve this together with everyone in the world who truly seeks peace.

"This requires sufficient support, determination, truly joint action, and defence – shoulder to shoulder."

The Ukrainian President added that an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council will now take place.

A Russian missile barrage has devastated a children's hospital in Kyiv.
A Russian missile barrage has devastated a children's hospital in Kyiv. Picture: Getty

Shortly after the attack, Zelenskyy posted online: "Russian terrorists have once again launched a massive missile attack on Ukraine.

"Different cities – Kyiv, Dnipro, Kryvyi Rih, Slovyansk, Kramatorsk. More than 40 missiles of various types.

"Apartment buildings, infrastructure, and a children's hospital have been damaged.

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"All services are engaged to rescue as many people as possible. And the entire world must use all its determination to finally put an end to the Russian strikes. Killing is what Putin brings. Only together can we bring real peace and security."

Another Russian attack in the central Ukrainian city of Kryvyi Rih is said to have killed at least 10 people.

Russia fired more than 40 missiles on five Ukrainian cities
Russia fired more than 40 missiles on five Ukrainian cities. Picture: Getty
A Ukrainian firefighter works at the site of a missile attack in Kyiv
A Ukrainian firefighter works at the site of a missile attack in Kyiv. Picture: Getty

The assault is the biggest bombardment of Kyiv for several months.

The daylight attacks included Kinzhal hypersonic missiles, one of the most advanced Russian weapons, the Ukrainian air force said.

The Kinzhal flies at 10 times the speed of sound, making it hard to intercept. City buildings shook from the blasts.

Zelenskyy said Russia had targeted five cities with more than 40 missiles of different types.

The attack struck Okhmatdyt children's hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine's biggest children's medical facility. There was no immediate word on casualties there.

The head of Ukraine's presidential office, Andrii Yermal, said the attack occurred at a time when many people were in the city's streets.

Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said official assessments of the attack's consequences are still being carried out.

Explosions were also reported by local officials in Ukraine's central Dnipropetrovsk region.

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