Sunak's new defence agreement with Ukraine 'controversial because it doesn't help Russia', Moscow's ambassador says

16 January 2024, 18:29 | Updated: 16 January 2024, 19:39

Kelin spoke to Andrew Marr about Russia's bloody invasion of Ukraine
Kelin spoke to Andrew Marr about Russia's bloody invasion of Ukraine. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Will Taylor

Russia's ambassador to the UK has said Rishi Sunak's recent agreement to support Ukraine is "controversial" - because it does not take into account Moscow's interests.

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Andrey Kelin whinged that Britain's new security commitment to Kyiv did not help Russia, which is now two years into its failed attempt to capture Ukraine.

He also claimed defence secretary Grant Shapps' recent statement that the UK should be ready for more wars involving Russia, China, Iran and North Korea was an "extreme exaggeration".

Kelin was asked by LBC's Andrew Marr about his reaction to the UK-Ukraine deal, which includes sharing intelligence, providing cyber security, medical and military training, and working together on industrial defence issues.

He told LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr: "It's a pity because I have looked and read attentively the document that has been signed with Ukraine by Rishi Sunak and President Zelenskyy.

"Actually, this is memorandum – not a legally binding agreement – it's a memorandum of promises I would say.

Andrew Marr interviews Russia's Ambassador to the UK Andrey Kelin

"It summarises British policy towards Ukraine and it says that Ukraine will not get a negotiated settlement, it should fight and Britain will continue to supply it with arms on the one hand, and on the other hand that Ukraine should belong to Nato.

"In our view it's a controversial statement because it does not still take into account the interests or security of Russia - and that was one of the major reasons that we have now a conflict over the years and we that we need to continue the special military operation."

False claims about "security concerns" were among several lies told by Russia to justify its invasion in 2022.

It has variously claimed - without basis - that Ukraine is a Nazi state that needs disarming as it poses some sort of threat to its giant neighbour and the pro-Russian citizens in the east, who have been in armed rebellion against Kyiv at Moscow's behest since 2014.

That same year, it illegally annexed Crimea.

Those attacks on Ukraine precipitated the more dangerous setting the world finds itself in.

Ukraine has proved its determination to preserve its sovereignty in the face of Russia's invasion
Ukraine has proved its determination to preserve its sovereignty in the face of Russia's invasion. Picture: Alamy

China continues to threaten Taiwan, which it wants to absorb, while Iran's proxies Hamas and the Houthis have unleashed attacks on Israel and civilian shipping respectively.

North Korea has continued to back Russia's war in Ukraine.

This prompted Mr Shapps to say Britain must be prepared for future conflicts involving these states.

Kelin responded: "I would say that is an extreme exaggeration of the situation. We have a problem with Ukraine in the first place, since the West tried to make out of Ukraine a geopolitical instrument against Russia and we have to deal with this threat – and we are dealing with this during these two years in fact.

"Ukraine is hanging on a thin rope right now. Half of its budget is being paid by foreign countries, by promises and all of that stuff. It is short of people on the front lines, it is short of everything on the front lines.

"And we are looking at how it will continue, but speaking about an existential threat for Europe, it is nothing to do with the current situation over there."

Russia's claims about security concerns have been rubbished, especially given its naked attempts to capture Ukrainian territory.

Plans captured earlier in the conflict showed how Russia hoped to largely have the country under control within days - failing to bank on Ukraine's determined resistance - and "liquidate" leaders after a takeover.

It has held illegal referendums in four regions in Ukraine, attempting to integrate them into Russia - revealing a picture of state that is out for land grabs and not "security" worries.

Remarkably, the ambassador patted his country on the back for rebuilding destroyed areas that suffered only because of Moscow's invasion.

"But as for occupation: this is not an occupation. It is integration of the new territories into Russia," he said.

"It means that we are reconstructing infrastructure over there. We are rebuilding states. We are providing new highways and all of that stuff."

The conflict has hit a stalemate after Ukraine's 2023 counteroffensive failed to make significant gains in the face of dense minefields and well-entrenched Russian positions.

It seems unlikely Moscow has the capability to break through Ukraine's lines either - leading to questions about how the conflict will unfold.

A day after a leaked German defence ministry document outlined a hypothetical war between Nato and Russia, Kelin said he does not see any chance of a conflict between London and Moscow.

"Politically we are on a different side of the chess board let us say but militarily I don't believe that anything will happen," he said.

"We are nuclear states. Russia has enormous capacity and Britain is as well a nuclear state. What kind of conflict may arise between us? There is a statement commonly known that nuclear war should not be fought because it cannot be won."

Western supporters of Ukraine fear a Trump administration more focused on competing with China and less interested in European security would lead to reduced support for Kyiv.

"First of all we don't comment on the subject of the American presidency, we will work with the president that will be elected," Kelin said.

"As for the future possibility that President Trump in spite of all things, in spite of things which are against him will be in the White House, I can say one thing, he is unpredictable, this is what we have seen in the past."

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