UK 'drawing up plans to send armoured vehicles to aid Ukrainian forces'

7 April 2022, 01:02 | Updated: 7 April 2022, 07:14

A British army Supacat Jackal 4x4 rapid assault, fire support and reconnaissance vehicle.
A British army Supacat Jackal 4x4 rapid assault, fire support and reconnaissance vehicle. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

The UK is considering sending armoured vehicles to help Ukraine defend its country from the Russian invasion, it has been reported.

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The Ministry of Defence is said to be weighing up a number of options to aid Ukraine, including sending a protected patrol vehicle, such as the Mastiff, or a vehicle like the Jackal, which can be used as a reconnaissance or long-range patrol vehicle, The Times said.

A defence source reportedly said vehicles would be stripped of sensitive equipment and British soldiers would be sent to a neighbouring country, such as Poland, to carry out training for Ukrainian forces.

A senior government source told The Times: “The next three weeks will be critical. [The Ukrainians] have already partly won. They have exhausted the Russian army, won the battle of occupation and condemned Putin to eternal isolation. Can they push back the Russian army? Can they break the Russian army? Possibly. Depends on what help we can all give.”

The UK and Nato allies have been wary to insist that any help offered to Ukraine is only so the country can defend itself against the Russian invasion, to try to avoid being drawn into a direct conflict with Russia.

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Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba urged Nato allies to end their reluctance to provide more weapons or risk further civilian deaths and the destruction of cities as his troops repel Russian forces.

Arriving at the meeting at the alliance's headquarters in Brussels, he told reporters: "My agenda is very simple, it has only three items on it: weapons, weapons and weapons.

"We are confident that the best way to help Ukraine now is to provide it with all necessary (weapons) to contain Putin and to defeat the Russian army in the territory of Ukraine so the war does not spill over further.

"In recent weeks the Ukrainian army and the entire Ukrainian nation has demonstrated that we know how to fight, we know how to win, but without sustainable and sufficient supplies of all weapons requested by Ukraine, these wins will be accompanied by enormous sacrifices.

"The more weapons we get and the sooner they arrive in Ukraine, the more human lives will be saved, the more cities and villages will not be destroyed, and there will be no more Buchas.

"I call on all allies to put aside their hesitation, their reluctance, to provide Ukraine with everything it needs because as weird as it may sound today, weapons serve the purpose of peace."

It comes after senior Tory Tobias Ellwood said the Government should stop saying the aid being offered was simply defensive, and concentrate on providing more help instead of semantics.

The Czech Republic has reportedly become the first Nato country to promise to send tanks to help push back against the Russians.

So far, Nato countries have provided defensive weapons and humanitarian aid for Ukraine, but no armoured vehicles.

Mr Ellwood told Channel 4 News there was "nothing defensive" about the weaponry already provided to Ukraine, which he said he used while serving in the armed forces.

"There's nothing defensive about anti-tank weapons, there's nothing defensive about a rifle. These are offensive weapons and I can't believe we're still having semantic debates about this," Mr Ellwood said.

"We see the Czech Republic now wanting to give tanks, that's what the Ukrainians are asking for, Poland wanted to move its MiG-29s (fighter jets) across as well. This is the sort of activity that we need to be looking at."

Read more: Putin's daughters sanctioned in response to Bucha 'massacre'

He said the UK could be providing a humanitarian corridor from the port of Odesa through to international waters.

"That would be a robust stance to take against Russia," Mr Ellwood said.

On Wednesday the UK announced new sanctions against Russian banks and oligarchs, said to be among the toughest yet.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has told Nato there is "no time for false comfort" over a dampening in the Russian offensive in Ukraine as she is expected to push the defensive alliance to keep up pressure on the Kremlin.

She said: "The age of engagement with Russia is over. We need a new approach to security in Europe based on resilience, defence and deterrence. There is no time for false comfort. Russia is not retreating, but regrouping and repositioning to push harder in the east and south of Ukraine."

She said the 1997 Nato-Russia Founding Act, in which it was declared the two sides "do not consider each other as adversaries", is dead.

Ministers from Nato countries are set to meet in Brussels on Thursday, followed by a press conference with Mr Stoltenberg.