UK won't be giving fighter jets to Ukraine because RAF won't risk staff in war zone

17 May 2023, 16:07 | Updated: 17 May 2023, 16:20

Ben Wallace said the UK's role in sending fighter jets to Ukraine would be 'limited'
Ben Wallace said the UK's role in sending fighter jets to Ukraine would be 'limited'. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

The UK will not be giving fighter jets to Ukraine but can help with training and support, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

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Kyiv has been asking for F16 jets to help in its efforts fighting back against the Russian invasion, but has not been successful so far.

The UK does not have the pilots for the jets, Ben Wallace said on Wednesday, and would not be sending RAF staff into an active warzone to maintain them.

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"What we can obviously contribute is training and support within limits because we don't have F-16 pilots," Ben Wallace told reporters.

The UK has committed to building an "international coalition" to help get the aircraft for Ukraine. Mr Wallace said he wanted to enable other countries to send them. 

Ben Wallace
Ben Wallace. Picture: Alamy

"We can do, what we've done throughout this ... which is we can enable other people who wish to," he added. "Any nation that comes to us and says we want to get tanks into Ukraine ... we will help with that process." 

The defence secretary said some countries had sent some Soviet-era fighter planes. 

"If you are a Russian infanteer, I don't think you really care whether you are being bombed by a Soviet era plane or a Western plane, you just don't want to be bombed by it," he said

It comes as Rishi Sunak called on European leaders to "stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes" on Wednesday.

Sunak promises UK will play ‘big part’ in training Ukraine’s pilots

The Prime Minister told the Council of Europe summit that "the UK may have left the EU, but we have not left Europe" and Russia must be held "accountable for the horrendous war crimes that have been committed".

The comments come a day after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met Mr Sunak at Chequers and Downing Street announced that the UK is set to provide war-torn Ukraine with air defence missiles and attack drones.

Mr Sunak told the summit in Reykjavik, Iceland: "Friends, the UK may have left the EU, but we have not left Europe.

"We remain a proud European nation.

"And we must work together to defend the values we all hold so dear.

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"The Council of Europe, with its huge reach, has such a vital role to play.

"And we need to think about how this council should react to the realities of today.

"We showed great purpose in expelling Russia last year - acting decisively together within days of the invasion.

"Let's bring that dynamism to the issues before us now. And let's send a message from this hall, loud and clear, that we will stand by Ukraine for as long as it takes.

"We will hold Russia accountable for the horrendous war crimes that have been committed."

Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the opening ceremony of the Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik on Tuesday
Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the opening ceremony of the Council of Europe summit in Reykjavik on Tuesday. Picture: Alamy

He condemned Russia's action as a "threat to democracy and the rule of law on our continent", adding that with this act of aggression on European soil, and China growing in assertiveness, "the world is becoming more contested and more volatile".

Earlier on Tuesday Mr Sunak agreed with Dutch leader Mark Rutte to "work to build an international coalition to provide Ukraine with combat air capabilities, supporting with everything from training to procuring F16 jets", Downing Street said.

A spokesman added: "The Prime Minister reiterated his belief that Ukraine's rightful place is in Nato and the leaders agreed on the importance of allies providing long-term security assistance to Ukraine to guarantee they can deter against future attacks."

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