Defence sec clashes with Liz Truss as he tells untrained Brits not to fight in Ukraine

28 February 2022, 08:39 | Updated: 28 February 2022, 08:46

The Defence Secretary said Brit civilian's shouldn't try to go and fight
The Defence Secretary said Brit civilian's shouldn't try to go and fight. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Will Taylor

The Defence Secretary told LBC today that Brits with no military training should not attempt to go to Ukraine to try and fight the Russians.

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Ben Wallace's comments come after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she would "absolutely" support Brits who head to Ukraine to join an "international legion" and fend off the Russian invasion.

Mr Wallace told Nick Ferrari this morning at Breakfast: "Untrained people in Ukraine are fighting the Russian army, and some of them are successful.

“There are men and women joining up and their bravery is making a difference.

“My advice to Britons is there are lots of ways to help the Ukrainian fight. First and foremost, you can donate to the Ukrainian embassy and they use that money to purchase lethal and non-lethal aid to help.

“The second way if you want to help, there are voluntary organisations helping refugees.

“If you want to join our armed forces, one of the best armed forces in the world, the reforms we are putting in mean you will have a brilliant career and excellent kit, you can do that - make a difference.”

Kyiv's forces are mounting a determined defence of their country in the face of Vladimir Putin's invaders and inflicted what the UK Ministry of Defence said were "heavy" casualties.

Ukraine is ready for a fight to hold on to Kyiv, the capital, with the Russian military on its doorstep. Street fighting has broken out ahead of the expected arrival of the bulk of the units approaching, while residents are forced to take refuge in underground shelters.

The foreign minister of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba, said: "Foreigners willing to defend Ukraine and world order as part of the International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine, I invite you to contact foreign diplomatic missions of Ukraine in your respective countries.

"Together we defeated Hitler, and we will defeat Putin, too."

Asked by the BBC about whether she would support Brits travelling to Russia to fight, Ms Truss said: "That is something people can make their own decisions about.

"The people of Ukraine are fighting for freedom and democracy, not just for Ukraine but for the whole of Europe.

"Absolutely, if people want to support that struggle I would support them in doing that."

But on LBC, Tory MP David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, warned: "I think actually it's illegal to go and fight in a foreign war these days."

He referred to the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1870, which bans Britons from fighting in wars for another state that is in conflict with one the UK is at peace with.

Speaking to LBC's Iain Dale on Sunday, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the former prime minister of Ukraine, said: "I would welcome everyone… who is ready to defend Ukraine who is ready to defend freedoms and liberties, who is ready to defend the world.

"You Brits, you know what the Russians are really about, Americans know, Baltic states, Poles, you decided to support Ukraine because in this you are not just defending us, you are defending yourselves.

"We need everyone who can stand by Ukraine and fight for Ukraine."

The call follows President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s, who called for "friends" to join the battle, promising they would be equipped with weapons.

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"Everyone who can defend Ukraine abroad please do it directly in a united way.

"Every friend of Ukraine who wants to join Ukraine in defending the country please come over, we will give you weapons."

Ukraine has put up stiffer resistance than some observers anticipated.

The British Ministry of Defence said it is believed Russia has not managed to make the progress it hoped to achieve by now.

Kyiv has been relentlessly battered by Russian strikes, with civilian housing caught up in the attacks.

President Zelenskyy has refused to flee from it.

Elsewhere, the battle for Kharkiv is under way. It is Ukraine's second city, close to the Russian border in the east of the country.

Moscow's forces have made significant gains on the Black Sea coast, and launched strikes on airfields and fuel infrastructure across the nation.

A gas pipeline was struck, creating a huge mushroom cloud-like explosion, leading to Ukraine warning of a potential "environmental catastrophe".

Ukraine has said it is willing to enter peace talks with Russia, but ruled out doing so in Belarus, which Russia used as a staging ground.

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President Zelenskyy suggested Warsaw, Istanbul, Budapest or Baku.

A Russian delegation arrived in Homel, in Belarus, for talks with Ukraine, the Kremlin said. It included military officials and diplomats.

Dimitry Peskov, the Kremlin press secretary, said: "The Russian delegation is ready for talks, and we are now waiting for the Ukrainians.”