Ukraine 'prepared to use British long-range missiles to hit Crimea' as war-torn nation braces for 'new, huge invasion'

10 February 2023, 01:05 | Updated: 10 February 2023, 01:34

Ukraine is reportedly prepared to use British-supplied long-range missiles to strike the annexed peninsula of Crimea, in a potential major escalation of western involvement in the conflict.
Ukraine is reportedly prepared to use British-supplied long-range missiles to strike the annexed peninsula of Crimea, in a potential major escalation of western involvement in the conflict. Picture: Getty / Alamy

By Chris Samuel

Ukraine is reportedly prepared to use British-supplied long-range missiles to strike the annexed peninsula of Crimea, in a potential major escalation of western involvement in the conflict.

Is comes as a Ukrainian military official revealed that a "new, huge invasion" by Russian forces is expected in the coming days.

The Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised to send Ukraine further military aid following a surprise visit by the country's leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy to Britain this week.

It's understood that discussions are now taking place over whether this should include Harpoon anti-ship missiles or surface-to-air Storm Shadows, The Times reported.

Ukrainian defence sources confirmed to outlet that the country would be prepared to use the missiles to hit Crimea, which has been occupied by Russia since 2014, following a warning from President Zelenskyy that longer-range weapons provided by western allies would strike “deep in the occupied territories”.

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The Ukrainian leader said: "You've just asked me what would happen if we don't get these fighter jets or longer-range missiles, or we don't have enough ammunition, because everything obviously is running out and coming out of maintenance.

"Without the weapons that we are discussing now and the weapons that we just discussed with Rishi earlier today and how Britain is going to help us, you know, all of this is very important.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky reacts as he meets with Ukrainian troops being trained to command Challenger 2 tanks at a military facility in Lulworth, Dorset in southern England on February 8, 2023.
Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky reacts as he meets with Ukrainian troops being trained to command Challenger 2 tanks at a military facility in Lulworth, Dorset in southern England on February 8, 2023. Picture: Getty

"Without this, there would be stagnation which will not bring to anything good."

Rishi Sunak said "nothing was off the table" after Mr Zelenksyy made a direct and renewed plea for warplanes during his visit to the UK, but Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has since played down the possibility of supplying Ukraine with aircraft.

Following his UK visit, Mr Zelenskyy travelled to Brussels, where he also urged EU leaders to provide his country with fighter jets as Putin's forces appeared to launch a long-anticipated offensive in eastern Ukraine.

“We are defending against the most anti-European force of the modern world,” Mr Zelenskyy said, “We are defending ourselves — we Ukrainians on the battlefield — along with you.”

Harpoon missiles have a maximum range of 150 miles, while Storm Shadow missiles can fire at targets as far as 350 miles away, though modified versions for export have a significantly shorter range.

Talks are now understood to be taking place to decide exactly how many British long-range missiles could be provided to the war-torn country.

Mr Sunak and the Ukrainian leader during his visit to UK this week.
Mr Sunak and the Ukrainian leader during his visit to UK this week. Picture: Alamy

This is despite previous concerns that giving Ukraine the capability to launch cross-border strikes on Russia could lead to an escalation the conflict.

But in recent weeks, Western allies have softened their stance on sending offensive weapons and seem to have accepted Ukraine's arguments that Crimea is occupied territory that constitutes a legitimate target.

Last week, US President Joe Biden effectively doubled the range of the Ukrainian army by including in the latest package of American support ground-launched small-diameter bombs (GLSDB), which can strike targets 93 miles away.

After the donation of the smart bombs, Ukraine promised it would not hit targets in Russia but didn't rule out striking Crimea.

On his visit to the UK, the Ukrainian President thanked a “coalition” of western nations for their “latest” gift of longer-range missiles.

He said: “It will allow us to make the evil completely retreat from our country by destroying its airbases deep in the occupied territories.”

But last night Mr Zelenskyy accused Germany of dragging its feet over the provision of advanced weapons to help Ukraine beat back the Russian invasion.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was "constantly having to convince" German counterpart Olaf Scholz (pictured) to help Ukraine for the sake of Europe.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he was "constantly having to convince" German counterpart Olaf Scholz (pictured) to help Ukraine for the sake of Europe. Picture: Getty

In a show of frustration, he said he was "constantly having to convince" Chancellor Olaf Scholz to help Ukraine for the sake of Europe.

In an interview with German news website Spiegel, he said: "I have to exert pressure to help Ukraine and constantly convince him that this help is not for us but for Europeans. Our relationship to Germany goes in waves, it is up and down."

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian military official has estimated that Putin's forces already have 1,800 tanks, 3,950 armoured vehicles, 2,700 artillery systems, 810 Soviet-era multiple-rocket-launch systems, 400 fighter jets and 300 helicopters ready for 'a new wave of attacks' in the coming days.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Foreign Policy, said a "new, huge invasion" was expected "in the next 10 days".

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