The UK has started supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons under the disguise of helping the East European country to defend itself from a potential Russian invasion, a top British official has said.
Addressing the Parliament on Monday, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said “we have taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light anti-armor defensive weapon systems,” adding that the first pack have already been delivered on Monday.
He did not specify the number or type of weapons that were being sent, but claimed that they are for the purpose of “self-defense”.
“These are short-range… and would be part of defense mechanism” upon any invasion to Ukraine, Wallace said, referring to Russia’s deployment of forces and armaments along its borders with Ukraine.
The US and Western governments accuse Russia of planning an invasion of Ukraine and threaten it with heavy sanctions. Moscow rejects the allegations and insists that deployments are defensive in nature.
John Healey, UK shadow defense secretary requested that the government must ensure the delivered weapons “won’t be used, unless Russia invades”.
According to Wallace, apart from armaments, the British personnel would also provide military training for the Ukrainian Army.
Until recently the UK has focused on selling ships and naval equipment to Ukraine, announcing a £1.7bn deal to supply two mine sweepers last year and offering further financing to enhance Ukraine's naval capabilities.
Meanwhile, the United States is also set to provide arms and weapons for Ukraine, empowering the country against Russia.
In a visit to Kiev on Monday, a bipartisan group of US senators promised solidarity to Ukraine, while threatening Russia with sanctions once again.
“We will impose crippling economic sanctions, but more important we will give the people of Ukraine the arms, lethal arms they need to defend their lives and livelihoods,” if Russia carries out an invasion, Senator Richard Blumenthal said after the delegation met President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
These weapons could include Javelin anti-tank missiles, Stinger missiles, small arms and boats, he said.
Russian government’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov hit back at western powers’ provocative settlements about arms supplies, saying that the western powers have brought Moscow to an intolerable “red line”.
“We have seen the gradual invasion of NATO into the Ukrainian territory with its infrastructure, with its instructors, with supplies of defensive and offensive weapons, teaching the Ukrainian military and so forth. That brought us to the red line, a situation where we couldn’t tolerate it anymore,” Peskov said.
Russia has repeatedly demanded for a series of security guarantees from the West, including a ban on further NATO expansion and an end to the alliance's activity in the central and eastern European countries that joined it after 1997. However, Moscow’s demands were rejected by the West in a series of diplomatic negotiations last week.
The tensions between Russia and the West have escalated following the series of talks, with the United States threatening heavy sanctions and the European Union taking a more confrontational approach.