The United Kingdom, along with other NATO countries, has been at the forefront of providing crucial military aid to the Ukrainian forces. At a donors’ conference organized recently, the UK pledged a supply of additional and more lethal weapons to Ukraine.
However, this time, Russia has retaliated by threatening dire consequences.
In an interview with state news agency TASS, Russian Ambassador to the UK Andrey Kelin said that if UK far-range artillery and anti-ship weapons are given to Kyiv, they will become legitimate targets for Russian soldiers.
“All arms supplies are destabilizing, particularly those mentioned by [UK Defense Secretary Ben] Wallace,” he said. They exacerbate the situation, making it even bloodier. Apparently, those are new, high-precision weapons. Naturally, our armed forces will view them as a legitimate target if those supplies get through the Ukrainian border.”
This vitriolic retaliation comes just two days after Britain’s defense secretary Ben Wallace announced that western nations have agreed to supply armored vehicles and long-range artillery to Ukraine.
He had then stated there would be “more lethal aid going into Ukraine,” but that it would not include tanks or other more lethal weapons requested by Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky.
Wallace claimed that Ukraine required longer-range artillery to fight Russian strikes on its cities, such as Mariupol in the south, which has been bombarded with shelling.
After more than a month of fighting, Russia has taken a strong exception to the UK announcement. The agreements to deliver artillery pieces, shells and armored vehicles are a step up from the defensive armament previously provided, according to NATO members.
Western governments have been wary of sending offensive weaponry, particularly fighter jets, for fear of inadvertently aggravating a nuclear-armed Russia and inviting reprisal. For the same reason, the UK and other NATO states refused to impose a ‘no fly’ zone over Ukraine.
The Times is reporting that this shootdown of a Russian Mi-28 was by a British Starstreak SAM pic.twitter.com/zsQb1DkQ74
— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) April 2, 2022
The Russian threat to attack UK supplies comes at a time when Britain’s most advanced portable missile system ‘Star Streak’ reportedly shot down a Russian Mi-28N helicopter at the Ukrainian battlefield in its first-ever usage.
Starstreak, a high-velocity weapon with three kinetic darts, was seen slicing the chopper over the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine. After the Ukrainian troops fired the Starstreak, the tungsten spears broke the tail off the Mi-28N, as seen in footage from the battle.
Russia-UK Fighting in Ukraine
The Russian diplomat also remarked on the ‘UK’s erroneous interpretation’ of military actions in Ukraine, said the TASS report. The UK government’s actions in response to the events in Ukraine, according to Kelin, are geared at further escalation.
“[The UK government’s] perception appears to be similar to the picture seen from [Ukrainian President Vladimir] Zelensky’s shelter. Those ideas serve as a basis for decisions and statements, which, in fact, contradict the reality: [ideas] that more weapons should be supplied to Ukraine, that it will become a game-changer, that there is no need for negotiations at this point,” he said.
According to him, the Ukrainian authorities have effectively turned over control of the country to their Western allies. “US Ambassador [to Russia John] Sullivan said in a recent interview that the Ukrainian leadership is reluctant to make any practical decisions, it wants someone else to decide for them, most notably the Americans,” he said.
NEW Defence Secretary @BWallaceMP says long range artillery and armoured vehicles (although not tanks) will be supplied to Ukraine as a result of today's donor conference.
— Carl Dinnen (@carldinnen) March 31, 2022
On March 24, the UK announced the decision to send 6,000 anti-tank and high-explosive missiles, as well as £25 million in financial support for the Ukrainian military. This brings the total amount of defensive lethal aid delivered to more than 10,000 missiles as of that day.
With more lethal aid flowing into Ukraine, it would reach unprecedented levels- a move that Russia apparently views as escalation.
However, this is not the first time that Russia has threatened armed attacks over supplies. Earlier in March, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov had warned that Russia would strike arms supply lines from western countries.
“We warned the United States that the orchestrated pumping of weapons from a number of countries is not just a dangerous move, it is a move that turns these convoys into legitimate targets,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told state television on Saturday.
Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin had threatened that any attempt to impose a ‘no fly’ zone over Ukraine over Zelensky’s requests would be seen by Russia as “participation in the armed conflict” which became a primary reason for NATO shrugging off repeated requests from the beleaguered President.
The ambassador went on to explain that while covering events in Ukraine, the UK media prefers to ignore crimes committed by Azov battalion extremists.
“[At first] there were reports here that the Azov battalion is a bad thing, that they are [neo-]Nazis. On the following day, papers started to publish reports about them being true patriots of Ukraine, about them fighting for Ukraine and doing their job. They are being whitewashed. This is the picture shown to the people of the United Kingdom, they have no information about atrocities and crimes committed by the Azov battalion in Mariupol,” he said.
On the other hand, the Western quarter has accused Russia of a disinformation campaign about its advance and wins. Sir Jeremy Fleming, the head of the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters recently warned that Russian soldiers are “refusing to carry out commands, sabotaging their own equipment, and even unintentionally shooting down their own aircraft”.
In his address, Fleming also expressed his belief that Putin’s advisers are scared to tell him the truth about “poor morale, logistical problems, and high Russian casualty counts.”
Despite repeated Russian claims about pulling back, the conflict continues unabated creating a massive humanitarian crisis in Europe. As the fighting rages on, more could be coming in from the UK, and NATO allies that could irritate Moscow.