Sunday 17 December 2017

Britain not ruling out providing 'lethal force' in Ukraine

Ukrainian government troops pass a checkpoint near the town of Mariupol. (AP)
Ukrainian government troops pass a checkpoint near the town of Mariupol. (AP)

Peter Dominiczak

Britain fails to rule out providing “lethal” force to assist the Ukrainian government in its fight against pro-Russian forces

The UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said that although the UK currently has no plans for any direct involvement in the conflict, the Government "reserved the right" to provide arms to stop the Ukrainian forces collapsing.

US President Barack Obama has ordered his officials to “look at all options” open to the United States, including providing weapons to halt the recent rebel advance in the east.

The White House has said it will made a decision pending the success of a new peace initiative pushed last weekend by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

While Britain is not yet actively considering a move to send arms, Mr Hammond's comments put him odds with Ms Merkel, who explicitly stated last week that despatching weapons would merely worsen the conflict.

Mr Hammond added that there would be no “let up” to the tough economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the European Union unless there was “clear evidence of changed Russian behaviour”.

Read More: Sides battle ahead of Ukraine talks

He said that the situation in parts of eastern Ukraine now resembled a “small-scale conventional war”, with more than 5,000 people killed and 1.5 million made homeless.

“In recent weeks, Russia has aggravated the effects of its initial incursion by stepping up the military support it provides to its proxies,” he added.

“It has transferred hundreds of heavy weapons, including rocket launchers, heavy artillery, tanks and armoured vehicles and it maintains hundreds of regular soldiers, including special forces, in Ukraine as well as command and control elements, air defence systems, UAVs and electronic warfare systems.”

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