‘No solid decision’ on Britain sending fighter jets to Ukraine, says Ben Wallace
Ben Wallace has refused to rule out sending British fighter jets to Ukraine, but suggested that it was “not the right approach” at the moment.
On Tuesday, Downing Street appeared to exclude the possibility, arguing it was “not practical” given that Ukrainian forces would require months of training to fly the “extremely sophisticated” planes.
That approach appeared to be consistent with Joe Biden, who has rebutted the idea of sending US F-16 jets.
However, the Defence Secretary appeared to suggest that the Government’s position could change when he spoke to reporters on Wednesday.
“I’ve learned two things,” Mr Wallace said. “Never rule anything in and never rule anything out. This is not a solid decision. For now, I don’t think that’s the right approach.
“What’s going to move on this conflict this year is going to be the ability for Ukrainians to deploy Western armour against Russia.”
His comments came as Boris Johnson, his close ally and former boss, made similar arguments at an address in Washington DC.
In an impassioned speech, Mr Johnson urged the West to stop worrying “about provoking” Vladimir Putin as he called for Kyiv’s allies to provide tanks, jets and long-range missiles.
He told an audience at the Atlantic Council think tank: “What is the point of having Challenger tanks patrolling the beautiful villages of Wiltshire... when the Ukrainians could be using them now to bring this war to an end?”
He pushed back on the West’s concerns of risking escalation with Putin, a critical factor in the US president’s decision-making on US military aid.
“How can we seriously worry about provoking him, when we have seen what he will do without the slightest provocation?” Mr Johnson said.
He went on to argue that the Russian leader “won’t use nuclear weapons”, making the case that it would cost him his few remaining international allies, terrify his own people and invoke a “cryogenic freeze of economic isolation”.
Asked about Ukraine’s most urgent needs, Mr Johnson said that Ukraine required longer-range missile systems, armoured vehicles, and warplanes.
In comments that are likely to irritate Rishi Sunak, Mr Johnson said: “I hear that an objection to [Kyiv] having sophisticated Western planes to fly is that they wouldn’t know how to use them.
“I have to say, I take that argument with a bit of a pinch of salt.”
On Wednesday, Downing Street made clear that Mr Johnson was not speaking for the Government during his US visit.
Asked about the former prime minister’s trip to the US, Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said that the Prime Minister “welcomes all colleagues’ backing for Ukraine”.
However, he stressed that Mr Johnson was “acting in his own capacity and not on behalf of the UK Government”.
Asked about Mr Johnson’s comments regarding jets, the official said: “It’s currently not practical to send UK jets, we will continue to work closely with the Ukrainians to understand their needs and how allies can further support them.
“Given the complexity of UK fighter jets and the length of time required to train them, we do not currently think it is practical to do so.”
Mr Johnson has spent his jaunt to Washington meeting with prominent Republicans, who hosted him at a private members’ club near the Capitol on Tuesday night.
Parts of his address were focused on US fiscal hawks, whose concerns about the high US burden of aid to Ukraine have been raised by the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
Mr Johnson warned it would be a “false economy” to let Putin achieve his aims unchecked, and therefore impose a burden on American taxpayers for generations to come.
He added: “Let’s not be penny wise and pound foolish.”
What we've learned
That is all from The Telegraph's live blog today. Here is a quick recap of what we've learned today:
Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has refused to rule out sending fighter jets to Ukraine but suggested it was "not the right approach" at the moment.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, made an impassioned plea to provide Kyiv with tanks, F-16s and even long-range missiles during an address in Washington.
The former Prime Minister told an audience in the US capital that Vladimir Putin "won't use nuclear weapons", saying: "He isn't mad. He isn't ill, he simply made a historic miscalculation".
A bust of Joseph Stalin was unveiled in a southern Russian city on the eve of commemorations of the Soviet victory in the Battle of Stalingrad.
Washington is preparing to send a new $2 billion package of military aid to Ukraine.
Johnson: Ukraine can take back post-Feb 24 ground
Mr Johnson's Q&A has drawn to a close with a reflection on what the future holds for Ukraine.
Mr Johnson was asked by an audience member how to "reconcile the arguments you make in principle with the reality that it's unlikely we're going to be able to deliver the stuff needed for Ukraine to get its borders back" to pre-war.
He replied that consistently, we have "overestimated Putin" and "underestimated what Ukrainians" can do.
He added: "They can take back very considerable chunks of territory. They are very convincing on this point. They think that if they have the right kit, in the right quantities, they can take back the post-Feb 24 ground.
"That's a compelling argument. Why don't we at least give them the tools to do it? That's what we should do".
Johnson takes on Tucker Carlson
Mr Johnson takes a question on countering Russian disinformation by attacking America's most watched cable TV anchor, Tucker Carlson, a skeptic of US support for Ukraine.
"I don't think we're as good on this [countering these arguments] as we should be," Mr Johnson said.
The former Prime Minister said of his current trip to Washington: "I have been amazed and horrified by how many people are frightened of attacking Tucker Carlson."
"What is it with this guy? All these wonderful Republicans seem somehow intimidated by his perspective."
Should frozen Russian assets be used to fund Ukraine?
Asked about using seized Russian assets to fund Ukraine, Mr Johnson said: "I'm attracted to this and I can see various counter arguments, but I think it's certainly something we should hold in reserve."
Ukraine needs planes and longer range missiles
Asked what Ukraine needs now, Mr Johnson said he has been told by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky that Kyiv's forces need "longer range missile systems so that they can take out Putin's command and control, ammo dumps and so forth over 70 kilometers away".
"Then they need the armour... and I'm told they need planes."
Mr Johnson's successor, Rishi Sunak, ruled out sending British fighter jets to Ukrainian forces on Tuesday.
But in comments that are likely to irritate Downing Street, Mr Johnson said: "I hear that an objection to their having sophisticated Western planes to fly is that they wouldn't know how to use them.
He added: "I have to say, I take that argument with a bit of a pinch of salt."
"I don't think it'll take the Ukrainians very long to work out how to use F-16s or Typhoons or whatever we have to give them".
Watch: Six-year-old evacuated from Bakhmut
Johnson says thinking on Nato 'has changed'
Mr Johnson said his thinking on Ukraine's potential membership of Nato "has changed".
"Basically if you asked me before the conflict was Ukraine going to be joining Nato anytime soon, privately I [would have said you must be joking."
"It was clear that there simply wasn't a consensus around the table needed for this to happen.
"It wasn't a realistic possibility. But the problem was that we kept sucking and blowing at once."
Mr Johnson said he was now supportive of Kyiv joining the Trans-Atlantic alliance.
He added: "The argument is overwhelming. What is the argument against? That it will provoke Putin?"
"We managed to provoke Putin by not having Ukraine in Nato. It could not be clearer. "
'Don't be penny wise and pound foolish' Johnson warns US fiscal hawks
Mr Johnson has completed his address and is participating in a Q&A.
Mr Johnson was asked how he would respond to America's fiscal hawks, whose concerns about high US spending on Ukraine have been raised by the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
He replied by warning it would be a "false economy" to let Putin win and create a burden on American taxpayers for generations to come.
He added: "I just repeat what I said. Let's not be penny wise and pound foolish" citing the "costs to America, the cost to our children" of Russian victory.
'This is a dry run for Xi Jinping'
Mr Johnson likened Mr Putin's actions in Ukraine to Chinese aggression in Taiwan, saying "this is a dry run for Xi Jinping".
He added: "So there are no conceivable grounds for delay any titration of support and Ukrainians to the support, they need to finish this war in the only way that it can and will be finished those tools."
West shouldn't focus on Putin's 'psychodrama'
Mr Johnson continued on the theme, warning the Western alliance to avoid viewing the conflict "as a personal psychodrama".
He said: "We're not yet to worry about the next stage of his career."
Mr Johnson told the audience to "stop focusing on Putin and focus on Ukraine, because they are fighting for everyone in this room. They're fighting for our values."
Johnson: 'Putin won't use nukes'
Mr Johnson told the think-tank that Vladimir Putin had made a "historic miscalculation" with his invasion of Ukraine.
He went to argue his belief that the Russian president "won't use nuclear weapons", saying: "He isn't mad. He isn't ill, he simply made a historic miscalculation."
He added that Mr Putin would not use nuclear weapons because it would have a "catastrophic" effect on the "swing voters" around the world - namechecking nations like India, which have maintained an ambiguous position on the Ukraine war.
Added to that, Mr Johnson said the Russian president would not deploy nuclear weapons because it "would terrify his own people who would live in dread of the consequences for them, he would plunge Russia into such a cryogenic freeze of economic isolation to make the present sanctions regime seem like a blessing.
"And it would not even work because I didn't believe for a minute he would stop the Ukrainians who are fighting for their hearths and their homes and their families."
He added: "We're not going to fall for this trick of trying to portray it as he does and trying to portray this as a standoff between a nuclear armed Nato and a nuclear armed Russia."
Johnson: 'Stop worrying about provoking Putin'
In an energised address, Mr Johnson pushed back at those in the West who worried about depleting their own supplies while arming Kyiv.
He said: "I say what is the point in deploying those tanks and planes in North Carolina or North Rhine-Westphalia or Alsace when the Ukrainians could be using them now, exactly where they are needed to help assure our collective security for decades."
Mr Johnson went on to ask: "What is the point of having challenger tanks patrolling the beautiful villages of Wiltshire - which is a very safe area I can tell you - when the Ukrainians could be using them now to bring this war to an end?
He added: "how can we seriously worry about provoking him [Putin] when we have seen what he will do without the slightest provocation?"
Victory for Ukraine will mean global economy 'bounces back'
Mr Johnson continued: "Give them the wherewithal to take that land bridge and the rest of that country because the faster they win, the greater the savings in treasure and in life, and the faster the world economy will bounce back"
The former Prime Minister said lifting the threat of Russian aggression, "we end the risk of further economic disruption".
'Give Ukrainians the tools to finish the job'
Mr Johnson has urged the Western alliance to give "Ukrainians the tools to finish the job".
He said: "Give them the fire artillery systems, give them the tanks... because they have a plan. They know what they need to do".
Mr Johnson added "my god" Ukrainians "have the skills and the bravery to do it".
Johnson: 'God Bless America'
Mr Johnson has begun his address to the Atlantic Council.
He opens by saying: "I have a three word message for you today and it is: God Bless America."
Mr Johnson says he is "of course proud" of all the efforts by the UK and other allies to support Ukraine, as well as the "real heroes", the Ukrainian people.
He went on: "But we must all acknowledge and I acknowledge today the scale of American support, military and financial and the real possibility, the likelihood that without that support, and the confidence that American support bred in the Ukraine, then Putin would have taken Kyiv in the Blitzkrieg that he planned and he would have installed the puppet government and darkness would have fallen on a young and entirely innocent, European democracy."
Boris Johnson set to speak on Ukraine
Boris Johnson is in Washington DC to give an address on Ukraine at the Atlantic Council think tank.
The former Prime Minister will discuss the need for "Western unity and support for Ukraine and what more can be done against the threat Russia poses" when the event begins shortly.
Follow along for the latest updates.
Russia unveils Stalin bust ahead of WWII commemorations
A bust of dictator Joseph Stalin was unveiled in the southern Russian city of Volgograd on Wednesday on the eve of commemorations of the Soviet victory in the Battle of Stalingrad.
The bronze bust was unveiled ahead of President Vladimir Putin's visit to Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, on Thursday, for high-profile celebrations that will include a military parade.
Most monuments to Stalin, who presided over purges known as the Great Terror, have been taken down in countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.
But since Putin took power in Russia in 2000, there has been a growing chorus of Russians who take a positive view of the moustachioed despot's role in history, and historians have pointed to the creeping rehabilitation of Stalin in the country.
Footage released by state news agency RIA Novosti showed teenagers wearing military-style uniforms pulling down white covers from the busts of Stalin and two Soviet military commanders before baskets of red flowers were laid near the statues.
US to send new missiles to Ukraine with a 93-mile range
Washington is preparing to send missiles to Ukraine which could strike almost the entire Russian-occupied region of the country, US officials have said.
Two officials said the weapons announcement would be made this week in a new $2 billion package of military aid, according to Reuters.
It would be the first time Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB), a new weapon designed by Boeing, were sent.
Read more from Dom Nicholls here
Ukraine in pictures:
Czechs withdraw from Russia-dominated development banks
The Czech Republic has completed the withdrawal from two international development banks with major Russian ownership and roots in the Soviet era, Finance Minister Zbynek Stanjura said on Wednesday.
The Czechs had initiated withdrawal from the Budapest-based International Investment Bank (IIB) and the Moscow-based International Bank for Economic Co-operation (IBEC) at the start of 2021 and vowed to speed up the process after Russia attacked Ukraine last February.
State security agents rad home of notorious Ukrainian oligarch
State security agents on Wednesday raided the country home of a notorious Ukrainian oligarch in a major blow to the tycoon who once controlled major chunks of the country’s economy, writes Nataliya Vasilyeva, The Telegraph's Russia Correspondent, in Istanbul.
Ihor Kolomoisky until recently was regarded as one of Ukraine’s most powerful men who owned a major bank, oil companies and a TV channel that aired comedy shows of Volodymyr Zelensky before the future Ukrainian president ditched his career in entertainment for politics in 2019.
Ukrainian security agents and police on Wednesday morning raided Mr Kolomoisky’s mansion outside the city of Dnipro, with photographs from the scene showing the tycoon dressed in a track suit and slippers standing in a spacious living room of what looks like a massive hunting lodge.
The SBU security agency has not officially commented on the raid but Ukrainian media quoted unnamed SBU officials saying it was part of a probe against Mr Kolomoisky for embezzling about £1 billion from two oil companies where he until recently was a majority shareholder.
Downing Street continues to rule out supplying Ukraine with British fighter jets
Downing Street was continuing to rule out supplying Ukraine with British fighter jets despite Boris Johnson backing the move.
Asked about the former prime minister's trip to the US, Rishi Sunak's official spokesman said: "The Prime Minister welcomes all colleagues' backing for Ukraine and is pleased the former prime minister is continuing his staunch support of the United Kingdom's efforts to help Ukraine secure a lasting peace."
But he said that Mr Johnson is "acting in his own capacity and not on behalf of the UK Government".
Asked about Mr Johnson's jet call, the official said: "It's currently not practical to send UK jets, we will continue to work closely with the Ukrainians to understand their needs and how allies can further support them.
"Given the complexity of UK fighter jets and the length of time required to train them we do not currently think it is practical to do so."
Pictured: A woman crossing the road in Kostiantynivka to get humanitarian food aid
Ukraine security service says $1 billion embezzlement case uncovered at oil firms
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) said on Wednesday it had uncovered embezzlement worth over $1 billion at two oil companies which until November were partly owned by billionaire Ihor Kolomoiskiy.
In a post on the Telegram app, the SBU said Ukrtatnafta's former management were issued with suspicion notices in the case. Kolomoiskiy did not immediately comment on the developments.
Russian pipeline carrying oil to Europe working as normal despite shelling
Russian state oil pipeline monopoly Transneft said that a pumping station on the Druzhba pipeline was shelled on Tuesday, but that the pipeline was working as normal on Wednesday.
Unconfirmed social media reports suggested that a section of the pipeline in western Russia's Bryansk region, which borders Ukraine and Belarus, had come under fire.
The Druzhba pipeline carries oil from Russia to Europe. Parts of it go through Ukrainian territory.
Belarus says it is now operating Russian Iskander missiles autonomously
Belarus said on Wednesday that its armed forces were now in autonomous control of Russian-supplied nuclear-capable Iskander mobile guided missile systems after completing training in Russia as well as exercises on home soil.
The missiles are capable of hitting targets at a range of up to 310 miles, Minsk's defence ministry said.
The commander of Belarusian rocket and artillery forces told Minsk's Military TV that they had until now lacked a strike weapon with a range of more than 180 miles.
In comments posted on Military TV's Telegram channel, Ruslan Chekhov praised the Iskander for its "simplicity of use, reliability, manoeuvrability and firepower".
Russian forces used Belarus as a launch pad for their abortive attack on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, in February last year, and a recent flurry of joint military activity.
Battle of Bakhmut: 'I came to rescue my 92-year-old mother. The problem? She wouldn't leave'
Early on Tuesday morning, Nadezhda Mayboroda hurried through echoing gunfire to Chasiv Yar’s snow-filled main square and accosted a group of foreign volunteers.
She had finally convinced her 92-year-old mother that it was time to leave town, but she was basically immobile. Could they come and pick her up?
“We wanted to go yesterday but we weren’t ready,” she explained as she let them into the apartment. “She doesn’t really know what is going on. She’s just afraid. She thinks maybe someone will come to kill her.”
Read more from Roland Oliphant here
Washington preparing to send a new $2 billion package of military aid to Ukraine
Washington is preparing to send a new $2 billion package of military aid to Ukraine, including missiles with the range to cover almost the entire country, US officials have said, writes Dominic Nicholls.
Two officials said the weapons announcement could be made this week, according to Reuters.
It would be the first time Ground Launched Small Diameter Bombs (GLSDB), a new weapon designed by Boeing, were sent.
The cheap gliding missiles have a range of more than 90 miles due to fold-out wings which extend their range, a dramatic increase over the 45 mile range of the Himars rocket systems which changed the face of the war when Washington sent them last summer.
It would mean every inch of Russian-occupied Ukraine, apart from most of the Crimean peninsula, would be in range of Ukrainian forces, likely forcing Moscow to redistribute ammunition and fuel storage sites.
Top diplomat says Russia will not allow US officials for on-site inspections of Russia's nuclear missiles
A top diplomat says Russia will not allow US officials for on-site inspections of Russia’s nuclear missiles while the war in Ukraine is ongoing, writes Nataliya Vasilyeva.
The US State Department on Tuesday accused Moscow of violating the New START treaty, the last remaining arms control agreement between the two countries, saying that Russia was refusing to allow inspections on its sites.
Anatoly Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to Washington, on Wednesday rejected the accusation that Russia’s actions are violating the treaty but made it clear that the visits were off the table for now.
“Arms control cannot be taken out of the context of geopolitical reality,” he said, referring to US support for Ukraine which he called a “proxy war” against Russia.
“We don't think it’s reasonable, timely or proper right now to invite the American military to our strategic sites.”
The 2011 treaty which was extended for five years in 2021 caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads the two countries can deploy.
Ukraine-Russia in pictures
Talks 'under way' on long-range missiles, says Zelensky aide
A senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Wednesday talks were under way on securing longer-range missiles and attack aircraft from foreign partners to help repel Russian forces.
"Each war stage requires certain weapons. Amassing RF’s (Russia's) reserves in the occupied territories require specifics from (Ukraine) & partners," political adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter.
"So: 1. There is already a tank coalition (logistics, training, supply). 2. There are already talks on longer-range missiles & attack aircraft supply."
Israel considers sending weapons to Ukraine
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, has said he is considering military aid to Ukraine and would be willing to serve as a mediator in the war under the right "circumstances".
Mr Netanyahu made no firm commitments to Ukraine and Israel has preserved a relationship with Russia, which controls the skies in neighboring Syria and has turned a blind eye to Israeli strikes on Iran.
When asked by CNN if Israel could provide assistance to Ukraine such as Iron Dome, the US-backed technology that defends Israel from air attack, he replied: "Well, I'm certainly looking into it.”
He also confirmed he would be willing to take up a diplomatic role amid the conflict if asked by both nations and the US.
“If asked by all relevant parties, I’ll certainly consider it, but I’m not pushing myself in,” Mr Netanyau said. He stipulated it would have to be the “right time and the right circumstances.”
Austrian President arrives in Kyiv to meet Ukraine's president
Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen arrived in Kyiv on Wednesday and was expected to hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
"After almost one year of war, Ukraine is not forgotten. Together with President Zelenskiy and the brave people of Ukraine – we stand for European values," he said on Twitter, where he also posted photographs of him being greeted by Ukrainian officials at Kyiv's central railway station.
Ukrainian authorities search house of ex-interior minister
Arsen Avakov, the former Ukrainian interior minister, said his home was searched by security officials on Wednesday as part of an investigation into a purchase of Airbus helicopters, the Ukrainska Pravda media outlet reported.
An Airbus helicopter crashed on Jan. 18, killing 14 people including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyi and other top ministry officials.
The State Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the Ukrainska Pravda report. The head of Ukraine's ruling party later confirmed Avakov's home had been searched.
Ukrainska Pravda quoted Avakov as saying the search was related to the helicopter crash.
"They looked at Airbus contracts from six years ago," it quoted Avakov as saying.
Pictured: Ukrainian servicemen chop firewood
Japan preparing to host online G7 summit to mark Ukraine anniversary
Japan is preparing to host a Group of Seven (G7) summit meeting online timed with the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed officials.
Russia has called the attack a "special military operation".
Ukraine hopes for progress on path to EU at Kyiv summit
Ukraine will hold a summit with the European Union in Kyiv this week, the government announced Tuesday, as it expressed hope the conference would bring the war-battered nation closer to membership of the bloc almost a year after Russia launched its invasion.
Kyiv also announced it expected to receive up to 140 modern battle tanks from its Western allies, and the prospect of more advanced weapons for Ukraine came from the United States.
In his evening address to the nation, President Volodymyr Zelensky said he hoped the Friday summit would reflect a high "level of cooperation and progress" with the 27-member bloc, which Kyiv has long sought to join.
"We are waiting for news for Ukraine," Zelensky said.
Russian couple fined for expressing anti-war opinions during private conversation in café
A couple were detained and fined for sharing pro-Ukraine personal opinions during a private conversation at a Russian café, in a first-of-its-kind case.
Alexei and Olesya Ovchinnikov were dining with a friend in Krasnodar, southern Russia, when another customer overheard their conversation about Ukraine.
The customer approached the table and expressed indignation over unspecified pro-Ukrainian remarks, the couple's lawyer Alexei Avanesyan told Russian media.
Read more from Nataliya Vasilyeva, our Russia Correspondent, here
'Ukraine: The Latest' - listen to our daily podcast on the Russian invasion
Johnson tells Sunak to 'forget about Putin' and send fighter jets to Ukraine
Boris Johnson insisted that "we should have no fear of escalation" in providing weapons to Ukraine, as Rishi Sunak ruled out sending UK fighter jets to Kyiv.
During a surprise visit to Washington, the former prime minister said there was "no case for delay" in helping Ukrainian forces.
Hours after Mr Sunak ruled out sending fighter jets, Mr Johnson told Fox News: "Save time, save money, save lives. Give the Ukrainians what they need as fast as possible. Get this thing done. Forget about Putin."]
Read: Johnson tells Sunak to 'forget about Putin' and send fighter jets to Ukraine
Latest MoD update
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine - 1 February 2023
Find out more about the UK government's response: https://t.co/b85G1tkLax
🇺🇦 #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦 pic.twitter.com/IkFbNiLOIe
— Ministry of Defence 🇬🇧 (@DefenceHQ) February 1, 2023
Ukraine-Russia in pictures
Spain to reportedly send up to six Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine
Spain plans to send between four and six German-built Leopard 2A4 tanks to Ukraine, newspaper El Pais reported on Wednesday, citing unidentified government sources.
The actual number will depend on the condition of the battle tanks in storage and how many other countries will eventually supply to Ukraine, the sources told El Pais.
A spokesperson for the Spanish Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.
Good morning, and welcome to today's Ukraine liveblog.
We will be keeping you up to date with todays' developments on Ukraine.