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Sunak and Starmer condemn Farage as ‘completely wrong’ over Ukraine remarks

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a meeting with representatives of the nighttime economy in central London, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Saturday June 22, 2024. Photo Credit: Benjamin Cremel/PA Wire
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a meeting with representatives of the nighttime economy in central London, while on the General Election campaign trail. Picture date: Saturday June 22, 2024. Photo Credit: Benjamin Cremel/PA Wire

Sir Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak have condemned Nigel Farage for his claim the West provoked the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Prime Minister Sunak said the Reform UK leader was “completely wrong and only plays into Putin’s hands”, and likened the comments made in a BBC Panorama interview to appeasement of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Labour leader Sir Keir called the remarks “disgraceful” and said anyone standing for Parliament should make clear Russia is the aggressor.

Farage claimed “we provoked this war” in the BBC interview, while drawing a link between Nato and European Union expansion in recent decades and the conflict in eastern Europe.

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Speaking to reporters during a campaign visit in London, Sir Keir said: “On the question of Farage, his comments were disgraceful.

“Anyone who is standing for Parliament ought to be really clear that Russia is the aggressor, Putin bears responsibility, and that we stand with Ukraine, as we have done from the beginning of this conflict, and Parliament has spoken with one voice on this since the beginning of the conflict.”

Asked by broadcasters about the remarks during an election campaign visit in London, Sunak said: “What he said was completely wrong and only plays into Putin’s hands.”

Sunak added: “This is a man (Putin) who deployed nerve agent on the streets of Britain, who is doing deals with countries like North Korea, and this kind of appeasement is dangerous for Britain’s security, the security of our allies that rely on us, and only emboldens Putin further.”

Sunak’s criticism follows hot on the heels of his former defence secretary Ben Wallace, who likened Farage to a “pub bore” and suggested he does not understand the “real world” of politics.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said he did not “share any values” with Farage.

“My message to the British people, we need to support the Ukrainian people,” Sir Ed added.

During Panorama Interviews on BBC One on Friday, Farage was questioned about his opinion of Putin.

He replied: “I said I disliked him as a person, but I admired him as a political operator because he’s managed to take control of running Russia.”

Putin has been either Russian president or prime minister since 1999, after elections which have been described as rigged.

Farage, a former member of the European Parliament, also said: “Right, I’ll tell you what you don’t know, I stood up in the European Parliament in 2014 and I said, and I quote, ‘There will be a war in Ukraine’.

“Why did I say that?

“It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of Nato and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say, ‘they’re coming for us again’ and to go to war.”

Farage said he had been making similar comments “since the 1990s, ever since the fall of the (Berlin) wall”, and added: “Hang on a second, we provoked this war.

“It’s, you know, of course it’s his fault – he’s used what we’ve done as an excuse.”

By David Lynch, Claudia Savage, and William Warnes, PA