© Reuters. PHOTOGRAPHY: British Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace walks outside Downing Street in London, UK, October 27, 2021. REUTERS / Peter Nicholls
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said on Monday it had begun supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons to help defend against a potential invasion, during a conflict with Russia that has amassed troops near Ukraine’s border.
Western countries say they are afraid that Russia is preparing an excuse for a new attack on Ukraine, which invaded in 2014.
Moscow denies any plans to attack, but said it could take indefinite military action unless the West agrees to a list of demands, including a ban on joining Ukraine ever. Negotiations last week ended without a hitch. Kiev has asked Western countries for weapons to protect themselves.
“We have decided to supply Ukraine with light anti-armor defense weapons systems,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told parliament, saying the first systems had already been delivered on Monday and a small number of British staff would provide training in a short period of time.
He did not specify the number or type of weapons being sent, but said: “It is not a strategic weapon and does not pose a threat to Russia. It should be used in self-defense.”
“This is short-range … but it would still make people stop and think about what they are doing, and if tanks enter Ukraine, attack it, then they would be part of the defense mechanism.”
Ukraine’s defense minister welcomed Wallace’s announcement.
“Ukraine appreciates Britain’s decision to provide a new security package with light, anti-tank, defense systems!” Oleksiy Reznikov wrote in a tweet.
Britain has previously warned Russia of dire consequences if it launches a new military attack on Ukraine, while offering funding to strengthen Ukraine’s naval capabilities.
Wallace said he had invited Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to visit London in the next few weeks to discuss the crisis, although he did not know if the Russians would accept.
“The current gap is big, but it’s not insurmountable,” Wallace said, expressing hope that diplomacy would prevail, adding: “It’s the election of President (Vladimir) Putin.”
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