The Kremlin has said European security is threatened by Western arms supplies after the UK’s top diplomat called for Russian forces to be “pushed out” of Ukraine.
“The tendency to pump weapons, including heavy weapons, to Ukraine and other countries are actions that threaten the security of the continent and provoke instability,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday.
He was responding to a question about remarks by UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss that the West must “double down” on arms supplies to Ukraine and “prepare for the long-haul.”
“We will keep going further and faster to push Russia out of the whole Ukraine,” she said on Wednesday in a speech in London. “We can’t be complacent. The fate of Ukraine hangs in the balance.”
“If Putin succeeds there will be untold further misery across Europe,” Truss added.
Peskov’s comment comes at a time of rising tensions between Russia and the West.
NATO and EU countries are currently ramping up supplies of heavy weapons to Ukraine, including aircraft, with Moscow recently accusing the alliance of waging a proxy war against Russia.
Truss’s statement at the annual foreign policy speech is the clearest expression of the UK’s war aims, marking a toughening of her country’s stance towards Russia.
It suggests that Russian forces must leave areas of Ukraine they occupied in 2014, such as Crimea, alongside territory captured since the start of the invasion in February.
Many Western leaders have avoided voicing such demands, fearing it might provoke Russia.
On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin warned that “if someone intends to intervene in the ongoing events from the outside, and create strategic threats for Russia that are unacceptable to us, they should know that our retaliatory strikes will be lightning-fast.”
At yesterday’s speech, Truss called on Western allies to send “heavy weapons, tanks, airplanes” to Ukraine and cut off Russian oil and gas imports “once and for all”.
“There must be no way for Putin to fund this appalling war,” she said.
Truss called on countries to take a more proactive policy towards the Ukraine war, claiming “the world should have done more to deter the invasion.
“We will never make that same mistake again.”
She continued: “Some argue that we should not provide heavy weapons for fear of causing something worse. But my view is that inaction would be the greatest provocation.”
However, according to Downing Street, the UK does not plan to supply planes to Ukraine due to “difficulties” with equipment and training, although it has not ruled out “anything”.
Other Western countries have also been reluctant to send fighter jets, despite pleas by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“The war in Ukraine is our war – it’s everyone’s war… because Ukraine’s victory is a strategic imperative for all of us,” said Truss.
Putin is a “rogue operator” who threatens the “economic and security structures that were developed after the Second World War”, she said.
“We must ensure that alongside Ukraine, the Western Balkans and countries like Moldova and Georgia have the resilience and the capabilities to maintain their sovereignty and freedom.”
Truss stressed that China must “play by the rules” and that “aggressors are watching what happened in Ukraine”.
“We have to make sure they get the right message,” she said.
Truss pointed out that “Beijing has not condemned Russian aggression or its war crimes”, and that “Russian exports to China increased by almost a third in the first quarter [of 2022]”.