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File image of former British prime minister Tony Blair. PA

Tony Blair calls for fighter jets to be sent to Ukraine, but UK only willing to supply jets to allies

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said backfilling allies with the UK’s jets to free up their own would be a quicker way to bolster Kyiv’s defences.

FORMER BRITISH PRIME Minister Tony Blair has lent his support to calls for Ukraine to receive the fighter jets.

The former Labour leader told BBC Radio 4’s PM programme that “if that’s what Ukraine needs” then support should include jets.

He added: “They have to be given what is necessary for them to defend themselves. But the single biggest thing they are going to need is munitions and artillery.”

Boris Johnson has also stepped up calls for Britain to supply fighter jet fighters to Ukraine.

He called on the UK to “break the ice” and send RAF Typhoons to the government in Kyiv.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has appealed for US F16 fighters as the Ukrainians prepare to mount an expected counter-offensive, but western allies have so far been reluctant to agree, citing lengthy required training.

In an interview with Sky News, Johnson said: “What the Ukrainians want is F16s. We don’t have F16s. We do have Typhoons. I think there is an argument for the UK breaking the ice and giving them some Typhoons.

However, Britain’s defence secretary has taken a different tack and said the UK is prepared to supply fighter jets to eastern European allies to enable them to release their Soviet-era planes to Ukraine.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said backfilling allies with the UK’s jets to free up their own would be a quicker way to bolster Kyiv’s defences than providing them with British Typhoons.

Britain will be training Ukrainian pilots on Nato-standard jets but allies have been reluctant to release the modern warplanes requested by the Ukrainian President.

Defence secretary Wallace told Times Radio “the other quick way that Ukraine can benefit from fighter jets is for those countries in Europe that have Russian Soviet fighter jets – MiG 29s or Su-24s – if they wish to donate we can use our fighter jets to backfill and provide security for them as a result”.

“They are already configured to fight in a Nato way, where of course Ukraine isn’t,” he said.

Wallace said the UK is taking steps to rebuild its munitions stockpiles that have been depleted by the war and have “borne the brunt of defence cuts” in recent decades.

“We have now started to place orders to replenish them and where we haven’t placed orders we have started the work to make sure we have the supply chain or find alternative sources,” he told Sky News.

Wallace said the Russian army was suffering “huge losses” on the battlefield for very little territorial gain and will sacrifice a growing number of troops to satisfy Mr Putin’s demands.

“It will move effectively to a meat-grinder approach where it just keeps sacrificing its own soldiers for the vanity of the Kremlin,” he told Times Radio.

“That’s why we see huge losses amongst the Russian army and only gains – where we see gains – in metres not miles.”

G7 meeting

Meanwhile, British prime minister Rishi Sunak and fellow G7 leaders have pledged to stand with Ukraine for as long as needed.

A call this afternoon saw Sunak join fellow leaders, including US President Joe Biden, to discuss the war effort and how best to support Ukraine going forward.

In a joint statement, G7 leaders committed to intensifying “diplomatic, financial and military support for Ukraine” as well as “increasing the costs to Russia and those supporting its war effort”.

They also pledged that “solidarity will never waver in standing with Ukraine, in supporting countries and people in need, and in upholding the international order based on the rule of law”.

Britain also announced a new package of sanctions, imposing an export ban on every piece of equipment Russia has been found using on the battlefield in Ukraine.

UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly announced the internationally co-ordinated new package of sanctions.

Export bans have been extended to include hundreds of goods, including aircraft parts, radio equipment and electronic components that can be used by the Russian military industrial complex.

The UK also sanctioned senior executives at the Russian state-owned nuclear power company Rosatom, as well as bosses at Russia’s two largest defence companies and four banks.

Cleverly warned Putin will “probably threaten nuclear use” as he fails in Ukraine.

“We have committed to ensure that Putin fails in his attempt to invade Ukraine and as that realisation of his failure dawns on him, he will use every trick in the book,” he told Times Radio.

“He will use cyber, he will use disinformation, he will try and call in any and every favour in the international community that he can.

“He will threaten escalation and he will probably threaten nuclear use. What we have to say to the Russian people is that there is not and has never been a threat to Russia itself.

“This is a purely defensive posture. No one else is talking about this kind of escalation and there is no threat to Russia itself.”

In the virtual G7 meeting, Sunak will urge his fellow world leaders to “move faster” in arming Ukraine’s troops as the battle against Mr Putin’s forces continues.

“For Ukraine to win this war – and to accelerate that day – they must gain a decisive advantage on the battlefield. That is what it will take to shift Putin’s mindset. This must be our priority now. Instead of an incremental approach, we need to move faster on artillery, armour, and air defence,” Mr Sunak was expected to say.

“The coming weeks will be difficult for Ukraine, but they will also be difficult for Russia. They are over-reaching once again. So now is the time to support Ukraine’s plan to rearm, regroup, and push forward.”

The UK remains a prominent supporter of Kyiv, with the Government announcing earlier this year that Britain would be the first country to supply tanks to its armed forces.

But fears remain that the war could continue for at least another year, even as Ukraine insists that further support and weaponry can help bring the conflict to a conclusion.

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