Ukrainian ambassador calls on Nato to put in place no-fly zone

Vadym Prystaiko said the losses suffered in Ukraine were already ‘unbearable’.

Geraldine Scott
Thursday 24 February 2022 18:23
Ambassador of Ukraine to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko speaks to the media at the Ukrainian Embassy in west London. (Victoria Jones/PA)
Ambassador of Ukraine to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko speaks to the media at the Ukrainian Embassy in west London. (Victoria Jones/PA)

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK has called on Nato to impose a no-fly zone over his country as he said “people are dying as we speak” in the pushback against Russia.

Vadym Prystaiko, in a briefing with journalists in London, said Ukraine needed “something which only Nato can provide” to help the state defend itself against Russian forces.

Mr Prystaiko told reporters that Russian tanks had been destroyed on Thursday using anti-tank weaponry provided by the UK, and he said: “At this moment, we have enough people, we don’t have enough equipment.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to the UK, Vadym Prystaiko speaks to the media at the Ukrainian Embassy in west London, following the Russian invasion (Victoria Jones/PA)

But he said: “We should have started (to prepare) much earlier, maybe decades ago.”

“That’s why we’ve been trying to get into Nato (for) all these years,” he said.

“Because we always believed this would come.”

Mr Prystaiko’s call comes after Tobias Ellwood, Conservative chairman of the Defence Committee, said Nato should not rule out “the formation of a potential no-fly zone”.

Former Cabinet minister David Davis has called for Nato allies to provide air support to the Ukrainian army to assist the fight against Russian invaders.

“It is far too late to get boots on the ground but it is not too late to provide air support to the Ukrainian army which may neutralise Putin’s overwhelming armoured superiority,” he tweeted.

“If this is confined to the airspace over Ukraine, and is based on a request from President Zelensky, this should be perfectly legal under almost any interpretation of international law. It will also reduce the risk of escalation.”

If a no-fly zone was put in place, it would mean Nato members – including the UK and US – could shoot down any Russian aircraft that entered Ukrainian airspace.

But in the Commons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was something MPs would want to “contemplate with caution”.

Mr Johnson was asked by former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan-Smith whether he would rule out implementing a no-fly zone.

Mr Johnson said: “I know that (Mr Duncan-Smith) is a great military expert and  he will understand and I understand the attractions of the no-fly zone.

“I remember, the no-fly zone that was created in 1991, as I recall, in northern Iraq.

“The situation here is very very different. We would face the risk of having to shoot down Russian planes and that is something that I think that the House would want to contemplate with caution.”

Mr Prystaiko outlined a number of economic sanctions that his country wished to see put in place.

He called on allies to stop buying Russian oil and gas, and to ban foreign investment in Russia, including stopping western Government pension funds being invested in Russian assets.

He called on the West to sanction the Russian Central Bank, as well as state-owned and private banks, and to sanction all rouble transactions in western banks.

He said personal sanctions should also be expanded to all those on the sanctions lists of western countries, and their families, including asset freezing, visa cancellations, revoking their passports, and sending them back to Russia.

He said Russia should be blocked from the Swift payment system, and disconnected from Visa and Mastercard systems.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted those who opposed Russia being blocked from the Swift payment system would have “the blood of innocent Ukrainian men, women and children… on their hands”.

Mr Prystaiko said he believed Vladimir Putin wanted to rebuild the Soviet Union.

He said: “We hope, all of us hope that he will be stopped. The losses are already unbearable, at least for us.”

He added: “We’re fighting right now, people are dying as we speak.”

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