Boris Johnson failing to set out ‘mission success ‘in Ukraine as war drags on, senior Tory warns

’What are we collectively trying to achieve? What is mission success’, Tobias Ellwood demands to know

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 27 April 2022 09:04 BST
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Missiles hit apartment block in Ukraine port city of Odesa

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A senior Conservative has hit out at Boris Johnson for failing to explain what is “mission success” in Ukraine, as the war drags on into its third month.

Tobias Ellwood, a former defence minister, spoke out as the foreign secretary Liz Truss delivers a major speech warning the world “will never feel safe again” if Vladimir Putin is allowed to win.

Ms Truss will call for higher defence spending across the West and reverse policy by arguing for Ukraine to be sent fighter planes, as well as tanks and heavy weapons.

But Mr Ellwood, the chair of the defence committee, said Nato’s policy must be to force Russia out of the eastern Donbas region, where experts fear a long bloody stalemate now looms.

“The unanswered question I hope the foreign secretary will address is ‘what are we collectively trying to achieve? What is mission success’?” he said.

“Given the threat is not just to Ukraine but well beyond, that this is game-changing, what we’re experiencing here in European security.

“Putin must strategically fail in Ukraine and, if we allow him to survive, he will regroup and attempt to advance his sphere of influence way beyond Ukraine in the future,” he told Sky News.

Mr Ellwood’s comment came after the Kremlin threatened to launch retaliatory strikes on western targets in response to British support for Ukraine attacks on Russian territory.

James Heappey, the armed forces minister, said it was “completely legitimate” for Ukraine to hunt targets in Russia to disrupt logistics, even if the weapons were British-supplied.

Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, warned Nato to stop “pouring oil on the fire”, accusing the alliance of “in essence” engaging in a proxy war.

“These weapons will be a legitimate target for Russia’s military acting within the context of the special operation,” Mr Lavrov said, adding: “The danger is serious, real. And we must not underestimate it.”

Dominic Raab, the deputy prime minister, avoided a further escalation in the war of words, but said: “The Russian statement is unlawful.

“And what we’re doing is lawful. International law is very clear on this. We’re entitled, all states are entitled, to provide military support to any state exercising the right of lawful defence against an aggressive invasion.

“And frankly, if Russia starts threatening other countries, it only adds further to their pariah status and will only further solidarity, the consensus of the international community that they must be stopped.”

The prime minister has been accused of breaking a pledge to do everything possible to ensure “Putin fails” in Ukraine, in his desire for a post-Brexit trade deal with India.

He admitted he did not try to persuade India to drop its neutral stance towards Russia – despite No 10 insisting, last month, that it was putting pressure on “all world leaders” to join a global push to ensure Ukraine’s misery “cannot continue”.

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