Putin risks becoming a ‘cancerous growth’ and Ukraine needs support to drive his forces out entirely, UK says

British defence secretary Ben Wallace says UK must help Ukraine to push Russian troops out of the country

Thomas Kingsley
Thursday 28 April 2022 09:48 BST
Soviet Union behaved more rationally than Putin's Russia, says Truss

Vladimir Putin risks becoming “cancerous growth” in Ukraine as his military objectives stutter and Kyiv needs support to drive his forces out of the country entirely, UK ministers have said.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said the UK must help Ukraine drive Russian forces out of the country but insisted the Kremlin leader would “fortify and dig in” to make it hard for Ukrainians to move out of besieged regions with the conflict now in its third month.

“I think it's certainly the case that Putin having failed in nearly all its objectives may seek to consolidate what he's got, sort of fortify and dig in, as he did in 2014, and just be a sort of cancerous growth within the country of Ukraine and make it very hard for people to move them out of those fortified positions,” he told Sky News.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace (PA Wire)

“So I think it's really about if we want this to not happen, we have to help Ukrainians effectively get the limpet off the rock and keep the momentum pushing them back.”

It comes as Mr Putin warned of a “lightning fast” retaliation from Moscow, should the west interfere in Ukraine. Speaking to lawmakers in St Petersburg on Wednesday, the Russian president accused the west of wanting to cut Russia up into different pieces as well as “economically strangle” the country.

Speaking earlier on Thursday, UK foreign secretary Liz Truss called on Western allies to “double down” on support for Kyiv - saying that it was imperative to drive Russian forces out of the “whole of Ukraine”. However, Mr Wallace said there was a long way to go before Ukraine pushes into Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Press Association Images)

“I think what I would certainly say is, we are supporting Ukraine’s sovereign integrity. We’ve done that all along. That of course includes Crimea,” Mr Wallance said.

“But you know, first and foremost, let’s get Russia out of where they are now in its invasion plans and help Ukraine resolve and actually remember the Minsk agreement, which Russia has basically ripped up, was all about trying to resolve those two occupied territories.

“But the key thing is to continue to support Ukraine’s sovereign integrity and their ability to defend themselves”.

According to the latest intelligence from the UK defence ministry, there are approximately 20 Russia navy vessels in the Black Sea operational zone including submarines. Additionally, in a continued blow to the Kremlin, the Bosporus Strait remains closed to all non-Turkish warships, leaving Russia unable to replace its destroyed cruiser Moskva where one sailor was killed and 27 were declared missing.

Russia’s flagship cruiser Moskva was sunk earlier this month ( )

However, despite the loss of Moskva and the landing ship Saratov, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet still retains the ability to strike Ukrainian and coastal targets.

Mr Wallace said the UK was looking into solutions for anti-ship missiles warning that Russian ships must not be able to control the Black Sea.

“We have said we will source and supply, if we can, anti-ship missiles,” Mr Wallace said.

“It’s incredibly important that the grain that affects us all, the food prices, does get to get out of Ukraine, that the Russians can’t control the Black Sea”.

He said Russian ships must not be allowed to be “used to bombard cities”.

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