Boris Johnson has urged the UK government to send jets to Ukraine ahead of the one-year anniversary of the invasion by Russia.
Speaking in an interview with Sky News, the ex-Prime Minister called on the UK to “break the ice” and become the first nation to supply Volodymyr Zelensky with his “wings for freedom”.
On the eve of the anniversary of the Russian invasion, he said it was “absolutely crucial” the Ukrainians had the equipment they needed.
“What the Ukrainians want is [American] 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,” he told Sky News.
“If it is a question of training people up to use those machines, we can do that.”
Ministers have highlighted the need for increased defence spending in Jeremy Hunt’s spring budget in recent weeks, with defence secretary Ben Wallace calling for a further £11bn.
Zelensky implored parliamentarians to back his country’s campaign in a recent visit to the UK where he spoke at the historic Westminster Hall and saw Ukrainian troops being trained to fight in British Challenger 2 tanks at a Dorset military base.
It comes amid a tumultuous time for Rishi Sunak’s government as negotiations are underway to cement a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill between the EU and the UK government, with agreement from parties in the province yet to be determined.
Johnson also spoke out over the Brexit negotiations, telling Sky News presenter Mark Austin: “I think that it’s important that we wait to see what there may be.”
He refused to confirm whether or not he would back Sunak’s deal, saying: “I think the best way forward is, as I said when I was running the government, is the Northern Ireland bill, which, you know, cleared the Commons very comfortably, I think unamended, when I was in office only a few months ago.”
Johnson also stressed that China would be making a “historic mistake” if the Asian nation chooses to supply Russia with weapons to fight in Ukraine.
The ex-PM told the broadcaster he was “very concerned” to see China’s top diplomat meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Moscow yesterday.
He said: “Why does China want to be contaminated by association with Putin, who has revealed himself to be this gangster and adventurer?
“I think it would be a big, big mistake by China.
“But what it shows is the urgency of us giving the Ukrainians what they need to succeed this year and to make sure that 2023 is their victory.”
Putin this week delivered an address to the Russian Parliament in Moscow, in which he blamed the West and Ukraine for the war. Meanwhile US President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv, where he walked the capital’s streets with Zelensky as air raid sirens sounded.