Ben Wallace says he would support Poland in supplying jets to assist Ukraine if they chose to do so

UK

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said he would support Poland in supplying jets to assist Ukraine if they chose to do so.

Mr Wallace told Sky News he would support a decision by the fellow NATO member to supply MiG-29 jets to Ukraine – but that it would have to be their choice.

It comes amid reports that the US and Poland are discussing such a deal, with the US urging Poland to supply the Soviet-era planes which they will replace with US jets.

An agreement was originally dismissed by the Polish president.

Live updates as Ukraine claims Russian general ‘killed’

“Poland will understand that the choices it makes will not only directly help Ukraine, which is a good thing, but also may bring them into direct line of fire from countries such as Russia or Belarus,” the defence secretary told Sky News.

“They will have to calibrate that. That’s a really big responsibility on the shoulders of the president of Poland and, indeed, defence minister.

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“So, it’s not for me to second-guess their choice. But it is for me as a fellow NATO member to say I will stand by Poland.”

Key developments:

  • Ukraine claims senior Russian general has been killed in fighting near Kharkiv
  • Russia proposes humanitarian corridors in several cities from 7am
  • Zelenskyy accuses Russia of violating earlier humanitarian corridors
  • Ukrainian president will make ‘historic address’ to British MPs later
  • Russia has warned it could cut its gas supplies to the West through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline
  • Talks between Ukraine and Russia held in Belarus
  • New laws to help target Russian oligarchs pass Commons
  • 300 visas issued to Ukrainian refugees so far, says UK

Mr Wallace said he would update MPs on Wednesday on the support being offered by the UK to the Ukrainian forces.

He told Sky News that the UK was in “a good place” to make sure Ukraine has access to “better defence and more defence”.

The defence secretary also announced that the Ministry of Defence will offer support to the Home Office in checking the identity of fleeing Ukrainian refugees to speed up the visa process.

On Monday night, the Home Office said 300 visas had been issued from a total of 17,700 family scheme applications which have been started, 8,900 of which have been submitted.

“The question really relies on how many checks we do once people reach a safe space,” Mr Wallace told Sky News.

“So, no one is stopping those people getting across their borders into a safe space.

“The first and foremost duty for all of us is to make sure that people get to safety.

“Once they’ve got to safety, making sure we just check their identity before they come to this country, it is incredibly important that we do that.

“It shouldn’t take time. And I’ve offered, I will be offering, to the Home Office assistance from the MoD in the same way we did in Op Pitting (the evacuation of Afghanistan) to increase the processing time to help those people.”

Pushed on the time it is taking to process visa applications, Mr Wallace continued: “I know the home secretary is determined to speed that up.

“This is fast moving. The first duty is for the government to help people get to safety. The next responsibility is to make sure we process them as quickly as possible.

“Of course, we can do that quicker, we are leaning into that, the home secretary is determined to do that quicker, I will give her all the support I can.”

His comments come ahead of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s address to British MPs via video link later today.

Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle has granted Mr Zelenskyy’s request to read a statement to the House of Commons at 5pm GMT on Tuesday.

It is expected he will ask for more arms and will repeat calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which Western leaders have so far denied as it could mean NATO having to shoot down Russian planes.

They fear it would risk a third world war.

Mr Zelenskyy’s speech will come on the 13th day of the war, and after he called humanitarian corridors set up by the Russians from several Ukrainian cities “completely immoral” as most lead to Russia or Belarus.

In a defiant video message from his office on Bankova Street, the Ukrainian president has said he is “not hiding” and “not afraid of anyone” as he revealed his location in Kyiv.

Mr Zelenskyy was previously reported to be in hiding but still somewhere in the Ukrainian capital, having refused to leave the country.

Mr Wallace described Mr Zelenskyy as an “amazing guy” and the “spirit of Ukraine”.

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