Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has announced the UK government will send more weapons to Ukraine, including fresh supplies of anti-tank missiles, for the country to defend itself against Russian aggression.
Updating MPs on the Ukraine war in the Commons, he told MPs that the UK has delivered 3,615 anti-tank (NLAW) weapons and will soon be supplying a “small consignment” of Javelin anti-tank missiles.
He said the Russians are “changing their tactics and so the Ukrainians need to too”, to help Ukraine forces tackle President Putin’s air force.
Mr Wallace said that the UK is exploring the possibility of donating Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles to Ukraine.
Supplies of rations, medical equipment and other non-lethal military aid will also be increased, the defence secretary said.
Starstreak missiles travel at more than three times the speed of sound, according to the British Army, and can be shoulder-mounted or attached to a vehicle.
NLAWs are a portable, shoulder-mounted missile system weighing just 12.5kg. They have a range of up to 600 metres.
The British Army says the missile can destroy “any main battle tank in just one shot by striking it from above”.
Also, the Javelin is a medium-range missile that can strike targets at up to 1.5 miles (2.5km) away.
It is heavier than an NLAW, at 24.3kg, and is a “fire and forget” system, allowing the user to lock on to a target, fire and then focus on a different target.
UK explores donation of Starstreak systems
It comes as the Russian invasion enters its 14th day.
Mr Wallace said: “In response to a Ukrainian request, the government has taken the decision to explore the donation of Starstreak high-velocity manned portable anti-air missiles.
“We believe that this system will remain within the definition of defensive weapons but will allow the Ukrainian force to better defend their skies.
“We shall also be increasing the supplies of rations, medical equipment and other non-lethal military aid.”
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Shapps: UK will not do something ‘which escalates this war’
Mr Wallace also stressed the government was “bound by the decision to supply defensive systems” and not escalate the war.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy is calling for a no-fly zone to be imposed over his country – which the West has said it is not in favour of as it could bring NATO into direct military contact with Moscow.
Earlier today, Grant Shapps said the UK is “not inadvertently doing something which escalates this war in a way that would be unacceptable to the entire world” as he seemingly confirmed that a deal with Poland to supply fighter jets to Ukraine is off.
The transport secretary told Sky News that all NATO partners “work together” on the situation in Ukraine, adding: “It is important that we are a defensive organisation which means we won’t be getting directly involved in the war.”
The Pentagon has rejected Poland’s offer to give the United States its MiG-29 fighters, with the intention of them then being passed to Ukraine.
Mr Shapps said the reported deal to loan fighter jets is “not something which is going to develop”, but that the UK “are providing huge amounts of support”.
Mr Wallace told MPs in the Commons that if the international community stand together against Russian aggression “then the Kremlin’s threats cannot hurt us”.
“We should take strength from the peoples right across Europe who are standing shoulder to shoulder to protect our values, our freedom, our tolerance, our democracy and our free press. That is our shield,” he said.
The defence secretary added that it is Ukraine’s “darkest hour”.
PM resists calls to drop visa requirements
It comes as Boris Johnson has continued to resist calls from Kyiv and MPs across the House to drop visa requirements for Ukrainians fleeing the violence, insisting the security checks are necessary to ensure the UK’s safety.
The prime minister said a thousand visas had been granted under the scheme allowing relatives of people in Britain to flee the war zone to join their families and he promised another programme allowing individuals to offer a home to Ukrainians would be set out in “the next few days”.
“We’ve already got 1,000 people in under the existing scheme, that number will climb very sharply,” Mr Johnson said. “No one has been turned away.”
The PM added: “We know how unscrupulous Putin can be in his methods, it would not be right to expose this country to unnecessary security risk and we will not do it.
“We are going to be as generous as we can possibly be, but we must have checks.”