Ben Wallace, the defence secretary, has argued that the Russian army’s tactical changes in Ukraine show Vladimir Putin has “failed” to secure his original objectives.
On the one year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the ministry of defence tweeted this morning that Russia has “likely changed its approach” in its military offensive, with its campaign “now likely primarily seeks to degrade the Ukrainian military, rather than being focused on seizing substantial new territory”.
Commenting on the shift, Mr Wallace told Times Radio: “I think it is a tacit, effectively, acceptance of the fact they themselves, the Russian army with all its alleged might and scale, have failed in this more traditional capture of objectives.
“What we should reflect on within this year is Russia started this invasion with a plan to effectively take Kyiv in hours and then occupy the whole of Ukraine within three weeks”.
The defence secretary was also drawn on the ongoing debate over whether the UK would be willing to supply jets to Ukraine. Mr Wallace explained that he did not know if other countries will take the UK up on its offer to “backfill” fighter jets — a commitment he repeated.
He also affirmed that while the UK was willing to “backfill” allies’ stocks, it would not send its own Typhoon jets directly to Ukraine. The “backfill” proposal would see the UK supply Typhoon aircraft to countries which give MiG-29s or SU-24s to Kyiv.
Mr Wallace told Times Radio: “I think what we have done is two things. One is we are going to start the process of training Ukrainian pilots for the long-term resilience of Ukraine on our fighter planes because after this war is over Ukraine will need to defend itself and giving them that capability is really important.
He added: “I think the point here is from a leadership point of view the UK has offered, in the same way, the United States have in some other type of equipment, has offered to say ‘look if you wish to do that and you are worried about your security as a result of it we can come and backfill to help support that’”.
The issue of supplying jets has become a key debate among western allies and UK politicians, with Boris Johnson calling on the UK to “break the ice” by becoming the first to supply Ukraine with fighter jets.
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: “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”.
“If it is a question of training people up to use those machines, we can do that”.
The interview came after Liz Truss had added her voice to those calling for the UK to send jets in a commons debate on Monday.
Speaking in the commons, Ms Truss said she “could not wait to see fighter jets over Ukraine” during her first contribution as a backbench MP since her resignation in October, while Johnson, her immediate predecessor who resigned in July, urged the government to “cut to the chase” and “give them the planes”.
Echoing Mr Johnson’s calls, who also spoke in the debate to mark the anniversary of the conflict, the former prime minister’s intervention was viewed to be adding pressure on Rishi Sunak to send British fighter jets to Ukraine.
“We need to do all we can to make sure Ukraine wins this war as soon as possible”, Ms Truss explained.
“Every extra day, a life lost, women violated, towns destroyed. We need to do all we can, as fast as we can.
“My view is that does include fighter jets and we have had a discussion today about which are the best possible options … having spoken to the Ukrainians about this, months and months ago, I know what they want is an option”.