Russia is “losing slowly” in the war against Ukraine, according to the UK’s defence secretary.
Ben Wallace made his comments during a visit to an Army camp in Kent where Ukrainian volunteers are training.
Shortly after Mr Wallace spoke, Russia ordered its military to pull out of Kherson, the only regional capital it has captured since the invasion began.
The move is a significant blow to Moscow amid a successful Ukrainian counter-offensive
Russia’s commander in Ukraine, General Sergei Surovikin, said the decision to withdraw from Kherson was a “difficult” one, but it was no longer possible to keep supplying the city.
Ben Wallace’s assessment of the war was echoed by Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg, who said Russian President Vladimir Putin made “several huge mistakes” when he invaded Ukraine.
“One was to underestimate the Ukrainians – their courage, their commitment to fight and protect their country,” he said on a visit to Downing Street.
“The other mistake he made was to underestimate Nato allies, partners, in our ability to support Ukraine”, something the military alliance would do “for as long as it takes”. The UK is part of Nato.
Mr Wallace gave assurances to the volunteers he met with that Britain would continue to support Kyiv and would not be put off by fear of reprisals from Russia.
“Of course Russia doesn’t like the fact the United Kingdom is standing up against it – we’re standing up for the values of freedom, democracy and human rights, but that isn’t going to put us off,” the Cabinet secretary said.
Mr Wallace also referred to the 2016 Salisbury Novichok poisonings, and said Russia has been an “active adversary” of the UK for a number of years.
Asked if he would stay in his post if Prime Minister Rishi Sunak removes the government’s Nato spending target of 3%, Mr Wallace said he would take each budget “as it comes”.
“Three or 2.5% targets at the end of the decade are not something that’s right in front of me in the here and now. In the here and now I need continued investment to not only support Ukraine but also for that vital modernisation,” he said.
A warning by some top Republicans, that they may cut aid to Ukraine if they win control of Congress in the midterm elections, has caused concern on the international stage. But Mr Wallace is confident the United States will continue to support efforts.
He said he couldn’t see “any real change” in support for Ukraine and that “only a small wing of the Republicans” are calling for support to be withdrawn.