Grant Shapps warns the West “not to go soft” in helping Ukraine defeat Vladimir Putin

Grant Shapps (Image: Getty)

Grant Shapps today warns Western allies “not to go soft” in helping Ukraine defeat Vladimir Putin’s barbaric invaders.

On the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country the Defence Secretary said it is a “make or break” year in the conflict.

The West must be unflinching in facing down the Kremlin, he said.

His rallying cry comes amid concerns that vital US aid to Ukraine could end.

Donald Trump, the current favourite to win this year’s race for the White House, has opposed aid to Kyiv.

But Mr Shapps said everyone, including America, should redouble their efforts to defeat Putin.

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Vladimir Putin (Image: Getty)

“This is a make or break year in the war to save Ukraine,” he told the Daily Express.

“We need the West, including our friends in the US, to redouble their efforts.

“It’s vital that we defeat Putin. We need to protect democracy and international order on our doorstep. It’s the right thing, not least because countries like China are watching what we do to protect Ukraine.

“Now is not the time to go soft on our support.”

Mr Shapps said the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has brought into sharp focus the need to stop Putin in Ukraine.

“Britain will support Ukraine to the end no matter what happens,” he said.

“Nvalany’s death re-enforces how evil Putin is and he must be stopped.”

Britain has today (Sat) pledged to invest almost £250 million in producing artillery shells for Ukraine.

Mr Shapps said Ukraine’s “steadfast determination and resilience” continued to “inspire the world”.

He said: “Against all odds, the armed forces of Ukraine have pushed back the Russian invaders to recapture half of the land Putin stole, while significantly degrading Russia’s capabilities – with around 30% of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet destroyed or damaged, and thousands of tanks and armoured vehicles reduced to scrap.

“But they cannot win this fight without the support of the international community – and that’s why we continue to do what it takes to ensure Ukraine can continue to fight towards victory.

“Nearly a quarter of a billion pounds’ worth of UK funding will boost their critical stockpiles of artillery ammunition, while the Royal Air Force completes a further delivery of advanced tank-busting missiles.

“Together, we will ensure Putin fails, and a victory for democracy, the rules-based international order, and the Ukrainian people.”

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Ukraine war (Image: Getty)

The announcement follows confirmation on Thursday that the UK had delivered a further 200 Brimstone anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.

Other military equipment provided by the UK includes Challenger 2 tanks and long-range Storm Shadow missiles, while British forces have given training to Ukrainian soldiers in the UK and the Government continues to provide humanitarian assistance.

Marking the second anniversary of the conflict, Rishi Sunak said it was “the moment to show that tyranny will never triumph and to say once again that we will stand with Ukraine today and tomorrow”.

He said: “I was in Kyiv just a few weeks ago and I met wounded Ukrainian soldiers. Each harrowing story was a reminder of Ukraine’s courage in the face of terrible suffering.

“It was a reminder of the price they are paying not only to defend their country against a completely unjustified invasion, but also to defend the very principles of freedom, sovereignty and the rule of law, on which we all depend.

“The UK is going further in our support. I announced last month the biggest single package of defence aid to Ukraine, taking our total support to £12 billion and signed a ten-year agreement on security co-operation – the first of its kind.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer praised Ukraine’s “strength, resilience and courage” and recommitted his party to supporting their resistance to the Russian invasion.

He said: “When I met President Zelensky in Kyiv one year ago, I assured him that Britain stands united with Ukraine.

“That promise stands firm. No matter who is in power in this country, Britain will always back Ukraine.

“We will stand with them for as long as it takes to win, because we know it is not just the future of Ukraine at stake, but the future of democracy and global stability. We cannot and will not allow the cowardice and barbarity of Putin to prevail.”

The latest round of equipment comes at a vital time for Ukraine, with experts suggesting the third year of the conflict could be the toughest yet as US President Joe Biden struggles to secure approval for further military aid.

Republicans in the US Congress have sought to block military aid to Ukraine as part of a partisan battle over immigration, leading Volodymyr Zelensky to warn that Russia was exploiting delays in aid to his country.

Mr Zelensky specifically mentioned artillery shortages as a major problem, which the UK package announced on Saturday is intended to help tackle.

The head of the British armed forces, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, praised Ukraine’s “extraordinary feats of operational and strategic success” and urged Kyiv’s allies to remain united.

He said: “If we maintain the unity and cohesion we’ve seen to date, and keep strongly supporting our brave Ukrainian partners – militarily, economically and diplomatically – Russia will continue to fail and Ukraine will build the foundations to flourish as a strong, prosperous and sovereign nation.”

Reports suggest that half a million soldiers have been killed or wounded in the war so far, with at least 350,000 from Russian forces.

In its latest report, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said there have been 30,457 civilian casualties – 10,582 killed and 19,875 injured.

The UK has pledged almost £12 billion in overall support to Ukraine since February 2022.

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