Thursday, September 28

UK defense secretary rejects calls from Ukraine for no-fly zone | defense policy

The UK defense secretary has once again ruled out a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying it would be counterproductive. However he warned there was a risk Vladimir Putin would start to “ruthlessly pummel” cities from the air.

Ben Wallace rejected calls from Ukraine for a no-fly zone because it would “lead to a war against Russia across the whole of Europe”.

He also said it would stop Ukrainian pilots being able to target Russia from the air, giving an advantage to Moscow, which has stronger ground troops and tanks.

“If you had a no-fly zone in Ukraine, the overwhelming scale of the Russian army would be able to drive around with impunity, which it can’t at the moment,” the defense secretary told Sky News.

Wallace said a convoy of Russian tanks heading towards Kyiv was moving so slowly because of logistical problems and low morale.

Kharkiv administrative buildings on fire after Russian missile strike – video
Kharkiv administrative buildings on fire after Russian missile strike – video

However, he said the faltering progress of troops could lead to more aerial bombardment from Russia, and there was a risk of Putin’s “increasing brutality” as his efforts were stalling.

“The Russians are considerably behind their schedule by days not hours, and that leads to stresses on their logistical supply chains,” he told BBC Breakfast. “That’s why you have seen some of these columns fairly grind to a halt. They have also been surprised by the strength of the Ukrainian resistance.”

He said “none of the major cities have been taken control of”, adding that there was “huge amounts of low morale in the Russian forces, we’ve seen lots of surrenders”.

“But that doesn’t take away from the fact you have a very ruthless Russian armed forces leadership and a president who seems to know no limit to how much violence they will use to achieve their aims.”

Wallace said that meant a plan to “carpet-bomb cities, indiscriminately in some cases” and that siege tactics were in the Russian military doctrine, with forces surrounding a city before they “bombard it indiscriminately and then eventually close in on a population that they hope to have broken, and indeed take over what’s left of the city”.

Wallace later told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “What you have seen is the Russian pause on the outskirts and then ruthlessly pummel these cities with artillery and then hope to break the city.”

But he said Russia would face “years of resistance” if it sought to occupy Ukraine.

Russian troops have entered Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, after days of intensive bombardment, but Wallace said Putin’s forces did not yet control it.

The Ministry of Defense said the latest intelligence suggested Russian forces appeared to have moved into the center of Kherson in south Ukraine. Airstrikes have targeted parts of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Chernihiv.

The west has repeatedly rebuffed calls for a no-fly-zone across Ukraine. Boris Johnson on Tuesday told a Ukrainian campaigner in Poland that it was not an option as it could lead to escalation between Russia and Nato.

Daria Kaleniuk, the executive director of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, told the prime minister: “Ukrainian people are desperately asking for the rights to protect our sky, we are asking for a no-fly zone.

“What’s the alternative for the no-fly zone? Nato is not willing to defend because Nato is afraid of world war three, but it’s already started and it’s Ukrainian children who are there taking the hit.”

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