Don’t underestimate the West, Wallace tells Putin

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has warned Vladimir Putin not to underestimate the West, as he said if the allies stick together he is sure the Russian leader will fail in his invasion of Ukraine.

In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Mr Wallace said the West ‘must not be afraid of Putin’.

He warned the Russian leader – who he said was “acting irrationally and inflicting horrors on Ukraine” – not to “test” the UK.

“The thing to tell Putin is don’t underestimate us, don’t test us,” he told the newspaper.

“History is littered with authoritarian leaders underestimating the wider West and the UK. He clearly underestimated the international community.

He added: “If we stick together and refuse to be bullied, I think he will fail.”

Mr Wallace’s comments come after growing warnings that intervention in the war in Ukraine by the West would be seen as entry into the conflict by the Kremlin.

Mr Putin warned on Saturday that the Kremlin would consider any third-party declaration of a no-fly zone over Ukraine as participation in the conflict.

Mr Putin said Russia would view “any move in this direction” as an intervention that “will pose a threat to our military”.

“This very second, we will consider them as participants in the military conflict, and it doesn’t matter which members they are,” he said.

People take part in a protest in Trafalgar Square (Ian West/PA)

However, Ukraine has repeatedly said the move is the only way to prevent more deaths.

NATO allies have ruled out setting up a no-fly zone over Ukraine, fearing it could spark an all-out war with nuclear-armed Russia.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, in an interview with the Sunday Express, called the Ukraine conflict the “struggle of our generation”.

She said: “We will continue to support them (Ukrainians) through thick and thin. We are here for the long term.

“This is the fight of our generation. What we see happening on the streets of Europe is something we have never experienced before in my lifetime. This is the fight for freedom and democracy, the sovereignty and self-determination.

Earlier Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised the British public’s reaction to the war in Ukraine as he echoed the notion that Mr Putin would fail.

The Prime Minister said it was ‘absolutely vital that Vladimir Putin understands that this hideous and barbaric assault cannot and will fail’.

In a video message on Twitter, Mr Johnson said: “I want to thank the businesses, community groups, individuals, sports clubs, who have come together in support of Ukraine.

“I’m thinking of the group in Northern Ireland who have a local warehouse as a supply hub to go to the war zone, I’m thinking of Inna Schorr, a London-based Ukrainian who is raising thousands of pounds, while her own family is still back in Ukraine.

“And don’t forget, for all Ukrainian families here in the UK, we have ways to bring your loved ones back to the UK.”

More than £85million has now been raised to provide aid to Ukraine through the Disaster Emergency Committee (DEC), in what has been described as an ‘absolutely incredible’ show of support from the British public.

The government has pledged to match public donations to the pound-for-pound appeal of up to £25million.

Mr Johnson’s message of thanks came as hundreds gathered in cities across the country to protest against Russia’s assault on Ukraine.

In London’s Trafalgar Square, the Ukrainian national anthem was sung and “Stop Putin, Stop the War” chanted, as protesters draped themselves in the country’s flag.

Volodymyr Shevetovskyy, 31, and his girlfriend Nadiia Soshenko, 27, from Kiev, said they were grateful for support from Western countries, but called for the imposition of a no-fly zone over from Ukraine.

Ms Soshenko told the PA news agency: “There are already a lot of deaths in our country.

“NATO is afraid of closing the sky by saying that it is afraid of starting the third world war.

“Excuse me, what’s going on right now?” Why can’t the whole world stop a crazy madman? Honestly, I just don’t understand why our people are dying, dying for what?

Russian invasion of Ukraine
Kyiv’s Nadiia Soshenko and Volodymyr Shevetovskyy call on Western countries to impose a no-fly zone (Sophie Wingate/PA)

Earlier on Saturday, it was announced that a temporary ceasefire had been called so that civilians in Mariupol, a strategic southeastern port, and the eastern city of Volnovakha, could escape the fighting.

However, that did not hold up, with Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko saying thousands had gathered to get out of the city safely and buses were leaving when the shelling began.

Mr Putin accused Ukraine of sabotaging the evacuation.

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said the proposed ceasefire was “probably an attempt to deflect international condemnation while resetting its strength for renewed offensive activity”.

In an intelligence update on Saturday afternoon, the Department of Defense said: “By accusing Ukraine of breaking the agreement, Russia is likely seeking to shift responsibility for current and future civilian casualties in the city.” .

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