Ukrainian leaders pleading for weapons were rejected by three UK PMs
24th April 2022

Ukrainian leaders were ‘desperate’ to buy UK weapons to help defend against Russia after the Crimea invasion but were turned away by three successive Prime Ministers over fears they may provoke Vladimir Putin, claims former defence minister

  • Michael Fallon said requests from Ukraine were rejected for some seven years 
  • He was told to reject Ukraine’s request despite the MoD ‘wanting to do more’
  • He claims the policy was only lifted in the weeks running up to Russia’s invasion 

Ukrainian leaders were ‘desperate’ to buy weapons from the UK following Russia’s  invasion of Crimea in 2014, but were turned down by three successive prime ministers, it was claimed last night. 

Former defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon told the Sunday Times how concerns over provoking Vladimir Putin appeared to trump the plight of the Ukrainian leadership.

When serving under former Conservative prime minister David Cameron, for example, he claims he was told to turn down requests for assistance in upgrading Ukraine’s defences despite the Ministry of Defence wanting ‘to do more’.

He said this policy was in place for seven years, and was only lifted in the weeks before the invasion in February of this year.  

‘We were stymied and we were blocked in Cabinet from sending the Ukrainians the arms they needed,’ Mr Fallon told the newspaper.

‘Some in the Cabinet felt extremely strongly that we should do nothing to further provoke Russia.

Former defence secretary Michael Fallon (pictured) told the Sunday Times how concerns over provoking Vladimir Putin appeared to trump the plight of the Ukrainian leadership.


When serving under former Conservative prime minister David Cameron (pictured left), for example, Mr Fallon claims he was told to turn down requests for assistance in upgrading Ukraine’s defences despite the Ministry of Defence wanting ‘to do more’. This policy was continued by Theresa May (pictured right), he said. 

‘I felt that was absurd. The Russians didn’t need any provoking. They were already there, sending people across the border.’

He added that during his years as defence secretary, between 2014 and 2017, Ukraine was ‘desperate’ to buy British weapons. 

He said: ‘[They] wanted almost everything. They were not able to resist the incursions into Donbas. At times they had little more than rifles.’ 

But the policy initiated by Cameron’s government, he claimed, was to not send any lethal weaponry to the country. 

This was adhered to by his successor Theresa May, who in November 2017 accused Russia of running malign cybercampaigns ‘to sow discord in the West and undermine our institutions’.

However, she made it clear she did not want to alienate Russia and cause another Cold War, adding: ‘So while we must beware, we also want to engage, which is why in the coming months the foreign secretary will be visiting Moscow.’

Even Mr Johnson sought a ‘normalisation’ of relations with Moscow when he was foreign secretary in 2016 – which was after the illegal annexation of Crimea, the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 and the Kremlin’s military support to President Assad’s bloody regime in Syria. 

Even Boris Johnson (pictured) sought a ‘normalisation’ of relations with Moscow when he was foreign secretary in 2016 – which was after the illegal annexation of Crimea, the shooting down of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 and the Kremlin’s military support to President Assad’s bloody regime in Syria.

In a series of tweets, Boris Johnson (pictured with Zelensky during trip to Kyiv) said Britain will provide Ukraine with ‘further military aid’, including armoured vehicles

In stark contrast to today, Mr Johnson was vocal about sending only non-lethal military equipment to Ukraine, despite calls from his colleagues to give the former Soviet state weapons that might have actually deterred Russian attacks. 

But according to the Sunday Times, such calls were ignored and the policy of sending real arms and weaponry to Ukraine was not lifted until a few weeks before the invasion this year. 

It suggest Mr Johnson’s government, too, rejected Ukraine’s pleas for weapons until very recently.  

It comes as the current Ukrainian president Saturday praised Britain’s efforts in training his military. 

Volodymyr Zelensky told a press conference in Kyiv that the UK, along with the US, was supplying the ‘biggest military aid’ in its struggle against Moscow’s invading forces.

In a phone call earlier on Saturday, he personally thanked Boris Johnson for Britain providing training on home soil, with Ukraine’s armed forces being taught how to use armoured vehicles that are being given to boost the war effort in eastern Europe.

In the run-up to and during the current incursion, London has emerged as one of Ukraine’s closest allies in terms of supplying Nato-class weapons.

Mr Zelensky expressed his gratitude in a conversation with the Prime Minister on Saturday and during a press conference in his country’s capital.

Asked during a briefing about military support from the West, he told reporters: ‘We want more than we’re being given, but we’re satisfied.

‘We cannot refuse or reject anything during the war from the biggest military aid, which is coming from the United States and the United Kingdom.

‘There are many other friends in Europe, but I’m talking about volumes of help and I’m grateful for it.’

In an earlier series of tweets Saturday, the prime minister also said Britain will provide the country with ‘further military aid’, including armoured vehicles. 

The Conservative leader then warned Vladimir Putin’s regime that his government will be collecting evidence on potential ‘war crimes’, saying Russia must be ‘held to account’. 

He wrote: ‘Today I spoke with President @ZelenskyyUa to update him on the latest steps the UK is taking to support Ukraine.

‘We are providing further military aid, including protected mobility vehicles. We have issued new sanctions against members of the Russian military. 

‘We will be reopening our embassy in Kyiv, demonstrating our solidarity with the Ukrainian people. 

‘And the UK government is helping to collect evidence of war crimes. Russia must be held to account for its actions.’

Mr Zelensky also announced that he will hold talks with the US secretary of state Antony Blinken and secretary of defence Lloyd Austin in Kyiv on Sunday – a meeting taking place more than two weeks after Mr Johnson made a similar trip east.

When the Prime Minister was on a trade trip to India last week, he revealed that Ukrainian forces were in the UK as part of British efforts to support the territorial defence.

More than 20 soldiers arrived last week for training on 120 armoured vehicles, including the Mastiff, Wolfhound and Husky, that are being supplied to help resist Moscow’s advances.

The battle for Donbas in eastern Ukraine continues to rage but Saturday also saw fresh attacks in the south, with a missile strike in Odesa killing a three-month-old baby and another five people.

In the besieged port city of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces launched an offensive on a steel plant in an apparent bid to eliminate the last stand by Kyiv’s defenders.

An estimated 1,000 civilians remain sheltered in the Azovstal plant alongside the remaining 2,000 Ukrainian fighters.

Mr Putin only two days ago ordered that Russian troops not be sent into the plant but instead that the facility be blocked off, in an apparent attempt to starve out the Ukrainians and force their surrender.

In footage shared online of the conditions in Azovstal, one young girl said she and her relatives ‘haven’t seen neither the sky, nor the sun’ since they left home on February 27, with fears food supplies are running low after the two-month siege.

During Mr Johnson and Mr Zelensky’s telephone conversation, No 10 said both leaders joined in condemning the attacks by Russian forces against civilian targets in Mariupol and Odesa, as well as in the west of the country in Lviv.

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