The United Kingdom has begun shipping anti-tank weapons to Ukraine even as Russia continues to deny allegations that it is preparing a pretext to invade the former Soviet republic.
British Defense Minister Ben Wallace told the House of Commons on Monday that the ministry also would send a “small number” of troops to help train Ukrainian forces in using the weapons, which he characterized as being defensive in nature.
“Let me be clear: this support is for short-range and clearly defensive weapon capabilities,” Mr. Wallace added, according to The Guardian newspaper. “They are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia.”
British government officials declined to specify what type of anti-tank weapons were being sent to Ukraine or how many, The Guardian reported.
On Friday, the White House and the Pentagon said Russia already has sent military and intelligence operatives into the area of eastern Ukraine controlled by rebel forces to carry out acts of sabotage and blame them on Kyiv in a “false flag” operation to create a pretext for an invasion.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has dismissed the U.S. claims as “total disinformation,” The Associated Press reported.
Mr. Wallace pushed back against Russians’ claims that NATO is seeking to threaten them by encouraging former Soviet republics to join the alliance.
“It is obviously the Kremlin’s desire that we all engage with this bogus allegation, instead of challenging the real agenda of the President of the Russian Federation,” he wrote in a message posted Monday on the British government website.
The former Soviet countries that are now NATO members joined at their own request, Mr. Wallace wrote.
“The Kremlin attempts to present NATO as a Western plot to encroach upon its territory, but in reality, the growth in alliance membership is the natural response of those states to its own malign activities and threats,” he wrote.
Mr. Wallace said he has visited Ukraine five times since 2015, and its people will stand and fight for their country.
“Any invasion will not be viewed as a ‘liberation’ but as an occupation, and I fear it could lead to a huge loss of life on all sides,” he told the House of Commons.