Much more challenging to deliver military kit to Ukraine, Armed Forces Minister says

Due to ongoing combat operations, Armed Forces Minister James Heappey has said routes for Ukrainians to get resources into the country are becoming more challenging.

In a wide-ranging interview with Forces News, Mr Heappey also distanced himself from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss' comment at the weekend that she would "absolutely" support British nationals who choose to go to Ukraine to help fight the Russian invasion.

Former Army officer Mr Heappey reiterated that UK nationals "for whatever reason shouldn't be travelling to Ukraine" but did provide an update on how UK forces are supporting Ukraine.

Mr Heappey said: "Since we made the initial delivery of 2,000 NLAW anti-tank missiles, we've actually been flowing more stuff forward, uniforms, protective equipment, some munitions and weaponry.

"We reach a stage now, though, where because combat operations are ongoing, routes for the Ukrainians to get the stuff into the country are much more challenging.

"It kind of needs to be something that we say that we are doing, we don't necessarily tell you exactly what, where, when and how."

The former Army officer noted that the British people, especially servicemen and women who have a "deep sense of wanting to be doing the right thing", needed to know that there was a lot going on.

He said: "They need to know there is a lot of people in the Royal Air Force flying a lot of important stuff, not just from the UK but from other European partners forward.

"There are British soldiers in other European countries, mostly Poland, where that stuff (resources) is being received and then what happens next is not for public consumption."

Watch: James Heappey spoke to Forces News last week about the UK's continuing weapons delivery to Ukraine.

Mr Heappey as well as speaking about re-thinking the shape of our Armed forces addressed any potential increase in defence spending, following the recent news that the Germans are set to increase theirs.

He said: "Armour is being defeated very easily because these Turkish Bayraktar drones that the Ukrainians are operating to such deadly effect are whacking them.

"Now in the IR (Integrated Review), we identified that.

"We said, actually, that the future probably wasn't lots of armoured mass, it was about fast responsive movable forces that could disperse, which makes it far harder for these drones to find them and for us to get a load of these armed drones.

"In many ways what we are seeing validates the IR, maybe the discussion just needs to be about whether we need lots more of it.

"No defence minister is going to disagree with that," he added.

A disabled Russian Armored Personel Carrier (APC) on the northern outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine 260222 CREDIT COLLIN MAYFIELD, SIPA USA, ALAMY STOCK PHOTO.jpg
A disabled Russian armoured personnel carrier (APC) on the northern outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine (Picture: Collin Mayfield/SIPA USA/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO).

The Armed Forces Minister does believe that Ukrainians have taken the Russians by surprise and the Russians have shown "extraordinary hubris" in their plan.

He said: "They were hubristic about how they thought the Ukrainian people would welcome them as a liberator.

"They were hubristic in terms of how overwhelming they thought their power would be against a Ukrainian army.

"They were hubristic in terms of the objectives they set for day one of the operation, so now they find themselves in this position, where they had an extraordinarily over-ambitious plan, completely underestimated their enemy, completely underestimated the resolve of the population that they are now fighting to secure.

"And they are getting a proper bloody nose."

However, he was quick to highlight that "no-one should get too misty-eyed" about this.

He added: "The might of the Russian army is still up against them. They have overwhelming force at their disposal.

"That overwhelming force, unfortunately, looks pretty indiscriminate, we are going to see some brutal things on our TV screens in the days ahead.

"But the torch has been lit for the Ukrainian people and it burns brightly. I am confident that they will now resist for as long as they can in a force-on-force military setting," he said.

"They will fight for their lives in an insurgency that follows and that is going to pose enormous cost on  President Putin and I don't think the Russian people are going to stand for it."

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