'No complaint' with Ukraine using UK-supplied weapons against Russian targets, Armed Forces minister says

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey says he has "no complaint" with Ukrainian strikes on military targets behind Russian lines, even if the weapons used have been supplied by the UK.

Mr Heappey said: "We don't seek to tell the Ukrainians what they can and can't be used for other than they should be used in a lawful way.

"Providing that they are targeting them properly, then that is something that I think we are accepting of," he said.

The British defence minister added that there is "no complaint with the idea that Ukraine would want to disrupt Russian supply lines and fuel supplies".

"If you don't disrupt them in depth, then your next opportunity to deal with them is when they are causing carnage, destruction, and death on your own soil.

"Let's be clear, in the first two weeks of February this year, only two and a half months ago, Ukraine as a nation was living peacefully within its own borders.

"The people who have crossed an international border and challenged the territorial integrity and sovereignty of another country are the Russians.

"And the fact that the Ukrainians are responding shouldn't be a surprise to anybody and shouldn't be something that we necessarily criticise, but they are targeting in a way that is lawful."

Watch: A look at the hardware each country is sending to Ukraine.

Mr Heappey dismissed Moscow's claims that Western allies of Ukraine were provoking a possible wider conflict by supplying Kyiv with arms, saying the West is "reacting to events".

"The West is reacting to the heroism of the Ukrainians and defending their country... and I think we will continue to do that," he said.

The Armed Forces Minister reiterated that the UK would, however, continue to avoid "play[ing] an active part in the combat".

When asked about comments from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accusing NATO of "pouring oil on the fire", Mr Heappey said it was not NATO as an organisation donating arms.                                                                                         

"NATO is not donating military aid to Ukraine. NATO is doing nothing more than reinforcing its eastern flank as a reassurance to NATO allies in Eastern Europe.

Watch: The jets defending NATO’s border with Russia.

"The international donor community that has come together - many of which are NATO countries but a number of whom come from beyond NATO's area - are providing support to Ukraine because they've made a sovereign decision to do so on a bilateral basis to the Ukrainians."

He added: "We've got to be really careful that we don't play to the Putin and Lavrov narrative that they've been pushing for years - that somehow what they're doing in Ukraine is a response to native aggression.

"It's demonstrably not.

"NATO remains completely within its own boundaries. Countries individually are choosing to support Ukraine."

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