Farage defends Ukraine comments after Starmer and Sunak criticism

Farage defends Ukraine war remarks after backlash

13 minutes agoBy Brian Wheeler, Political reporterReuters

Nigel Farage has defended his claim that the West provoked Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, following condemnation from leaders across the political spectrum.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the Reform UK leader said he had never been an “apologist or supporter of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin” but that “if you poke the Russian bear with a stick, don’t be surprised if he responds”.

In an earlier BBC Panorama interview, Mr Farage said the war was “of course” Mr Putin’s fault but that the expansion of the EU and Nato had given him a reason to tell the Russian people “they’re coming for us again”.

Responding to the interview, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the comment was “completely wrong and only plays into Putin’s hands,” accusing Mr Farage of “appeasement” that was “dangerous for Britain’s security”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer described the comments as “disgraceful”, while Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey called Mr Farage “an apologist for Putin”. The SNP said it was “an insult to all Ukrainians who have suffered.”

In his Telegraph piece, Mr Farage wrote: “Don’t blame me for telling the truth about Putin’s war in Ukraine,” adding that he wanted to “set the record straight”.

“[The] invasion of Ukraine was immoral, outrageous and indefensible. As a champion of national sovereignty, I believe that Putin was entirely wrong to invade the sovereign nation of Ukraine,” he wrote.

“Nobody can fairly accuse me of being an appeaser. I have never sought to justify Putin’s invasion in any way and I’m not now.

“But that doesn’t change the fact that I saw it coming a decade ago, warned that it was coming and am one of the few political figures who has been consistently right and honest about Russia’s Ukraine war.

“As I have made clear on multiple occasions since then, if you poke the Russian bear with a stick, don’t be surprised if he responds. And if you have neither the means nor the political will to face him down, poking a bear is obviously not good foreign policy.”

‘Completely wrong’

Speaking earlier, Mr Sunak said Mr Farage’s comments to the BBC were “completely wrong and only plays into Putin’s hands”.

He added: “This is a man [Mr Putin] who deployed nerve agent on the streets of Britain, who is doing deals with countries like North Korea, and this kind of appeasement is dangerous for Britain’s security, the security of our allies that rely on us, and only emboldens Putin further.”

Sir Keir, meanwhile, said Mr Putin “bears sole responsibility” for the invasion of Ukraine and that “anybody who wants to stand to be a representative in our Parliament should be really clear… that we stand against that aggression”.

Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey said: “When I travel around our country in cities, towns and villages, British people fly the Ukrainian flag as a symbol of solidarity and hope for their future.

“Nigel Farage has proved he is on the side of Putin, not the side of freedom.”

The SNP’s Brendan O’Hara told The National: “In defending the indefensible, Farage has once again shown how out of touch his views are with voters in Scotland.”

In his Panorama interview, the former UKIP and Brexit Party leader was asked by Nick Robinson about his past comments on Mr Putin.

“I said I disliked him as a person, but I admired him as a political operator because he’s managed to take control of running Russia,” he replied.

He said it had been “obvious” to him for many years “that the ever-eastward expansion of Nato and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say, ‘They’re coming for us again’ and to go to war”.

Nigel Farage: We provoked war in Ukraine

Pressed further, he added: “We provoked this war. It’s, you know, of course it’s his fault – he’s used what we’ve done as an excuse.”

After the interview aired on Friday, Mr Farage, a former member of the European Parliament, said on X that he was “one of the few figures that have been consistent and honest about the war with Russia”.

Alongside the new statement, he reposted a speech in the European Parliament from 2014 in which he called for the West to “stop playing war games with Putin.”

Labour’s shadow defence secretary John Healey said the remarks made the Reform UK leader “unfit for any political office in our country, let alone leading a serious party in Parliament.”

The Ukrainian presidency has told the BBC it will not be putting out an official statement on Mr Farage’s comments.

But a source in the presidential office warned about the “virus of Putinism and the rise of war propaganda”, adding: “The task of civilized humanity is to fight this virus in the bud.”

Reform UK has been gaining ground on the Conservatives in the opinion polls since Mr Farage announced he was returning to front-line politics as the party’s leader shortly after the general election campaign got under way.

He has said his aim is for Reform to replace the Conservatives as the official opposition to Labour, which he says is certain to gain power on 4 July, although polling suggests the party may win only handful of seats at this election.

Additional reporting by Christy Cooney

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