‘Stand firm!’ Energy crisis not a reason to stop supporting Ukraine, says army minister

Ukraine: Zaporizhzhya is a 'dangerous situation' says Stoltenberg

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James Heappey, speaking to Tom Swarbrick on LBC, said it is the “wrong analysis” to think that easing sanctions on Russia could potentially end the war in Ukraine and have positive consequences for the west. He said Ukraine would “not stop fighting” if the west abandoned them and that Putin would see such an “acquiescence” as a reason to invade more territory in Europe. His comments come on the 31-year anniversary of Ukrainian independence from Russia and the six-month anniversary of Putin’s invasion, as President Volodymyr Zelensky said their aims were no longer about peace but victory. 

Mr Swarbrick said: “I wonder if you are detecting what The Daily Telegraph is reporting that some EU nations are considering calling for sanctions on Russia to be loosened to ease pressure on the economy?

Mr Heappey said: “No, I’m not seeing it. Of course, it is a danger. It is very attractive to think that an easy way out of the cost of living challenges that are present in all European economies at the moment would be to stop supporting Ukraine, bring the war to an end and then to ease the sanctions so we can all get back to the way things were and get energy prices back to the way they were. 

“I think that is the wrong analysis and I do not think, by the way, that many governments around Europe do not seriously hold that as a view because, firstly, we won’t get back to where we were, the Ukrainians won’t stop fighting. 

“And if Putin is rewarded territorially for his aggression, he won’t stop. He did not stop after South Ossetia or Abkhazia in Georgia. He did not stop after he took Crimea. 

“He will just use Europe’s acquiescence as an opportunity to regroup and then he will go again, into more of Ukraine, into Moldova or into the Baltic and whatever else. It is right to stand firm.” 

Proving Mr Heappey’s point, President Zelensky, in an emotional speech marking 31 years of independence from Russia today, pledged never to give up in the fight against their invaders.  

He said the country had been “reborn” when Russia invaded and that it would never give up its fight for freedom from Moscow’s domination.

In a recorded speech aired on the six-month anniversary of Russia’s February 24 invasion, Mr Zelensky said Ukraine no longer saw the war ending when the fighting stopped but when Kyiv finally emerged victorious.

He said: “A new nation appeared in the world on February 24 at 4 o’clock in the morning. It was not born, but reborn. A nation that did not cry, scream or take fright. One that did not flee. Did not give up. And did not forget.” 

Mr Zelensky underscored Ukraine’s hardening war stance that opposes any kind of compromise that would allow Moscow to lock in territorial gains, including swathes of southern and eastern Ukraine captured over the past six months.

“We will not sit down at the negotiating table out of fear, with a gun pointed at our heads. For us, the most terrible iron is not missiles, aircraft and tanks, but shackles. Not trenches, but fetters,” he said.

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He vowed that Ukraine would recapture lost territory in the industrial Donbas region in the east as well as the peninsula of Crimea that Russia annexed in 2014.

He added: “What for us is the end of the war? We used to say: peace. Now we say: victory.”.

It comes as British defence minister Ben Wallace said Russia is in a “very fragile position”. 

Mr Wallace said: “I spoke to my intelligence chiefs this morning before coming on, you know, Russia’s advance can be measured in metres per week, not miles.

“It is grinding in small parts of the country in an attempt to advance – completely opposite of the three-days special operation that it touted at the beginning of this, six months ago. I think we are in a position where Russia is in a very fragile position.”

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