Truss and Johnson pile pressure on PM as they call for Ukraine to be given jets

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Liz Truss and Boris Johnson piled pressure on Rishi Sunak as they both called for fighter jets to be sent to Ukraine.

The two Conservative former prime ministers made the plea as they spoke at length in the House of Commons during a general debate on Ukraine.

It was Ms Truss’s first contribution as a backbench MP since 2012, when she became a minister.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visit to UK
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on a recent visit to the UK (Peter Nicholls/PA)

She also stressed that having spoken to the Ukrainians about it “months and months ago”, she knows it to be “an option”.

As she recalled what it was like being in Government after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Ms Truss said: “We, together with our allies, not just in the G7 but around the world – everywhere from Australia, to Singapore, to Switzerland – we put on the toughest sanctions and we pushed back the Russian economy by decades.

“We also supplied weapons to Ukraine, and many around this chamber have commented that maybe we should have supplied weapons earlier, but I can tell you from working inside the Government, that we did all we could as quickly as we could to persuade allies, and we have built up now an alliance of countries supplying those weapons and I can’t wait to see the tanks, and I can’t wait to see the fighter jets in Ukraine to help those brave Ukrainians.”

On fighter jets, she later added: “We need to do all we can to make sure Ukraine wins this war as soon as possible. Every extra day, a life lost, women violated, towns destroyed, we need to do all we can, as fast as we can.

Boris Johnson visit to Scotland
Boris Johnson looks at a Typhoon fighter jet (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson urged the Government to “cut to the chase” and “give them the planes, too”.

“The Ukrainians are not just fighting for their freedom, but for the cause of freedom around the world. We should give them what they need, not next month, not next year, but now”, he added.

He also warned that it is “becoming ever clearer that China is preparing to arm the Russians”.

The Tory MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip had already said the Government should agree to the Ukrainian president’s request for the UK to supply his country with jets.

However, last week, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace claimed it could be years before the UK gives any planes to Ukraine, suggesting Volodymyr Zelensky may even have to wait until the war with Russia is over.

Closing Monday evening’s debate, defence minister Alex Chalk told MPs: “Our armed forces will be training Ukrainian aviators to fly sophisticated Nato-standard fighters in the future.

“We expect to begin training of the first Ukrainian pilots this spring. You cannot supply a jet before you’ve trained a pilot and no time is being wasted in that endeavour.”

In her speech, Ms Truss also insisted the Government should ensure that “money seized from the Russian state is used to rebuild Ukraine” and that “any lifting of sanctions is tied to reform in Russia”.

Moreover, she reiterated her calls for G7 nations to act as an “economic Nato” in response to China’s growing power and “intentions with respect to Taiwan”.

Ms Truss said: “I’ve described it as an economic Nato, the G7 plus our key allies, like the EU, like South Korea, like Australia.

“We need to bring that group together and start developing our plans now because what we know is that we ended up doing these things after the invasion of Ukraine and my view is prevention is far better than cure.

“So let’s develop these economic tools and let’s be clear with China exactly what would happen if there was an escalation with respect to Taiwan.”

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