NATO ally the United Kingdom has begun supplying Ukraine with anti-tank weapons and Canada has reportedly deployed a small contingent of special forces to Kiev amid concerns of a possible invasion by Russia.
Speaking in the British parliament on Monday, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK had “taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light anti-armour defensive weapon systems”.
The first weaponry was delivered on Monday and a small number of British personnel would provide training for a short period of time, he said, without specifying the number and type of weapons that were being sent.
But he added, “They are not strategic weapons and pose no threat to Russia. They are to use in self-defence.
“These are short-range …. but nevertheless it would make people pause and think what they were doing and if tanks were to roll into Ukraine, invade it, then they would be part of the defence mechanism.”
In Kyiv, Ukraine’s Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov welcomed the UK’s support, saying in a Twitter post that his country “highly appreciates Britain’s decision to provide a new security package with light, anti-armour, defensive weapon systems!”
Separately in Canada, Global News reported that Ottawa had dispatched special forces operators to Ukraine.
Citing unspecified sources, the TV broadcaster said the unit will identify ways to assist the Ukrainian government and help develop evacuation plans for Canadian diplomatic personnel in the event of a full-scale invasion.
A spokesperson for the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command said it could not confirm the report, but said it has supported the Ukrainian security forces on a periodic basis to provide training and “instructor and leadership expertise” since 2020.
Russia warns NATO to keep off Ukraine
The developments came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov angrily rejected claims by the United States last week that Moscow was preparing a pretext to invade Ukraine if diplomacy failed to meet its objectives.
While Moscow – which has deployed 100,000 troops near its border with Ukraine – denies plans for an attack against Ukraine, it has said it could take unspecified military action unless the West agrees to a list of demands, including banning Ukraine from ever joining NATO.
Vladimir Putin insists, among other things, that NATO bans Ukraine and other former Soviet states from ever becoming members of the organisation.
NATO flatly refused and the three summits held over the last week or so, between Russia and Western allies, have failed to find much common ground.
Last month President Biden voiced the deep concerns of the United States and its European Allies about Russia’s escalation of forces surrounding Ukraine and made clear that the U.S. and the Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation.