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      Ukraine to top agenda at NATO meeting

      ByMonelo Gabriel

      Feb 14, 2023

      Ukraine will be high on the agenda when Defense Secretary Ben Wallace joins his counterparts at a NATO meeting in Brussels.

      The second day of the NATO defense ministers meeting comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky toured London, Paris and Brussels as part of efforts to convince the allies to arm Kiev with fighter planes.

      The request, which comes as the first anniversary of the invasion of Russia approaches, is Zelensky’s latest plea to Western allies.

      Britain will become the first nation to start training Ukrainian pilots on NATO-standard aircraft, but the government has indicated that any possibility of Britain lending planes to Kiev is a long-term prospect.

      Wallace, who met his Ukrainian counterpart, Oleksii Reznikov, on Tuesday, said the Western allies would continue to “stand in solidarity” with the war-torn country.

      “I am very happy to be back in NATO to continue the vital work in supporting Ukraine, as well as to meet with my defense counterparts.

      “Our important work is ongoing, the UK and our allies will stand in solidarity with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he said.

      Visit of the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the United Kingdom
      Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during their visit to London (Peter Nicholls/PA)

      It comes as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned this week that the alliance sees “no sign that President Putin is preparing for peace.”

      But the meeting also comes amid renewed tensions with China after the United States shot down four balloons flying in its airspace this month, with Washington declaring one of them a piece of Chinese spyware.

      Wallace has been accused of reviewing the UK’s own security measures in the aftermath of the incidents.

      Downing Street also confirmed on Tuesday that Rishi Sunak will travel to Munich this weekend, joining other world leaders for a conference on international security.

      Last year’s conference, held just before Russia invaded Ukraine, was dominated by concerns about the prospect of conflict in the region.

      Boris Johnson, the then prime minister, used a speech at the event to warn Moscow that the West would support Ukraine in the event of an invasion.

      Sunak’s attendance at the conference, along with other European leaders, comes amid speculation that London and Brussels are close to reaching an agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

      Ukraine – Russian tensions
      Boris Johnson at the Munich Security Conference in Germany last year (Matt Dunham/PA)

      Attendance at the summit may provide an opportunity for Sunak to hold face-to-face talks with EU leaders as part of efforts to end the dispute over post-Brexit deals in the region.

      German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are expected to attend the conference, which will largely focus on the war in Ukraine.

      Despite optimism that a deal might be in the offing, British officials did not expect an announcement this week.


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