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21 Jul 2024 6:46
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  •   Home > News > International

    Nigel Farage defends Ukraine war comments after national backlash

    The Reform UK leader responds to criticism over his claims that the West provoked Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

    Reform UK leader Nigel Farage has defended his claim that the West provoked Russia's invasion of Ukraine, using a newspaper op-ed to double down on his comments.

    In a BBC interview aired on Friday, the Eurosceptic politician claimed the West was partially to blame for Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine in 2022. 

    Mr Farage made the comments in defence of a 2022 social media post that asserted the invasion was a "consequence of EU and NATO expansion".

    "It was obvious to me 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," he said about the post.

    "We provoked this war … he's used what we've done as an excuse."

    In an op-ed published by The Telegraph on Saturday, Mr Farage reasserted his views.

    "Don't blame me for telling the truth," he implored readers.

    "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."

    Critics, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Labour leader Keir Starmer, disagreed.

    Mr Sunak accused Mr Farage of "appeasement", calling the claim he made on the BBC "completely wrong" and "dangerous for Britain's security" because it "plays into Putin's hands".

    "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," the prime minister added.

    Mr Starmer said the "disgraceful" comments established that Mr Farage was "an apologist for Putin".

    Russia casts its invasion of Ukraine as part of a broader struggle with the West, which it says wants to bring Russia to its knees.

    Kyiv and the West reject this and accuse Russia of waging an illegal war of conquest.

    Mr Farage clarified in his op-ed that he viewed Russia's invasion of Ukraine as "indefensible" and insisted, "Nobody can accuse me of being an appeaser".

    However, he repeated his claim that the West "played into Putin's hands, giving him [Putin] an excuse" to declare war.

    The politician advised, "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".

    He cited Britain's involvement in the Iraq War as one "diplomatic blunder" that mishandled Mr Putin's "paranoia and assertiveness".

    Mr Farage said leaders showed "vanity" in the years that followed, seeking to "dress up in white cowboy hats and pose as heroes saving the world".

    He also blamed the UK's current cost-of-living crisis in part on the government's investment in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

    Representatives of the Liberal Democrat Party and Scottish National Party claimed UK residents would not side with Mr Farage on this issue.

    Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey questioned Mr Farage's commitment to freedom in the United Kingdom.

    "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," he said.

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

    The Scottish National Party released a statement calling Mr Farage's claim "an insult to all Ukrainians who have suffered".

    The Party's spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Brendan O'Hara, said, "In defending the indefensible, Farage has once again shown how out of touch his views are with voters in Scotland."

    Mr Farage suggested his party, if elected, would not support Ukraine in the war — distinguishing Reform UK from "the old parties" who "all agree with it".



    © 2024 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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