Ukraine Russia war: Vladimir Putin's latest threats are worrying but West must not give in to them – Scotsman comment

When UK defence minister James Heappey said Ukrainian attacks on the supply lines of Vladimir Putin’s forces inside Russia with weapons supplied by Britain would be “completely legitimate”, he was speaking as a former soldier.

If a country is attacked, it has a right to defend itself and that will sometimes require action to be taken outside its own borders.

Putin's regime has no reason to complain about its territorial rights being breached, given it is so clearly the aggressor, having conquered vast swathes of Ukrainian territory, flattened cities and caused the deaths of thousands of innocent people.

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However, despite this, the Kremlin affected outrage. The Russian defence ministry warned that the “direct provoking by London of the Kyiv regime into such activities, should there be an attempt to realise them, will immediately lead to our proportional response”, hinting that it might fire missiles at British officials in Kyiv.

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They appear to have ignored the context that Heappey added immediately after his remark about attacks on Russia. He also said it was also “perfectly legitimate” for Russian forces to strike military targets in western Ukraine, a comment that makes a degree of sense within the context of war in general, but none at all given that there was nothing legitimate whatsoever about Putin’s decision to invade.

But his propaganda machine was never going to miss an opportunity to enflame nationalistic sentiment at home by painting Nato as an enemy of Russia, rather than a defender of freedom, and to try to bully the West into reducing its support for Ukraine’s democratically elected government.

His regime’s rhetoric, which has included thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons, is deeply worrying. But still, we cannot give in to such threats and we must continue to stand by a fellow democracy as it attempts to defend itself.

Wrecked homes in the city of Hostomel, near Kyiv, seen after Russian forces retreated (Picture: John Moore/Getty Images)

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who yesterday suggested the UK might help provide Ukraine with heavy weapons, tanks and planes, was quite right when she said that “if Putin succeeds, there will be untold further misery across Europe and terrible consequences across the globe”.

It may be that uncomfortable compromises will need to be made during future negotiations, but now is not the time to show any sign of weakness to a warmongering, bloodthirsty despot with, currently, no interest in peace.

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