Britain says it is sending Ukraine long-range cruise missiles
British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace walk outside Downing Street as they attend the British cabinet's weekly meeting, in London, Britain February 21, 2023. REUTERS/Toby Melville
LONDON (Reuters) -Britain said on Thursday it has started supplying Ukraine with Storm Shadow long-range cruise missiles, which will allow Ukrainian forces to hit Russian troops and supply dumps deep behind the front lines.
Ukraine has been asking for months for long-range missiles, but support provided by Britain and other allies such as the United States has previously been limited to shorter range weapons.
"We will simply not stand by as Russia kills civilians," Defence Minister Ben Wallace told parliament. "Russia must recognise that its actions alone have led to such systems being provided to Ukraine."
Wallace said Britain was supplying the weapons to Ukraine so they could be used within its sovereign territory, implying he has received assurances from Ukraine that they will not be used to target inside Russia.
The missiles "are now going into, or are in, the country itself," he said.
The Kremlin earlier said that if Britain provided these missiles it would require "an adequate response from our military".
Britain and other Western countries have increased their military aid for Ukraine this year. Wallace and foreign minister James Cleverly have been in the United States for talks on supporting Ukraine in recent weeks.
Kyiv is expected to unleash a counteroffensive soon after six months of keeping its forces on the defensive. Russia mounted a huge winter offensive that failed to capture significant territory.
TANKS AND PILOT TRAINING
After the United States, Britain has been the second-largest supplier military aid to Ukraine contributing 2.3 billion pounds ($2.9 billion) worth of support last year.
Although this is well below what the United States has provided, Britain has in the past been the first country to supply more sophisticated weapons to Ukraine.
Britain sent the first shoulder-launched anti-air and anti-tank weapons to Ukraine in the run up to the invasion and in February announced it would be the first country to begin training Ukrainian pilots on NATO fighter jets.
In January, Britain said it would send 14 of its main Challenger 2 battle tanks to Ukraine, a pledge that was followed by other nations including the United States and Germany.
Last week, a British-led group of European countries asked companies for expressions of interest to supply Ukraine with missiles with a range of up to 300 km (190 miles), but Britain said on Tuesday that no final decision had been taken on supplying the weapons.
Storm Shadow, manufactured by European missile maker MBDA, is an air-launched long-range missile, designed for attacks against high value targets such as hardened bunkers and key infrastructure, according to the company's website.
They have a range of more than 250 km (155 miles), according to the manufacturer.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the Munich Security Conference in February that Britain would be the first country to provide Ukraine with longer range weapons.
The United States said in February it would provide the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), which has a range of about 151 km.
(Reporting by William James and Andrew MacAskill; Editing by Kate Holton and Angus MacSwan)