Boris Johnson’s claim that Germany wanted Ukraine to quickly “fold” following Russia’s invasion has been dismissed as “utter nonsense” by Berlin.
The former prime minister, who was in office when Vladimir Putin’s troops invaded in February, said Germany wanted Ukraine to quickly lose, rather than have a lengthy war, for “all sorts of sound economic reasons”.
But today German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit sharply refuted his comment.
According to German media Mr Hebestreit issued a prickly rebubke: “We know that the very entertaining former Prime Minister always has a unique relationship with the truth; this case is no exception.”
Berlin swiftly decided to send arms to Ukraine after Moscow launched its invasion, Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s spokesman said, noting the “facts speak against (Mr Johnson’s) claims”.
Switching to English, Mr Hebestreit added: “This is utter nonsense.” Germany’s ambassador to the UK tweeted the official’s rejection of Mr Johnson’s claim, which will not have helped UK-German relations.
Mr Johnson earlier told US broadcaster CNN: “The Germans, for all sorts of sound economic reasons, really didn’t want it to… I’ll tell you a terrible thing – the German view was at one stage that if it were going to happen, which would be a disaster, then it would be better for the whole thing to be over quickly and for Ukraine to fold.
“I couldn’t support that. I thought that was a disastrous way of looking at it, but I could understand why they thought and felt as they did.”
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The ex-PM also said France was in denial “right up until the last moment” when Russian forces crossed the border.
He said: “This thing was a huge shock. We could see the Russian battalion tactical groups amassing but different countries had very different perspectives.
“Be in no doubt that the French were in denial right up until the last moment.”
Mr Johnson’s comments as it is announced Rishi Sunak’s government is continuing military aid and financial support to Kyiv.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced Britain is sending helicopters to Ukraine for the first time in an escalation of support for Kyiv’s resistance against Vladimir Putin.
Three former British military Sea Kings will be provided, with the first already in Ukraine. They are the first piloted aircraft to be sent by the UK since the Russian President’s invasion began in February.
Mr Wallace also said an extra 10,000 artillery rounds are being sent to help Ukraine secure the territory it has recaptured from the invading forces in recent weeks.
The fresh support comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced £50 million more in defence aid as he visited Kyiv over the weekend.
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During a visit to Norway, Mr Wallace said: “Our support for Ukraine is unwavering. These additional artillery rounds will help Ukraine to secure the land it has reclaimed from Russia in recent weeks.”
The Royal Navy provided six weeks’ training on Sea Kings in the UK for Ukraine’s armed forces and engineers, the Ministry of Defence said.
The fresh support follows a commitment to provide 1,000 surface-to-air missiles and 125 anti-aircraft guns.
Mr Wallace is in Norway meeting allied defence ministers on the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier.