An estimated 450 Russian soldiers have died in the conflict in Ukraine so far and Vladimir Putin failed in his military objectives on the first day of fighting, the UK defence secretary has said.
Wallace also rebuffed pleas on Friday morning from Ukrainian and some Conservative politicians for the UK to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine, arguing that introducing one would amount to declaring war on Russia.
“Our assessment as of this morning is that Russia has not taken any of its major objectives, in fact it is behind its hoped-for timetable,” Wallace told Sky News.
“They have lost over 450 personnel. One of the significant airports they were trying to capture with their elite Spetsnaz [special forces] has failed to be taken. In fact, the Ukrainians have taken it back.
“So, I think contrary to great Russian claims, and indeed President Putin’s sort of vision that somehow the Ukrainians would be liberated and would be flocking to his cause – he’s got that completely wrong. The Russian army has failed to deliver on day one its main objective.”
In a later exchange on BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, the Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko pleaded with Wallace for the UK and the US to close airspace above Ukraine “in order for these casualties not to escalate”.
However Wallace said this would constitute a direct act of aggression towards Russia, which would prompt a response, and result in “war across Europe” as any attack on the UK would implicate all other Nato members.
Wallace said: “To do a no-fly zone I would have to put British fighter jets against Russian; Nato would have to declare war on Russia.”
He added: “I cannot and won’t trigger a European war but I will help Ukraine fight every street with every piece of equipment we can support them.”
Vasylenko warned that Europe is already at war, since “if Ukraine is allowed to fall others…