The defence secretary has ruled out imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, warning it would amount to Nato having “to declare war on Russia”.
Senior Conservative MPs have called for the dramatic move and it is a key strand of the requests made by the beleaguered Ukrainian government, as it appeals for Western help.
But Ben Wallace dismissed the proposal outright – as he gave a bullish assessment of Russia’s advance being slowed, as it failed to achieve “any of its major objectives” on day one of the invasion.
“To do a no-fly zone, I would have to put British fighter jets directly against Russian fighter jets,” the defence secretary said.
“Nato will have to effectively declare war on Russia, because that’s what you would do.”
Lesia Vasylenko, a Ukrainian MP, told Mr Wallace: “We are at war. What we need now, and this is imperative to understand, we need the closure of the airspace above Ukraine.
“Throughout the night, hardly anyone from Kiev slept because they were attacks, there were planes flying in.”
But the defence secretary, speaking on BBC Radio 4, insisted: “If we were to directly attack Russian aircraft, we would have a war across Europe.”
On Thursday evening, Boris Johnson had played down the prospects of a no-fly zone while appearing to leave the door ajar.
“I understand the attractions of the no-fly zone,” he told MPs, while warning the prospect of downing Russian planes was something MPs should “contemplate with caution.”