Farage accused of ‘playing into Putin’s hands’ as he doubles down on Ukraine invasion comments

Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer have led criticism of Nigel Farage after the Reform UK leader claimed that the West “provoked” Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

It did not stop Mr Farage from doubling down on his comments, originally made in a BBC Panorama interview which aired on Friday night, in a column piece on Saturday afternoon for the Daily Telegraph, claiming that he should “not be blamed for telling the truth about Putin’s war”.

Asked about the remarks during an election campaign visit in London on Saturday, prime minister Mr Sunak suggested Mr Farage was “emboldening Putin”.

“What [Mr Farage] said was completely wrong and only plays into Putin’s hands,” he said.

“This is a man [Mr Putin] who deployed nerve agent on the streets of Britain, who is doing deals with countries like North Korea, and this kind of appeasement is dangerous for Britain’s security, the security of our allies that rely on us, and only emboldens Putin further.”

Sir Keir, speaking at another campaign event in the capital, said: “Anyone who is standing for parliament ought to be really clear that Russia is the aggressor, Putin bears responsibility, and that we stand with Ukraine, as we have done from the beginning of this conflict.

Nigel Farage drew a link between Nato and European Union expansion in recent decades and the conflict in eastern Europe (PA Media)
Nigel Farage drew a link between Nato and European Union expansion in recent decades and the conflict in eastern Europe (PA Media)

“Parliament has spoken with one voice on this since the beginning of the conflict.”

He added that Labour was “unshakeable in our commitment to Nato because this is about defending Ukraine, but it is also about defending our hard-won democracy and freedom, and anybody standing for public office ought to understand that”.

The two party leaders were responding to comments made by Mr Farage during the Panorama interview, in which he said Putin had used the “ever-eastward expansion of Nato and the European Union” as an “excuse” to invade Ukraine.

“It was obvious to me that the ever-eastward expansion of Nato and the European Union was giving this man a reason to his Russian people to say, ‘they’re coming for us again’ and to go to war,” he said.

Ben Wallace, the former defence minister and well-known advocate for Ukraine, described Mr Farage as a “pub bore” after the Reform UK leader’s comments.

“I think Nigel Farage is a bit like that pub bore we have all met at the end of the bar who often says: ‘Oh no, if I was running the country’, and presents very simplistic answers to actually, I am afraid, in the 21st century, complex problems,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“It is not that easy to a) govern a country, but also to find international solutions to problems.”

Mr Wallace added: “If he became prime minister tomorrow morning, what is his solution to dealing with a President Putin that he alleges he admires?”

Mr Farage then doubled down on his original comments in Saturday’s article on the Telegraph website.

Mr Farage wrote: “So, let me set the record straight. I am not and never have been an apologist or supporter of Putin. His invasion of Ukraine was immoral, outrageous and indefensible. As a champion of national sovereignty, I believe that Putin was entirely wrong to invade the sovereign nation of Ukraine. Nobody can fairly accuse me of being an appeaser. I have never sought to justify Putin’s invasion in any way and I’m not now.

“But that doesn’t change the fact that I saw it coming a decade ago, warned that it was coming and am one of the few political figures who has been consistently right and honest about Russia’s Ukraine war.

“What I have been saying for the past 10 years is that the West has played into Putin’s hands, giving him the excuse to do what he wanted to do anyway.”

As Mr Wallace pointed out, Mr Farage did not offer an alternative means of dealing with Vladimir Putin.

Soon after Putin ordered the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Reform leader claimed that the West had provoked Russia into the attack.