Farage ‘completely wrong’ and appeasing Putin with Ukraine claims, says Sunak

Nigel Farage’s claim the West provoked Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was “completely wrong and only plays into Putin’s hands”, Rishi Sunak has said.

The Prime Minister likened the Reform UK leader’s remarks in a BBC Panorama interview to appeasement of the Russian president’s invasion of Ukraine.

Mr Farage claimed “we provoked this war” in the interview, while drawing a link between Nato and European Union expansion in recent decades and the conflict in eastern Europe.

Asked by broadcasters about the remarks during an election campaign visit in London, Mr Sunak said: “What he said was completely wrong and only plays into Putin’s hands.”

The Prime Minister added: “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.”

Mr Sunak’s criticism follows hot on the heels of his former defence secretary Ben Wallace, who likened Mr Farage to a “pub bore” over his comments, and suggested the Reform leader does not understand the “real world” of politics.

Appearing on the Panorama Interviews on BBC One on Friday, Mr Farage faced questions about his opinion of Mr Putin.

He replied: “I said I disliked him as a person, but I admired him as a political operator because he’s managed to take control of running Russia.”

Mr Putin has served continuously as either Russian president or prime minister since 1999, with elections which have been described as “rigged”.

Mr Farage, a former member of the European Parliament, also said: “Right, I’ll tell you what you don’t know, I stood up in the European Parliament in 2014 and I said, and I quote, ‘There will be a war in Ukraine’.

Reform UK leader Nigel Farage holds up his finger during a BBC General Election interview Panorama special
Reform UK leader Nigel Farage during a BBC General Election interview Panorama special (Jeff Overs/BBC/PA)

“Why did I say that?

“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.”

Mr Farage went on to say he had been making similar comments “since the 1990s, ever since the fall of the (Berlin) Wall”, and added: “Hang on a second, we provoked this war.

“It’s, you know, of course it’s his fault – he’s used what we’ve done as an excuse.”