The Defence Secretary was returning early from a family holiday on Sunday in light of the ‘worsening situation in Ukraine’.
13 February 2022
Ukraine has criticised the Defence Secretary’s comparison of diplomatic efforts aimed at preventing an invasion by Russia to appeasement as unhelpful, saying now is the wrong time to “offend our partners”.
Ben Wallace was on Sunday heading back from a family holiday in Europe, which he only began a day earlier, because of the “worsening situation in Ukraine”, having warned an attack is “highly likely”.
But his remarks that there is a “whiff of Munich in the air”, in a reference to the agreement that allowed German annexation of the Sudetenland in 1938 but failed to prevent the Second World War, was not welcomed by Ukraine.
Ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystaiko warned that the panic being caused by the West sounding the alarm could be playing into Russia President Vladimir Putin’s hands.
“It’s not the best time for us to offend our partners in the world, reminding them of this act which actually not bought peace but the opposite, it bought war,” the diplomat told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme.
“There’s panic everywhere not just in people’s minds but in financial markets as well,” he added, warning it is “hurting the Ukrainian economy on sort of the same level as people leaving the embassy”.
Mr Wallace said in an interview with The Sunday Times that Moscow could “launch an offensive at any time”, with an estimated 130,000 Russian troops and heavy firepower amassed along Ukraine’s border.
“It may be that he (Putin) just switches off his tanks and we all go home but there is a whiff of Munich in the air from some in the West,” he added.
A source close to Mr Wallace explained that his frustrations centred on if Mr Putin strikes “come what may, then all the diplomacy would have been a straw man”, rather than being aimed at any European allies.
The Defence Secretary said he was returning from a planned long weekend abroad in Europe with his wife and children “because we are concerned about the worsening situation in Ukraine”.
Mr Wallace arrived back in the UK from Moscow in the early hours of Saturday before heading abroad with his family, but it was understood he had already accepted he would be leaving the holiday alone early rather than having cancelled it on arrival in the light of new developments with Russia.